Contributor: Suzanne Riordan. Lesson ID: 13819

Do you know who discovered Australia? How many states does it have? What is Uluru, and where are the Twelve Apostles? Don't be a drongo, mate! Let's take a tour of New Holland--that is, Australia!


Geography, History, World

learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Beaver, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Would you like to learn how to speak like an Australian?

It's easy -- you just abbreviate!

Watch How to speak Australian : Abbreviate Everything from hijosh:

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Australia is both a country and a continent. It's slightly smaller than the United States and lies in the part of the world called Oceania, surrounded by the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

oceania map

It is a land of vast deserts, beautiful beaches, clean modern cities, and amazing wildlife.

kangaroo sunset

Watch this short Australia | Destination World video from National Geographic Kids for a quick introduction to the Land Down Under:

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Early Australian History

Before Europeans came, Australia was inhabited by Aborigines.

While this one name is used to identify all native Australians, there were many different groups of people who came to the land for over 50,000 years before European explorers began to arrive. In fact, the native people spoke over 250 different languages!

Bathurst Island men

Image by Hon. C L A Abbott, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

In 1606, Dutch Captain Willem Janszoon became the first European to discover the continent. He called the land "New Zeeland". This name wasn't used for Australia, obviously, but was later applied to the island south of it, which we now call New Zealand.

At the time, Australia was called "New Holland".

australia regions

The first English explorer who came to Australia was William Damper. He explored the western coast and made important observations about the land, including its plants and animals.

William Dampier, circa 1697-98

Image by Thomas Murray, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

Probably the most famous explorer of Australia was Captain James Cook.

Captain James Cook, 1775

Image by Nathaniel Dance-Holland, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

Cook explored the eastern coast of Australia and made a map of it. He also claimed this part of the land for Great Britain and named it New South Wales.

After Cook's explorations, the British began to establish colonies in Australia. At first, they sent prisoners to settle the land. These settlements were called penal colonies.

The British fought several wars with the Aborigines, and many natives were killed by the disease called smallpox.

In 1829, England claimed the whole continent and renamed it Australia.

Gold Rush

One event that really shaped the future of Australia was the Gold Rush of the 1850s.

Men had actually discovered gold in the country years before, but the government didn't want this to be known. Watch the video Defining Moments: Gold rush, from the National Museum of Australia, to find out why and learn more:

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Australian Federation

Australia had six colonies: New South Wales, Tasmania, Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, and Queensland.

These colonies came together to form the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. Ten years later, the Northern Territory also joined the federation.

Australia now has six states and one territory, as you can see in the map below. The capital city is Canberra.

australia map

World Wars

As part of the British Empire, Australia fought in both World War I and World War II.

Take notes as you watch Australia's Involvement in WWII - Behind the News, from Behind the News, to learn how Australia contributed to the Allies victory:

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Famous Places

Here's a quick look at some of the most famous places in Australia:

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Now that you've had a tour of Australia, move on to the Got It? section to test your knowledge of the Land Down Under.

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