The continent of Australia has been inhabited for more than 42,000 years by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. After sporadic visits by European explorers and merchants from the 17th century onwards, the eastern half of the continent was claimed by the British in 1770, and officially settled as the penal colony of New South Wales on 26 January 1788. As the population grew and new areas were explored, another five largely self-governing Crown colonies were successively established over the course of the 19th century.
Australia (IOC code: AUS) first competed in the Winter Olympic Games in 1936 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and has participated in every Winter Olympics since, with the exception of the 1948 Games in St. Moritz. Australia achieved its first medal, a bronze, in 1994 in the men's 5,000 metres short track relay event. Zali Steggall gained Australia's first individual medal in 1998 when she won bronze in the slalom event. In 2002, Steven Bradbury won gold in the 1,000 metres short track speed skating and Alisa Camplin won gold in the aerials event, making Australia the only southern hemisphere country to have ever accomplished gold at a Winter Olympics. Australia sent 40 competitors to compete in 10 sports at the 2006 Games in Turin, a record number of athletes and events for the nation. For the first time, there was a stated aim of winning a medal, and this goal was achieved when Dale Begg-Smith won the gold medal in men's moguls freestyle skiing. Camplin attained her second medal, a bronze in the aerials event.