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Aboriginal people are believed to have arrived as early as 60,000 years ago, and evidence of Aboriginal art in Australia dates back at least 30,000 years.Several states and territories had their origins as penal colonies, with the first British convicts arriving at Sydney Cove in 1788.The British Empire expanded across the whole continent and established six colonies.The colonies were originally penal colonies, with the exception of South Australia, which was established as a "free colony" with no convicts and a vision for a territory with political and religious freedoms, together with opportunities for wealth through business and pastoral investments.The arrival of the first British settlers at what is now Sydney in 1788 introduced Western civilisation to the Australian continent.Although Sydney was initially used by the British as a place of banishment for prisoners, the arrival of the British laid the foundations for Australia's democratic institutions and rule of law, and introduced the long traditions of English literature, Western art and music, and Judeo-Christian ethics and religious outlook to a new continent.The culture of Australia is a Western culture, derived primarily from Britain but also influenced by the unique geography of Australia, the diverse input of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and other Australian people.
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Contact between the indigenous Australians and the new settlers ranged from cordiality to violent conflict, but the diseases brought by Europeans were devastating to Aboriginal populations and culture.
According to the historian Geoffrey Blainey, during the colonial period: "Smallpox, measles, influenza and other new diseases swept from one Aboriginal camp to another ...
The main conqueror of Aborigines was to be disease and its ally, demoralisation." William Wentworth established Australia's first political party in 1835 to demand democratic government for New South Wales.
From the 1850s, the colonies set about writing constitutions which produced democratically advanced parliaments as Constitutional Monarchies with Queen Victoria as the head of state.