Australia History and Politics

By | June 29, 2021

The first inhabitants of Australia

People have lived in Australia for 50,000 years: the Aborigines [ read: Aboridschinis]. But when exactly the settlement of Australia took place is still controversial today. Some assume a time ago 48,000 years ago, others speak of a settlement as early as 60,000 years ago.

Probably the first inhabitants came to Australia via a chain of islands connected to Asia. We don’t know exactly how they managed to do this, because the islands were far apart and knowledge of boats and sea was probably still very poor at the time. But somehow the people made it, otherwise Australia wouldn’t have been settled so early.

Different tribes settled in Australia

It is certain that many different tribes lived in Australia and at the end of the 18th century there were around 250 different languages ​​of the Aborigines. Today it is assumed that the Aborigines were not a single ethnic group. There were probably many different tribes that also spoke different languages.

The first Europeans discover the “new” continent

Probably – we don’t know for sure – a Dutchman named Willem Jansz was the first European to discover a corner of Australia’s northeast as early as 1606. Decisive for the further course of the story, however, was the navigator James Cook, who landed on the east coast in 1770 and took possession of the land in the name of the British crown. This was the hour of birth of New South Wales.

The British referred to Australia as Terra Nullius when they arrived and did not grant the residents any rights. The first prisoners met in 1788of the British and founded Port Jackson. Later this place would be called Sydney. From there it went on: Tasmania, Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and Queensland followed. Incidentally, 15 out of 100 prisoners were women. Most of them were not felons, however, but had to serve their sentences for minor offenses.

An island full of prisoners

In 1788, the year the Europeans arrived, only 860 white people lived in Australia. In 1888 there were already 3 million. How did it go so fast?

Gold deposits were discovered in Australia from the middle of the 19th century and this led to a large wave of immigration. Penal colonies followed, but also other settlers who sought their fortune on the new continent. Incidentally, in 1868 the settlement of prisoners was stopped. More than 160,000 prisoners had been shipped to Australia by then.

The Aborigines had to give way to the Europeans

At the same time, the proportion of Aborigines dropped sharply from 315,000 to 95,000 people from the time the British arrived until 1901. The violence of British settlers and the introduction of disease played their part. Above all, the diseases brought in by the settlers bothered the people, they had no resistance to them.

From the middle of the 19th century, the Aborigines were put into “protected areas” that were set up especially for them, in which they were supposed to farm.

Striving for independence

The colonies sought independence from Great Britain. In 1901 the Australian Confederation was established. At first, Melbourne was the capital of the new state. The Immigration Restriction Act was intended to prevent further immigration. This was the beginning of the policy of “white Australia” aimed at preventing the immigration of non-white Australians. This was followed up into the 1950s.

“Populate or Perish”

This was only to change after the end of the Second World War. The country suddenly needed workers, it did not want to go under. The slogan “Populate or perish” was issued, which means something like “Populate the land or you will perish”.

From the 1950s onwards, immigration policy changed

Refugees from Central and Eastern Europe came to Australia in the 1950s. There were people from southern Europe who fled dictatorships or poverty, but also Chileans, Vietnamese and Lebanese or South Africans who fled apartheid.

Most immigrants now come from Asia and Oceania. In terms of foreign policy, after the Second World War, Australia increasingly oriented itself towards the USA and sought protection. So in 1951 the ANZUS Agreement came about, an agreement between Australia, New Zealand and the USA. The agreement is also known as the Pacific Pact.

The immigration rules today

Immigration regulations in Australia today are strict. Most are turned away. Only those who have a job, an education and good language skills have a chance. This is how Australians control their immigration policy and only allow people into the country who bring them advantages. Those who seek protection or help are usually left alone. Refugees also have a hard time getting to Australia.

Australia Politics