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.
Canberra is the capital city of Australia and with a population of just over 323,000 is Australia's largest inland city. Canberra was selected as the location of the nation's capital in 1908 as a compromise between Sydney and Melbourne and is unusual amongst Australian capital cities as an entirely purpose-built, planned city. Following an international contest for the city's design, a design by Chicago architect Walter Burley Griffin was selected and construction commenced in 1913. Although the growth and development of Canberra was hindered by the World Wars and the Great Depression, it emerged as a thriving city post-World War II. As Australia's seat of government, Canberra is the site of Parliament House, the High Court of Australia and numerous government departments; it is also the location of numerous social and cultural institutions of national significance. The federal government contributes the largest percentage of Gross State Product and is the largest employer in Canberra. Canberra is also a popular destination for domestic and international tourists.
The National Gallery of Victoria is an art gallery and museum in the Victorian capital of Melbourne. Founded in 1861, it is the oldest and the largest public art gallery in Australia. At that time of the gallery's establishment, Victoria had been an independent colony for just ten years, but in the wake of the Victorian gold rush, it was the wealthiest part of Australia, and Melbourne the largest city. Generous gifts from moneyed citizens, notably industrialist Alfred Felton, made it possible for it to begin buying a large collection of overseas works from both old and modern masters.