• Anna Brozek

A Brief History of Australia

Updated: Apr 27

Photo by Joey Csunyo on Unsplash

Photo by Hamish Weir on Unsplash

The history of Australia is tainted black by a brutal period of time that shall forever be remembered.

Until recently, very few dared to stare truth in the face. But now, the air of justice is contagious and brings us to kneel humbly to the rightful custodians of the land.

Humans have imposed the utmost pain and fear on each other, in this civilisation and long before. Even Ancient Egyptians, who are believed to have developed a connection with a 'mysterious' and majorly advanced source of technology that we have yet to fully understand, had the tar of corruption trickle down into their society.

Our job, as citizens of today, is to learn from those dark times and choose differently.

Think differently. Act differently.

Here's a look at a few key points and their roles in shaping the unique, rich and diverse place I call home.

Way Back When

It's tragically funny thinking back to what we were told in primary school about the history of Australia. Chapter 1 began with 1770 - The year Captain Cook 'discovered' the land.

But that's a huge lie. Why isn't it illegal to lie to young children? Luckily, I have a functioning brain and did my own research, discovering that the first Homo Sapiens arrived in Australia through Asia around 60,000 years ago. That's such a long time to develop a culture. You might say: "Well, they didn't build anything, they just lived in the bush."

It is paramount that we reframe the way progress is measured, as Western values do not even slightly reflect those of the Indigenous, they are in fact kind of opposite. The Western world lives by the outside, by material things, not by inner wisdom.

Sheree Cairney explains fantastically in this video.

Even excluding all of that, the school textbook was still wrong.

The first European contact with Australia was from the Dutch in 1616, and Chinese records mention an 'unknown Southern land' dating back to the 15th century.

The Beginning of The End of Aboriginal supremacy

Endeavour was the ship led by Captain Cook, containing some of Britain’s most decorated scientists, astronomers, and botanists, most notably Joseph Banks. Naturally, they were absolutely stunned by the sheer diversity of this land, where the local community lived in harmony with flora and fauna, thus allowing it to flourish even further during the years they inhabited.

Cook’s Secret Instructions disclose the quest for scientific discovery, combined with the desire to find exploitable natural resources, ultimately to expand Britain’s control of strategic trading posts around the globe. Orders were given to befriend the locals, cultivate their friendship and alliance, and annex any convenient trading posts in the King’s name.

However, the captains’ approach was much harsher than the brief, using fatal force against spears and sometimes outright attack. Captain Cook and his fleet birthed what would evolve to be the multi-generational monster that forced so much tragedy upon the Indigenous.

Photo by Holger Link on Unsplash

In a beautiful example of making the best of a worst-case scenario: A mishap occurred leading the ship to run aground the Great Barrier Reef, and the voyage was delayed for 7 weeks. Fortunately, Joseph Banks was amongst one of the botanists on board who, during that time, would go on to make their first major collection of Australian flora, and also adapt some words from the local Guugu Yimidhirr people into the English language - eg. Kangaroo, derived from gangurru.

The beautiful, grandiose flowers of Banksia were also named after Joseph Banks.

This voyage continued on to the northern tip of Cape York, where Cook would claim the eastern half of the continent for King George III, and return home.

First Fleet

18 years later, in 1788, the English were back to stay.

The First Fleet consisted of 11 ships, packed with supplies including weapons, tools, building materials and livestock. The ships also contained 751 convicts – of various nationalities – and around 250 British soldiers.

In the years that followed, some of the most cruel, backwards and ridiculous events took place, the details of which are painful and cowardly yet understandably avoided through modern history. In a nutshell; The 'new Australians' did everything they could to 'exterminate' the Aboriginals. From introducing new diseases and intentionally spreading them, to slavery and downright murder - it's no surprise that within a century, 90% of Aboriginals were gone.

John and Elizabeth MacArthur, best known as the pioneers of the wool industry, were powerful for a number of reasons. John was also a member of the ‘Rum Corps’ who used spirits (mainly rum) as currency and were indivisibly corrupt with the government. This allowed them to gain more and more land, which led to the further expulsion of Native Peoples in the search for more pasture and water. A new jail was also created in Tasmania (previously known as Van Diemen's land), where most of the convicts from the mainland were sent.

Gold Rush

In 1851, gold was discovered in NSW and central Victoria. The news exploded across Europe and China, and every social class headed for the diggings. The time was so chaotic and unruly, that the government (in an effort to deter hungry fortune seekers) introduced a heavy licensing fee, which only resulted in uproar and rebellion.

From here stemmed the Eureka Stockade, told as a story of nationhood and admirable fervour, when in fact it was an unnecessary tragedy. It is the story of a rebellion (against the gold taxes and the government itself) that took place in Ballarat, Victoria, of a one-sided battle where the British government defeated the gold miners in around 15 minutes.

Talk about 15 minutes of fame!

Between 1851 and 1861, Australia produced one third of the world's gold. By the end of the 19th century, Australia was the largest producer of gold in the world.

The Fruit of Gold

By 1880, Sydney and Melbourne glowed and buzzed as they became modern cities, equipped with gaslighted streets, electricity, and a taste for wealth. Western Australia was about 50 years being the East, mostly because of the sheer geographical distance from the hustle and bustle.

