arrived on the continent from Southeast Asia about 40,000 years before
the first Europeans began exploration in the 17th century. No formal
territorial claims were made until 1770, when Capt. James Cook took
possession in the name of Great Britain. Six colonies were created in
the late 18th and 19th centuries; they federated and became the
Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. The new country took advantage of
its natural resources to rapidly develop agricultural and manufacturing
industries and to make a major contribution to the British effort in
World Wars I and II. In recent decades, Australia has transformed
itself into an internationally competitive, advanced market economy. It
boasted one of the OECD's fastest growing economies during the 1990s, a
performance due in large part to economic reforms adopted in the 1980s.
The primary language is English
and Chinese and Italian
present as minority languages.