"G'Day" Australia by seagoingJLW

Australia Travel Guide: 49,725 reviews and 132,265 photos


Australia is one of the oldest land masses on earth, having broken away from the supercontinent Gondwana about fifteen million years ago. The Aborigines are thought to have arrived there between 60,000 to 120,000 years ago. Before 1788 Australia was populated only by the indigenous people - Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders. The Aboriginals inhabited the whole of Australia and the Torres Strait Islanders inhabited the islands between Australia and Papua, New Guinea. At the time there were approximately 700 languages spoken throughout Australia by a population of 750,000 people.

The indigenous people lived a hunter and gatherer life. The men hunted animals such as kangaroos, emus and turtles. Women and children hunted smaller animals and collected fruits, berries and other plants. On the coast, people caught fish and collected shellfish such as mussels and oysters.

The land was divided up using traditional boundaries such as rivers, lakes and mountains. Knowledge about the boundaries was passed down by the Elders to the younger people through songs, dance, art, and story-telling.

The earliest European explorers who knew about Terra Australia were the Portuguese. Luis Vaes de Torres sailed between the tip of Cape York and New Guinea in the 16th century. He was followed by the Dutch navigators, Dick Hartog, Van Diemen, and Abel Tasman who mapped much of the coastline.

Captain James Cook of the British Royal Navy who landed in Botany Bay, south of Sydney, was the first to show interest in the lands. He had on his ship, the Endeavor, several scientists and a botanist who made amazing discoveries of plants and animals never seen before.

After leaving Botany Bay, Captain Cook went north and reported that the east coast was fertile and good for settlement. He named it New South Wales and took possession of it in the name of King George III. He had some contact with the Aborigines in Queensland.

History, continued

Because of the American Revolution and its subsequent independence, Britain had nowhere to dispose of its unwanted citizens. The quick solution: Australia.

Captain Arthur Phillip led the First Fleet of 11 ships with 736 convicts and their guests into Port Jackson (Sydney Harbor) in 1788. By 1852, when the practice ended, a total of 160,000 convicts had been transported.

Free settlers trickled in from 1793 lured by cheap land and convict labor.

Robert O'Hara Burke and William Wills were the first Europeans to cross the continent from south to north in 1860. Others who explored inland were Edward John Eyre, Hamilton Hume, Ludwig Leichhardt, Charles Sturt and Sir Douglas Mawson.

Settlements were established in Hobart, Tasmania (1803), on the Brisbane River, Queensland (1824), on the Swan River, Western Australia (1829), on Port Phillip Bay, Victoria (1835), and on Gulf St. Vincent, South Australia (1836).

Rich grazing land was discovered west of Sydney and wool became a very important industry. During the 1850s the discovery of gold and copper brought in more immigrants from Europe, China, and America.

Australia was declared a commonwealth on January 1, 1901.

The Europeans treated the Aboriginals abominally. In fact, they simply declared open season on them and shot them mercilessly. This, despite the fact that the ABoriginals were a peace loving people.

The Europeans were not. They treated everyone in a vicious manner-even their own prisoners. There are many books written about the horrors of the penal colonies.

In later years, the Australian Government sought to smooth over the Aboriginal situation and proceeded to make things worse by taking Aboriginal children from their families to be raised among the whites. Further horrifying stoires emerged.

Down Under

We had an absolutely fabulous time in Australia (and New Zealand.) We ran around with the choke out, so to speak. Take a look at my city pages for Hobart, Melbourne, and Sydney.

The photo shows us going under the "coathanger" i.e. the Harbour Bridge.

<font color=red>The Australian Situation</font>

Some good sources of information about Australia are:

Hughes, Robert <i>The Mortal Shore</i>, 1987 - a well-researched history of the transportation of convicts to Australia.

The film: "Quigley Down Under" - about the treatment of the Aborigines by the white Australians.

The film: "Rabbit Proof Fence" 2002 - about the stealing of children from the Aboriginees.

Clarke, Marcus, For the Term of His Natural Life 1873 - a novelized account of prisoners at Port Arthur.

Miscellaneous Information

Australia is the only country that occupies a whole continent. Its area is 7,686,850 sq km (including Lord Howe Island and Macquarie Island) making it the sixth largest country of the world after Russia, Canada, China, the USA, and Brazil.

It is located in Oceania between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean. It coastline is 25,760 km long.

The coastal strip is fertile. the Outback is dry and inhospitable.

Australia's seasons are the opposite of the northern hemisphere with summer starting in December, autumn in March, winter in June, and spring in September. The average temperature ranges from 23 to 26 degrees C above the Tropic of Capricorn and is more temperate in the south. It is also the driest continent on earth.

The population of Australia as of July 2001 was 19,357,594. The ethnic groups are 92% Caucasian, 7% Asian and 1% Aboriginal and other.

Christianity is the dominant faith but churches, mosques, temples and synagogs are found in most major cities.

English is Australia's official language.

Serious exploration began in the 19th century. George Bass, together with Matthew Flinders, circumnavigated Tasmania. Flinders circumnavigated Australia in 1801-1803 and completed the mapping of the coastline. In 1813, Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson discovered a passage through the Blue Mountains which opened the way for inland exploration.

The electrical current is 220-240 volts AC with three pin plug and socket.

Tipping is not standard practice in Australia. If you wish to tip for exemplary service, 10% will suffice. There is not ax or service charge on food.

  • Last visit to Australia: Mar 2002
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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