Australia History

The History of Australia

After a tiresome night of being rocked side to side by the waves in the sea captain James Cook and his crew woke up to a beautiful sight. Some land at last. Ahead lay land that seemed untrodden before. The day was the 19th of April back in 1770. It did not take long before Cook started coming up with a map of the eastern coast of Australia. This map which was the European‘s first for the Australian coast marked the beginning of the end of the reign of the Aborigines in their own land.
Around fourteen days later Cook and his men anchored their vessel near a beach
They were met with the unfriendly attack of spears from the natives who were defending their land from these strangers. The strangers fought back using musket fire. Later there was a ‘cease fire’. Thereafter an uneasy co-existence between the natives and the invaders followed. Every move was met with suspicious looks from either party.

The vessel that had docked on the land of the Aborigines brought in it among others Joseph Banks, a wealthy Botanist who is famed for the discovery of the Banksia flowers that are named after him.

Kurnell as the place was known by the natives was baptised the Botany Bay. The invaders went around gladly naming their newly discovered land after themselves. Point Hicks, Endeavour River (after the name of the vessel they has sailed in) Point Solander are some of the places that were newly named among many others.
Cook and his fellow men got to the Cape York they got to a small Island, the Possession Island where they raised the Union Jack. Through a fiery battle, James cook was able to take over a half of the continent (eastern side) for his King, King George the third. In doing this Cook had intended not to rob the Aborigines of their land but to get it before the French and the Dutch who had in the previous centuries mapped most of the Australian Coast more specifically on the western and the southern side.

The beginning of European settlement

In 1788 the English arrived in eleven ships to settle in the land discovered 18 years earlier by James Cook. They came fully loaded with weapons livestock and other tools necessary to aid their settlement. In their fleet were 751 convicts, some officials who brought along their wives and about two hundred and fifty soldiers. This group that arrived was commanded by Arthur Phillip. They first anchored at the Botany Bay but the land did not please Phillip who on a smaller boat ventured off in search of a much better place. His search led him to a beautiful harbour which he named Sydney, after the then British home secretary known as Lord Sydney.

The settlers started building and cultivating. As Philip did not want to fight the Aborigines he used the help of a native among the Eora called Bennelong. Bennelong who was fast becoming westernized lived on the present location of the all famous Opera House on the Bennelong Point.

Due to the devastation of losing their land many of the Aborigines died of smallpox. Survivors in despair turned to alcoholism and later succumbed to it.
Although some Historians depict the convict Australia as being a place of torment for rebels and criminals there are others who are of the opinion that convicts found better lives there. In fact Governor Phillip authorised the giving of the ‘ticket of leave’ to many convicts, which gave them the permission to live and work anywhere. However the system was unfavourable to women who being outnumbered lived in the constant fear of being sexually harassed. The females who committed offences were put in the horrible female factories while the male were ruthlessly flogged or even hanged for minor offences.

Additional convict settlements were established in the region known as Tasmania, and new prisons were put up at Port Arthur and the Norfolk Island. This miserable beginning has long been regarded as a shameful period but this has changed and Australians even celebrate the Australia Day’ that marks the first arrival of the settlers at the Sydney cove in January 26 1788.

The dawn of freedom

It took around thirty years for the colonies to succeed in farming. Before this supplies were usually brought in by ship. John McArthur together with Elizabeth his wife was the pioneers of Merino sheep breeding in a land near Sydney. Mc Arthur belonged to the ‘Rum corps’, powerful officers responsible for bullying governors. They became rich by controlling the rum trade in Sydney. In 1810 Governor Lachlan Macquarie came to power. He is widely known for having built good public buildings and lying down of the major roads of Sydney. This had in a majored way geared the and by so doing aided in driving the settlement on a road leading to a more civilised way of life, brought to an end the control of the ‘Rum Corps’.
He also acknowledged the rights of ex - convicts and gave them land as well as appointed them to public office. These new Australians though were deplorable to the Exclusives, (land owners and some British officials and some middle class Britons) who were very loyal to a rigid system of the expatriate class.
In England word spread about the availability of cheap land as well as work opportunities in Australia. Many especially the adventurous migrated there so as to devour the good of the land. Still the British Government was taking more prisoners to Australia.

Another penal settlement was established in the area presently known as Brisbane in 1825. The place was originally occupied by the Yuggera. No sooner had this happened than the attention of eager settles was focused on this place which was fertile and warm able to support mining, farming and rearing of animals.

The beginning of Melbourne and Adelaide

In 1835 John Batman a squatter went to Port Phillip Bay and chose a location for Melbourne. This was on the Yarra River banks. He was able to convince the locals to trade their 250 000 hectares of land for some blankets Knick knacks and knives, a real good swindle. To his dismay the contract was voided by Governor Burke citing that the piece of land was owned by the British Crown. However, he was given some alternate prime land near Geelong.

At around the same period, a British company that was privately run and which was not linked to convicts settled in Adelaide. They had a scheme where they would sell land to rich settlers then use the money generated from this to aid poor Britons (labourers) to move to Australia. Unfortunately this fabulous idea collapsed amid speculation of bankruptcy and the company had to yield to administration by the government. Again the same period saw the discovery of silver, copper and even lead deposits in The Mt Lofty Ranges, Burra as well as Kapunda. This paved way for more settlements around these areas.

As time moved on, more settlers squatted on lands belonging to the Aboriginal in search of food and water for their animals. In the 1830s governments allowed the squatters to rent crown lands so as to have regulation in matters concerning land. There are stories that tell of the strife between the settlers and the Aboriginal people. Some tell of how settlers poisoned water holes or killed the native in large numbers as a revenge for killing livestock or settlers.

Time saw a compromise worked out between these two groups. The locals agreed to provide cheap labour as domestics or drovers for the settlers. This way they were able to remain on their land changing their culture as dictated by situations. This went on till after the Second World War.
Filled with curiosity of the inlands settlers set out to explore these lands. The expeditions though often led to disappointments with even some deaths occurring. Nevertheless those who died this way were celebrated by the Australians.

Discovery of Gold and consequent rebellion

The transportation of convicts halted in the 1840s and soon after gold was discovered in the New South Wales state and also in central Victoria in fact. The news about the discovery hit colonies like a wild bush fire during an Australian heat wave. The young both male and female made their way to the fields their social classes not withstanding. A mad gold rush ensued with a myriad of people including commercial sex workers, entertainers, liquor sellers, and many others jammed these mining fields. The Victoria Governor being alarmed thought it wise to introduce an expensive licence that would have to be paid for monthly in order to get permission to dig for the precious gold. The main idea behind this move was to discourage the poor from mining making them go back to their duties as well as collect money to help administrate the mining fields.

This however did not deter the ‘gold diggers’ who endured brutality from the troops that had been charged with the duty of enforcing the use of the licence. Three years later diggers had to work harder to get their gold. Being furious at a corrupt system that did not appreciate them, the inevitable happened. Peter Lalor led them in a rebellion which saw them raise their own flag (the Southern Cross) then retreated to Eureka to wait for the government to respond. On the 3rd of December 1854 troopers attacked leaving at least thirty people dead.
Democracy was on the rise as jurors set 13 rebels free after a trial. Meanwhile eastern colonies were busy establishing parliaments that would be democratic and in the 1880 the same Peter Lalor who had led an earlier rebellion became the speaker of the parliament in Victoria.

Chinese began to arrive attracted by the presence of gold. They were given a very cold welcome and were even at times victims of riots against them at the Lambing Goldfields. The Chinatowns and Chinese restaurants attest to the role played by the Chinese from that period to the present in Australia.  Melbourne and Sydney’s transformation into Modern cities was greatly due to the presence of gold and wool.

