Australian people

Australia is one of the most ethnically diverse societies in the world today.

Almost one in four Australian residents were born outside of Australia and many more are first or second generation Australians, the children and grandchildren of recently arrived migrants and refugees.

This wide variety of backgrounds, together with the culture of Indigenous Australians who have lived on the Australian continent for more than 50,000 years, have helped create a uniquely Australian identity and spirit.

Indigenous peoples and cultures

Before the arrival of British colonisers in 1788, Australia was inhabited by the Indigenous peoples – Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, sometimes referred to as the First Australians. Aboriginal people inhabited the whole of Australia and Torres Strait Islanders lived on the islands between Australia and Papua New Guinea, in what is now called the Torres Strait.

There were over 500 different clan groups or ‘nations’ around the continent, many with distinctive cultures, beliefs and languages.

Today, Indigenous people make up 2.4 per cent of the total Australian population (about 460,000 out of 22 million people).

The first colony

New South Wales was settled as a penal colony – a place where Britain could send convicted criminals because her prisons were overcrowded. Many convicts had grown up in poverty and committed only minor offences, such as the theft of a loaf of bread. Conditions in the new colony were little better than at home – it took many years for British settlers to understand the different environment of the new colony, and disease and malnutrition were widespread during the first decades of settlement.

Convicts formed the majority of the colony’s population for the first few decades of settlement. Convicts continued being sent to New South Wales until 1823, although as time went by, convicts were increasingly seen as a source of labour to build the colony, rather than just being sent away from Britain as punishment for their crimes.

Free settlers

The first wave of migrants to Australia included men of capital who were attracted by the colony’s agricultural prospects and the availability of convict labour. Their enthusiasm, together with the Gold Rushes era of the mid-nineteenth century, pushed out the boundaries of the new settlement and by the end of the 1850s there were six separate Australian colonies:

  • New South Wales
  • Tasmania (originally settled in 1803, but separated from New South Wales in 1825)
  • Western Australia (established in 1829)
  • South Australia, including the Northern Territory (established in 1834)
  • Victoria (detached from New South Wales in 1851)
  • Queensland (detached from New South Wales in 1859)

Settlers living in Australia in the nineteenth century lived at the frontier of not only a new land, but of a new society.

Becoming Australians

The six Australian colonies were governed independently of each other, but during the second half of the 19th century there was a growing sense of an Australian identity and a push towards establishing Australia as an independent nation under a Federation.

The new nation remained loyal to Britain, and retained its identity as part of the British Empire. Many people thought of themselves as British people, living in a different land. However, substantial migration from Ireland enhanced an Australian identity that was increasingly independent of Britain.

Non-white immigrants were essentially excluded by the restrictions of the new Immigration Restriction Act, which required that they take a dictation test in a specific language with which they were not necessarily familiar. Non-white immigrants were often seen as a threat to working conditions in Australia and to Australia’s ‘British’ character.

Policies such as this were to remain in place until after World War Two, when the government implemented migration schemes that actively sought first British, then European, migrants. Since then, the face of Australia has changed remarkably. While large numbers of migrants have continued to come from traditional sources like the United Kingdom and New Zealand, there have been large numbers of people from countries as diverse as Italy, Greece, China, Vietnam and Lebanon. Their contribution to Australian society, culture and prosperity has been an important factor in shaping the modern Australia.

Population today

Australia’s population today is roughly 22 million people. The country’s vast openness means it has the lowest population density in the world – only two people per square kilometre.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) produces population estimates for the Australian Government and people. The ABS Population clock– external site displays the current estimate of the resident population of Australia.



During this course i have found it super hard to try and agree with the statement given for assignment task 1. I agree with the fact that the Aboriginal histories and their past needs to be taught in schooling from a young age, but i disagree with the Government aspects of things. During classes i have tried to listen and take in what other class mates have said and also my lecturer, trying to let it change my mind on things, but i seem to always argue back and have a reason as to why i disagree. writing this assignment has put a lot of pressure on myself as i cannot find anything to say to agree with the statement. so i sit here reading every article and paper on the moodle site trying to put words onto paper, but i just can’t. I know a lot of Aboriginals that are sweet and caring and such amazing people, and some non-Aboriginals who are nasty and terrible people, in saying that I’m not racist, but i believe the government makes us out to be racist, with all the benefits the Aboriginals get from them us non-Aboriginals seem to be racist as we sit and complain about the benefits they get. We then occur to be racist to the Aboriginals because they don’t like us complaining about all the benefits they claim.

Personal Reflections on the impact of a shared Australian History

Reflection 1

I believe that we should incorporate the Aboriginal histories within the classroom and teach students about their histories and the stolen generation. In saying that i believe it should be incorporated under the domain of either History or Geography. i don’t think it should be a daily lesson, maybe just a weekly lesson at the most. Its fair to say we need to teach students about the history and the stolen generation but when is enough? It might be exciting for Aboriginal students to listen about their histories and the Aboriginal families might be happy that it is incorporated within the lesson/lessons but when is enough? where do teachers stop? there is only so much teachers can teach and students can learn before the Non-Aboriginal students get bored of learning about the Aboriginal culture and history. I believe all students need to learn about it and have clear understandings of the Aboriginal history but especially in primary school teachers shouldn’t need to go overboard with teaching it. I think it should be compulsory in schooling, but not to the extent where it is taught everyday.

Reflection 2

I believe the Government spends to much money on creating these policies to put in place, but there is not enough funding provided to educate teachers and schools with the knowledge of how to address areas that creates the gap. The Government money needs to be spent on appropriate areas of teaching, and needs to be spent on school and teachers and how they need to teach these areas within the classroom. Also educate teachers who have come from other countries to teach. The government spends all this money on Aboriginals because of what has happened in the past, but yet they expect us Non-Aboriginals to be able to sit back and watch them get all this money for nothing and we are here trying to do our best and educate students, trying to ensure the non-aboriginals why they get so much funding but yet we don’t. Yes we all know what happened in the past and yes Aboriginals where on this land way before we were, but we need to Acknowledge it and move on, the government keeps that gap wide open, by putting these policies in place does not close the gap, it widens it if anything.

Reflection 3

The Aboriginal people/person, of the past few years don’t make things easy for aboriginal students now days. Because this grudge has been brought down through generations, aboriginal students feel they need to live up the the expectations of their nation. By forgetting the past and moving on there would be no racism and no conflict between the two races. i believe we should all learn what the culture was and what it can become. The world is not a happy place because of all the conflict, especially between aboriginal and non aboriginal. Some nations have moved on from the past and started to make a better future but others are so stuck in the past and their history that they cannot let things go and move forward.