The history of Australia

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1. General information about Australia
2. National anthem, flag and the coat-of-arms
3. Terra Incognita (Unknown land)
4. First European settlement
5. Creation of the Commonwealth of Australia
6. New crown colonies
7. Australia’s ties with Great Britain and the USA

1. General Information about Australia

Australia is situated in the south-west of the Pacific Ocean. The area of this country is 7,7 million square kilometres. The population of the country is about 20 million people. The capital is Canberra. The population of Canberra is about 300 thousand people. Official language is English. Australia is the largest island in the world and it is the smallest continent.

The Commonwealth of Australia is a self-governing federal state. It has got 6 states: New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and 2 internal territories.

2. National Anthem, Flag and the Coat-of-Arms

Australian national flag consists of 5 white stars of the Southern Cross and the white Commonwealth star (the large seven pointed star) on a blue background with a Union Jack in canton. The Southern Cross is the southern Crux, whose four chief stars are in the form of cross.

The flag of Australia is the only one to fly over a whole continent. The small Union Jack represents the historical link with Britain, and the large seven-pointed star represents the six states and the Territories, and the small stars form the Southern Cross – a prominent feature of the southern hemisphere night sky.

A distinctive Australia flora and fauna is reflected in the country’s coat-of-arms by the symbols of Australia’s endemic animals; kangaroo and emu and twig of wattle (a kind of acacia).

Australia officially adopted green and gold as its national colours in 1984.

The Australia national anthem was adopted in the 1970ties. It is used on the all official and ceremonial occasions.

3. Terra Incognita (Unknown Land)

It is supposed that Australia’s native inhabitants, the Aborigines, arrived in Australia at least 40,000 years ago. The first Europeans visited the shores of Australia in 1606. The Spanish ship of Luis Vaes de Torres sailed through the strait which now bears his name and separates Australia and Papua New Guinea. In the same year the Dutch ship Duyfken (Little Dove) sailed into the Gulf of Carpentaria. Among later voyagers is Dirk Hartog (1616), who left an inscribed pewter plate (Australia’s most famous early European relic, now in Amsterdam) in Western Australia.

Abel Tasman, Dutch navigator, visited Tasmania, which he named Van Diemen’s Land, in 1642.

The first Englishman to visit the continent was a buccaneer, William Dampier, who landed near King Sound on the northwest coast in 1699.

A second wave of immigration began in 1770, when Captain James Cook, of the British Navy, sighted the east coast of the continent.

 Cook had been sent to Tahiti to make astronomical observations and when his mission was completed, he sailed south in Endeavour, circumnavigated New Zealand and headed due west. On April 20, 1770, Cook sighted land near Cape Everard, in the southeast corner of Australia. He turned north, charting the coastline as he went and, 9 days later, landed at Botany Bay, which he named for the variety of botanic specimen found there. He raised the British flag and claimed New South Wales as a British Colony.

4. First European Settlement

It is probably due to its geographical position that Australia was the last continent to be inhabited by the white man. It was just a little over 390 years that the Australian continent was discovered.

The first landing by Europeans took place in 1606. More than a century and a half later an expedition headed by the British explorer James Cook added the land to the possessions of the British crown.

Until the name “Australia” (meaning “South Land”) became generally accepted for the continent, it had been referred to as New Holland, New South Wales, or Botany Bay. During the War of Independence (1776) the former British colonies in America declared themselves independent. Britain tried to make up for this loss by the seizure of new territories. Besides, the convicts could no longer be transported to the American colonies (which had served this purpose for over hundred years) and British jails were more than badly overcrowded.

The first contingent of the convicts and their guards landed where Sydney stands today, on January 26, 1788. It was the so-called “First Fleet” and these people were called “first fleeters” Now, Australia Day, January 26, commemorates the landing. Gradually more and more people arrived (they were convicts as well as free settlers) and a number of settlements were founded along the southern and eastern coasts. For the first few years, the colonists were almost entirely dependent on food supplies from overseas but gradually the land around the settlements was brought under cultivation. Soils were generally poor and crop yields low, but better agricultural land was soon found near Parramatta, to the west. Exploratory voyages were also made along the east coast. The boldest was that of Captain Matthew Flinders who, in 1802-1803 circumnavigated the continent.

Australia Day is a very important holiday for the Australians, another equally important holiday is called Anzac Day.

