Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory, Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory (Canberra)
Archaelogical evidence suggests that the aborigines arrived in what is now Australia at least 40 000 years ago. They were migrants from southern Asia and are not Polynesian, belonging to a distinct racial type sometimes defined as 'archaic white'. They were hunter-gatherers and lived in small nomadic family groups throughout the continent. They developed about a hundred separate languages, the main ones being Aranda or Arrunta in central Australia and Murngin in Arnhem Land.
The first Europeans to see Australia were sailors on the Dutch ship Duyfken, commanded by Willem Jansz. A Spanish ship commanded by Luis Vaez de Torres sailed through the Torres Srait, proving that New Guinea was separate from the southern continent. Other early explorers were Dirk Hartog in 1616, Abel Tasman (after whom the island of Tasmania was named) and William Dampier. In 1770, Captain James Cook claimed New South Wales as a British colony and the settlement of Sydney was founded in 1788.
Other colonies followed, including Tasmania in 1825, Western Australia in 1829, South Australia in 1836, Victoria in 1851 and Queensland in 1859. Britain began to use the continent as a safe and remote place to which convicts could be transported but none were sent to South Australia or Victoria. Transportation could be the punishment for quite minor transgressions although some convicts were guilty of serious offences. The system ended in New South Wales in 1840, Queensland in 1849, Tasmania in 1852 and Western Australia in 1868 and the convicts made a significant contribution to the foundation of the economy.
In 1813, the first crossing of the Blue Mountains was made and exploration of the interior began. A series of expeditions followed but it was not until the 1870s that the last areas were covered by the crossings of Western Australia. The gold rushes of the 1850s and 1880s also helped, and contributed to the economic and constitutional growth of the country. There was an economic depression in the 1890s and the Australian Labor Party was formed, increasing trade union activity and changing the nature of the country's politics. The powers of the state were weakened when the Commonwealth of Australia was created in 1901 but Australia fought on Britain's side in both world wars.
After WWII, new mineral finds helped encourage economic growth and when the Liberal-Country Party coalition was succeeded by the Australian Labor Party under Gough Whitlam in 1872, nationalism increased. Whitlam and his cabinet were dismissed by Governor General John Kerr after the financial problems of 1974-5 and Malcolm Fraser formed a Liberal-Country Party caretaker administration. The decision was widely questioned, and Kerr resigned in 1977 but the coalition won the next two elections of 1977 and 1980, albeit with reduced majorities.
It was eventually defeated in 1983 and the ALP under Bob Hawke came to power. He called a National Economic Summit of employers and unions to address the problems of wages, prices and unemployment. Hawke strengthened links with SE Asia and was one of the main advocates of the sanctions against South Africa which were to help end Apartheid. His government held power throughout the 80s and into the 90s in a recorrd fourth term but the Australian Democrats maintained the balance of power in the senate. In December 1991, Paul Keating mounted a successful challenge as party leader and became Prime Minister with Hawke retiring from politics in January 1992. Keating announced a 'kick start' plan to help the economy out of recession but unemployment reached a record high that July and his popularity waned. Calls for the Queen to be removed as head of state are increasing although Australia is still a member of the Commonwealth.
When the European settlers began to arrive in the C17th and C18th, most of the traditional aborigine way of life was lost. The Europeans considered them to be inferior and refused to give them any rights but recently a movement has grown up to campaign against racial discrimination and provide better housing education, wages and medical facilities. Many of Australia's approximately 227 600 (about 1.5% of the population) Aborigines live in reserves although 65% live in towns amongst the general population. The reserves only cover 12% of the land so there is little possibility of returning to a completely traditional lifestyle but many Aborigines are trying to revive aspects of their culture before they are entirely forgotten. In 1984, a federal law, the Aboriginal and Torres Island Heritage Protection Act, was passed to help safeguard their rights and culture.
This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.
Copies may be made for personal use only.
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