Australia & New Zealand; key historical events

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Antarctica – See Appendix One

New Zealand – See Appendix Two


1/10/2014, Gough Whitlam, former Labor Prime Minister of Australia from 1972, died aged 98. He extricated Australian troops from Vietnam, ended conscription, set up commissions into equal pay, Aboriginal land rights and school funding, set up State-funded healthcare, liberalised abortion laws, introduced votes at 18 and free university education. He also gave Papua New Guinea independence, and forged closer relations with China.

13/2/2008, The Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd (born 1957) apologised to the Aborigines, especially the ‘stolen generation;, those Aboriginal children forcibly removed from their parents to be brought up with White parents in an attempt at assimilation.

13/12/2005, Major race riots in Sydney, Australia, involving up to 5,000 youths.

6/11/1999, The Australians voted to keep the British monarch  as Head of State.

2/3/1996, In Australia the Labour Party finally lost an election, having won the previous five contests, in 1983, 1984, 1987, 1990 and 1993.

2/12/1994, The Australian Government agreed to pay compensation to indigenous Australians who were displaced during the nuclear tests at Maralinga in the 1950s and 60s.

1/4/1993. A survey showed a record 69% of Australians wanted their country to become a Republic.

9/1/1993, Sir Paul Hasluck, Governor General of Australia died (born 1/4/1905).

1/10/1991, New Zealand's Resource Management Act 1991 comes into force.

10/12/1990, Australia’s oldest newspaper corporation, the Fairfax Group, went into receivership with debts of Australian $ 1,500 million.

27/10/1990, In New Zealand elections, the National Party led by James Bolgar defeated the ruling Labour Party.

4/6/1988, Sir Douglas Nicholls, Governor of South Australia, the first aborigine to hold this position and to receive a knighthood, died.

9/5/1988, The new Australian Parliament building in Canberra was inaugurated.

30/4/1988, The World Expo 1988 opened in Brisbane, Australia.

26/1/1988, Australia celebrated its bicentennial.

2/3/1986, The Queen signed a formal proclamation giving Australia legal independence from Britain. Britain first shipped convicts to Australia in 1788; Australia had been self-governing since 1901.

26/10/1985, The Australian Government gave the Aborigines the landmark of Ayers Rock, now known by its Indigenous-Aboriginal name, Uluru.

5/3/1983. The Labour politician Bob Hawke won elections in Australia and became Prime Minister. He succeeded Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, who had been in office for seven years.

16/2/1983, Arson was suspected as forest fires raged in South Australia, making 8,500 homeless.

1977, Advance Australia Fair became the Australian national anthem.

10/12/1977, In Australia the Fraser Government won another large majority in Federal elections.

13/12/1975, General Election in Australia gave a large majority to the Fraser Government.

1/7/1975, Australia broke up the Postmaster-General’s Department into Telecom Australia and Australia Post.

21/10/1973. The Sydney Opera House was opened by Queen Elizabeth II.  It was designed by Danish architect Joern Utzon. Costs had soared from AU$ 7 million (UK£ 3 million) to AU$ 100 million (UK£ 43 million). The orchestra pit was criticised for being too small.

2/12/1972, The Australian Labour Party won a sweeping electoral victory; Gough Whitlam became Prime Minister.

10/1/1968, John Grey Gorton became 20th Prime Minister of Australia.

1967, Australia removed the clause in its Constitution that excluded Indigenous-Aboriginal Peoples from the national census.

14/6/1967. Australian and New Zealand woolgrowers expressed concern over the effects of the mini skirt on wool prices, which were down 6d a pound on the last season.

25/1/1966, Harold Holt became Prime Minister of Australia, succeeding Robert Menzies.

20/1/1966, Robert Menzies retired as Prime Minister of Australia.

29/4/1965, Australia began contributing troops to the US war effort in Vietnam.

17/3/1958, The Australian-born polar explorer Sir George Wilkins died.

23/11/1955, Britain handed over the Cocos Islands to Australia.

13/4/1954, Vladimir Petrov of the Soviet Embassy in Australia was granted asylum when he defected, in Canberra.

3/2/1954, Queen Elizabeth II made her first visit to Australia; large crowds turned out to greet her in Sydney.

