Aboriginal history in Australia dates back to around 70,000 years ago, when the first humans came across the sea from Asia. Conditions were favourable throughout the country and the population was widespread. However, at the end of the last Ice Age, inland lakes dried up and the Aboriginal population became more clustered around the coastal areas.
The Dutch were the first European to set eyes on Australia in the early 1600s but it was not until Englishman Captain James Cook led a scientific voyage in search of the 'Great South Land' in 1770, that the newly-discovered land was claimed for Britain.
Running out of prison space, Britain proposed to begin transportation of convicts to Australia. In 1788 the first fleet of convicts arrived in Sydney. Conditions in the new colony were extremely harsh and transportation was finally abandoned to the eastern states in 1852 and in 1868 to the west.
Meanwhile, the Aboriginal population was devastated both by European diseases and by conflict with white people. Within 100 years of white settlement, all that remained of Aboriginal society were relatively small groups in central and northern Australia.
Free settlers began to be attracted to Australia over the next decades, but it was the discovery of gold in the 1850s that really changed the face of the colony. The huge influx of migrants in search of their fortune, and several large finds, boosted the economy and irrevocably changed the country's social structure.
In 1901, the separate states became a federation. Australia and its capital, Canberra, were born, but links to Britain were still strong and Australia remains a member of the British Commonwealth today.
Post-WWII immigration brought a flood of European immigrants to "the Lucky Country", many of them non-British. The immigrants have since made an enormous contribution to the country, enlivening its culture and broadening its vision, the foundations of Australia as we know it today.