New South Wales – Australias most active state.

The history of the New South Wales

Indigenous History

The original inhabitants of Sydney (the Cadigal people) spoke the Eora language. In Eora, Sydney is called Warran meaning ‘here’ or ‘this place’. Other dialects of the Sydney area include Dharug, Kurringgai and Dhawawal.

The Eora people were hunters and gatherers and inhabited coastal campsites where fish (such as snapper) and shellfish (oysters, mussels and cockles) were plentiful. Song and dance were important elements of Aboriginal life. Rock engravings depicting humans and native animals such as whales and wallabies have been found throughout the Sydney area, although many have been covered by roads or buildings.

European Arrival

New South Wales is Australia’s oldest state. It was named in 1770 by Captain James Cook who, after falsely proclaiming that the land was uninhabited, claimed it for Britain.

On 26 January 1788 the First Fleet, eleven ships commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip, arrived in Botany Bay. The ships carried 700 convicts sent from Britain’s overflowing gaols and 150 officers and Marine guards. Botany Bay was the intended location of the penal colony, however, the site was judged unfit and Port Jackson was chosen instead.

In 1793, the first free settlers arrived in NSW: five single men and two families. Over time, more free settlers arrived and convicts earned their freedom, causing Sydney’s population to increase. In 1851, Victoria separated from New South Wales, and Queensland followed in 1859.

The New South Wales Parliament was founded in May 1856. In 1858, steps towards modern democracy were made. The secret ballot was introduced and most males over the age of 21 were allowed the right to vote (instead of only landowners, as it had been previously). In 1901, NSW joined with the other five Australian states to form the Commonwealth of Australia.

New South Wales by numbers*

  • The population of New South Wales is 7,797,800 people.
  • Sydney (the capital city of New South Wales) is Australia’s most populated city with an estimated population of 5.2 million people.
  • 49.3 percent of the NSW population are male and 50.7 percent are female.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders account for 2.9 percent of New South Wales’ population.
  • The top five ancestries for people in NSW are: English, Australian, Irish, Scottish and Chinese.
  • The top five languages (other than English) spoken in NSW are: Mandarin, Arabic, Cantonese, Vietnamese and Greek.
  • The top five countries of birth (other than Australia) for people in NSW are: England, China, India, New Zealand and Philippines.
  • NSW is located in south-eastern Australia. It has a total area of 800,642 km2 and covers 10.4 percent of Australia.
  • New South Wales’ coastline is only 2137 km long.