28/1/1953, James Scullin, 13th Australian Prime Minister from 1929 to 1932, died.

1/8/1950, Australian Prime Minister Sir Robert Gordon Menzies promised to send troops to assist US forces fighting in Korea.

For Pacific events of World War Two see China, Japan, Korea

24/4/1939, John Menzies became Prime Minister of Australia (United Australia Party).

23/10/1937, In Australia, Labour lost in general elections to the United Australia and Country Parties.

8/4/1933, Western Australia, irritated by federal taxation, voted to seceded from the rest of Australia.

1932, William Cooper founded Australian Aborigenes League the, to campaign for equal rights for indigenous Australians.

21/5/1930, Malcolm Fraser, Australian Liberal Prime Minister, was born.

9/12/1929, Bob Hawke, Australian Labour Prime Minister 1983-91, was born.

1928, Australia’s Flying Doctor service began in Queensland, to provide medical services in the Outback.

1927, The ACTU, Australian Council of Trades Unions, was formed. It assisted in settling labour disputes, and representing trades unions before the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. By 1986, 162 Unions were affiliated to the ACTU, representing 2.6 million workers. In 1983 the ACTU and the Australian Labor Party sighed an accord on economic policy, which was implemented when the Labor Party gained power in elections.

9/5/1927. Parliament House, Canberra, opened. Canberra became the new capital of Australia, replacing Melbourne.

8/4/1925. The Australian Government and the British Colonial Office offered low interest rate loans for Britons to emigrate to Australia; the aim was for 450,000 Britons a year to migrate to Australia over the next 10 years. In the first decade of the 20th century, an average 284,000 Britons emigrated annually, mostly to the USA or the Dominions.

12/3/1923, The foundation stone of the Australian Federal Parliament Building at Canberra was laid.

2/2/1923, In Australia, Prime Minister Hughes was forced to resign. Stanley Bruce formed a coalition Government from the Nationalist and Country Parties.

20/12/1917, A second vote in Australia on conscription went against the idea.

28/10/1916, In Australia, a proposal to introduce compulsory military conscription was narrowly rejected in Parliament.

1915, Opal mining began at Coober Pedy.

11/3/1914, John Mackay, Australian explorer and founder of the city of Mackay, Queensland in Australia, died.

12/3/1913. Canberra became the federal capital of Australia.

See also Scandinavia 1912 for Amundsen, Oates, Scot and race to South Pole

11/4/1910, Labour won the Australian general elections.

5/8/1908, Harold Holt, Australian Prime Minister 1966-7 who backed US intervention in Vietnam and sent Australian troops there, was born.

23/2/1908, Sir William McMahon, Australian Liberal and 25th Prime Minister, was born.

16/10/1906. British New Guinea became part of Australia.

30/3/1904, By-election in Melbourne, Australia, caused by electoral irregularities in the 1903 General Election.

13/12/1901, British geologist J.W. Gregory began his expedition to the fossil beds of Lake Eyre in South Australia, Eyre would later write of his findings in his book The Dead Heart of Australia.

30/11/1901, Edward John Eyre, explorer of the centre of Australia and later Governor of New Zealand, then St Vincent and then Jamaica, died aged 86.

9/5/1901. The first Federal Parliament met in Melbourne, Australia.

1/1901, Under the leadership of Edmund Barton, the Federal Australian Governmernt passed the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901, drafted by the man who would become Australia's second Prime Minister, Alfred Deakin This Act gave British migrants preference over everybody else during the first four decades of the 20th century. In the interests of maintaining a ‘White’ Australia (see Race Equality), it imposed an English-language test on immigrants.

1/1/1901. The Commonwealth of Australia was inaugurated, by federating the six states and two territories of the continent. Edmund Barton became the first Prime Minister of Australia.

14/7/1900, The first Governor General of Australia, Lord Hopetoun, was appointed.

9/7/1900, The UK Parliament passed the Australia Commonwealth Act, uniting the six Australian colonies into one federal government. Federation had been desired since 1891, in response to the colonial ambitions of France, Germany and the USA in the Pacific. However inter-colonial rivalry was so great that it was not until 1909 that the site for an Australian capital was agreed, at ‘neutral’ Canberra.

