Aborigines (indigenous people)
The prior inhabitants of New South Wales were the
tribes who arrived in Australia about 40,000 to 60,000 years ago. Before European settlement there were an estimated 250,000 Aboriginal people in the region.
The Wodi Wodi people are the original custodians of the
Illawarra region of South Sydney.
 Speaking a variant of the
Dharawal language, the Wodi Wodi people lived across a large stretch of land which was roughly surrounded by what is now known as
Shoalhaven River and
Bundjalung people are the original custodians of parts of the
northern coastal areas.
1788 British settlement
The European discovery of New South Wales was made by
Captain James Cook during his 1770 survey along the unmapped eastern coast of the Dutch-named continent of
New Holland, now Australia. In his original journal(s) covering the survey, in triplicate to satisfy Admiralty Orders, Cook first named the land "New Wales", named after
Wales. However, in the copy held by the Admiralty, he "revised the wording" to "New South Wales".
The first British settlement was made by what is known in
Australian history as the
First Fleet; this was led by Captain
Arthur Phillip, who assumed the role of governor of the settlement on arrival in 1788 until 1792.
After years of chaos and anarchy after the
overthrow of Governor
William Bligh, a new governor, Lieutenant-Colonel (later Major-General)
Lachlan Macquarie, was sent from Britain to reform the settlement in 1809.
 During his time as governor, Macquarie commissioned the construction of roads, wharves, churches and public buildings, sent explorers out from Sydney and employed a planner to design the street layout of Sydney. Macquarie's legacy is still evident today.
During the 19th century, large areas were successively separated to form the British colonies of Tasmania (proclaimed as a separate colony named Van Diemen's Land in 1825), South Australia (1836), Victoria (1851) and Queensland (1859).
Responsible government was granted to the New South Wales colony in 1855. Following the
Treaty of Waitangi,
William Hobson declared
British sovereignty over New Zealand in 1840. In 1841 it was separated from the Colony of New South Wales to form the new
Colony of New Zealand.
Charles Darwin visited Australia in January 1836 and in
The Voyage of the Beagle (chapter 19 of the 11th edition) records his hesitations about and fascination with New South Wales, including his speculations about the geological origin and formation of the great valleys, the aboriginal population, the situation of the convicts, and the future prospects of the country.
1901 Federation of Australia
At the end of the 19th century, the movement toward
federation between the Australian colonies gathered momentum. Conventions and forums involving colony leaders were held on a regular basis. Proponents of New South Wales as a free trade state were in dispute with the other leading colony Victoria, which had a protectionist economy. At this time customs posts were common on borders, even on the
Travelling from New South Wales to Victoria in those days was very difficult. Supporters of federation included the New South Wales premier
Sir Henry Parkes whose 1889
Tenterfield Speech (given in
Tenterfield) was pivotal in gathering support for New South Wales involvement.
Edmund Barton, later to become Australia's first Prime Minister, was another strong advocate for federation and a meeting held in
Corowa in 1893 drafted an initial constitution.
In 1898 popular referenda on the proposed federation were held in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. All votes resulted in a majority in favour, but the New South Wales government under Premier
George Reid (popularly known as "yes–no Reid" because of his constant changes of opinion on the issue) had set a requirement for a higher "yes" vote than just a simple majority which was not met.
In 1899 further referenda were held in the same states as well as Queensland (but not Western Australia). All resulted in yes votes with majorities increased from the previous year. New South Wales met the conditions its government had set for a yes vote. As a compromise to the question on where the capital was to be located, an agreement was made that the site was to be within New South Wales but not closer than 100 miles (161 km) from Sydney, while the provisional capital would be Melbourne. Eventually the area that now forms the Australian Capital Territory was ceded by New South Wales when
Canberra was selected.
Early 20th century
In the years after World War I, the high prices enjoyed during the war fell with the resumption of international trade. Farmers became increasingly discontented with the fixed prices paid by the compulsory marketing authorities set up as a wartime measure by the
Hughes government. In 1919 the farmers formed the
Country Party, led at national level by
Earle Page, a doctor from
Grafton, and at state level by
Michael Bruxner, a small farmer from Tenterfield.
