TERRA AUSTRALIS INCOGNITA

Meltem Köse

Terra Australis Incognita (the unknown southern land), Australia today, was a hypothetical island known only because it was featured on maps or journals from the times when it was believed that the equator could not be crossed until its later discovery by the British. The discovery of the island in 1770, and after the American Revolutionary War in 1776, the British Empire needed a new location since they could not send prisoners to America anymore, and it was decided to use Australia as a distant penal colony. Since the first landing, the native people and the British encountered with each other, and the decrease in the native population and the increase in the European population changed the dynamics of the island. In addition, events such as the establishment of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901, shaping the immigration with the White Australia policy in the following years, and even the island’s refusal to be fully independent in latest referendum, show the dominance of the British Empire on the island. This study aims to reveal this multi-layered structure of Australia that has formed over the years, through 4 different actor groups as modern travelers who have the potential to visit the island as tourists today, those who first settled on the island since 1788, prisoners and immigrants in the following years, the natives of the island, namely Aborigines, whose population has drastically decreased with the arrival of the British and whose way of life has changed dramatically, and the Royal family members visiting the island from time to time in parallel with colonial activities. Although these actors are presented separately from each other, quite remarkable intersections emerge where each group can be overlapped with the other.

Modern traveler

Today’s modern traveler’s/architect’s journeys are now very fast. They transfer from airports to train stations and spend hours in these transitional places. When they go to a city, they witness many structures built at different times in the same context as they travel from one of the ‘most important’, ‘most must-see’ and ‘most recommended’ places to another. However, Australia has an idiosyncratic characteristic. When someone travels to Australia, they came across squares, streets, gardens and buildings with similar or same names as those in Britain among the monumental structures. Words that appear in almost every district, such as queen, Queen Victoria and royal, provide clues about the history of the island, while keeping travelers alert about British colonialism. This collage is the mind map of the author who really plans to go to Australia next year.

Spatial Survey of the Island of Australia

Discovered by the Dutch in the 1600s and by the British in 1770, the spatial transformation of Australia began to be documented with the establishment of the first colony in 1778. According to the archival records, 806 ships and approximately 162.000 convicts were transported to Australia, the island of penal colony, from England between 1778 and 1868. Not only prisoners, but thousands of other British settlers who were attracted by the easily available land also migrated to Australia, which later led to conflicts with the Aborigines. With the discoveries made one after the other, the map of the island was charted, and with the new colonies established one after another, colonies settled the coastal parts of the island. These movements are shown on the poster so that the multi-layered structure of Australia can be perceived. In addition, a secondary map was created to track the movements of convicts since it is known that those who found guilty went to secondary penal stations such as Macquarie Harbor, Newcastle, and Moreton Bay and, later, Norfolk Island and Port Arthur. While the first settlements of the island were shaped by the movements of European explorers, convicts, and immigrants, and took English names, it is striking that all of these settlements are actually unrelated to the organically formed Aboriginal settlements.

The Natives of the Island

When the First Fleet of British Empire reached the Warrange coastline, now known as Sydney, Australia’s Indigenous population was between about 750.000 and 1.000.000. The newly arrived British demanded land and they did not understand either the Indigenous people’s relationship with the land or the diversity of their language and culture. On the other hand, invaders were seem disrespectful for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. They resisted to the British invasion, and responded this with guerrilla warfare. As a result of these conflicts, Indigenous people were massacred by Europeans, incarcerated and forcibly displaced from their customary land. Most of the natives were segregated from other immigrant Australians and relocated to missions and reserves. In addition to the massacres, epidemic diseases were also crucial for natives whose bodies were not familiar with bacterias, viruses, medications, diseases like smallpox, tuberculosis, influenza, measles, whooping cough and even the common cold. And also, malnutrition which is illness from lack of healthy food was very common between them.

Although the British took many of the natives as prisoners, or incidents such as the Myall Creek Massacre in 1838 happened, there were small number of natives who engaged with Europeans. Some of the aborigines were chosen as stockmen for cricket teams because of their athletic skills, but they were not having wages until the end of 1960’s. Some of the indigenous people were part of growing colony of Sydney. Although Sydney clans firstly afraid of ships, they had to sailed with/for them to adapt to colonial life. They visited places like Norfolk Islands, India, England, South America, California, Canada and the South Pacific. Some of the indigenous people were present at the establishment of new settlements at Newcastle, Hobart, Port Macquarie, King George Sound (Albany) and Port Phillip. If the travels of aboriginals and Europeans are considered together, a lot of intersections and differences can be found. While European prisoners and Aboriginal prisoners were exiled to same places, many natives can be seen co-existing with European explorers at the newly discovered sites. However, while there was always the arrival of outside explorers on the island, the movement of the locals was the opposite since they leave the island.

When the Commonwealth of Australia was first declared in 1901, aborigines were not counted in the census or not regarded as citizens, and this situation continued until 1967. Between 1910 and 1970, many Indigenous children of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent were taken from their families and relocated into non-Indigenous homes or placed under State care for assimilation. These children, who were taken from their families and numbering around 100,000, are known as the ‘Stolen Generations’. These policies, which were carried out against the natives for a long time, started to change only in the second half of the 20th century. The federal government began to pass legislation to help the aborigines in 1967. According to the archives, in the late 20th century the number of Aboriginal persons with some experience of traditional Aboriginal life was estimated to be about 10.000, which is almost 100 time less than their initial population. In the 21st century the government has taken a huge step forward and then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd formally apologized to Australia’s indigenous people for the policies that have caused centuries of continued suffering and in which the police played a big part in 2008.

For more information about the massacres please visit; https://c21ch.newcastle.edu.au/colonialmassacres/

Royal Visits

The influence of British royalty is not only affected at the foundation of major Australian political institutions, but also effected on society and culture. Australian society lived in streets and towns named in honor of the Empire with the British effects on their dresses, on their currency or on their daily life and holidays, and some of these effects could be traced even today. Although in contemporary Australia, citizens are skeptical about royalty and monarchy may mean little to them, loyalty, devotion and enthusiasm were the common senses among them in the 20th century. The funerals, weddings, births, accessions, coronations and royal visits especially after the federation was very meaningful to many Australians. Considering the voyages of natives, convicts and explorers, Royal Visits add a whole different layer to the island due to the differences in both its purposes and motivations, and routes.

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