Australia is known for its fantastic sights, unique animals and many other things. But like all good things, it also has its problems that are not easily seen. The country known as the land down under has a unique history with convicts and resources that has led to some problems the country faces today. These problems include a serious gambling problem and environmental concerns. The history of Australia and how it was settled is interesting and different from most other countries. The first Europeans to arrive in Australia landed around 1606.
Over the next 150 years, a total of about 54 European ships arrived in Australia. In 1770, Lieutenant James Cook claimed the eastern coast of Australia under construction of King George III of England (“Convict”). Australia went through a westward expansion similar to the United States. A man named Matthew Flinders along with two Aboriginal inhabitants traveled west to explore more of Australia similar to the Lewis and Clark exploration west. Also similar to the United States, the settlers and the Aboriginal inhabitants were generally hospitable to each other.
The relationship became more hostile when the land and resources they depended on to survive were being disrupted by the presence of the European settlers. Between 1790 and 1810, clans of the Aboriginal inhabitants resisted against the Europeans by a series of attacks (“European”). Another part of Australia’s history that makes it unique was that it was established as a penal colony for Britain on January 18, 1788 despite the attacks from the Aboriginal inhabitants. A penal colony is a settlement used to send prisoners away from the general population by placing them in a remote location.
Britain first started sending convicts to Australia as they could not send convicts to America anymore after the American Revolution. The first shipment of convicts included 751 convicts and their children. 252 marines and their families also escorted these convicts to Australia. Two more fleets of convicts arrived in 1790 and 1791. The first colonists who were not convicts arrived in 1793 to live there permanently. Convicts who were sent there were used for labor. Some of the convict’s jobs included brick makers, shepherds, farmers, and slaves.
If the convicts were educated, they were sent to work as record keepers for the convict administration. For the first few decades, convicts formed the majority of the colony’s population. By the mid 1830’s, only 6% of the convicts in Australia were “locked up. ” This was not necessarily good for the convicts. The convicts working for free settlers were subjected to immense cruelty.
One convict described his experience, “We have to work from 14-18 hours a day, sometimes up to our knees in cold water, ’til we are ready to sink with fatigue… The inhuman driver struck one, John Smith, with a heavy thong. (“Convicts”). Experiences similar to this one were recorded through Australian folk songs such as Jim Jones and Van Diemen’s Land. Convicts who had the bravery to compose these songs were often flogged by their captors. The last fleet of convicts was shipped in 1868. A total of 162,000 convicts was shipped to Australia over about 80 years (“Convicts”). Many of these convicts were English, Irish, and Scotch, but Australia also had many convicts from several cultures. Some places these people came from included: India, Canada, New Zealand, China, and the Caribbean.
Many soldiers were also transported to Australia for committing military crimes such as mutiny, desertion, and insubordination. Civilians who were sent Australia were also sent for minor offenses such as stealing or political crimes. More serious crimes such as murder or rape were usually punished with the death penalty in Britain. Men usually were not sent away on their first offense, but women were not given a second chance (“European”). Some of the more famous convicts who were not given a second chance include a man named Francis Greenway.
He was sent to Australia after his friends encouraged him to forge a document when he went bankrupt. Originally, he was sentenced to death, but his penalty was switched to 14 years in Australia. Francis arrived in Australia in February 1814 and became quite successful shortly after. He was the architect of the Government House and the St. James Church in Sydney. He died in 1837 from typhoid at the age of 59 (Herman). Another famous convict sent to Australia was named Mary Wade. She was the youngest convict sent to Australia at the age of 11 years old.
She committed the crime of stealing another girl’s clothes and was sentenced to death by hanging. She ushered a younger girl into a bathroom and began to strip her clothes off and wore them. Mary came from a poor family and her motive may have been that she needed more clothing. It also was thought that it was just childhood joking around taken too far. She was fortunate when King George III changed all women who were sentenced to death to be sent to Australia instead. She still had to stay in jail for 93 days as an 11 year old girl waiting to be shipped to Australia. She left for Australia in July of 1789.
She gave birth to a total of 21 children and raised them all. She was nicknamed the “Mother of Australia” having a total of 300 descendants at the time of her death (Molyneux). Australia gained its independence from Great Britain on January 1, 1901 when Britain passed legislation to allow the six colonies of Australia to govern themselves, but they were still under Britain law. This meant the head of the British government was also the head of the Australian government. The British monarch was allowed to appoint a Governor General of Australia who can exercise powers held by the British monarch.
The first Governor General appointed was John Adrian Louis. Australia’s government was set up in a similar to that of the United States. It is referred to as a federation which means that powers are separated between the federal government and the six states of Australia (“Federation”). One important part of sending convicts to a penal colony is transporting them. Transporting convicts over 10,000 miles is not an easy task. It took 806 ships to transport that many people (“Convicts”). The conditions on these ships were not the best for the convicts, being transported was similar to being shipped during the slave trade.
Convicts below the deck were often restrained in chains and even put behind bars. Sometimes prisoners were allowed fresh air and exercise above deck. Convicts on the ships also had to follow a strict set of rules and schedule. Some of these rules included that they were not allowed to speak to a guard, and were also not allowed to try and sell their clothes to other convicts (“Life”). One of the more ironic rules convicts had to follow was that the convicts were not allowed in any way to gamble for his provisions on the ship (“Life”).
