Australia is a country of contradictions. The oldest land on Earth, it was one of the last to be found by European sailors during the era of exploration. Aboriginals, the oldest continuously surviving culture in the world, became citizens of the country only 42 years ago. The sixth-largest country in the world by landmass, it has just more than half the population of the state of California. Despite its very low population density, Australia is often considered overpopulated, compared to the amount of water and fertile soil that is available for human use.
Taking a largely chronological approach, A Brief History of Australia looks at social, cultural, economic, and political trends in the country's long history, shedding light on its unique and complex identity. Beginning with the peopling of the continent about 60,000 years ago, the volume examines the early history and culture of the Aboriginals. It continues with the first documented sighting of the landmass by a European in the 17th century, followed by a discussion of the colonial period in the 18th and 19th centuries. From the Federation of 1901 to the Liberal government of John Howard (1998-2007) and the Labor government of Kevin Rudd (2007-present), this new book explores Australia's relationship to the British Crown, national security and education policy, the role of sport and environmental issues, Aboriginal rights, women's history, and gay rights.
Barbara A. West holds a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from the University of Rochester in New York. A former Associate Professor of International Studies and Anthropology and Managing Editor of The Anthropology of East Europe Review, she is the author of Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania for Facts On File. Frances T. Murphy has degrees in History, Anthropology, and Psychology. Born and raised in Australia, she is the co-author of G'Day Boss! Australian Culture and the Workplace and a Director at Culture Works in Melbourne, Australia. She is also a major contributor to Facts On File's Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania.