KidZone History: Australia
The earliest discovery of the Australian continent is thought to have been by aboriginal peoples around 40,000BC. These people had populated a large area of the land mass by 20,000BC. However, it was some time before anyone else discovered Australia existed.
Asian and Arab traders may have discovered Australia during the 15th century as they lost their way. Both civilisations had writings of a Southern land but nothing has been confirmed. Europeans also took time to discover the continent. There are unconfirmed reports of the Portuguese sailors discovering Australia in 1528.
The confirmed discovery of Australia is credited to the Dutch however. Sailors first left a monument at Shark Bay, Western Australia before Abel Tasman was commissioned in 1642 for wider exploration. He landed off Tasmania and explored the north coast, naming the land New Holland.
After these events, the Dutch did little else in the way of exploring and the English took over. Somewhat of a hiatus occured before William Dampier explored in 1688. However, he reported back so critically that another hiatus ensued. This was until interest was renewed and the British government back various voyages. The most famous of which was led by Captain James Cook aboard HMS Endeavour in 1770. This voyage eventually led to the first European settlement on the Australian continent at Sydney.