Most of the people who read my blog seem to be from countries other than Australia. A few followers have expressed interest in knowing a little more about this beautiful country so, from time to time, I am going to write posts about my nation! Please note that there is only one image on this post because of copyright laws here in Australia.
It seems logical to start at the beginning so here is a short history lesson. I am not an historian, so this is written from my memory of information I have taught over the years.
Australia has an indigenous population. They are known as Aboriginals. Like the native Americans or the First People of Canada, they do not all come from one tribe or nation. The people who inhabited the area around where I live are from the Dharruk (or Dharug) nation.
Aboriginals did not have a written language. In general, they were a nomadic people, roaming across their territories, hunting and gathering, then moving on. Obviously they did not build permanent dwellings nor did they carry shelter with them but used what was to hand to construct their dwellings.
The west and north coast of Australia was well known to European sailors, there are maps from the late sixteenth century showing parts of the northern coastline. The most famous early map (1730) shows almost all the west and north coastline.
In 1770, Lieutenant James Cook of the British Navy, sailed into the Pacific Ocean to observe the transit of Venus from the Tahitian islands. From there he had secret orders to find and map the east coast of "the Great South Land" (Terra Australis). His ship docked in Botany Bay, just south of where the modern city of Sydney now stands.
After a short stay, Cook sailed north, mapping the east coast as he went. He did not enter the now famous Sydney Harbour, only noted that there was a fine harbour which would shelter quite a few ships! On what is now the coast of central Queensland, the ship ran aground on the coral reef now known as the Great Barrier Reef and it took several weeks before it could be repaired. Cook and his crew finally made it home to England via the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa.
A few years after Cook's voyage, the American colonies declared their independence from Britain. England now had nowhere to send her surplus convicts. Many citizens of USA have no idea of the convict past of their country, particularly in the states of Virginia, New York and Maryland where England sent 150,000 convicts between 1607 and 1776.
Without the American colonies, England had to find another "home" for their criminal classes and that home became the new colony of New South Wales (so named by Cook because the coast of Australia reminded him of that part of Britain).
In May 1787, eleven ships carrying around 700 convicts plus sailors, marines and some free settlers, sailed from England and arrived in Botany Bay in January 1788. Finding no adequate supply of water, the leader of the First Fleet (as it is now known) took a party of men and sailed north into Sydney harbour. They landed in a small cove where there was a stream of fresh water and, on 26th January, hoisted the British flag to mark the site of Britain's newest colony -- Sydney (named after the British Home Secretary).
26th January is now celebrated as Australia Day -- although some Aboriginal people and their supporters call it "Invasion Day". It is fitting that this brief history be published on our national day!
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