A History of Australia

A History of Australia

A History of Australia

A History of Australia

Excerpt

If you would read history, and most particularly Australian history, study your atlas, for in the long run geography maketh man. It presents him with gifts and problems, and his history is the story of how he takes advantage of the one and grapples with the other; it moulds his way of life and in the end, if the crowds on the surfing beaches are any criterion, will alter the pigmentation of his skin.

Australia belongs in culture, outlook, and way of life with the European nations, more particularly with Great Britain. Yet, geographically, she is set between the Pacific and Indian Oceans and is in the Asian and Pacific sphere. The Pacific was the last of the ocean seas to be explored, the least known, the most romantic. It is a vast area of water dotted with islands, discovered, lost, rediscovered, named and renamed. The legend of the earthly paradise still lingers. There are strange patterns of migration that ethnologists are still unravelling. There is the puzzle of Easter Island with its colossal idols. There are desert islands and lonely coral atolls, cannibals and gentle lotus- eating men. The ocean is a patchwork, the scrap-bag of forgotten races. Now most of the archipelagos have come under the influence, by annexation, protectorate, or mandate, of one or other of the great powers bringing to them their old-world rivalries. War on a global scale came to the Pacific after the fall of Pearl Harbour in 1942. Civilization has moved in. Islands screened in the mystery of sea and distance can become naval or air bases, hostile stepping-stones; they are so many and so far flung.

Australia has no frontiers, but the Pacific has become a doubtful barrier against the world; it could be an ambush, an uncanalized danger. Its very weakness is a threat, for there is no people who could or would fight a delaying action. Of the Pacific Islanders themselves there are probably few who would even greatly care who came or went or brought gifts or threats. Australia is wide open to this unpredictable ocean. Australian fence policy calls for a screen of islands. The need for this was recognized from the very beginning of white settlement. Within a month of the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove a small colony had been planted on Norfolk Island, 930 miles east of Port Jackson, not only to remove some hungry mouths to a more fertile island but to protect the infant settlement from the French, who were at that time taking a keen interest in the Pacific, purely . . .

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