The end of the long economic boom that had sustained Australia's rise and prosperity for many settlers since the gold strikes of the early s resulted in a market collapse that tore at the social fabric and fractured the unity of colonial society.
The Australian Labor Party was formed in the s. The great workers' strikes of the early s had been resolved in the employers' favour with the assistance of government, police and soldiers. In the aftermath of these strikes, the labour movement agreed that the best thing to do for workers was to form an electoral party, take government and change the laws to make them fairer for everyone.
Another direct response to workers' rights was a movement for federating the colonies into an independent and united nation. This had first been suggested in the s, and recurred at different times in the decades that followed, but never got beyond debate and argument in different colonial parliaments.
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Although many expeditions visited the coast during the next years, there was no lasting attempt at establishment of a permanent settlement until December when an expedition on behalf of the New South Wales colonial government, led by Major Edmund Lockyer ,  landed at King George Sound. On 21 January Lockyer formally took possession of the western third of the continent of Australia for the British Crown. This was followed by the establishment of the Swan River Colony in , including the site of the present-day capital, Perth.
The harsh conditions faced by the settlers resulted in population growth being minimal until the discovery of gold in the s. Since the gold rush , the population of the state has risen steadily, with substantial growth in the period since World War II. Western Australia gained the right of self-government in , and joined with the five other states to form the Commonwealth of Australia in In the British parliament declined to act since secession would require the assent of the Australian parliament, and the movement lapsed with an improving economy and generous federal grants.
When Australia's first inhabitants arrived on the northwest coast 40, to 60, years ago the sea levels were much lower. Other possible immigration routes were via islands further north and then through New Guinea.
Over the next tens of thousands of years these Indigenous Australians slowly moved southward and eastward across the landmass. The Aborigines were well established throughout Western Australia by the time European ships started accidentally arriving en route to Batavia now Jakarta in the early 17th century. The first European to sight Western Australia was the Dutch explorer, Dirk Hartog , the first European to suggest to have found a continent there, who on 26 October landed at what is now known as Cape Inscription, Dirk Hartog Island.
Before departing, Hartog left behind an inscribed pewter plate affixed to a post.
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In the plate was discovered and replaced by Willem de Vlamingh and repatriated to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. A multitude of Dutch visits followed during that century, charting virtually the whole of the west coast, the West Australian south coast and Australia's northern coast. Some of the crew remained on the Monte Bello Islands for 7 days, during that time sighting Barrow Island , before sailing to Batavia in a longboat. A second boat brought some more crew to Batavia, so just over 40 people survived, including Brookes.
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Almost one hundred crew apparently perished in the wreck. Tryall became Australia's oldest known shipwreck. A later English visitor was William Dampier , who in sailed down some of the western coast of Australia. He noted the lack of water and in his description of Shark Bay in his account "A Voyage to New Holland ", he expressed his frustration:. During which time we searched about, as I said, for fresh Water, digging Wells, but to no purpose.
A number of sections of the Western Australian coastline were given names which did not last past the exploratory era in names of features — such as Eendrachtsland. Below is a timeline of significant events from the landfall of Dirk Hartog until the eventual settlement of the Swan River Colony in In the early 19th century the British became concerned about the possibility of a French colony being established on the west coast of Australia.
An army detachment was sent from Sydney headed by Major Edmund Lockyer with eighteen soldiers, one captain, one doctor, one storekeeper and twenty-three convicts. On 21 January the whole of Australia was finally claimed as British territory when Major Lockyer formally annexed the western portion of the continent in a ceremony on King George Sound. The first significant European settlements were established on the Swan River by James Stirling in The colonists first sighted land on 1 June , an official Proclamation was made on 18 June and the foundation of the colony took place on 12 August.
As Lieutenant Governor , Stirling had sole authority to draft laws and decide day-to-day affairs. By , all the other Australian colonies had their own parliaments and colonists in Western Australia began pushing for the right to govern themselves. The British Colonial Office opposed this because of the slow rate of growth and the presence by then of convicts. Petitions asking for some of the positions in the Legislative Council to be filled by popularly elected colonists were presented to London in and In this was granted, although the Governor could still veto the Council's decisions.
Much of the land around the Swan River Colony was unsuitable for agriculture and it was inevitable that the colony would have to expand beyond the Swan River area after the most fertile locations were quickly settled. Sheep farming was the most successful early agricultural activity, and the basis of all expansion until the s.
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While Western Australia was initially a "free settlement", economic problems for settler capitalists led them to seek the transportation of British convicts. WA became a penal colony in The British Colonial Office opposed this because of the slow rate of growth and the presence of convicts. Petitions asking for some of the positions in the Legislative Council to be filled by elected members were presented to London twice during the s. By , over 9, convicts had been transported to Western Australia on 43 convict ship voyages.
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Wool production, usually on large stations , was also the basis of expansion further east and northward. The first permanent settlements in the North West later divided into the Pilbara and Kimberley regions took place in the mids, initially at the Harding River , De Grey River and Roebourne gazetted in In the North West, unlike southern WA, the labour force was dominated by Indigenous Australians, often under harsh forms of unfree labour. In , some members of the Legislative Council were elected for the first time, although only male settlers with significant property could vote and the Governor could still veto the Council's decisions.
Ernest Giles twice traversed the Gibson Desert between and During the s, the Murchison and Gascoyne regions were also settled by Europeans. Filter Clear Filter. From To Reset Filter Year.
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