Australia has been inhabited for several thousands of years but it was only at the beginning of the 17th century with the arrival of the Spanish Luis Vaez de Torres and the Dutch Willem Janszoon (who named the territory New Holland) on the west coast that European people discovered the island.
In 1770 the British sailor James Cook landed on the east coast for the first time. He named it New South Wales and claimed it for Great Britain. It is also James Cook who discovered the first site of what is today known as Sydney which he named Port Jackson. In 1788 the first British settlement was established which consisited of a penal colony, and this is when Sydney got its name (in honour of the British Minister Thomas Townshend, Lord Sydney, who became the first viscount of Sydney).
The United Kingdom formally claimed the western part of Australia in 1829 and new colonies (of free men and women ) were based. At the beginning of the1850's the discovery of goldfields in the State of the Victoria created a real gold rush which led to the spectacular growth of Sydney. Furthermore towards the end of 1860, the transportation of convicts to the colony of New South Wales ceased. By 1920 there were already more than a million inhabitants.
During the war of the Pacific, the city served as base for the allied air and naval forces. In 2000 Sydney welcomed the Olympic Games.
The Indigenous Australian population, estimated at 750,000 before the European settlement, declined for 150 years as they were then confined in reserves on the poorest lands. Nowadays,they number few more than 450 000, representing 2.3 % of the Australian population. Their life expectation is of 17 years lower thanthat of other Australians. The aboriginal country represents 10 % of the territory in 2007.
Since the restoration of the lands of 1976, numerous Aborigines returned to live on the lands on their ancestors - their homeland - from which they had been chased away.
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