Explain a myth from Australian History.

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Australia has one of the longest recorded native histories in the world, and one of the shortest "modern" histories of settlement. The original native settlers are accepted to have sailed from Indonesia over 70,000 years ago, but the first Europeans didn't land on Australia until the mid-16th century.

Because of the mystique given to far-away places, Australia has its share of myths. James Cook is one, although he did spur the European settlements after his historic trip around New Zealand (also, he was a Lieutenant at the time, not a Captain).

One of the most common myths about Australia is that the current white population is descended entirely from British criminals who were imprisoned on the far-off island for crimes against the crown. This myth is so pervasive that it appears in William Goldman's novel The Princess Bride. However, while Britain did take advantage of Australia's distance from Europe to confine criminals there, they were not the majority of the population; in fact, because of the massive cost of shipping prisoners over the ocean, the convicts who landed were mostly skilled laborers convicted of minor crimes, allowing them to help establish European colonies.

The first large-scale colony did come from a convict ship in 1803, but it didn't last. When gold was discovered in 1851, the non-convict European population grew exponentially, ending any notion that only criminals and their offspring lived there. However, because of the many convict ships that did travel to Australia, the myth continues to this day.

mjay25's profile pic

mjay25 | Student, Graduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

Perhpas that James Cook discovered Australia, when it was already inhabited by Aboriginals.

Although, this perpetuated myth is based on who writes history, 'the powerful victors' as in the British colonialists. It was in their interests to colonize the country through a 'discovery'.

Question: How can one discover and explore a land that is already and had been inhabited by the natives of that country for centuries?

Despite this, it wasn't even James Cook who was the first non-native to visit Australia, the first non-Aboriginals were in fact Indian traders from Indonesia. There is also evidence that the Potugese visited the country during the 1500s before Cooks arrival in 1700s, but records of the Portugese visit are said to have been lost.


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