Prior to colonisation by the British in the 18th century, the continent now known as Australia, but by Europeans from antiquity as Terra Australis (Southern Land), also Terra Australis Ignota, Terra Australis Incognita ("the unknown land of the south"), or Terra Australis Nondum Cognita ("the southern land not yet known"), and during Mediaeval times as the Antipodes, was occupied by its indigenous people, with distinct groups within those people groups having ownership of defined areas of land and waters. Dutch seafarer, Abel Tasman, gave the name Nieuw Holland (New Holland) to the whole Southern Land in 1644. After the British James Cook mapped the eastern coast in 1770 the eastern half was named New South Wales, leaving the western part as New Holland. The First Nations Aboriginal people did not give their permission for occupation by European colonists and have never ceded sovereignty over their lands.
In 1824, upon the recommendation of British Royal Navy officer and intrepid explorer, Matthew Flinders, the British Admiralty agreed that the continent known as Terra Australis be officially named Australia. "Life in Australia", Department of Immigration & Citizenship, immi.gov.au, Australian Government, 2007, accessed 8 February, 2015.
In 1911, the Australian Capital Territory (initially known as the Federal Capital Territory) was created from land ceded from New South Wales. The Northern Territory was also created in 1911 from land previously part of South Australia, having also been part of New South Wales from 1824-1863. "Federation", The Parliamentary Education Office (PEO), peo.gov.au/, Australian Government (accessed 8 Feb, 2015).
Jervis Bay Territory, comprised of land surrendered by the State of New South Wales, is a third mainland territory of Australia that is governed by the Commonwealth Government.
In addition to the above mentioned, the Commonwealth of Australia currently has seven external territories, governed by the Commonwealth Government: Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Australian Antarctic Territory, Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Coral Sea Islands, Heard Island and McDonald Islands, and Norfolk Island. Papua (south east quarter of the New Guinea island) was a territory of Queensland at the time of federation and New Guinea (north east quarter of the New Guinea island) became a mandated territory of Australia following the First World War. In 1975 the two territories became the independent nation of Papua New Guinea.
On 26 May 2017 delegates to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Referendum Convention issued the Uluru Statement From the Heart asking for an independent Indigenous voice to Parliament. As of March 2019 the statement has not been accepted by the government, although it has been embraced by some Australians.
Civil registration, that is, government registration of births, deaths and marriages rather than church registration of christenings, burials and marriages, began throughout Australia at different times:
- Tasmania (1 December 1838)
- Western Australia (9 September 1841)
- South Australia (1 July 1842)
- Victoria (1 July 1853)
- New South Wales (1 March 1856)
- Queensland (1 March 1856)
- Northern Territory (24 August 1870)
- Australian Capital Territory (1 January 1930)
Also note that New South Wales covered most of the east coast of Australia and New Zealand initially. These Colonies (States as of 1st January 1901) separated from New South Wales on the dates listed below:
- Van Dieman's Land (from 1861, Tasmania) - 1825
- Victoria - 1851
- Queensland - 1859
- South Australia (formed directly from Great Britain and not part of New South Wales) - 1836
On 1 July 1841 the islands of New Zealand were separated from the Colony of New South Wales and made a colony in their own right.
Also, the Northern Territory was part of South Australia from 1863 until 1911.
- Wikipedia - History of Australia, accessed 6 March 2019.
- Wikipedia - Territorial Evolution of Australia, accessed 6 March 2019.
- Immigration Records and Passenger List, Australia for Queensland immigration records. Digital images of the passenger lists may be viewed.
- Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame HerStory archive. This is a collection of stories which tell of the achievements of over 1,500 pioneering women in various fields. The HerStory Archive brings Australian women and their achievements to light.