Australia Research Guide | Australia, an overview
Australia, officially known as the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands. Before British settlement, the land was inhabited by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander indigenous people.
European settlement began in Australia with the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788. The penal colony, known as New South Wales, occupied the eastern half of the continent including Tasmania, then known as Van Diemen’s Land.
The population grew steadily in the decades following the landing of the First Fleet, and by the time of the 1850s gold rushes, most of the continent had been explored by European settlers and an additional five self-governing crown colonies established.
With the exception of Western Australia, all other states and colonies were at one time part of New South Wales. It is important to know when individual colonies and territories separated and when they became self-governing as early records may be found with the state that originally governed the area.
The following states were part of New South Wales:
On 1st January 1901, the six colonies federated, forming the Commonwealth of Australia. Australia has since maintained a stable liberal democratic political system that functions as a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy, comprising six states and ten territories. Based on this structure, each individual state and territory have their own record systems, with no single combined place to research the majority of records. Knowing the places in which your ancestors lived is essential to locating records for them.
Pictured: On the Cow Pasture River, New South Wales, John Skinner Prout (1805-1876)