As we have established before, Australia’s roots itself is founded on migration and immigration. It’s a turbulent history involving people from the far reaches of the world converging into a large heap of mysterious land to establish one of the best countries on Earth.
Here’s an abridged version of that history.
Along the way, we will also squash some myths, too. And explain why, despite its efforts for diversity, the country is still mostly white people.
The first ancestors of the indigenous Australians arrived in the continent 40,000 to 70,000 years ago. Since Australia is detached from the rest of the Earth’s landmass, these ancient settlers must have arrived here when glaciers still joined the continent to Tasmania and New Guinea.
The aborigines established what could be one of the oldest cultural and social traditions on Earth, developed a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, learned to harvest from the sea, and formed spiritual practices that will take the rest of the world many millenia to catch up like cremation and animist religion.
British explorer Captain James Cook wasn't the first Westerner to land ashore Australia (he was the eighth), but he made the most profound impact to the southern continent.
Seventeen years after his first landfall in 1770, Cook was heralded by the British Empire to establish a penal colony here. This was the time when the American Revolutionary was still raging on, prompting the Empire to slowly lose its resources and needed replacement, setting its sight on the newfound land.
Now, you might have heard, this colony is home to Britain’s most violent murderers and traitors and that modern Australians are the descendants of these criminals. Let us crush the myth here.
While they may be branded as “criminals,” these people’s only infractions range from “stealing a piece of bread” to “pickpocketing a wallet.” These were poor, unemployed, exploited, and underfed people (again, because of the US’ war with the Brits) whose hunger caused them to break a few laws and now were needed to be exiled because the prison spaces were rapidly decreasing. And Australia was their chosen destination.
In that same year, the colony of Botany Bay (now Sydney) was established, and years later, the New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land.
But of course, this transition wasn't easy, as the settlers were in constant clash with the indigenous tribes, which they see as barbaric, primitive, and uneducated. Since the Brits have far more superior technology and weapons, the aborigines often got the end of this long, painful, and violent stick. Racism, exploitation, and intolerance was very rampant.
In fact, many indigenous groups today believe that Australia Day, being celebrated every January 26th to commemorate Cooks landing, should be called Invasion Day, to embody and remind the present generation of the bloodshed and affliction the aborigines went through on this turbulent part of history.
The convicts made significant efforts in developing the harsh and unproductive land into a fertile one. In a few years, they were able to pay their debts and gained freedom, establishing families, business, and even companies. Because of this, more and more migrants came to Australia to look for opportunities and ride the wave of its economic upswing. By 1840s, exiling convicts to the country was finally stopped, as the land slowly became a peaceful colony.
It didn't help that in the beginning of 1850s, gold rushes started occurring in some parts of the continent. Businesses boomed more, more migrants came in, and the population grew exponentially.
This ushered in a new transition from Colonial self-government to Federacy to Democracy. In the New Year of 1901, the country saw itself as a united nation, composed of the six major colonial countries. And calls for equal rights and representation grew more and heeded upon.
In 1901, it was decided that the country would only allow immigrants from UK and other English-speaking countries, and exclude Asian, African, and Pacific islands settlers. This was partly to eradicate competition from the Chinese, who in gold rush periods, came to Australia in large numbers to participate and most often got the lion’s share of the economic prosperity.
This policy wasn’t tore down until between 1949 and 1956.
After suffering major setbacks from the two World Wars and the Great Depression, the government encouraged immigration from other nations, warning that the country should “populate or perish.”
With the new immigration polices rolled in, Australia began to enjoy significant economic prosperities between 1950s and 60s, especially in the housing and manufacturing sectors. This ushered in a newfound boom in the suburban living.
In the early 50s, alliances were formed with the United States and United Kingdoms, ironically the nations that spurned out Australia’s history and laid the ground to its economic rise.
This economic expansion plus steady stream of skilled immigrants pouring in continued to become the frameworks of the country’s development. A nation built from the aggregates of the many people who took the leap to find opportunities, and in the 21st Century continuous to grow on the same aspects of these events.