20/12/1894, Robert Menzies, Australian Prime Minister, was born.

1891, The Australian Labor Party was founded, following the defeat of the trades unions in the 1890 maritime strike.

11/11/1880. Ned Kelly, the infamous Australian outlaw whose gang terrorised the State of Victoria for 2 years, was hanged, aged 25, at Old Melbourne Gaol, Russell Street. His last words were ‘such is life’. He came from a convict family; his father had been transported from Ireland in 1842. He shot a policeman and then fled into the bush; he was captured on 28/6/1880.

20/8/1877. Arthur Kennedy, the new governor of Queensland, gave assent to a Bill drastically cutting Chinese immigration into Queensland, after the previous governor refused to pass it.

8/5/1876. The last Tasmanian aborigine, Truganini, died. She was 4 foot 3 inches tall, in her sixties, and was known as the Queen of the Aborigines. She saw her mother stabbed to death by white men and at 16 was herself raped by white convicts. She took to hanging around work camps, selling herself for a handful of tea and sugar. Then she met a white man whom she helped to record tribal customs. The coffin lowered into her grave was empty; the authorities feared body snatchers and buried her elsewhere.

6/9/1870. The last British troops serving in Australia were withdrawn.

16/6/1869, Charles Sturt, British explorer who ventured into the Australian interior to discover the Darling and Lower Murray Rivers, died aged 74 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

7/12/1860, Joseph Cook, Prime Minister of Australia, was born.

23/4/1860, The explorer James Stuart reached the centre of Australia.

6/7/1859, Queensland, Australia, was formed into a separate colony.

1858, The UK passed the Australian Colonies Act, which gave the four Australian colonies (New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria) virtual autonomy in self-government (see 9/7/1900).

22/4/1857, The Parliament in South Australia first opened.

27/8/1856, The first Australian parliamentary election held by secret ballot took place in Victoria, Australia.

22/2/1855, 13 gold diggers were acquitted of rioting and manslaughter in Melbourne, Australia after fighting broke out at the Eureka gold mine. In 1854, at the Eureka Stockade, Ballarat, New South Wales, armed gold prosepctors fought with a combined military and police force; 30 gold miners and 5 policemen died. Miners objected to an expensive licence imposed by the Australian Government, Public opinion went behind the miners, and juries refused to convict them, causing the Government to back down over the issue.

12/2/1851, The Australian Gold Rush began, after Edward Hargreaves discovered gold at Summerhill Creek, 20 miles north of Bathurst, New South Wales.

7/7/1850, The Scottish explorer, Edward Eyre arrived in Albany, Western Australia, having crossed the Nullarbor Plain, the first White man to do this.

18/1/1849, Sir Edmund Burton, the first Prime Minister of Australia in 1901, was born in Glebe, Sydney.

27/7/1836, The city of Adelaide, Australia, was founded; it is named after the wife of King William IV of Britain.

29/8/1835. The city of Melbourne was named in Australia. Melbourne was founded by John Batman who wrote in his diary in 1834 ‘this will be the place for a village’, referring to a 270,000 hectare site on the Yarra River. The land was then purchased from the Doutgalla tribe for an annual supply of trade goods worth around £200. The site was named after Lord Melbourne, then British Prime Minister. The city, designed by Robert Russell, was laid out on a rectangular grid, with wide streets and many parks and gardens. It is known as the ‘Garden City’.

2/8/1834, The South Australian Association gained a Charter to found a colony.

9/2/1830, The source of the River Murray, Australia, was discovered by the explorer Charles Sturt. See 16/11/1824.

20/4/1827, Copper ore was discovered in Tasmania.

1824, The city of Brisbane was founded, as a penal colony.

16/11/1824, The Murray River, Australia, was discovered by the explorer Hamilton Hume. See 9/2/1830.

5/8/1815, Edward John Eyre, English explorer, colonial administrator and Governor of Jamaica, who discovered lake Eyre, was born.

24/5/1815, The Lachlan River in Australia was discovered by the explorer George William Evans.

19/7/1814, Matthew Flinders, the explorer who surveyed and mapped the coast of Australia, died aged 40.

9/12/1813, The Macquirie River in Australia was discovered by the explorer George Evans.

