The History of Australia

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  • Datum přidání: 23. července 2006
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The History of Australia

Australia is one of the oldest landmasses on earth, originally breaking away from the super continent 'Gondwana' and settling in its current position about fifteen million years ago. The continent is also one of the most stable of all landmasses and has been free of mountain-building forces for 100 million years. The earliest European explorers who knew about the mysterious 'Terra Australis', were the Portuguese, namely Luis Vaes de Torres who sailed the narrow strait between the tip of Cape York and New Guinea in the 16th century, followed by Dutch navigators Dirk Hartog, Van Diemen and Abel Tasman who mapped much of the coastline but didn't show interest in settling a hostile and barren continent. It was not until 1770 that the fertile east coast was sighted by Captain James Cook of the British Royal Navy, in command of his ship the 'Endeavour', who landed in Botany Bay, south of Sydney. On the ship there were several scientists and a botanist who during their forays ashore made amazing discoveries of plants and animals, never seen before. After Captain Cook left Botany Bay he travelled north and charted the coastline reporting that the east coast was fertile and suitable for settlement. He named the land New South Wales and claimed it for the British Crown in the name of King George III. During a stop in Queensland where his ship needed repair, Cook made contact with the local Aborigines and was quite impressed with the apparent happiness they lived in. Aboriginal History
It is generally thought that Aborigines have been living on the continent for the last 50 000 years, originally migrating from Indonesia. The oldest skeleton found in Australia was at Lake Mungo in south-west New South Wales, believed to be 38 000 years old and bears traces of ceremonial ochre. This is thought to be the oldest sign of ochre use ever discovered. Unlike most other races, Aborigines were not cultivators, relying instead on a form of controlled burning of vegetation known as "fire-stick farming". They did not develop a sense of land ownership, although Aboriginal children were taught from an early age that they belonged to the land and must respect tribal boundaries. Tribes returned to particular sites to bury their dead. Some areas were designated sacred sites because of their association with the Dreamtime, the time when the earth was formed and cycles of life and nature were initiated.

Aboriginal legends, songs and dances tell of powerful spirits who created the land and people during the Dreamtime. There was no written Aboriginal language and, in fact, most of the 600 tribes spoke different dialects and rarely met except on ceremonial occasions. The tradition of the Dreamtime, however, was a unifying force and rock paintings depicting this creation period can be found dotted throughout the country. Some of the most striking and best preserved of these can be viewed at rock galleries in Kakadu National Park and other parts of northern Australia. The arrival of white people gradually brought an end to the traditional Aboriginal way of life, when settlement began to encroach on tribal lands. Today, most Aborigines live in cities and towns or in isolated settlements near tribal lands. Few continue their nomadic ways. In recent years, white Australians have become more sensitive to the plight of Aborigines, resulting in increased health and educational services, greater recognition of Aboriginal land rights and a growing appreciation of Aboriginal culture. Specialised galleries display Aboriginal art, tools, musical instruments and artefacts. These are highly valued and avidly sought by collectors all over the world. Settlement
After the American Revolution and following independence Britain had nowhere to dispose of his unwanted citizens and a quick solution had to be found. Overcrowded jails and a lack of raw material for ship building and other industries encouraged the British Government to claim the new-found land and develop it as a penal colony where convict labour could produce crops and supply materials for England. Captain Arthur Phillip, who became Australia's first governor, led the First Fleet of 11 ships with 736 convicts and their guards into Port Jackson, now known as Sydney Harbour, in 1788. Those who survived the long voyage were confronted by untamed land and food shortages. Despite the severity of their sentences, many convicts were transported for offences as moderate as stealing food, poaching wildlife on private land or causing political unrest. Fewer than three per cent were convicted of crimes of violence, 38 per cent were first offenders. The majority were from urban metropolises such as London, Manchester, Liverpool, Dublin and Glasgow. A total of 160,000 convicts were brought to the Australian colonies until 1852 when transportation ended. Many convicts who completed their sentences chose to stay in Australia as farmers and labourers. Free settlers trickled in from 1793, lured by the promise of cheap land and convict labour.

Explorers opened up new country in all directions and rich grazing land was discovered west of Sydney. Wool soon became one of the country's most important industries. During the 1850s, gold and copper discoveries brought a fresh influx of immigrants from Europe, China and America. Some of the richest gold seams were found at Ballarat, north of Melbourne and in central Western Australia at Kalgoorlie while large copper deposits were discovered at Yorke Peninsula in South Australia. As the cities grew and the roads connecting them were upgraded a sense of nationalism developed and Australia was declared a commonwealth on January 1, 1901. Exploration
After the first struggling decades exploration began in the nineteenth century. The explorers were driven by a desire to discover new grazing land and land not claimed before, some being government officials with scientific knowledge others just possessing a natural talent for exploration. All shared a love for the Australian landscape. For many years the rugged Blue Mountains west of Sydney seemed insurmountable until Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson discovered a passage, and opened the way for inland exploration in 1813. Famous explorers include George Bass, who together with Matthew Flinders circumnavigated Tasmania. Matthew Flinders circumnavigated Australia in 1801-3 and completed the mapping of the coastline. Robert O'Hara Burke and William Wills were the first Europeans to cross the continent from south to north in 1860 - an amazing feat that cost their lives on the way back from the Gulf of Carpentaria to Melbourne. Edward John Eyre, an inland explorer crossed the continent from Streaky Bay in South Australia to Albany in Western Australia - a long trip of almost 1600km. Hamilton Hume found a route through the Great Dividing Range to the fertile plains of Goulburn and Yass while Ludwig Leichhardt explored inland from Brisbane to Port Essington in the Northern Territory. Charles Sturt discovered the Murray River, and Sir Douglas Mawson was an Antarctic explorer. Settlements were established in Hobart, Tasmania in 1803, on the Brisbane River, Queensland in 1824, on the Swan River, Western Australia in 1829, on Port Phillip Bay, Victoria in 1835 and on Gulf St Vincent, South Australia in 1836. The capital cities of five Australian states have grown from those sites.

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