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Australia: A chronology of key events

BBC Monitoring,
Wednesday 27 June 2001, 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK

40,000 BC - The first Aborigines arrive from south-east Asia. By 20,000 BC they have spread throughout the mainland and Tasmania.

1788 - British Navy captain Arthur Phillip founds a penal settlement at Sydney. He had arrived with a fleet of 11 vessels, carrying nearly 800 convicts. The Aboriginal population numbers several hundred thousand.

1829 - Colony of Western Australia established at Perth by Captain James Stirling.

1837 - South Australia established, with Adelaide as its capital.

1850s - Gold is found at several locations leading to gold rushes throughout the decade. The population increases three-fold in 10 years to pass the million mark. An influx of Chinese leads to restrictions on their entry. Aborigines are treated very badly and their numbers collapse.

1856 - Australia becomes the first country to introduce the secret ballot - or 'Australian ballot' - for elections.

1877 - Australia and England play the first-ever cricket Test match in Melbourne.

1901 - The country is unified. The Commonwealth of Australia comes into being on 1st January.

1911 - Canberra founded and designated as the capital.

1914 - Outbreak of World War I. Australia commits hundreds of thousands of troops to the British war effort. Their participation - alongside New Zealanders - in the Gallipoli campaign in Turkey in 1915 leads to heavy casualties. The Gallipoli landings help cement a sense of identity in the young nation.

Economic woes

1929 - The Great Depression following the Wall Street Crash hits Australia hard. Recovery is uneven, and the Labour government is defeated in the election in 1931.

1939 - Australia follows Britain's lead and declares war on Nazi Germany.

1941 - The United States declares war on Japan. Australia turns to the US for help in its defence after the Japanese take Singapore. Australia allows the US to base its supreme command for the Pacific war on its territory.

Kangaroos are as sport-mad as Australians

1948 - Australia begins a scheme for immigration from Europe. Over the next 30 years, more than 2 million people arrive, about one-third of them from Britain.

1950 - Australia commits troops to the UN forces in the Korean war.

1956 - Olympic Games held in Melbourne.

1965 - Australia commits troops to the US war effort in Vietnam.

1967 - A national referendum supports granting Aborigines full citizenship.

1975 - Australia introduces new immigration laws, restricting the number of unskilled workers allowed into the country.

The government of Gough Whitlam is plagued by resignations and the blocking of its budget by the upper house of the parliament. In an unprecedented move, the governor-general, Sir John Kerr, dismisses the government. A caretaker administration under Malcolm Fraser is installed.

1986 - The Australia Act makes Australian law fully independent of the British parliament and legal system. There is no longer any provision for Australian courts to mount final appeals to the Privy Council in London.

Turning to Asia

1992 - The Citizenship Act is amended to remove swearing an oath of allegiance to the British Crown. Prime Minister Paul Keating's Labour government pledges to make Australia a republic and to concentrate on links with Asia.

1993 - Keating wins elections. The Native Title Act grants Aborigines compensation for loss of land rights.

1996 - Keating defeated in elections. John Howard of the Liberal party becomes prime minister.

Constitutional vote

1998 - Elections see Howard's Liberal and National party coalition re-elected, but with a reduced majority. Delegates to a constitutional convention vote to replace Queen Elizabeth II as head of state with a president chosen by parliament. The issue is put to a referendum in 1999. The proposal is defeated, with 55% voting to retain the status quo.

2000 - Australia hosts the Olympic Games in Sydney, the most popular ever.

2001 January - Australia celebrates 100 years since its inauguration as the Commonwealth of Australia.

2001 February - Sir Donald Bradman, Australia's most famous cricketer, dies at the age of 92.

2001 May - Australia's churches rebuke Prime Minister John Howard for his failure to properly acknowledge the suffering of thousands of Aborigines under a past assimilation policy. Howard has steadfastly refused to apologise to the "Stolen Generations" of Aborigines who as children were forcibly removed from their parents to live with whites.