01 Jan 1901 - Australia became a federation of 6 states, the Commonwealth of Australia. The Australian Labor Party (ALP) was officially credited (although radical activists had begun its formation 10 years prior), and a sense of nationhood and independence swept through the nation, bringing with it an avalanche of fear and racism which consumed most of the population. In an effort to 'preserve' Australian ways of living, the White Australia Policy was introduced and would be in full effect for the next 70 years. It included legislative pieces such as the Immigration Restriction Act (1901) aimed at minimising the number of foreign - mainly Chinese- able to enter, work and live in Australia.

(Today, especially in Sydney and Melbourne, we can see that the Chinese not only overcame the federal-level racism, but have imparted a plethora of foods, flavours, liveliness and knowledge from their culture into this new home. The Chinese have many ancient practices and wisdom (such as the Tao) reaching beyond this life as we know it, being the oldest civilisation in the world.)

In 1895 - New Zealand led the world, closely followed by South Australia in legalising women's vote.

1915 - Young Australia has its' first taste of death as soldiers and the nation endured 8 months of fierce battle at the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. By that time, 8,141 Australians were gone.

By the end of WWI, that number jumped to 60,000.

1920 - In a global trance of pleasure, money, sex and music, we can only imagine the lustful affairs of a thriving economy paired with American jazz. The roaring 20's were here.

1929 - But as history will tell, time and time again, there is no high without the lows.

The Great Depression sucked many into its sink-hole, as unemployment rose and morale plummeted.

(The previous summer, Black Sunday was a term that stuck to describe the terrible day when hundreds of people were rescued and 5 people drowned in the unforgiving surf at Sydney's Bondi Beach).

1932- Against the backdrop of a rough few years, the 1932 Ashes series offered a legendary escape, and we saw Australia clinging to the sport of cricket as a means of hope and joy, as many countries have always done in times of hardship. The history of Australia would not be complete without mentioning cricket, you could say it's the closest thing to religion this mostly Atheist society hold close to their heart. (as well as Rugby).

1939 - During WWII, Darwin was only city ever bombed in the war. Significantly - USA came to rescue, not Britain. This left an immensely bitter taste in everyone's mouth, especially with ANZAC battle so fresh - which led to the creation of ANZUS (Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty), solidifying the alliance between Australia and the US.

Consequently, Robert Menzies, the longest serving Prime Minister in history, stood in full support of America during the Vietnam War, introducing conscription for military service overseas. On the other side of the spectrum, Menzies also introduced the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which provided that all Indigenous Australians should have the right to enrol and vote at federal elections.

From this point onwards in history we see a positive curve beginning to emerge. Many movements happening globally were transforming the world from living in a basis of fear to living in abundance. A paradigm shift was happening. The era of the discovery and experimentation of psychedelics melded the spirit of activists and it's contagious mind-expanding notions with a world in need of love, and it even reached the remote continent of Australia.

Gough Whitlam

As well as often being crowned by many as the most forward-thinking Prime Minister in Australia's history, his government transformed the country in just four short years.

From 1972-end of 1975, they:

  • Ended overseas military conscription and abolished all university fees

  • Introduced a free universal health-care scheme

  • No-fault divorce

  • The principle of Aboriginal Australian land rights

  • Equal pay for women

  • The White Australia policy had been gradually falling into disuse, and under Whitlam it was finally abandoned altogether.

By now, around one million migrants had arrived from non-English-speaking countries, and they had filled Australia with new languages, cultures, foods and ideas.

Under Whitlam this achievement was embraced as ‘multiculturalism’.

At the end of 1975 his government was controversially dismissed from office by the governor-general, the Queen's representative within Australia. But the general thrust of Whitlam's social reforms was continued by his successors. The principle of Indigenous land rights was expanded, and from the 1970s Asian immigration increased, and multiculturalism became a new national orthodoxy. Not only that, but China and Japan far outstripped Europe as major trading partners − Australia's economic future lay in Asia.

Continued Development

John Howard, the second longest serving Prime Minister from 1996-2007 re-established the push for fighting overseas battles, sending troops to Iraq. As a right-wing conservative, Howard stood refusing to acknowledge climate change, although the main focus was the huge economic growth and trade agreements made with China and other parts of Asia, which is what ultimately won him support.

2007 - Kevin Rudd most famously made a public apology to the Indigenous Community, a huge and humble step. Although a lot of promises were made, the Rudd government faced unprecedented difficulties as the global economy crashed in 2008.

Since 2013 the Prime Minister seat has changed hands several times: Julia Gillard, Rudd (again); then three Liberal Party leaders in quick succession, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison (current.)

Looking at the recent musical chairs and nation-wide dissatisfaction with the current state of Australia's political stance, it's quite obvious that the model of Australian politics is in desperate need of reform, or rather, full blown transformation.

Former Rudd advisors Lachlan Harris & Andrew Charlton published this analysis looking at long-term trends in federal elections since 1987.

Steady democracy, they predict, will end up being regarded not as a norm but a 20th and early 21st-century phenomenon “that we are watching, quite painfully, die out”.

All this means is that we are entering a new paradigm shift. The cycle of evolution means we are constantly facing problems and finding solutions. Getting comfortable with change, instead of trying to revert to a comfortable ‘norm’ is the key to superseding the inability to find comfort in social constructs.

There is no other place on Earth that is a such a global reflection of the many different cultures, people, lifestyles that exist. Being from Brazil, I had never seen or tasted any kind of Asian food (albeit it was a very, very small town) before I arrived in Australia, and was not familiar with other types of cultures. They remained a mysterious other world that I never witnessed, whereas here, we are made better citizens of the world even by the subconscious effect of having a thousand different restaurants to choose from, every day. Embracing our rich history as people enables us to move forward from a place of love, not fear.

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