Many of the British that arrived in the late 1700s
and early 1800s arrived as criminals as Australia was
established as a penal colony. The idea that these former criminals would become
farmers failed on most accounts, but the soils were blamed and soon westward expansion
began. Sadly, this push came at the expense of the aboriginal people.
In 1804 aboriginals and Europeans clashed in Tasmania (then
known as Van Diemen's Land) as many aboriginals were killed in the conflict.
In 1838 more aboriginals were killed in Myall Creek. During this time, from 1790
to 1816 there were wars in the west between these groups, called the Hawkesbury
and Nepean Wars. These were battles for land, resources, and lifestyles as expansion
into the unknown territories slowly continued.
From this time on the cultural clash between the two groups escalated. The
British government established methods to protect the aboriginals from the
British settlers, but they also encouraged missionaries to convert the local population
and attempted to "assimilate" the aboriginals into this growing Australian
culture. This process helped promote peace, but it also slowly destroyed many aspects
of the aboriginal culture.
Despite the changes, the two groups worked together on numerous occasions as aspects
of the aboriginal knowledge and culture were integrated into the settling European
mindset. The aboriginals acted as guides in the country's wilderness, music
and art were given to the ethnic Europeans (although at first
they were rarely accepted), and survival techniques were passed on, including hunting
techniques, the boomerang, and from both side techniques for raising animals on
the land were shared.
Through this process it was the aboriginals that more significantly altered their
culture (although they still remained fairly divided from the ethnic Europeans geographically)
and by about 1821 the society truly began to reflect that of Britain as only by
this time did public utilities, schools, and churches get built. It was also at
about this time that free settlers began arriving in significant numbers. South
Australia was established in the 1830s as a free colony
and with this the free population continued to grow quickly.
Despite the growing ethnic European population, the island remained fairly divided
as the interior of Australia wasn't explored by Europeans until the mid-1800s.
During this time the aboriginals in the country's interior maintained their
historic cultures and lifestyles and a more and more European
culture and lifestyle grew along the coasts, most commonly the southeastern, southern,
and southwestern coasts.
The mid-1800s were also a time of great change in Australia.
Gold was found in 1851 near Victoria, leading to massive immigration to the region
from other parts of Australia as well as from other parts of the world. The political
scene was also changing as Australia got representative governments in the various
territories beginning in 1855 and in 1895 women were allowed to vote and allowed
to run for governmental positions.
However, throughout these changes the cultures were still primarily divided as the
European population in Australia was one of the most urbanized
in the world during these early years. Meanwhile, the aboriginal population continued
to govern themselves by local councils and was primarily rural. The two cultures
began to further merge in the late 1880s with a changing attitude among the ethnic
European population. As much of the population was born in Australia by this point,
there was a growing attachment to the land as exploration and curiosity grew. The
ethnic Europeans began to seek out a new Australian identity and this identity began
by closely connecting to the land.
This curiosity continued to rise due to the famed "bushrangers" of the
1800s. The bushrangers were criminals who made their way into the bush to protect
themselves from the police and their stories created an unquenchable curiosity for
the land beyond the urban borders. Skills like understanding the bush, knowing the
wildlife, survival skills, hunting skills, and others all became important. Arts
and literature also flourished and again the people gained much of their inspiration
from the natural landscape, the native animals, and the aboriginals. This process
formed the basis of Australian identity today, but also
forever connected the aboriginal and ethnic European populations.
This time helped educate the ethnic Europeans on aboriginal life as survival and
curiosity took the people into the center of the continent intellectually, although
few ethnic Europeans actually moved to the interior as they remained physically
urbanized. This independent identity movement by the ethnic European population
led to independence in 1901 when the Australians passed a bill requesting independence,
a bill that was then passed by the House of Commons in the United Kingdom. However,
this law didn't give Australia full independence (Australia
was considered a "dominion") as the United Kingdom
still held many rights over their former colony, including great power over their
military and foreign policies.
In 1914 World War I broke out in Europe and
Australia immediately volunteered to assist the United
Kingdom. Many of these volunteers were sent to Gallipoli, in
Turkey. The battle seemed to be one the Australians were guaranteed
to lose and over 8,000 Australian soldiers lost their lives. To this day, this battle
represents all those lost in wars and remains a pilgrimage sight for Australians.
The end of the war also encouraged the Australians to seize control of all
German possessions in the South Pacific, including New Guinea,
Nauru and other nearby islands.
After the war, the inter-war period was a struggle for Australia
as it was for much of the world with the Great Depression and struggling economies
worldwide. However, this period was short-lived as World War II (WWII) broke out
in the late 1930s and Australia soon found itself in the middle of the eastern war
with Japan, again siding with the United
Although Australian soldiers fought on all fronts of WWII, the battles on
Australia's immediate periphery made the most impact. The Japanese took
over New Guinea, just to Australia's north and by 1942 the Japanese were bombing
the city of Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory. Despite the attacks, the
Japanese never took any part of mainland Australia and near the same time the Allied
forces were in the process of taking back the South Pacific. These battles, which
including many near Australia were fought and won island by island by the Allies,
eventually making their way to Japan to end the war.
The war changed life in Australia as the cultural landscape
was forever altered. Despite having equal rights for women for a number of decades,
women went to work more than at any time in the past as industry boomed (primarily
due to wartime production). This economic boom continued after the war as many women
left the workforce, but women's rights were significantly expanded during this
time. With the economic growth came extra spending money as the people began to
engage their free time in entertainment. The arts, music, movies, and sports all
grew in popularity. More people began to purchase houses and cars during this time
as suburban areas expanded.
The 1950s were filled with communist tensions, as they were throughout much of the
world. Australia fell squarely with the
Americans and British in their anti-communist
stance and the country joined in the Korean War in the 1950s and in the 1960s the
Vietnamese War. In part to show support for this movement and in part to expand
their population. Australia welcomed a large number of immigrants during this time,
most noticeably from Eastern European communist countries, but also from some of
the Eastern Asian countries. This growth led to a more diverse culture in Australia
as new foods, traditions, and languages were imported with these new settlers.
Just as the women's rights movements expanded in the 1950s and 1960s, so too
did the aboriginal rights movements. By 1965 all aboriginals had the right to vote
and run for office. Finally, in the 1970s all aboriginals were protected by the
rights in the constitution and many lands were returned to the aboriginal people,
giving them a resurgence in their culture. However the people were still very divided
and many modern amenities introduced by the ethnic European population forever changed
the aboriginal lifestyle.
The economic and cultural boom continued into the 1970s and 1980s as foreign trade
expanded, social programs and utilities were publicized, and domestic entertainment
grew. In the 1970s university tuition was abolished and a public health care system
was put into place. On the cultural side the arts flourished as the television,
movie, and architecture, via the construction industries, rapidly expanded.
The 1980s and 1990s also saw great changes with the fall of communism in countries
abroad, a slowing economy, and vast changes in technology and communication. After
this economic decline, growth has picked back up and continues today. As an economically
prosperous country, the culture and daily life in Australia
today is very much as it has been in the recent past. Numerous jobs are available,
economic success is feasible, and spending money on wants, such as houses, cars,
entertainment, and travel is common.