5. Creation of The Commonwealth of Australia

In 1901 the separate colonies in Australia merged together and became the States of the Commonwealth of Australia, which acquired the status of dominion of Great Britain. The Commonwealth of Australia – a federation of the 6 former colonies as states – was declared to come into being on January 1, 1901. The first Governor – General, the Earl of Hopetoun, convened the first Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia on April 29, 1901. It was opened in Melbourne on May 9 by Duke of Cornwall and York, son of King Edward VII. Sir Edmund Barton was the first Prime Minister.

The constitution provided for Federal Parliament to sit in Melbourne until a federal capital territory was selected and established. The present Australian Capital Territory was ceded from New South Wales to become federal territory in 1911, and the future capital was named Canberra in 1913. The first Federal Parliament to meet in Canberra was opened by the Duke of York, later King George VI, on May 9, 1927.

Though Australia now is an independent state, according to the Constitution the head of the state is the Monarch of Great Britain, represented by the Governor-General. His duties include assenting to bills, opening, proroguing and dissolving Parliament and commissioning the Prime Minister to form a government. Governor-General’s residence Jarralumla is in Canberra.

The Commonwealth of Australia is composed of 6 states and 2 territories: the State of New South Wales with its capital in Sydney, the State of Victoria with its capital in Melbourne, the State of Queenland with its capital in Brisbane, the Sate of Western Australia with its capital in Perth, the State of Tasmania with its capital in Hobart, Australian Capital Territory with its Federal Capital in Canberra, and Northern Territory with its capital in Darwin.

6. New Crown Colonies

Great Britain was on the verge of loosing 13 rebellious American Colonies in 1770. At that time Captain James Cook who led a scientific voyager planted the British ensign on a continent that would soon provide a vast new colony: Australia.

The will to establish new crown colonies was insistent even before the old ones mere lost. The Parliament debated the site as early as 1779. Only 18 years after Captain James Cook had landed in Botany Bay, Captain Arthur Philip arrived in Sydney Cove to begin the first settlement.

In many ways, America and Australia have had corresponding histories of exploration, colonization, immigration, and growth. Both began with settlements on the fringes of huge continents, gradually pushing inward to cultivate a wilderness interior. And both developed a frontier ethos of independence.

As the convicts earned their freedom, they went into the outback and staked claims on land. These men, known as Squatters, raised sheep or cattle, depending on the type of land they found for themselves.

Other convicts however reverted to their criminal ways and became outlaws, raiding the towns and stealing from the squatters. The early part of Australian history is filled with the tales of the settlers. These bushrangers often became folk-heroes in the tradition of Robin Hood and Dick Turpin in England, and Jesse James in the United States. Many poems and songs were written about them and at one time it was a criminal offence to sing or recite these ballads which glorified crime. Nonetheless, every Australian today knows the stories of the famous bushrangers. These ballads and songs started the tradition of Australian “yarn” and its heroes, Dad’s Dave among them.

The hard rough life in the outback was no place for women. The Squatters searched the towns for wives to take to their stations. It wasn’t very pleasant prospect for a new bride, but some girls were lucky enough to undertake the adventure. The image of a typical Australian was a tall, thin and blond man who was called a “Cornstalk”, sometimes wearing a cabbage tree hat.

Australians celebrated their bicentennial beginning Jan. 26, 1988 and continuing all next year. On that date in 1788, 11 ships arrived from Britain, and 1.030 settlers, including 776 convicts, began their new life in waterfront section of Sydney called “the Rocks”.

7. Australia’s Ties With Great Britain And The USA

Initially, Britain and the Commonwealth countries were the central elements of Australia’s foreign policy and activity. Later, closer relations were also developed with the USA, partly because of the vital role it played in the Pacific during and after World War II.

Australia can seem quite British at times and somewhat American at others. Political, legal, and educational institutions derive from Britain. Each state capital is named after a colonial politician (Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, Hobart, Melbourne) or British royal figure (Adelaide). Dry and witheringly hot towns bear names from England’s green and pleasant land. The representative of the England queen is the formal head of the governmental structure. Only since 1984 has required that a civil servant in Australia be an Australian – previously it was sufficient to be British.

American influence comes in culture, technology, defense arrangements, and business. Books from USA have made a major advance in Australian intellectual circles since the 1960s. American ideas of management and problem-solving are becoming more and more popular.

Significantly, Australian dollar was introduced in 1966.

In the past some Australians often felt that Australian culture, products, accents, lifestyles compared unfavorably with Britain and the USA. This attitude has changed. A strong sense of distinct Australian identity has grown with the growing recognition in the world of Australian films, literature and arts.


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