Introduction

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Australia broke away from the massive Gwandanaland , forming the world’s first continent in the southern hemisphere. This super continent, Sadul, included New Guinea, Tasmania and the Australian mainland until they separated about 8,000 years ago. It is not certain when the first humans actually arrived.

At the Malakununja II dig site, Arnhem Land, 1973, evidence of human occupation was found dating back more than 30,000 years. Certain “rock art” designs, which are the oldest engravings in the world, pre-date the cave etchings found in Europe. These first settlers must have been one of the oldest civilizations in the world, keeping in mind that the first human migrations from Africa began just over 100, 000 years ago.

The aboriginal (from the beginning) peoples' hunting tools; including the woomera, spear and boomerang, were among the survival and hunting tools that may be considered to be the original applied arts of Australia.

After early European contact from the 17th and 18th centuries, Australia came into some wealth. The name ‘Australia’ was adapted in 1824. In 1825, the colony of New South Wales was still largely made up of convicts. A census in 1828 showed 36,598 inhabitants (mainly in Sydney) of whom 15, 728 were convicts. The Gold Rush of 1850s saw the major colonial centres prosper.

The Commonwealth of Australia was formed in 1901 through the federation of six states under a single constitution. The non-Indigenous population at the time of Federation was 3.8 million. Today, Australia has a global, non-discriminatory immigration policy and is home to people from over 200 countries.

Historical Australian applied arts (design and craft) reflect the vastness of the continents geography, diverse flora and fauna, the influence of the aboriginals, Europeans and other settlers from around the globe. Australia is the only country in the world that occupies an entire continent and remains, to date, one of the world’s most sparsely populated countries while simultaneously being the most highly industrialized country south of the Equator.

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