Useful Notes: Australian History
A very short summary of the relatively short history of how Australia came to be. Australia began, as most other countries did, a while ago, although it was not until around 60,000 to 40,000 years before now that humans moved there. It is not clear where these people, formerly called Aborigines but now called Indigenous Australians, migrated from exactly; nonetheless, they developed hundreds of languages and very rich cultures and religions. Many of the Indigenous Australian languages have died out, as have many Indigenous Australians to former institutionalised racism and current crippling poverty. Very few still live as their ancestors did. Over a century of racist domestic policy left them in poverty, and broke up families and entire societies. Like the indigenous populations of North America, Aboriginal populations have been reduced by conflict with European settlers (most infamously in Tasmania), diseases carried by European settlers, conversion of hunting land to agriculture and grazing, destruction of game, desertification, and by the introduction of drugs and alcohol. However, we're working on that. (Fixing it, that is) Through a popular error born of inattention at school, the date of the European discovery of Australia is wrongly considered to be 1770. It is well-documented (and taught in school history lessons) that the first European to land on the continent was the Dutch explorer Willem Janszoon (in 1606), and that the Dutch explored and mapped the desolate west and north coasts in the 17th Century. Other famous early explorers include Dirk Hartog (in 1616), Abel Tasman (discovered Tasmania and New Zealand in 1642, mapped the north-west in 1643), and William Dampier (1688 and 1699). The man who commonly gets popular credit for discovering Australia is Captain (actually lieutenant) James Cook, who landed in Australia on 19th April 1770, explored and mapped the (well-watered, fertile) east coast, and declared the previously-undiscovered eastern portion to be British territory. After the American War of Independence (1776–1783) Britain needed a new place to send those criminals who had previously been deported to the Americas in indentures (and also wished to forestall French expansion into Australia), and in 1787 despatched a convict colony to Botany Bay, which arrived on the 26th of January 1788 and established itself at Sydney. In 1804 the first major case of civil unrest, known as the Battle of Castle Hill or the Irish Rebellion, resulted in one sided Curb-Stomp Battle between 57 soldiers of the New South Wales corp and Auxilaries and 400 Irish convicts. This battle is noted as the first instance of armed combat between Europeans on Australian soil and is usually over-shadowed by a more renowned Curb-Stomp Battle that occurred in the Gold Rush period. In 1808 corrupt officers of the military government mutinied and overthrew the governor, William Bligh (yes, that Captain Bligh). In 1810 the British government appointed governor, Colonel Lachlan Macquarie, who began to convert the colony from a prison camp into a predominantly civil society. More colonies were founded in the early 1800s, either as worse places to send convicts who misbehaved in New South Wales (Queensland, Tasmania, Norfolk Island) or as free settlements with (Victoria, Western Australia) or without (New Zealand, South Australia) convict labourers in indentures. Eventually the free settlers, time-expired convicts, and locally-born dominated the population to such an extent that Sydney, Brisbane, Hobart, and Melbourne were no longer suitable as convict colonies. Transportation of convicts to Sydney ended in 1848, the last convicts transported to Australia at all arrived in Western Australia in 1869. By the mid 19th century the six colonies of New South Wales (the first one), Tasmania (formerly Van Diemen's Land), Western Australia (formerly the Swan River Colony), South Australia, Victoria and Queensland were settled (in that order) and got self government, and many explorers were sent around, such as:
- Matthew Flinders. Circumnavigated Australia for the first time. With his cat. No, really.
- Robert O'Hara Burke and William John Wills discovered a way to go from south to north in hope of finding an inland sea. Didn't work out too well: not only is there no inland sea in Australia, every member of the party but one died, even though many were helped by the Yandruwandha tribe.
- This was only the most famous of many instances in which heroic European explorers died of thirst and starvation in countryside where the Aborigines were able to support themselves indefinitely.