Tuesday, 2 November 2010

CASE 145 - The history of Australia

Aboriginal people have lived in Australia for tens of thousands of years. During that time, oral history, some aspects dating from extreme antiquity, was passed down through the generations in the form of spoken allegories, myths, and songs.
While there was a long established European tradition of a Great South Land, the written history of Australia began in 1606, when during a voyage of discovery from Bantam, Willem Janszoon, commanding the Duyfken encountered the Australian mainland. The consensus among scholars for the arrival of humans of Australia is placed at 40,000 to 50,000 years ago, but possibly as early as 70,000 years ago. The earliest human remains found to date are those found at Lake Mungo, a dry lake in the south west of New South Wales. These have been dated at about 40,000 years old. At the time of first European contact, it has been estimated the population of Australian Aborigines was at least 350,000, while recent archaeological finds suggest that a population of 750,000 could have been sustained. The ancestors of the Aborigines appear to have arrived by sea during one of the earth’s periods of glaciation, when New Guinea and Tasmania were joined to the continent. The journey still required sea travel however, making them amongst the world’s earlier mariners.
By 1788, the population existed as 250 individual nations, many of which were in alliance with one another, and within each nation there existed several clans, from as few as five or six to as many as 30 or 40. Each nation had its own language and a few had multiple, thus over 250 languages existed, around 200 of which are now extinct. "Intricate kinship rules ordered the social relations of the people and diplomatic messengers and meeting rituals smoothed relations between groups," keeping group fighting, sorcery and domestic disputes to a minimum.

Several writers have made attempts to prove that Europeans visited Australia during the 16th century. Kenneth McIntyre and others have argued that the Portuguese had secretly discovered Australia in the 1520s. The presence of a landmass labelled "Jave la Grande" on the Dieppe Maps is often cited as evidence for a "Portuguese discovery". However, the Dieppe Maps also openly reflected the incomplete state of geographical knowledge at the time, both actual and theoretical. And it has also been argued that Jave la Grande was a hypothetical notion, reflecting 16th century notions of cosmography. Although theories of visits by Europeans, prior to the 17th century, continue to attract popular interest in Australia and elsewhere, they are generally regarded as contentious and lacking substantial evidence.
Willem Janszoon is credited with the first authenticated European discovery of Australia in 1606. Luis Váez de Torres passed through Torres Strait in the same year and may have sighted Australia's northern coast. Janszoon's discoveries inspired several mariners, among them, Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, to further chart the area.
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 in Shark Bay on 25 October 1616. His is the first known record of a European visiting Western Australia's shores.
Although Abel Tasman is best known for his voyage of 1642; in which he became the first known European to reach the islands of Van Diemen's Land (later Tasmania) and New Zealand, and to sight the Fiji islands, he also contributed significantly to the mapping of Australia proper. With three ships on his second voyage (Limmen, Zeemeeuw and the tender Braek) in 1644, he followed the south coast of New Guinea westward. He missed the Torres Strait between New Guinea and Australia, but continued his voyage along the Australian coast and ended up mapping the north coast of Australia making observations on the land and its people.

By the 1650s, as a result of the Dutch discoveries, most of the Australian coast was charted reliably enough for the navigational standards of the day, and this was revealed for all to see in the map of the world inlaid into the floor of the Burgerzaal ("Burger's Hall") of the new Amsterdam Stadhuis ("Town Hall") in 1655. Although various proposals for colonisation were made, notably by Pierre Purry from 1717 to 1744, none were officially attempted. Indigenous Australians were less interested in and able to trade with Europeans, than the peoples of India, the East Indies, China and Japan. The Dutch East India Company concluded that there was "no good to be done there". They turned down Purry’s scheme with the comment that, "There is no prospect of use or benefit to the Company in it, but rather very certain and heavy costs".

