Western Australia was explored by Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French, and British sailors before 1800. In 1826, a band of British soldiers and convicts attempted a settlement at King George Sound, the site of Albany. This colony was abandoned three years later. In 1829, Perth and nearby Fremantle were founded. Between 1850 and 1868, nearly 10,000 convicts were sent into the colony. Western Australia received partial representative government in 1870. Settlement increased after the discovery of gold in 1885.

Western Australia became self-governing in 1890, and it became a state in the Common wealth of Australia in 1901. In 1933, people opposed to statehood voted to secede, but this move was rejected by the British Parliament. Following World War II, immigration helped lead to agricultural expansion. Discovery and development of vast mineral resources and oil reserves in the 1960's and 1970's brought the greatest growth in nearly a century.

In 1983, Brian Burke of the Australian Labor Party took charge of the state's government. Scandal rocked his government when it was accused of improper business dealings with a merchant bank.

In 1993, the Liberal Party's Richard Court, son of former Premier Sir Charles Court, regained control of the government. In 1994, Western Australia challenged a federal law allowing Aborigines to claim title to certain government-owned lands. The state lost its case in Australia's High Court the following year. In 2001, the Labor Party returned to power.