In July 2017, new research was published that pushed the opening chapters of Australian history back to 65,000 years ago.
Marcella Cheng/The Conversation
When did Australia’s human history begin?
The Conversation, CC BY 16.6 MB (download)
Today's episode of Essays On Air, the audio version of our Friday essay series, seeks to move beyond the view of ancient Australia as a timeless and traditional foundation story.
This 1980s ad for Lindeman’s Ben Ean Moselle mirrored the shift in Australian wine culture from egalitarian to aspirational.
Lindeman’s (Holdings) Ltd, Z418 Box 335 27.103, Noel Butlin Archives Centre
Lindeman's Ben Ean Moselle was the ultimate wine for everyone in the 1970s. But as Australia grew wealthier, its fortunes faded in competition with other, 'finer' wines.
Native title - the legal recognition of Indigenous Australian land rights - is determined under domestic law, not international law.
In an article published in the lead up to Australia Day, WA Liberal Party policy committee chairman Sherry Sufi said "native title can only exist if Australia was settled, not invaded". Is that right?
Same-sex marriage becoming legal was rated by as the most significant event in their history by the largest proportion of respondents.
A new survey asking Australians to rank the most significant events in their lifetimes show that same-sex marriage, September 11 and the apology to the Stolen Generations matter most.
Changing the date of Australia Day is the first tiny step for Australia to begin the reckoning with its origins.
Reconciliation between the Settler and First Nations populations is a self-evident prerequisite for Australia cutting the ties of colonial dependency with Britain to stand on our own.
The Founding of Australia. By Capt. Arthur Phillip R.N. Sydney Cove, Jan. 26th 1788 (Algernon Talmadge R.A, 1937)
State Library of New South Wales
As it becomes ever more entangled in battles over the meaning of our history, Australia Day will find it difficult to foster common belonging and social cohesion.
The painting Group of Natives of Tasmania, 1859, by Robert Dowling.
That colonial wars were fought in Tasmania is irrefutable. More controversially, surviving evidence suggests the British enacted genocidal policies against the Tasmanian Aboriginal people.
Rabaul is famous for its twin volcanoes, which erupted simultaneously in 1994.
Unknown photographer Image supplied by David Bridie and Gideon Kakabin
An exhibition at the Melbourne Museum tells the history of colonialism in East New Britain, PNG, from the perspective of the local people. This is history from the ground up, told through film, art and music.
Christmas Dinner, Mt Margaret Mission 1933.
State Library of Western Australia
Aboriginal missions were notorious for their austerity, but Christmas was a brief time of joy. While celebrations had a sinister assimilationist edge, Aboriginal people often adopted traditions into their own culture.
Titian’s 1583 painting Venus of Urbino: historically, pleasure was not the only, or even the main, expectation from sex for women.
Australian women were once largely seen as reproducers, rather than lovers: sexual pleasure was suspect. Attitudes have changed, yet our culture is still troubled by female desire.
Prime Minister Billy Hughes worked hard to quash rebellion over conscription during the first world war.
Australian Prime Ministers
A little-known incident 100 years ago reminds us that Australia at the time was riven by class, religious and political divisions.
Heaven only knows what sort of excursion Wooredy and Truganini thought they had embarked upon on when G.A. Robinson took them to Recherche Bay in 1830 to make an overland trek to the Tasmanian west coast.
Wooredy and his second wife Truganini set off into the Tasmanian wilderness with settler George Robinson in 1830, on a "conciliatory" mission to find other original Tasmanians. Their stories bear witness to a psychological and cultural transition without parallel in modern colonialism.
Anzac Day, a celebration of the Anzac soldiers, pictured, has become a contentious issue in the “history wars”.
The most popular history courses taught in Australian universities are still broad courses focused on significant historical events and periods, contrary to the recent IPA report.
The academy has changed substantially since Plato’s time.
Australian universities are teaching 'identity politics' at the expense of Western history, according to an Institute of Public Affairs report. But unis make decisions based on student demand, not politics.
George Hamilton, Meeting natives on the Campaspi plains, Victoria, June 1836.
National Library of Australia
George Hamilton published An Appeal for the Horse in 1866, a defence of animal welfare well ahead of its time. However, his compassion for Aboriginal people was conspicuously lacking.
Paul Uhlmann, Batavia 4th June 1629 (night of my sickness), 2017, oil on canvas (detail, one of three panels).
Courtesy of the artist
The shipwreck of the Batavia and subsequent murders of 115 men, women and children have inspired many retellings. A new exhibition combines art and science to find new angles on an old tale.
Australia is way behind comparable countries on the marriage equality debate, thanks largely to a failure of leadership.
Historically, Australians have been leaders rather than followers on progressing social issues. But more recently, our leaders have trailed behind public opinion.
Louis XVI giving final instructions to the Comte de La Perouse in 1785, before La Perouse embarked on his fateful expedition to the Southern Hemisphere.
State Library of NSW
The French La Pérouse expedition left Botany Bay in 1788, and then vanished, rumoured to be wrecked in the Solomon Islands. But an Indian newspaper article might reveal the fate of its survivors.
Aboriginal dancers from Pinjarra perform at the unveiling of the counter-memorial in Esplanade Park, Fremantle, April 9 1994.
Courtesy Bruce Scates
A Fremantle monument to three white explorers was revised in 1994 to acknowledge the violence committed against Indigenous owners. As Australia struggles to reconcile its racist past, perhaps this monument shows a way forward.
Australia’s first memorial to Indigenous service people.
Many of our public commemorations honour people and incidents that brought great harm to others. We need to look at what that says about us, and how we build more inclusive public memorials.