The History of Australia

by Sarah Masih

The origin story


Even before the tales of time could document the rich history of Australia, it had some visitors. People from the continent of Africa traveled all the way to Australia.

Through oceans and over islands, they made their way to the new land about 25,000 years ago.


By taking advantage of the sea level being lower and connecting lands between continents they were able to make their way to Australia.


Long, long ago Asian explorers may have accidentally stumbled upon this new land. In the early 15th century when China was marking its property on the South Asian water, they might have extended till the land of Australia.


Both Arabic and Chinese documents talk about exploring some southern land, but they don’t mention adequate details to come to a conclusion. However, many historians think that this mysterious southern was Australia.


Another theory was that the Portuguese discovered Australia in 1528. This could be because at the time they were voyaging to find money and knowledge.


The Spanish came near Australian land too while on a quest to find new lands to expand to.


One such journey, from Peru in 1567, led by Álvaro de Mendaña, found the Solomon Islands. He thought that Spain could colonize there. With high hopes, he returned home.


The second time he sailed, he failed to find the Solomon Islands. One of his companions Pedro Fernández de Quirós was certain of the existence of Australia. He wanted to lead another trip down south and find the hidden lands, so he did.


He convinced King Philip II to let him take another voyage, this time with him leading. He arrived at an island called New Hebrides, present day-Vanuatu, and named the group of islands Australia del Espirítu Santo (meaning: Southland of the Holy Spirit).


Soon Quirós had to return to Latin America, but Luis de Torres continued the expedition. They found the Torres Strait but failed to sight mainland Australia. After this King Philip III did not want to fund any more trips.


Next came (drumroll) the Dutch.


In the early 1600s, Willem Jansz sailed from Amsterdam. They voyaged in hope to find New Guinea. He and his crew arrived at the Torres Strait weeks before Torres himself did.



They also arrived at the Australian coast - Cape Keer-Weer. He was only one of the many Dutch explorers to arrive in Australia.


The most famous was Dirck Hartog’s Eendracht, from which men docked and left a memorial at Shark Bay, Western Australia, on October 25, 1616.



Then the British explored too. They went further than anyone had ever before.


In 1688 the English buccaneer William Dampier arrived on New Holland’s northwestern coast. He crossed the western coast for 1,000 miles (1699–1700) and published more than any other explorer.



James Cook landed several times at Botany Bay and at Possession Island in the north, where on August 23 named the land New South Wales.


Why is it called Australia?


The name Australia is derived from the Latin words “australis” meaning “southern” and dates back to 2nd-century legends of an "unknown southern land" ( terra australis incognita).


The explorer Matthew Flinders named the land Terra Australis, which was shortened to the modern form. Earlier, when the Dutch explored the area they named it “Nova Hollandicus” or “New Holland”.


British Settlement


The British landed on the east coast of Australia. After that Europeans landed on Port Jackson on the 26th of January 1788. They captured the area of modern-day Sydney hoping that the prisoners would mean wealth for Britain.


In the 1800s new colonies started rising- Sydney, New Castle, Hobart, Launceston, Port Macquarie, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth.


Aboriginals Fight Back


One of the many wars fought between the British and the Aboriginals as the “Black War of Tasmania”.


This conflict in Australian history, the Black War was very violent. The Europeans drove Tasmanian Aborigines from their homes, killing many.


Tasmanian Aborigines also attacked and murdered settlers and their families, looting houses and farms for food and resources, and trying to drive out the British.


By 1818, only 2000 Aboriginals were alive. The Tasmanian Aborigines who were still on their traditional homelands were very systematic and used guerrilla warfare tactics to strike high levels of damage despite their low numbers.


The Aboriginals tried their best to resist British settlement, but the British were far more powerful and wealthy. Soon, the Tasmanians avoided being near British colonies and most were even persuaded to surrender to the authorities.


The More the Merrier


During the Victorian gold-rush, huge amounts of people came to Australia in search of wealth and a new home. New colonies quickly settled and all was forgotten about the violent past.


These new residents brought him their culture and their ideas. These new settlers were angered by the British soldiers and fought for “their” land. They believed that Australia could be a true home and not just some station for soldiers.


Soon, an agreement was signed between the two sides. Many of the ex-convicts who were captured were also released.


Too many secrets


The Australian couldn’t develop a proper system. Rather, their way of handling things was through social status and wealth. If you had money, they would keep your secrets.


Ned Kelly, who is most recognizable by his bulletproof armor and tin mask, rose at this time as an Australian bushranger, fugitive, gang leader, and police assassin.


Further invitation


As more and more aboriginals were released, they were sent to live with white families, so that they could learn their ways. Europeans wanted the aboriginals to give up their culture.


When Australia first opened its door to other nations, it’s only concern was that the immigrants be white. This “law” wasn’t changed until almost World War II.


The Great Emu War


After World War I was over, the remaining soldiers headed back home to Australia. In Australia, it was difficult for the soldiers to find jobs. The government decided to make them farmers. Australia did not have very fertile land and was still recovering from a drought. This was a difficult enough job when yet another problem arose. Emus!


A war against the emus! (bonus topic)


Emus came into the farms for water and food. They often ruined other crops, too. The Australians decided that the only way to get rid of them was by killing them. Weirdly enough, the government agreed to kill the herd.


The soldiers were given machine guns to shoot the emus. Unfortunately, it was not an easy task. The emus were faster and stronger than anticipated. In a way, this was hilarious.


Australia ended up losing this war. Their guns were no opponent for the birds. However, today emus are protected in most areas of Australia, and It is illegal to hunt wild emus eggs.


Modern Day


Australia is still recovering from the tragic wildfires that struck the continent not too long ago. Its economy is 10th largest in the world with a gross national income of 1.434 trillion dollars.


The service dominates Australia with media, healthcare, tourism, and mining trailing behind.


During COVID-19, Australia is one of the few countries that has managed to control the situation. In other words, Australia seems to be doing quite well.


Australia clearly chose to fight the virus better than the emus!


Sources:

1) https://www.britannica.com/place/Australia/History

2) http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/Oceaniaweb/factfile/Unique-facts-Oceania2.htm

3) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIDDIDS2Tjk

4) https://www.nma.gov.au/defining-moments/resources/the-black-line

5) https://www.nationalgeographic.com.au/history/the-great-australian-emu-war.aspx

6) https://www.chicagotribune.com/redeye/redeye-australias-great-emu-war-20151125-story.html

7) https://www.austrade.gov.au/International/Invest/Why-Australia/robust-economy

8) https://www.newscientist.com/article/2240226-australia-seems-to-be-keeping-a-lid-on-covid-19-how-is-it-doing-it/




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Created by Yashvardhan Sharma and Amogh Narain Agarwal.