Australia’s first inhabitants were the Aborigines, who arrived

from Southeast Asia at least 40,000 years ago. Aboriginal tribes gradually spread south and about 20,000 years later had reached the area that is now Sydney Harbor. The main Aboriginal tribe there was the Eora. Its members lived in caves or bark huts. They ate mostly fish and shellfish, but also hunted animals and gathered plants, birds’ eggs, and honey.

Captain Phillip raised the Union Jack at Sydney Cove on 26 January 1788. This is an early 20th-century painting of the flag-raising scene.

Penal colony In 1786 the British government decided to set up a penal colony in Botany Bay. On 13 May 1787 the First Fleet of 11 ships set sail for Australia. On board were its leader, Captain Arthur Phillip, more than 700 soldiers and sailors with their families, and 736 convicts. The fleet arrived in January 1788, but the bay’s poor soil and lack of fresh water made it unsuitable for settlement. So Captain Phillip sailed north and found a better harbor—Sydney Cove.

Captain Cook The Aborigines probably met no one from outside Australia for thousands of years. Then, on 29 April 1770, English explorer Captain James Cook and his crew landed in Botany Bay, 10 miles (16 km) south of Sydney Harbor. The Aborigines threw spears at the strangers, then ran off into the bush. The Europeans studied the bay before making their way up Australia’s east coast, which they claimed for Britain and named New South Wales.


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