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The Australian History Intrigues Every Visitor

Aug 1, 2008
Australian history intrigues every visitor who steps foot on land here. How are there only 350,000 aboriginals remaining, down from one million? What did the Europeans first think of this strange land, "plagued" by snakes, scorpions, spiders, sharks and predators? Who were the first inhabitants of Australia? What changes did the discovery of gold bring? What are the benchmarks of Australian politics? All these questions can be discovered if you travel to the "land down under."

To be fair, the history of Australia must begin with the Australian aboriginal, a people of one million strong that lived in close contact with the land for at least 40,000 years. The first people living in the Australian outback gathered water from the bellies of frogs and dew from tree roots, procuring meat using tools sculpted from stone and bone or from large nets. They ate emus, fruit, lizards, seeds, fish and other desert creatures to survive.

The Australian aboriginal lived a spiritual life, believing that their ancient ancestors rose from below the earth to become animals, the water, the sky, the trees and the rocks. Aboriginal culture was passed on through oral storytelling traditions, ceremonial dances, sculpture, rock paintings, basket-weaving, beadwork and the eerie sounds of the didgeridoo.

The next chapter of Australian history began in the 17th Century, when the Europeans arrived in ships from Portugal, Spain, England and Holland. In 1770, Captain James Cook officially claimed New South Wales for the crown and a British penal colony was set up in Port Jackson (modern day Sydney) on January 26th 1788, which is now known as Australia Day.

An estimated 161,000 British convicts were dumped in South Australia until the system of penal transportation ended in 1868. In the early 1790s, free settlers from Great Britain, Ireland, Europe, North America and China immigrated in search of gold. In all, six colonies were set up by prisoners and immigrants. These were New South Wales, Tasmania, Western Australia, Victoria and Queensland, all of which became official by constitution in 1901.

The 1960s saw the first government steps toward ridding Australia from injustice against the Australian aboriginal people, as they were allowed into the commonwealth. Tolerance for all ethnicities and backgrounds was greatly encouraged.

Today, Australian politics is marked by liberal legislation, free education, protected trade, secret ballots, women's rights, maternity allowances, welfare and old-age pensions. Australian history was fraught with many struggles, but in the end, the people resolved to create a world that is much different than the Old World.
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