9/10/1804. Hobart, Tasmania, was founded.

28/4/1795, Birth of Charles Sturt, English explorer of Australia.

1789, Indegenous Australians of the New South Wales area ravaged by a smallpox epidemic.

1788, The city of Sydney was founded.

See Crime, Punishment 1788 for Transportation to Australia

16/3/1774, Matthew Flinders, English explorer who gave his name to the Flinders River and mountain range in Australia, was born.

28/4/1770. Captain Cook went ashore in Botany Bay, New South Wales, Australia, and claimed the land for Britain. See 14/2/1779. A penal colony was established there in 1788 but later moved to near Sydney.

20/4/1770. Captain James Cook discovered Botany Bay, Australia. His ship, The Endeavour, had sailed from Plymouth, England, on 26 August 1768.  They originally named the bay Stingray Bay, and found it to be rich in biodiversity.

25/8/1768, Captain Cook set sail from England on board The Endeavour on his first voyage to explore the Antipodes. His 368-ton ship was 98 feet long by 29 feet wide. His mission was first to visit Tahiti to observe a transit of Venus on 3/6/1769, then to discover the theoretical ‘southern continent’ which was supposed to exist by the Classical Greeks ‘to counterbalance the northern continents’. Such a continent would provide useful colonial opportunities for Britain at a time when its North American colonies were becoming restive. After Tahiti, Cook sailed south and south west down to latitude 40 degrees south; finding no land he turned west and discovered New Zealand, whose coast he charted in six months. This exercise proved New Zealand was not the peninsula of the ‘southern continent’. By now it was March 1769 and the southern summer was ending; to return eastwards meant encountering bad weather in the Pacific. Cook therefore sailed west and encountered the east coast of Australia. Although the Dutch had visited Australia in the 17th century this part of the continent was devoid of European settlement; Cook therefore claimed the entire east coast of Australia for Britain as New South Wales. Cook then sailed along the northern coast of Australia, confirming it was a separate land from New Guinea, and returned to England in 1771.

28/10/1728, The naval officer and explorer Captain James Cook was born at Marton, Cleveland, Yorkshire.  He was the son of a farmer. His voyages in the ship Endeavour led to the exploration of Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii.

22/10/1659. The Dutch explorer Abel Tasman died.

1644, AbelTasman mapped the north and west coasts of Australia.

24/11/1642. Tasmania was discovered by Abel Tasman, Dutch explorer.  It was originally called Van Diemen’s Land, and renamed in 1853.

4/6/1629, The VOC (Dutch) ship Batavia ran aground west of Australia.

2/1606, Willem Janszoon, Dutch navigator, discovered Australia. He landed on the north coast.

5,000 BCE, Indigenous Australians began using boomerangs.

7,000 BCE, The New Guinea land bridge began to disappear.

10,000 BCE, The separation of Tasmania from Australia began as sea levels rose.


Appendix One – Antarctica

1998, A 50-year ban on mineral extraction in Antarctica was agreed.

7/1/1978, Emilio Palma was born in Antarctica; he was the first baby born on this continent.

1/12/1959. Twelve countries (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Jaoan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, UK, USA, USSR) signed an agreement to preserve Antarctica for peaceful scientific research. All territorial claims were suspended. This agreement was renewed and extended in 1991.

14/12/1958, The Antarctic ‘pole of inaccessibility’, the point furthest from all coasts, was reached by a Soviet tractor traverse.

2/3/1958, The British Trans-Antarctic Expedition, led by Dr Vivian Fuchs, completed the first surface crossing of Antarctica. The group of 12 travelled 2,158 miles from Shackleton Station on the Weddell Sea to Scott Station on the Ross Sea in 99 days.

3/1/1958. Sir Edmund Hillary, with a party from New Zealand, reached the South Pole – the first man to do so since Captain Scott.

26/5/1933, Australia claimed a third of Antarctica.

7/2/1933, The Australian Antarctic Territory was created.

30/7/1923, The Ross Dependency in Antarctica was created, under New Zealand rule.

5/1/1922. The British explorer Ernest Shackleton died on the island of South Georgia. He was on an expedition to Enderby Land, Antarctica.

10/5/1916, Shackleton reached South Georgia (see 9/4/1916).

