The history of Australia is the story of the land and peoples of the continent of Australia. Aboriginal Australians first arrived on the Australian mainland by sea from Maritime Southeast Asia between 40,000 and 70,000 years ago, and penetrated to all parts of the continent, from the rainforests in the north, the deserts of the centre, and the sub-Antarctic islands of Tasmania and Bass Strait. The artistic, musical and spiritual traditions they established are among the longest surviving such traditions in human history.
The first Torres Strait Islanders – ethnically and culturally distinct from Aboriginal Australians – arrived from what is now Papua New Guinea around 2,500 years ago, and settled in the islands of the Torres Strait and the Cape York Peninsula forming the northern tip of the Australian landmass.
The first known landing in Australia by Europeans was in 1606 by Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon. Later that year, Spanish explorer Luís Vaz de Torres sailed through, and navigated, what is now called Torres Strait and associated islands. Twenty-nine other Dutch navigators explored the western and southern coasts in the 17th century and named the continent New Holland. Macassan trepangers visited Australia’s northern coasts after 1720, possibly earlier. Other European explorers followed until, in 1770, Lieutenant James Cook charted the east coast of Australia for Great Britain. He returned to London with accounts favouring colonisation at Botany Bay .