Aborigines had been in Australia for thousands of years, and Malay traders had been landing on the far northern coast, collecting sea slugs to trade with China, for many years.
Willem Jansz/Janszoon was a Dutchman who was seeking new trade routes and trade associates. He became the first recorded European to step foot on Australia's shores on the western shore of Cape York Peninsula, on 26 February 1606. However, he believed the Cape to be part of New Guinea, from whence he crossed the Arafura Sea.
In 1616, Dutch sea-captain Dirk Hartog sailed too far whilst trying out Henderik Brouwer's recently discovered route from the Cape of Good Hope to Batavia, via the Roaring Forties. Reaching the western coast of Australia, he landed at Cape Inscription on 25 October 1616. His is the first known record of a European visiting Western Australia's shores.
The first Englishman to land on its shores was William Dampier in 1688, and his opinions of Australia ("New Holland" as it was then known) were less than complimentary. It wasn't until Captain James Cook came across the eastern coast and charted it in 1770 that Britain began to take notice of the remote continent.