A 19th century engraving showing natives of the Gweagal tribe opposing the arrival of Captain James Cook in 1770.
With the exception of further Dutch visits to the west, however, Australia remained largely unvisited by Europeans until the first British explorations. In 1769, Lieutenant James Cook in command of the HMS Endeavour, traveled to Tahiti to observe and record the transit of Venus. Cook also carried secret Admiralty instructions to locate the supposed Southern Continent:"There is reason to imagine that a continent, or land of great extent, may be found to the southward of the track of former navigators." On 19 April 1770, the crew of the Endeavour sighted the east coast of Australia and ten days later landed at Botany Bay.
In 1772, a French expedition led by Louis Aleno de St Aloüarn, became the first Europeans to formally claim sovereignty over the west coast of Australia, but no attempt was made to follow this with colonisation. The ambition of Sweden’s King Gustav III to establish a colony for his country at the Swan River in 1786 remained stillborn. It was not until 1788 that economic, technological and political conditions in Great Britain made it possible and worthwhile for that country to make the large effort of sending the First Fleet to New South Wales

British colonization

The British colony of New South Wales was established with the arrival of the First Fleet of 11 vessels under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip in January 1788. The First Fleet consisted of over a thousand settlers, including 778 convicts (192 women and 586 men). A few days after arrival at Botany Bay the fleet moved to the more suitable Port Jackson where a settlement was established at Sydney Cove on 26 January 1788. This date later became Australia's national day, Australia Day. The colony was formally proclamed by Governor Arthur Phillip on 7 February 1788 at Sydney Cove in Port Jackson. The first white person born in Australia was Rebekah Small, born to one of the women who had come on the First Fleet shortly after the Fleet landed.
The territory claimed included all of that portion of the continent of Australia eastward of the meridian of 135º East and all the islands in the Pacific Ocean between the latitudes of Cape York and the southern tip of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). The extent of this territorial claim excited the amazement of many when they first learned of it. "Extent of Empire demands grandeur of design", wrote Watkin Tench in A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay. "Truly an astonishing extent!" remarked the Dutch translator of Tench’s book, who went on to say: "The outermost or easternmost of the Marquesas Islands lie, even according to the English maps, at least eighty-five degrees eastward of the line where they place the commencement of the Territory of New South Wales. They have therefore formed a single province which, beyond all doubt, is the largest on the whole surface of the earth. From their definition it covers, in its greatest extent from East to West, virtually a fourth of the whole circumference of the Globe"

Australia History - Brief Timeline

70,000 BC: Aborigines are thought to have immigrated to Australia
42,000 BC: Aboriginal engravings are found in South Australia dating back to this time.
35,000 BC: Aborigines are thought to have reached Tasmania.
2000 BC: The Dingo is the first domesticated animal to reach Australia.
1300 AD: Marco Polo discusses an great unexplored southern land.
1616 AD: Dirk Hartog, a Dutch explorer, sails to Western Australia.
!688 AD: William Dampier, English explorer, arrives on the west coast of Australia.
1770: Captain James Cook lands on the more hospitable east coast of Australia and claims it for Britain.
1804: Hobart Town is established in Van Diemens Land which is now known as Tasmania.
1833: Port Arthur opens as a penal settlement in Tasmania.
1851: The gold rush begins near Bathurst in New South Wales.
1853: The last convicts are shipped to Tasmania.
1868: The last convicts are transported to Australia.
1873: Ayers Rock is first sighted by Europeans.
1876: The last full blooded Tasmanian aboriginal, Truganini, dies.
1901: The Commonwealth of Australia becomes a reality and the 1st parliment of Australia is opened
1914-1918: Australian troops fight in World War 1.
1920: QANTAS is formed as a local airline.
1923: Vegemite is first produced.
1927: The first Federal Parliament is held in Canberra.
1932: Sydney Harbour Bridge opens.
1933: Western Australia produces a referendum for secession from England but it is rejected by Parliament.
1939-1945: Australian troops fight in World War 2.
1948: The first all Australian car is produced-the Holden.
1956: Melbourne hosts the Olympics.
1965: Australian troops sent to the Vietnam War.
1971: Neville Bonner becomes the first Aboriginal to be a Member of Parliament.
1973: The Sydney Opera House opens.
1981: Asian immigration increases.
1983: Australia wins the America's Cup.
1988: Bicentenary: The new Parliament House opens in Canberra.
2000: The Sydney Olympics held.

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