From the Beginning: Possession and Belonging Essay

Submitted By tyculbert
Words: 1814
Pages: 8

From the Beginning:
Possession and Belonging How exactly did the British take possession of Australia? Were they right in doing so? These are the questions that will be addressed within this essay. By using a number of different sources, not only will the answers to the questions be revealed, but some problems and issues that were encountered during this process will be uncovered including Captain Cook’s maps, and complications with the meaning of possession. The journey of taking possession of Australia began when Captain Cook was sent from England in 1768 with orders to find the paradise – Terra Australis Incognita. Two years later in 1770, having not found Terra Australis Incognita, Cook landed on an island off Cape York and (four months after landing in Botany Bay) declared in King George the third’s name, possession of the whole east coast of this continent; calling it New South Wales[1]. Cook was sent back out on another voyage in 1774 to settle the question of Terra Australis Incognita’s existence once and for all. He did not find it, instead discovering Norfolk Island with its precious flax and pine tree collection[2]. But what use did Britain have for New South Wales? In 1779 it was suggested that this newly acquired land could be a perfect place to send prisoners in order to decongest the English prisons. Alternatively, it was thought to be a place where American loyalists could work the land and make a living trading with Asia to the north. So in 1785 it was proposed that both convicts and loyalists would be sent to colonise Botany Bay. However in 1787, when the First Fleet was sent to Botany Bay, the convicts that were the only ones to be included in the plan to settle New South Wales[3]. After an eight month journey, the First Fleet arrived in Botany Bay in 1788. However, after discovering that this area was not as fertile or as suitable for settlement as Cook described from his previous visit, Captain Arthur Phillip made the decision to move the fleet slightly north to Port Jackson where it was discovered to be a more promising site for settlement. So on 26th January 1788 at Sydney Cove, Phillip reinforced what Cook did 18 years earlier and reasserted British claim of New South Wales[4]. Some doubted whether New Holland (Dutch controlled west) and New South Wales were part of the same continent. It was Matthew Flinders who proved that they were one in the same when, in 1801, he set out to chard the entire coastline[5]. The claiming of the rest of the continent occurred over the next 29 years beginning with Lieutenant John Murray in 1802, when he was sent from Sydney to explore the coastline along bass straight. In doing so he took possession and named Port Phillip Bay. While he was there, Murray and his team were attacked by Aborigines who were fired upon by the Europeans muskets. Britain now believed that they had “legally dispossessed the aborigines, this, however, could not have been possible as aboriginal social centres were all over the area[6]. Governor King was next to settle a major part of the continent when in 1803, Hobart received its first settlers. Twenty one years after that, in 1824, an expedition let to the settlement of Melville Island (near Darwin). This claim extended the British’s territory boundary west into the Dutch controlled area of the continent[7]. In 1826, an expedition was sent to claim the area now known as Albany in Western Australia. The British, however, refused to officially acknowledge this in fear of angering the Dutch. This was then followed by the first free settlement being founded at Perth in 1829. Now that Britain had outpost settled all around the continents coast, legal claim to the continent had been laid[8]. One issue surrounding the whole process of taking possession of the continent is the allegation that Captain Cook had maps and charts of New Holland before he even set sail from England. The French had produced