School in a Book: History of Australia and Oceania


Ancient History (3000 BCE to 500 CE)

The Polynesians: The first people to settle modern-day Australia and New Zealand, after which they became known as the aborigines and the Maori, respectively. The Polynesians might have come from Taiwan, then Melanesia, an area in the Pacific Islands. Around 1300 BCE, they settled the Polynesian Triangle around Fiji, then moved to Tahiti and the Marquesas. From there, they visited America, the Easter Islands and Hawaii. They carved wood; kept livestock; and grew coconuts, taros, yams and vegetables. They were remarkable sailors, with large oceangoing canoes featuring sails and paddles stabilized with outriggers or doubled up like catamarans. They also had advanced knowledge of stars, currents and winds.

Easter Island statues: The famous collections of over 1,000 statues discovered on Easter Island created by the Polynesians or an earlier unknown people. The statues, some of which are over 30 feet tall, are of human heads and shoulders, and might have represented watchful ancestors.

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

The Maori: The Polynesians who settled modern-day New Zealand during the Middle Ages. They traded with the Aborigines.

The Aborigines: The first settlers of Australia, who were Polynesian. The Aborigines lived in tribal societies ruled by chiefs. They were experts in wood carving, even though they were isolated from Asia and Indonesia.

Early Modern Times (1500 CE to 1900 CE)

New Holland: The name the Dutch gave the Australian continent in the 1700s after discovering it in the 1600s. (The Dutch also discovered Tasmania and New Zealand around this time.) The Dutch did not settle the area, however.

Captain Cook: The British explorer who claimed New Zealand and Australia for Britain. He also traveled to Tahiti, Hawaii and Antarctica. In Antarctica, he was pushed back by glaciers.

First Australian colonists: Convicts exiled from Britain in the late 1700s. These were followed by free settlers, who also colonized New Zealand. They introduced new diseases to the Aborigines and changed local culture.

British takeover of New Zealand: During the 1800s, the British colonists of New Zealand competed with the Maori for land. Eventually, the Maori gave ownership of the island to the British in exchange for land ownership rights. Some accounts claim that two versions of the treaty were written, though, with one leading the Maori to believe they were giving up governorship, not ownership. Following this, there were violent Maori uprisings. Eventually, New Zealand became an official British colony.

The new nation of Australia: The Australian nation was created by the British in the 1800s, using a name suggested by explorers who followed Cook. After the creation of this nation, the British and Aborigines coexisted, but not entirely peacefully. Many Aborigines were killed in conflicts over land and many others died of Western diseases.

Captain Arthur Phillip: The leader of the first British settlement of Australia, which was made up of over 700 convicts, a few free settlers, and 200 marines. Phillip was sent there in the late 1700s by the British government to establish a penal colony for English prisoners in order to alleviate prison overcrowding in England.

Sydney Cove: The bay settled and named by Arthur Phillip’s group of settlers, who struggled to survive in an unfamiliar climate with limited supplies. Later, other groups of convicts and settlers arrived. In the 1800s other colonies were built, some penal colonies and some free.

New South Wales: The name that Captain Cook gave to the Australian continent, which later became the name of the first Australian colony that included Sydney Cove. After other colonies arose in Australia, then gained independence, New South Wales became one of the six Australian states.

The Australian gold rush: The influx of settlers in the mid-1800s and on resulting from the discovery of gold there. This influx resulted in the creation of five new Australian colonies: Tasmania, Western Australia, Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia. After Australia gained independence, these, with New South Wales, became the six Australian states. During the gold rush, the Aboriginal population declined significantly due to land fights and foreign disease.

The Modern Era (1900 CE to the Present)

The Commonwealth of Australia: A federation of various Australian colonies which was founded in the early 1900s. It features a national parliament and is part of the British Commonwealth (a group of former British colonies). The Australian colonies that make up the Commonwealth have parliamentary governments based on free trade and equal rights with constitutions are based on the American and British constitutions.

Australia in World War I & II: During both world wars, Australia fought for Britain.

Postwar Australia: The rapid growth of world economies after WWII led to increased wealth and tourism for Australia. During this time they imported a great deal of American technology and culture. Many immigrants came from war-torn countries.


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