History of Australia: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Angela Burke

Angela has over ten years of teaching experience in Special Education, classroom teaching and GT. She has a master's degree in Special Ed with an emphasis in Gifted.

Which continent is also its very own country? Australia of course! In this lesson you will learn about the history of Australia and the people that made it such a unique place.

Australian History

Gather around the fire and listen to the Aboriginal stories of creation, called the Dreamtime, as they are enacted through dance and ceremony. Can you hear the deep sound of the didgeridoo, a type of wind instrument? Its sound can carry for miles! The Aborigines, or native people of Australia, have many stories to share and it is here that we begin our trek through Australian history.

Where Is Australia?

Australia is positioned in the southern hemisphere and is surrounded by the Pacific and Indian Oceans. It is the smallest, driest and flattest of the seven continents. Australia has tropical rain forests, deserts and mountains!

Map of Australia and its six states

The Aborigines

It is estimated that the first Aboriginal people of Australia arrived nearly 50,000 years ago! They were thought to have arrived from Asia by boat, or possibly a land bridge. They eventually divided into 300 clans, or groups of families, that spoke 250 languages and relied on hunting and gathering for survival.

Australian Aborigine playing the didgeridoo

European Discovery

The Dutch were the first explorers to find Australia, but they didn't think the land was worth much. So when Captain James Cook had the opportunity to claim Australia for Great Britain in 1770, he did. And do you know what they decided to do with this new land? The British chose to send all of their convicts, or prisoners, to Australia! This was not a new practice for the British, who had been sending their convicts to America, but after losing the American Revolutionary War, they needed a new place. The colony of New South Wales became home to 160,000 men and women convicts and they were not treated well. Likewise, the Aborigines in the area were pushed out.

January 26, 1788 is the official day Australia was founded. The anniversary of this date is still celebrated and called Australia Day. This day serves as a remembrance of the founding of the British settlement and a day of mourning for the Aborigines whose lives quickly changed due to colonization.

Australian Colonies

The 1800s became an era of exploration. Officers and emancipated, or freed, convicts received land from the government and began farming. Sheep ranches were particularly popular. Land was cheap and work was plentiful. British migrants were sailing over and colonies were formed. Squatters, also known as settlers, ventured farther into the Australian interior, disrupting the Aborigines even more.

European settlers with Aborigines

In 1851 gold was discovered and chaos erupted. Boatloads of prospectors arrived in search of riches. The goldfields were often a violent place to be.

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