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Australia - An Overview
Australia was settled by "convicts" from Great Britain in 1878. These "hardened criminals", such as poachers, pickpockets, rebels, prostitutes, and cardsharks were shipped here after being convicted in England. They landed in Botany Bay (Sydney), and were supposed to establish a totally self-sufficient colony. But few on them were trained at any skill, and none of them knew anything about farming. In addition, they were treated cruelly by the British governors.

Today Australia is a Commonwealth divided into 6 states: New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania - each with its own government. Few foreigners know the name of Australia's national capital. It's called Canberra (pronounced "CAN-brah", and from here the central government works very much like Washington D.C. responsible not only for the 6 states, but for the two Internal Territories, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. Australia is as large as the United States (without Alaska), and is the world's driest continent.

The Aborigines

The original Australians are the only people in the world without a name. They are a "special category of mankind", the Australoids, but ethnically they are simply called Aborigines or "natives". They were, and to some degree still are, the people nobody recognized.

They are believed to have migrated to Australia at least 30,000 years ago, perhaps via a land bridge that once linked the continent to Southeast Asia that was later submerged by the ocean. When the Aborigines arrived they were Stone Age hunters and food collectors. But while the rest of humanity developed into shepherds and peasants, the Aborigines, cut off from the mainstream, stayed nomadic hunters.

There were an estimated 300,000 Aborigines before the coming of the white man, and they were scattered throughout the giant continent in tiny groups that spoke 300 or more languages. Unlike the New Zealand Maoris and the American Indians, the Aborigines were not organized for war, had no concept of warfare in our sense of the word. This was their particular misfortune.

The Aborigines had invented aerodynamic marvels in the boomerang and the woomera - a kind of wooden extension of the throwing arm that imparts a bullet-like spin to a spear. They had perfected an amazingly sophisticated sign language that acted like a Universal Language. They were the world's greatest trackers and hunters and possessed a highly developed sense of artistry and worked wonders with primitive paint mixtures. They also kept their birthrate at acceptable levels through a complex system of marriage taboos that avoided breeding among the tribes. The entire balance of their existence was destroyed by white settlers. Today there are only about 50,000 left.
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Author of this article is Gene Gill. For more information visit his website: Gene Gill Miniatures.
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