This rule is ironic in the fact that Australia now has a very serious gambling problem. The country known as the “Lucky Country” leads the world in the highest percentage of citizens who perform some sort of gambling at 80%. Australia also has a “pokie” machine” or also known as a slot machine for every 108 people. The king of the gambling circuit in Australia is New South Wales. This state holds the 2nd largest amount of poker machines in the world after Nevada. An estimated 2% of Australians have a serious gambling problem, and 75% of those who have a problem use “pokie” machines to gamble.
Gambling is very concerning as a serious gambler can lose an average of $21,000 a year, which is about a third of the median Australian salary. Gambling is perceived to be a hobby for older men, but the majority of Australian gamblers are between the ages of 18-24. Gambling also has a price tag of $4. 7 billion a year in terms of social costs. A social cost is an expense to an entire society due to an activity, such as gambling. Gambling brings in 11% of state’s government revenue and 1. 2% of the GDP, which is a staggering amount of money. $25. 9 illion over the next four years is promised to be devoted to helping gamblers who admit they have a problem (Palet).
This is only a fraction of the amount they make off gambling. Gambling in Australia is only continuing to grow and will not stop unless the Australian government takes action to encourage Australians to spend their money elsewhere. Australia was settled by those who were willing to break rules, and this was prevalent in how gambling grew in Australia. Different ways of gambling have been legalized at different times during the history of Australia. This never stopped Australians from enjoying gambling.
In the 1930’s during the development of new communication technology, including radios and telephones, illegal offshore gambling was on a rise (“University’). This created problems with the government as they were not bringing in revenue from gambling. The Australian government came up with a plan to combat this. They decided to introduce a type of gambling called “TABs. ” This type of gambling can be compared to a scratch off lottery ticket. Australians began to gamble legally, and these “TABs” became the most popular form of gambling by the 1970’s. Casinos and “pokie” machines took over as the most popular form in the 1990’s (University).
Another form of illegal betting that Australians enjoyed was betting on sports. Sports betting was not legal until the 1980’s, but many Australians still took part in their favorite leisure activity. Australia’s history of breaking the rules led to their now serious gambling problems (University). Another issue Australia faces are serious environmental concerns. One of Australia’s most famous tourist attractions is the Great Barrier Reef. The reef stretches 132,974 square miles or 1400 miles long (Holland), making it the largest living structure on the planet.
It’s size is roughly the size of 70 million football fields or about the size of Italy. The reef is so big that it can actually be seen from space (“Working”). The reef is home to more than 100 species of jellyfish, 1625 types of fish, 133 varieties of sharks and rays, and 30 species of whales and dolphins. A unique feature of the Great Barrier Reef is that it stretches across 14 degrees of latitude (‘Working’). A problem Australia is facing is trying to protect the reef. A staggering 93% of the reef has been affected by some level of bleaching.
Bleaching occurs when the algae that live inside the coral are being released which happens when the temperature of the sea increases or an extreme weather event occurs (McKirdy). Australia also faces the fact that in some parts of the reef 50% of corals are already dead, and an estimated 90% of corals in some parts are expected to die in the next few years. This problem extends further than just environmental as reef tourism generates about 3. 2 billion a year for Australia and employs 70,000 people (McKirdy). If this tourist attraction becomes too damaged to visit, Australia will be in a crisis that will be hard to recover from.
Another potential crisis Australia faces is overfishing. The world’s fishing fleet is 2. 5 times larger than what the ocean can sustain. This results in many other problems for Australia, currently 24% of fish species are either depleted or recovering from depletion due to overfishing. Another 52% of fisheries are fully exploited and have no chance of to produce larger harvests. These problems occurred from a variety of factors, including an advancement in recent technology leading to large scale fishing becoming easier than before. An advancement in technology created a problem that was not foreseen.
Another factor is that Australia and foreign partners had poorly arranged fishing laws and agreements that led to fishing many areas way too much in the waters of developing countries. This was a problem that could have easily been avoided with better planning for the future. Additionally, due to its history of convicts, they have a pirate problem that does not obey the law and overfishes the ocean immensely (“Overfishing”). This follows the trend of Australia’s history of not following the law and has created even more problems the country faces.
In conclusion, Australia’s unique history has led to some of the problems it is facing today. A majority of its settlers were people who broke the rules that led to their rage against society. These convicts who were sent to Australia led to a gambling problem that was illegal when it started, then the government made it legal to try to combat this problem. After Australia was settled, this led to a tourism industry. Without the tourists, the Great Barrier Reef would not have been destroyed as much it already is.
These problems were not the fault of anybody as there were not planning on intentionally destroying the Great Barrier Reef or overfishing the waters. If Australia’s history of people who were willing to break the rules would have been different, some of these problems may have been avoided such as their serious gambling problem. The environmental problems were not as easily avoided as they were not intentionally created, but could have been more strictly enforced as regulations and laws have not stopped Australians in the past.