Take the 2-minute tour ×
History Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for historians and history buffs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Australia hosted aboriginal populations since prehistory. However technologically advanced civilizations (in comparison) lived nearby, in Indonesia, Polynesia and New Guinea.

Why was it not colonized by those people? Is there any evidence of interaction/invasions?

share|improve this question
3  
Why distinct things did not happen belongs to the trickier questions in history ;) –  Hauser Oct 22 '12 at 13:30
    
Nice thought, I hadn't reflected on this point before... –  astabada Oct 22 '12 at 16:01
2  
I'm no expert, so I'll add one minor detail as a comment: According to Wikipedia, some of the population in Northern Australia had "cultural and genetical" links to New Guinea, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torres_Strait_Islanders . –  Jørgen Oct 22 '12 at 18:15
    
It's ancillary, but I've intriguingly heard that despite the widespread connotations of some of the Polynesian peoples (e.g. Maori, Fijians) were historically a much more peaceful people, not so interested in expansion and conquest. I can't source this though, I'm afraid; just an anecdote I recently heard. –  Noldorin Oct 22 '12 at 23:30
1  
@Noldorin - as noted in "Guns,Germs&Steel", Maori were not even remotely peaceful and non-expansionist. Heck for that matter, recall inter-tribal warfare in NZ. Don't know much about Fiji. –  DVK Nov 3 '12 at 23:54
show 3 more comments

6 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Fire-hardened spears, hardwood clubs and maces and shark-tooth "swords" were pretty much state-of-the-art for both Aboriginal and Polynesian cultures. The Polynesians had the advantage of advanced stonemasonry and oceanic navigation, neither of which would do them much good in a war of conquest, the native Australians had a spear-thrower, the woomera, which vastly improves the range and power of a thrown spear.

More, Polynesian wars were mostly local affairs, precipitated by cultural conflicts and resource allocation rather than wars of conquest.

The Europeans had steel, gunpowder, horses and ships capable of carrying immense loads of cargo and troops, and a will to conquer and claim anything they found. Completely different ballgame.

As for Austronesian people, like Indonesians, it is difficult to answer. I can really only speculate:

  1. The trade winds were very strongly against them (see: this map)
  2. The Maritime SE Asian cultures really only interacted with others from the same culture group, unless for trade
  3. Australians and New Guineans of the time had neither spices nor mineral or metal goods, so trade missions (and perhaps colonies) were considered futile.
share|improve this answer
    
Although I do like your answer, and find it convincing for the Polynesian side of the matter, I still wonder why Austronesian people, like Indonesians, did not advance into New Guinea and then Australia. +1 anyway, also for the sources. Thanks! –  astabada Oct 30 '12 at 10:46
    
@astabada - Yeah, that side of it is proving trickier. I can really only speculate: 1) The trade winds were very strongly against them (see: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Map_prevailing_winds_on_earth.png ), 2) The Maritime SE Asian cultures really only interacted with others from the same culture group, unless for trade and 3) Australians and New Guineans of the time had neither spices nor mineral or metal goods, so trade missions (and perhaps colonies) were considered futile. –  RI Swamp Yankee Nov 5 '12 at 14:40
    
Thanks a lot, this is really an interesting answer. I will wait a bit more but if nobody comes up with a better one, I will definitely chose yours as the most appropriate. Can you add your last comment to the answer? –  astabada Nov 6 '12 at 15:37
add comment

I don't really have any sources for this because I can't seem to find any. My answer is what I think makes logical sense given the situation in these countries.

Territorial expansion is often driven by a need for more resources, or by competition between neighboring peoples, etc. If you do not have enough food, or access to water then you as a people have to take it by force. However, the climates of Indonesia, Papa New Guinea, and Polynesia are tropical. They provide ample flora and fauna to support a people. They also contain lots of coconut trees which are sometimes referred to as the Tree of Life. To expand into Australia you would need sea worthy ships which wasn't really a part of the needs of the people at the time.

The point is that the peoples that came from this society thrived in their environment. The land provided them literally everything they needed to survive. There wasn't a need to go off and try to discover other lands because they had everything they needed right there. Not to mention when you have perfect weather almost every day of the year why would you want to go find some place else?

share|improve this answer
1  
Umm. The Mesoamericans and Classical Indians were in tropical climates, and had noooo problems initiating wars of conquest. Oral tradition is usually captured in an ethnography these days - please reference one to back up your assertions. –  RI Swamp Yankee Oct 29 '12 at 17:36
    
@RISwampYankee I clarified my answer a little bit to add in that there may not have been a need for ship building technology, and also removed my reference to oral traditions playing a part. –  ihtkwot Oct 29 '12 at 18:19
add comment

The austronesian were great mariners and this brought them to far corner of the globe as far as Easter island and Madagascar. But why not Australia which lies south of Indonesia? I think the most plausible answer is because its already inhabited and when austronesian made landings, to Australia, it was by chance and composed of a handful of individuals. They stood little chance against the hostile aborigines even if they possessed superior weaponry. Furthermore Australia is a large island, any subsequent waves of chance landings would have occurred far apart from each others and not making it possible for the austronesian to form meaningful numbers to compete against the aborigines as compared to uninhibited islands. These earlier austronesian would have been outnumbered and decimated.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Australia was a lot less hospitable area than Polynesians, Indonesians, and other islanders were used to.

Although technically in the tropics, the fact that people lived on islands meant that the sea was a moderating influence on the climate, and "temperate" weather crops such as breadfuirt and sweet potatoes could grow on them. Also, the sea provided a ready source of fish.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polynesia

Not so Australia, which being continental, had a less temperate climate. Jungles were thicker, crops scarcer, and food harder to find. As mentioned in other answers above, the "Australians" had more potent weapons, probably because of the need to hunt mammals, rather than fish.

It's possible that Pacific Islanders found themselves in Australia from time to time. Most probably did not survive. Perhaps a few survivors were absorbed into the local populations. What did NOT happen was people visiting Australia, leaving, and then saying, "Let's go back there with the friends and family.

share|improve this answer
add comment

People from what is modern day Indonesia were visiting northern Australia to collect and process trepang (sea-cucumber or sea slug) for centuries before European settlement. These people are generally referred to as Macassan (or Makassan). The first European to circumnavigate Australia, Matthew Flinders, encountered Macassans processing trepang. Relationships with the Aboriginal people were mostly positive as the Macassans stayed for a few months per year and returned home as the winds changed to trade their product with the Chinese. This information has been extensively documented

Gordon McLaughlan claims that pre-Moari Polynesian navigators (referred to as Lapita) "landed on the coast of Australia but encountered an alien landscape and long-established inhabitants" (p.18 - A Short History of New Zealand - Penguin, 2004). I have no idea as to whether this claim is supported by the historical record or whether it is simply an assumption based on the incredible sea-faring exploits of the Lapita.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Australia was colonised by people from New Guinea while the two islands were still joined (up to 25,000 years ago). Evidence of human habitation in eastern New Guinea dates back to 40,000 years. The negroid ie small frizzy haired people were the first Australians. Their remnants can be found in the rainforests of northern Queensland and in Tasmania.

share|improve this answer
    
The two islands were still joined up to 25,000 years ago? Do you have a reference for this? –  Drux Mar 2 at 10:58
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.