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. [?] They might have first come from Taiwan, then Melanesia, an area in the Pacific Islands (2000 BCE). After that, they settled the Polynesian Triangle around Fiji, then moved to Tahiti and the Marquesas (1300 BCE). From there, they visited America, Easter Island 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: They might have created the famous Easter Island statues, or they might have been created by unknown earlier settlers since the Polynesians weren’t known to be stone carvers.

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

The Maori: The Polynesians who settled modern-day New Zealand during the Middle Ages (850 CE and on). They traded with the Aborigines.

The Aborigines: The Polynesians who settled modern-day Australia. [?] The Aborigines were 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.)

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 nation created by the British in the 1800s. Following this, the British and Aborigines coexisted, but not entirely peacefully. Many Aborigines were killed in conflicts over land and many others died of Western diseases.

Portuguese and Spanish explorers may have landed in Australia in the 1500s. In the 1600s several Dutch explorers reached the continent. They included Dirck Hartog and Abel Tasman. Hartog discovered the west coast, and Tasman sailed along the southern tip of what is now called Tasmania. Because of all these voyages the Dutch named the continent New Holland in 1644. But they did not settle there.

William Dampier, an English pirate turned explorer, landed on the west coast twice in the late 1600s. In 1770 Captain James Cook landed in southeastern Australia and claimed it for Great Britain. He named the region New South Wales. Others later explored the continent further, including Matthew Flinders, who suggested the name Australia.

First Fleet and Settlement

Captain Cook thought that New South Wales was a good place for settlement. At the time, England’s prisons were overcrowded. So the English government decided to send prisoners to Australia to start a penal colony—a place where criminals are sent to live.

Captain Arthur Phillip was in charge of the First Fleet. He led 11 ships carrying about 200 marines, a few free settlers, more than 700 convicts, food stores, and farm animals. The trip took eight months and conditions were very hard. They reached Australia in January 1788 and settled in a bay that they named Sydney Cove. Phillip became the first governor of the colony.

Convicts and settlers worked to clear land and to establish farms. They were not used to the climate, which was different from England, so the colonists struggled to survive. But soon more convicts and settlers arrived. The settlement grew bigger and stronger. In the 1800s other parts of the country were settled. Some were also penal colonies. In 1851 the discovery of gold drew thousands of new immigrants to Australia. The settlements grew and became colonies separate from New South Wales. They became TasmaniaWestern AustraliaVictoriaQueensland, and South Australia.

The flood of settlers nearly wiped out the Aboriginal population. Many Aboriginal people died while fighting for their land or from European diseases.

The Modern Era (1900 to the Present)

The Commonwealth of Australia: A federation of various Australian colonies founded in the early 1900s. These colonies set up governments based on free trade and equal rights. Many of them achieved independence from Britain and wrote constitutions based on the American and British constitutions.

By the late 1800s the six separate colonies each had an elected assembly. In 1901 they became states when they joined together to form a federation. The new Commonwealth of Australia had a national parliament and six state parliaments. It kept ties with Britain, however, as part of the British Commonwealth (a group of former British colonies).

The Australian gold rush: The influx of settlers in the 1900s (mid or early?) resulting from the discovery of gold there. (Need more.)

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

Postwar Australia: During the robust postwar economic times, Australia gained wealth and tourism. They imported a great deal of American technology and culture. Immigrants came from war-torn countries.


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