9/4/1916, Shackleton and his crew left the ice floe in small boats. They reached Elephant Island on 12/4/1916 (see 10/5/1916).

10/2/1913. The remains of Captain Scott and two of his companions, who died returning from the South Pole in January 1912, were found dead, just 11 miles from a safe camp.

29/3/1912. Captain Robert Falcon Scott died in his tent in Antarctica, returning from his expedition to the South Pole.

17/3/1912, Lawrence Oates died heroically during the return journey from the South Pole. On his 32nd birthday he left the tent, saying, ‘I am just going outside, and I may be some time’.

18/1/1912, British explorer Captain Scott reached the South Pole, with his companions Lawrence Oates, Lieutenant Bowers, Edward Wilson, and Edgar Evans, only to find that  Roald Amundsen had beaten them by 35 days, leaving a tent behind for proof. All five died on the return journey. Amundsen, with his fast dog sleds, had possessed superior equipment.

14/12/1911. The Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen beat the British team, led by Captain Scott, to the South Pole. The British relied on motorised transport and ponies, the Norwegians on dog sleds. Captain Scott arrived at the South Pole on 17/1/1912 to find the Norwegians had beaten him to it. Scott set out with 11 men from Cape Evans, Antarctica, on 24/10/1911; his motorised sledges soon broke down, and the ponies had to be shot due to the cold. Therefore the hardest part of Scott’s journey, the part from the final food dump (left for the return journey) to the South Pole, 240 kilometres, and back, had to be done on foot with barely a month’s provision for the five men attempting the journey. On the return journey blizzards slowed Scott’s team, reducing their daily rations.

14/11/1911, The Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen (1872 – 1928) reached the South Pole ahead of Scott.

15/6/1910, Captain Scott set out on his ill-fated second expedition to the South Pole, on the ship Terra Nova.

16/1/1909. The magnetic south pole was found by Sir Ernest Shackleton, who was knighted later the same year.

5/5/1882, Douglas Mawson, British Antarctic explorer, was born.

15/2/1874, Sir Ernest Shackleton, British Antarctic explorer, was born in born in Kilkee, County Clare, Eire.

16/7/1872, Roald Amundsen, Norwegian explorer who was the first to reach the South Pole in 1911, was born in Borge.

6/6/1868, Robert Falcon Scott, British explorer of the Antarctic, was born near Devonport, Devon.

3/4/1862, James Ross, English explorer who gave his name to the Ross Barrier, Ross Island and Ross Sea, Antarctica, died.

19/1/1840. The American explorer Charles Wilkes discovered the coast of Antarctica.

27/2/1831, Captain John Briscoe discovered Antarctica. Captain Briscoe, in the ship Tula, commissioned by the London shipping company Enderby, sighted the mountains of what is now known as Enderby Land. The mission was partly exploratory, but also commercial, to find and harvest seals for their fur. Whales were also desired, and sea elephants for their oil.

1820, The Russian explorer, Thaddeus von Bellingshausen, became the first European to sight Antarctica.

15/4/1800, Sir James Clark Ross, Antarctic explorer, was born in England.

30/1/1774, Captain Cook turned his ship back at 71 degrees south, 105 degrees west, due to heavy mist, having failed to sight any land of the ‘southern continent’. In fact he was just 75 miles off the coastline of Antarctica.

17/1/1773. Captain James Cook’s ship Resolution became the first ship to cross the Antarctic Circle.


Appendix Two – New Zealand

15/3/2019, A White-supremacist gunman shot dead 50 Muslim worshipers at Friday prayers at a mosque in |Christchurch New Zealand, with several others wounded, some seriously.

4/9/1990, In New Zealand the Labour Prime Minister, Geoffrey Palmer, resigned. He was replaced by Michael Moore.

3/11/1985, In New Zealand, two French agents pleaded guilty to the sinking of the Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior, and the manslaughter of the photographer on board.

22/9/1985, French Prime Minister Laurent Fabius admitted that French agents had sunk the Greenpeace boat Rainbow Warrior in Auckland, New Zealand, on 10/7/1985. The French Defence Minister was forced to resign.

