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Car Hire Australia - History of Australia

Australia's history dates back the the last Ice Age. Although mystery and debate surrounds much of Australia's pre-history it is generally accepted that the first Human inhabitants reached the island from Indonesia over 70,000 years ago.

The European's first discovered Australia in the 16th century. Portuguese navigators were followed by Dutch explorers and English pirate William Dampier. Captain James Cook arrived at the east coast in 1770 and claimed the country for the British naming it New South Wales. In 1779 Joseph Banks, a naturalist aboard Cook's voyage, suggested Britain could solve it's overcrowded prison problems by shipping convicts to New South Wales.

The First Fleet containing 750 male and female convicts arrived on 11 ships from England on 26 January 1788. Also aboard were 400 marines and supplies for 2 years. They arrived at Botany Bay but soon moved north to Sydney Cove. For the new arrivals, New South Wales was a harsh place and the threat of starvation hung over them for 16 years.

Australia was never really explored in the same way the USA was by the Europeans, early exploration only took place to find suitable places for secondary punishment or simply to claim the land before anyone else got there.

Free settlers began to be attracted to Australia, but it wasn't until the 1850's with the discovery of Gold that a hugh influx of immigrants. The boosted the economy and changed the colonial social structure. Aborigines were ruthlessly pushed off their tribal land as settlers took up land for farming or mining.

On January 1st 1901 Australia became a nation when federation of the separate colonies took place, although many of the legal and cultural ties with England remained. Australians rallied to the aid of the British during the Boer War and World War I. When World War II broke out Australian troops fought alongside the British in Europe but after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour, Australia's own security began to take priority. The northern towns of Darwin and Broome were bombed and the Japanese advanced southward. The USA helped protect Australia push the Japanese from the Pacific. This event marks a significant shift in allegiance away from Britain to the USA.

Post WWII, many European's emigrated to Australia with most of the immigrants being non-British, the culture was constantly broadening. In 1950 Australia followed the American's into the Korean War and later in 1965, Australia committed troops to the Vietnam War, though support for involvement was far from absolute. After conscription was introduced in 1964, those undertaking national service could now be sent overseas. In fact by 1967 around 40% of Australians serving in Vietnam were conscripts.

The civil unrest caused by conscription was one factor that led to the rise of the Australian Labor Party in 1972, led by Gough Whitlam. Under Whitlam's government troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, national service and higher education fees were abolished, healthcare was improved and land rights were given to Aboriginal people.

The government was hampered by a hostile Senate and talk of mismanagement. On 11 November 1975 the governor general (the British Monarchs representative in Australia) took the unprecedented step of dismissing the parliament and installing a caretaker government led by the leader of the opposition Liberal Party, Malcolm Fraser. Labor supporters were appalled. Nevertheless, it was a conservative Liberal and National Country Party coalition that won the ensuing election.

The issue of republicanism - replacing Britain's Queen with an Australian president as head of state - dominated late 1990's politics. An increasing amount of people regarded the constitutional ties irrelevant and the only way forward was to declare Australia a republic. However a national referendum in 1999 resulted in a comprehensive victory for the status quo.

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