More and more we are as a nation examining ourselves, in the big picture Australia is still a young country and I feel that we are just reaching our “coming of age”. Our biggest problem I believe is to find our “National Identity”
There has been some significant events that have all added to our identity in various ways. If we look back at our history with honesty, we find a much different story then the one that was fed into us at school. Yes I think we have all learnt about Dirk Hartog in 1616 and Abel Tasman in 1642 and 1644. The first European however was the Dutch mariner, Willem Janszoon in1606. So Captain Cook was a late comer. In 1699 the first Englishman, the pirate, William Dampier also landed on “Australian” soil which was at the time known as New Holland as the country had bee claimed in the name of the King of Holland.
The name Australia is derived from the Latin, word Australis which means southern, the full term was terra australis incognita, “Unknown Southern Land”.
In 1770, Captain James Cook sailed looking for the known island known as Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) but was blown off course and landed on the east coast of Australia and on the 28th April 1770 he landed in botany bay and named the east coast, New South Wales.
Crime and unemployment in England due to the industrial revolution created a huge problem in England and public executions of petty criminals became entertainment. In 1708 for example, Michael Hammond and his sister aged 7 and 11 years old were hanged at King’s Lynn for petty theft. The people were now starting to object to all the bloodshed from what was known as “The Bloody Code”, and the prisoners grew in number until they had to resort to putting them in floating gaols in old cargo ship hulls.
It was decided to ship[ prisoners to the colony which at that time referred to the Americas. Hundreds of crimes were listed as “for the term of their natural life”, many as innocent as stealing a loaf of bread because your children were starving. Wives and children were sometimes sent with their husbands so as to not leave dependents behind to cause trouble.
On the 4th of July 1776 America declared itself as an independent nation, no longer could the English dump their prisoners there. On the 13th May, 1787 they solved the problem of what to do with the now again growing number of prisoners.
Eleven ships set sail from Portsmouth, England. Led by Captain Arthur Phillip, this historic convoy, which later became known as the First Fleet, carried officers, crew, marines and their families, and convicts from Britain to a distant and little known land on the far side of the world.
After finding Botany Bay unsuitable they finally landed in what they named Sydney Cove, now known as Sydney Harbour on the 26th January 1788.
It is this day that we celebrate as Australia Day. I will now through various pages and blogs discuss the various aspects of this and why other previous dates are also unsuitable.
I will be dissecting this from several perspectives, if I miss one I am sure you will let me know. Please have patients as it won’t happen overnight, and things may be changed if from research or responses I tweak my views and musings.