Quick History: Australia Day
On January 26th, 1788, Royal Navy officer Captain Arthur Phillip guided a fleet of eleven British ships, each carrying convicts, to the colony of New South Wales. This date has gone down in history as the “foundation” of Australia. After overcoming a period of difficult settling and problems, the colony began to celebrate the anniversary of this date as the birth of their nation.
Australia, once known as New South Wales, was originally planned as a penal colony. In October of 1786, the British government appointed Arthur Phillip, a member of the Royal navy, captain of the HMS Sirius. He was then commissioned with the task to establish an agricultural work camp for British convicts. His plan to bring skilled tradesmen on the voyage, however, had been brutally rejected by higher officials. Thus, with eleven ships filled with convicts, he faced the problems of labor, discipline, and supply.
Although Arthur Phillip was instructed to establish friendship and good relations with the Aborigines, with specific orders and ideas revolving around keeping the interactions between the first Australian settlers and the original landowners, problems became something unavoidable. Phillip’s friendly attitude towards the aborigines was irked after a gamekeeper was killed by their hands.Phillip found it rather difficult to actually create clear policy surrounding them, and thus relations between the colonists and the aborigines fluctuated.
Though Phillip himself returned to England in 1792 and retired by 1805, the colony became prosperous soon afterwards. Feeling a new sense of patriotism and the foundations of nationalism, the men at New South Wales began to rally around January 26 as their founding day. Australia would eventually achieve independent Sovereign Nation status shortly after World War I. While laws and acts were recognized discussing the differences between Britain and Australia, the actual date of sovereignty has been passed back and forth, depending on who you ask.
By March 3rd, 1986, however, the Australia Acts finally came into force. Stating that the British government was no longer responsible for the governing body of any state, the acts decided that the Westminster parliament could no longer legislate Australian people. Thus, the hands of the country were given to the constitutional documents — and the people — of the nation that had been one for so long.