Depending on your understanding of ancient and modern history, Australia actually has both one of the longest and one of the shortest histories in the world - all wrapped up in one of the world's most ancient continents - and the world's largest island continent.
Australian Aboriginal society has one of the longest continual cultural histories in the world, with origins dating back to the Ice Age. It is estimated that for about 65,000 years, the country was the preserve of over 600 different groups or tribes of Aboriginal (which means "indigenous") people, roaming the land largely in a nomadic fashion, living and breathing with the land (for more info on Aboriginal art, history and culture, see www.indigenousaustralia.info).
It has only been in the last 200 - 250 years that Australia has taken on the modern European influences after the land was "discovered" and claimed for the British Empire by Captain James Cook in 1770, and later settled in Port Jackson (currently known as "Sydney") as a convict colony starting with the First Fleet in 1788. From those early convict roots, Australia has transformed into a large, modern multi-cultural nation of well over 21,000,000 people, thriving with restaurants, nightlife, sporting facilities (Aussies are sports mad!), amazing architecture, stunning scenery, and enjoying some of the best beaches in the world. Aussies pride themselves on their achievements, with the nation offering many world class leaders in areas of scentific endeavour, technology, sports stars, musicians and artists amongst others.
Sadly, in the process, the former native Aboriginal settlement has largely been ignored and forgotten. Many outback Aboriginal communities continue to live in deplorable squalor and third world conditions despite many political attempts in recent years (including former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's "Sorry" speech) to right the wrongs of what many indigenous people regard as the "European invasion" of Australia.
Since the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, Australia's pace of development has been rapid indeed. In a little over 200 years, modern cities and towns with world class facilities, famous landmarks and enviable reputation have sprung to life throughout the country. A large proportion of the population live on Australia's coastal fringes, with the outdoor lifestyle a major part of the modern Australian psyche.
Yet, many sites in Australia do still display her harsh convict roots, with many examples of her history still proudly displayed and earmarked as unique heritage sites dating back to her convict era. Even in modern cities like Sydney, there are areas like The Rocks (which is only a stone's throw from the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House) and Parramatta, where many of the convict-built roads, buildings and archictecture are still in existence. Cities like Melbourne, Adelaide and even Perth have preserved their convict and early settlers' roots with a range of heritage listed buildings and architecture. Another famous convict settlement which sits in ruins and still attracts major tourist numbers is the infamous penal colony of Port Arthur, located near Hobart in Tasmania.
In recent years, Australian Governments have had an ongoing policy of multiculturalism, with a large number of immigrants each year arriving on our shores to take up permanent residence in the country. This has resulted in a cultural shift in many areas of Australia's society, most noticeably in the variety of restaurants and cultural experiences now on offer.