Great Depression, which began in 1929, ushered in a period of political and class conflict in New South Wales. The mass unemployment and collapse of commodity prices brought ruin to both city workers and to farmers. The beneficiary of the resultant discontent was not the
Communist Party, which remained small and weak, but
Labor populism. Lang's second government was elected in November 1930 on a policy of repudiating New South Wales' debt to British bondholders and using the money instead to help the unemployed through public works. This was denounced as illegal by conservatives, and also by
James Scullin's federal Labor government. The result was that Lang's supporters in the federal Caucus brought down Scullin's government, causing a second bitter split in the Labor Party. In May 1932 the Governor, Sir
Philip Game dismissed his government. The subsequent election was won by the conservative opposition.
Japanese POW camp in Cowra, 1944, several weeks before the
By the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the differences between New South Wales and the other states that had emerged in the 19th century had faded as a result of federation and economic development behind a wall of protective tariffs.William McKell in 1941 and remained in power for 24 years. World War II saw another surge in industrial development to meet the needs of a war economy, and also the elimination of unemployment.
New South Wales continued to outstrip Victoria as the centre of industry, and increasingly of finance and trade as well. Labor returned to office under the moderate leadership of
Labor stayed in power until 1965. Towards the end of its term in power it announced a plan for the construction of an opera/arts facility on
Bennelong Point. The design competition was won by
Jørn Utzon. Controversy over the cost of what would eventually become the
Sydney Opera House became a political issue and was a factor in the eventual defeat of Labor in 1965 by the conservative
Liberal Party led by
Sir Robert Askin. Sir Robert remains a controversial figure with supporters claiming him to be reformist especially in terms of reshaping the NSW economy. Others though, regard the Askin era as synonymous with corruption with Askin the head of a network involving NSW police and SP bookmaking (Goot).
South Maitland Railway
(SMR) Railcar travelling between
, 1962. The SMR is notable for being the second last system in Australia to use steam haulage.
In the late 1960s a
secessionist movement in the
New England region of the state led to a referendum on the issue. The new state would have consisted of much of northern NSW including
Newcastle. The referendum was narrowly defeated and, as of 2010 , there are no active or organised campaigns for new states in NSW.
Askin's resignation in 1975 was followed by a number of short lived premierships by Liberal Party leaders. When a general election came in 1976 the ALP under
Neville Wran were returned to power. Wran was able to transform this narrow one seat victory into landslide wins (known as Wranslide) in 1978 and 1981.
After winning a comfortable though reduced majority in 1984, Wran resigned as premier and left parliament. His replacement
Barrie Unsworth struggled to emerge from Wran's shadow and lost a 1988 election against a resurgent Liberal Party led by
Nick Greiner. Unsworth was replaced as ALP leader by Bob Carr. Initially Greiner was a popular leader instigating reform such as the creation of the
Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). Greiner called a snap election in 1991 which the Liberals were expected to win. However the ALP polled extremely well and the Liberals lost their majority and needed the support of independents to retain power.
Greiner was accused (by ICAC) of corrupt actions involving an allegation that a government position was offered to tempt an independent (who had defected from the Liberals) to resign his seat so that the Liberal party could regain it and shore up its numbers. Greiner resigned but was later cleared of corruption. His replacement as Liberal leader and Premier was
John Fahey whose government secured Sydney the right to host the 2000 Summer Olympics. In the 1995 election, Fahey's government lost narrowly and the ALP under
Bob Carr returned to power.
Like Wran before him Carr was able to turn a narrow majority into landslide wins at the next two elections (1999 and 2003). During this era, NSW hosted the
2000 Sydney Olympics which were internationally regarded as very successful, and helped boost Carr's popularity. Carr surprised most people by resigning from office in 2005. He was replaced by
Morris Iemma, who remained Premier after being re-elected in the
March 2007 state election, until he was replaced by
Nathan Rees in September 2008.
 Rees was subsequently replaced by
Kristina Keneally in December 2009.
 Keneally's government was defeated at the
2011 state election and
Barry O'Farrell became Premier on 28 March. On 17 April 2014 O'Farrell stood down as Premier after misleading an ICAC investigation concerning a gift of a bottle of wine. The Liberal Party then elected Treasurer
Mike Baird as party leader and Premier. Baird resigned as Premier on 23 January 2017, and was replaced by