Sydney is the state capital of New South Wales and the most populous city in Australia. It is on Australia's south-east coast, on the Tasman Sea. In June 2010 the greater metropolitan area had an approximate population of 4.6 million people. Inhabitants of Sydney are called Sydneysiders, comprising a cosmopolitan and international population.
The site of the first British colony in Australia, Sydney was established in 1788 at Sydney Cove by Captain Arthur Phillip, of the First Fleet, as a penal colony. The city is built on hills surrounding Port Jackson, which is commonly known as Sydney Harbour, where the iconic Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge are prominent structures. The hinterland of the metropolitan area is surrounded by national parks, and the coastal regions feature many bays, rivers, inlets and beaches, including the famous Bondi and Manly beaches. Within the city are many parklands, including Hyde Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Sydney is a consistently high-ranking world city for quality of life. It has hosted multiple major international sporting events, including the 1938 British Empire Games (now known as the Commonwealth Games), the 2000 Summer Olympics and the final of the 2003 Rugby World Cup. The main airport serving Sydney is Sydney (Kingsford Smith) Airport and its main port is Port Botany.
Radio carbon dating suggests that the Sydney region has been inhabited by indigenous Australians for at least 30,000 years. The historic indigenous inhabitants of Sydney Cove are the Cadigal people, whose land once stretched from south of Port Jackson to Petersham. While estimates of the population before the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 remain contentious, an estimated 4,000–8,000 Aboriginal people lived in the Sydney region before contact with British settlers. The British called the indigenous people the "Eora"; when asked where they came from these people would answer: Eora, meaning "here", or "from this place" in their language.
The three language groups in the Sydney region were divided into dialects, spoken by smaller clans. The principal languages were Darug (the Cadigal, inhabitants of the area of present-day City of Sydney, spoke a coastal dialect of Darug), Dharawal and Guringai. Each clan had a territory, and the location of each territory determined the resources available. Although urbanisation has destroyed much earlier evidence of these settlements, such as shell middens, a number of Sydney rock engravings, carvings and rock art remain visible in the Hawkesbury sandstone of the Sydney basin.
In 1770, Lieutenant James Cook landed at Botany Bay on the Kurnell Peninsula. Here Cook made first contact with an Aboriginal community known as the Gweagal. Under instruction from the British government, Arthur Phillip founded a convict settlement in the area, arriving at Botany Bay with a fleet of 11 ships on 18 January 1788. Closer examination determined the site to be unsuitable for habitation, owing to poor soil and a lack of reliable fresh water. Phillip subsequently founded the colony one inlet further north along the coast, at Sydney Cove on Port Jackson on 26 January 1788. The official proclamation of the founding and naming of Sydney took place nearly two weeks later on 7 February 1788. The original name was intended to be Albion, but Phillip named the settlement after the British Home Secretary, Thomas Townshend, Lord Sydney, in recognition of Lord Sydney's role in issuing the charter authorising Phillip to establish the colony.
In April 1789, a catastrophic epidemic disease, spread through the Eora people and surrounding groups, with the result that local Aborigines died by the thousands. Their bodies could often be seen bobbing in the water in Sydney Harbour. Because the Eora had no immunity to such Eurasian endemic diseases, the results were catastrophic for them. By the early 1800s, the Aboriginal population of the Sydney basin "had been reduced to only 10 percent of the 1788 estimate" or an estimated 500 to 1000 Aboriginal people between Broken Bay and Botany Bay.
Some indigenous people mounted violent resistance to British settlement, notably by the warrior Pemulwuy in the area around Botany Bay. Conflicts were common in the area surrounding the Hawkesbury River. By 1820 only a few hundred Aborigines survived. Governor Lachlan Macquarie had begun initiatives to 'civilise, Christianise and educate' the Aborigines by removing children from their clans and placing them with British households. Macquarie's tenure as Governor of New South Wales was a period when Sydney was improved from its basic beginnings. Roads, bridges, wharves and public buildings were constructed by British and Irish convicts. By 1822 the town had banks, markets, well-established thoroughfares and an organised constabulary.
The 1830s and 1840s were periods of urban development, which included the first suburbs. The town grew rapidly with the arrival of British and Irish immigrants seeking a new life in a new country. On 20 July 1842 the municipal council of Sydney was incorporated. The town was designated as the first city in Australia, with John Hosking elected as its first mayor. Rapid suburban development began in the last quarter of the 19th century with the advent of steam-powered tramways and railways easing commutes to work. With industrialisation, Sydney expanded rapidly and, by the early 20th century, it had a population of more than a million. In 1929, the novelist Arthur Henry Adams called it the "Siren City of the South" and the "Athens of Australia".
The Great Depression hit Sydney hard in comparison to other Australian cities. One of the highlights of the Depression era, however, was the completion of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932.
There has been a rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne since the gold rushes of the 1850s made the latter, capital of Victoria, Australia's largest and richest city. Sydney overtook Melbourne in population in the early years of the 20th century, and continues to be the largest city in Australia. During the 1970s and 1980s, Sydney's central business district (CBD), with a great number of financial institutions including the headquarters of the Reserve Bank, surpassed Melbourne as the nation's financial capital.