10/7/1985. The Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior was blown up in Auckland harbour, New Zealand. Limpet mines had been attached to the ship, killing one crewmember. French security forces were implicated. The rainbow Warrior was to have taken part in a protest against French nuclear tests at Mururoa atoll in the south Pacific.

14/7/1984, In New Zealand general elections, the Labour Party defeated the ruling National Party.

28/11/1981, The National Party won a very narrow election victory in New Zealand.

29/11/1975, In New Zealand the National Party defeated the Labour Government. Robert Muldoon became Prime Minister.

25/11/1972, Norman Kirk became Prime Minister of New Zealand after Labour won a sweeping electoral victory.

7/2/1972, Sir Keith Holyoake retired as Prime Minister of New Zealand. He was succeeded by John Marshall.

14/6/1967. Australian and New Zealand woolgrowers expressed concern over the effects of the mini skirt on wool prices, which were down 6d a pound on the last season.

14/9/1961, New Zealand introduced compulsory selective military service.

26/11/1960, General election in New Zealand was won by the National party, with 46 seats. Labour won 34 seats. Keith Holyoake was appointed Prime Minister.

30/11/1957, General election in New Zealand was won by the Labour Party with a majority of one seat. Walter Nash became Prime Minister.

1/9/1951, Australia, New Zealand, and the USA signed the ANZUS Pact, a mutual defence treaty.  This marked a shift in New Zealand politics away from the UK and towards the US.

27/11/1946, New Zealand elections gave 42 seats to Labour, which retained power, against 38 seats for the National Party.

4/8/1942, David Russell Lange, New Zealand politician and Prime Minister 1984-9, was born. He

controversially refused to allow nuclear armed ships to dock in New Zealand.

26/3/1936, New Zealand began radio broadcasts of its Parliamentary sessions.

13/3/1936, Sir Francis Bell, who was Prime Minister of New Zealand for only 16 days, died aged 84.

25/9/1921, Sir Robert Muldoon, Prime Minister of New Zealand 1975-84, was born.

20/7/1919. Sir Edmund Hillary, who conquered Mount Everest in 1953 with Tenzing Norgay, was born in Auckland, North Island, New Zealand.

1916, The New Zealand Labour Party was founded, by trades unionists and other socialists.

11/12/1907, Fire destroyed the Parliament buildings at Wellington, New Zealand.

26/9/1907. New Zealand became a dominion. It had become a colony of Britain in 1840. A series of wars between the British and the native Maoris ended with peace in the 1870s. Full independence was achieved in 1947.

11/6/1901, New Zealand annexed the Cook Islands.

20/1/1887. New Zealand annexed the Kermadec Islands.

14/3/1869, The third Maori rebellion in 15 years ended with the defeat of the rebel leader, Titokowaru.

1865, Wellington became the capital of New Zealand.

4/5/1863, Maoris clashed with British settlers at Taranaki, New Zealand, over land rights.

1861, Gold was discovered near Dunedin.

19/3/1861, An uneasy truce was agreed between the Maoris and the British in the two-year war over the enforced sale of Maori lands.

16/12/1860, The first immigrant ship, the Charlotte Jane, arrived in New Zealand.

25/6/1860, Death of Maori King, Potatau Te Wherowher.

1857, Gold mining began in New Zealand.

23/3/1848. The first official settlement at Dunedin, New Zealand. It was originally called New Edinburgh.

11/3/1845, In New Zealand, a Maori uprising against the British began. The Maori were protesting at European settlement of Maori lands, in breach of the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi.

11/3/1844, In New Zealand, Maoris rose up against British rule.

1841, New Zealand was separated from the colony of New South Wales.

21/5/1840, Captain William Hobson proclaimed New Zealand to be a British Colony.

6/2/1840. Captain Hobson signed the Treaty of Waitangi with Maori chiefs in New Zealand. The Maoris were guaranteed possession of their lands but if they wished to sell them must first offer them to the British government. Britain was concerned at French plans to send settlers to New Zealand, and at mistreatment of the Maoris by land speculators and escaped convicts from Australia.

24/2/1815, Land in New Zealand was sold to a White person for the first  time, for a mission church.

7/10/1769, Captain Cook reached New Zealand.

13/12/1642. New Zealand was discovered by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman.


45,000 BCE, The first humans are believed to have reached Australia.


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