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Over 40,000 years ago the first humans arrived in the country now known as Australia. These Australian Aboriginals had long named all major features in the Australian landscape by the time that Europeans first stumbled across the island continent. With European exploration and settlement came a major set of new names, often in ignorance of the fact that established names already existed. The trend has recently received some appropriate correction with places like Ayers Rock and the Grampians also being referred to by their Aboriginal names of Uluru and Gariwerd.

Place names in Australia may best be qualified as follows:

Dutch names

The Dutch were the first Europeans to explore the coast of Australia (see Voyages of Discovery) and number of names remain from before the arrival of Captain Cook and the English. The first recorded European place name is that of Cape Keerweer in Queensland named by Willem Janszoon in his voyage on Duyfken in March 1606 Later names resulting from early Dutch exploration include the Gulf of Carpentaria, Arnhem Land, St Peters & St Francis Islands, Duyfken Point and Rootnest Island. The western part of Australia was also often named as New Holland in 1645. Abel Tasman, the first European to sight Tasmania named it Van Diemen's Land after the sponsor of his voyage, but this was to be changed to Tasmania in 1855. Tasman named numbers of places in Tasmania and some of these names survive today.

The naming of Australia

The occurrences leading to the naming of Australia are not simple so we have listed them on a separate page - The White Hat Guide to the Naming of Australia.

See also:

Useful resources:

The White Hat Quiz - Australian Place Names

  1. What Australian city was named after a certain Mr Townshend?
  2. Melbourne was named after a British Prime Minister. Name another Victorian town that was named in honour of a British Prime Minister.
  3. What Australian suburb renamed itself after an American industrialist and philanthropist in the hope of gaining material support from him?
  4. What Australian suburb named itself after a brand of agricultural machinery?

You can find many more questions like this at The White Hat Quiz.


You can find a comprehensive guide to markets around Australia at The White Hat Guide to Markets in Australia.