The lagging behind of Western Australia

Pulled behind by arid climate, resistance from the natives and its isolation from other areas, the western region lagged behind the eastern side by around fifty years. However, in the 1880s remote gold fields were discovered in Western Australia. John Forrest the first premier of the western region endeavoured to build good harbours and efficient railways as well as dependable water supplies to encourage growth in the mining industry. An engineer O’Connor was contracted to build these projects among them a water pipeline 560km that had several pump stations that took water from the far coast all the way to the mining fields. Regrettably this brilliant engineer committed suicide at South Fremantle, frustrated by the constant slander in the press.

Australia’s sense of Nationalism

Towards the end of 1890s nationalists had a tendency of idealising the bush and the people found there. A popular magazine Bulletin was known for its support for egalitarianism. ‘Mateship’ a sense of brotherhood was encouraged. Also at around this time the eastern region was hit by an economic downturn. Workers lost their jobs and the people started becoming hungry. Driven by the belief that they had a right to the nation’s wealth, the trade unions became even more vigilant in championing for workers rights. The Labour party was born in this period.
Australia became a federation on the 1st of January 1901. The parliament came up with the White Australia Policy whose main aim was to protect the European Australian’s values as well as their identity. A year later the women (white) were given the right to vote.

Most of the population was to be found along the coastline as the inland was unattractively arid even earning the name ‘the dead heart’. Thanks to the belief of Alfred Deakin accompanied by hard work the ‘dead heart’ started living again as the inlands became green with Orchards grown by irrigation from the Murray River as Deakin had believed possible long before anyone had imagined it.

Australia and the World

Australia being an isolated country separated from most of the other countries always linked itself with the British. This is the reason why thousands of their men joined the British troops in 1915 after war had broken out in Europe the previous year. The war left at least 60 000 men from Australia dead. These deaths are usually commemorated on the 25th of April every year. The 1920s saw more change come to Australia. There was a great influx of cars in the country and this period witnessed the competition of the old (Horse driven chariots) mode of transport versus the new (motor vehicles) before the old was phased out after a while. Also American influence started seeping into the cinema and music spheres. As most of the world experienced the great depression so did Australia. Sport however provided a good getaway from the depressing reality as people swung their attention to the Melbourne cup (the race that stops a nation) and cricket.
The economy started recovering but in just six years Hitler drove Europe into another war. This was a war that saw the commencement of a shift in alliance from the British to the Americans who defended the Australians from the Japanese. After the World War 2 the Australian government resulted to an ambitious effort to increase its population by attracting immigrants. The slogan- populate or perish- was the song on everyone’s lips. Many immigrants from different parts of the world infiltrated Australia. This was just as well because with the ‘Long Boom’ most people were able to get employment easily. The Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme near Canberra is a witness to the cooperation of many men from different nations. As demand for Australian products grew Australia was eventually able to export rice to Japan.

Resent change due to materialism

The longest serving Australian prime minister committed Australian troops in the US led war in Vietnam. By the time he retired a feeling had grown among the young and intellectuals as well that the country loved the culture of the Americans and Britons rather than its own. This saw the labour party elected into power in the 1972 under Gough Whitlam. The White Australia policy saw its end under his reign. Multiculturalism was also embraced.
As Australia has made huge leaps on development especially in the last two centuries strains on the land water and other resources has developed. This is more so because of its great population increase made so by the influx of many people from other countries.
Cracks in the nature of tolerance that Australians pride themselves in have started appearing as the conservatives dismiss the multiculturalism policy as a plot to undermine the unity of Australians from the left-wingers. Under John Howard, the conservative prime minister, most Australians are hardening their hearts against asylum seekers. To add on to that that Aboriginals are being related with impatiently as they are deemed to be very slow in embracing change. These changes in attitudes are different from what Australians felt in yester years when there was a country wide acceptance of people of different backgrounds as they embraced the diversity of people in Australia.
However since under Howard the economy has grown steadily the concern that most people should have had has been relegated to the back of their minds as people elevate the need to self propagate and become self reliant. Under capitalism this becomes the scale on which right and wrong is measured and what other higher form of capitalism is greater than when self is benefiting.