Aboriginal people have lived in Queensland for more than 15,000 years. The coast was visited by Captain James Cook in 1770. A penal colony for English criminals was opened at Moreton Bay in 1824. In 1842 the territory was opened to free settlers. At first Queensland was part of New South Wales, but in 1859 it was made a separate colony. Discovery of gold in the 1860's brought many new immigrants. Queensland became one of the states of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. Discoveries of vast mineral deposits during the 20th century promoted economic development and made Queensland one of Australia's richest states. As a result of mining and other factors, the country experienced a significant increase in population. A powerful cyclone wreaked havoc on the northeastern coast in 2006.
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