The aborigines are believed to have migrated from India in prehistoric times. The Maoris are thought to have arrived from Polynesia and elsewhere in eastern Asia. They travelled by canoe.

It's one and a half thousand miles from NZ to OZ, about the same as the distance between Britain and Greenland. That's a long way, but NZ is even further away from the islands that the Polynesians travelled from. Did they ever visit Australia and meet its people?

  • In addition to the methods of history, there are also probably other methods that could be used to attack this, including DNA studies.
    – user2848
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 19:36
  • You're right. Anyone got relevant DNA and a sequencing machine?
    – Ne Mo
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 21:43
  • 1
    You need to talk to aboriginal elders and maori elders. The Maori tell their history orally so stories from elders are where you will hear the closest thing to evidence. People can only speculate on this.
    – Dskyz
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 0:22
  • 1
    If they have told you something relevant, please do share it with us
    – Ne Mo
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 12:26

4 Answers 4


Probably not. The Wikipedia article for Maori Australians says:

There was no known prehistoric contact between Australian Aboriginal people and New Zealand Māori, although the Māori's Polynesian ancestors were accomplished navigators. The first Māori known to have visited Australia travelled to Sydney in European trading ships from 1795 onwards.

The Encyclopedia of New Zealand implies that after the Maori arrived in New Zealand in the 1200s, they continued exploring the ocean to the north and east of New Zealand, but after several centuries gave up long-distance seafaring:

Shortly after their arrival in New Zealand in the 1200s, Māori continued sailing over open seas, landing as far as the Kermadecs and the Chatham Islands. In 1777, two Māori sailed aboard Captain James Cook’s Resolution . . . They were the first Māori to venture beyond New Zealand’s shores for many hundreds of years.

  • 3
    I think the Maori invasion and subjugation of the Chatham Islands illustrates this well. These small poor islands were far closer than Australia, yet the Maori only heard about them in the 19th Century from Europeans, and their response was .. er .. appallingly robust. Also they had to commandeer a European vessel to perform their invasion, so apparently they didn't think it was doable with their own vessels.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 12:20
  • 2
    It's fascinating, because the ocean currents seem to lend themselves to westward navigation in this part of the world. Good question.
    – Mikey
    Commented Dec 24, 2016 at 1:23

There are no known pre-European contact between Australian Aboriginals and New Zealand Maori. In fact there are no evidence of any contact between the Indigenous Australians and other Polynesian peoples at all. The Polynesians originated in Taiwan around 3,000 B.C., and quickly swept through Polynesia, arriving at New Zealand around A.D. 1,200. The Aborigines on the other hand arrived in Australia 50,000 years ago.

An important thing to note here is that the Polynesians expanded east by chain hopping through the islands, and then made a downward hook to New Zealand from around Tahiti. That is to say, the path of New Zealand's first Maori settlers did not take them through Australia. Refer to the map below for an illustration.

enter image description here (Click to enlarge - shamelessly stolen from here.)

While Australia is not as far from New Zealand as the latter is from Tahiti, the ancestors of the Maori found a relatively vast virgin land when they reached New Zealand. There would have been no more population pressure to migrate further, as had been the case in the much smaller islands of the Polynesian heartland. Due to their self-sufficiency, and with New Zealand being too isolated to maintain contact with the homeland, the Maori also ceased long range travel altogether.

Another thing to note is that by the time the Polynesians began exploring the Pacific, the early Australians have inhabited their continent for tens of thousand of years. While there are evidence of more recent cultural contact, for example the introduction of the dingo to Australia (perhaps 10,000 to 5,000 years ago), nothing is known about any such relations. Hence, when early Polynesians reached Melanesia, they found it already occupied, and moved along eastward, thereby missing Australia altogether.

The first recorded instance of Maori presence in Australia dates to the 1790s, when some chiefs began visiting Sydney. It was a start of a budding commercial relationship and they befriended Samuel Marsden, an early missionary to New Zealand. They, or other chiefs in subsequent visits, may well have met Aboriginal Australians.

Unfortunately, 2,000 kilometres is no small distance. Europe also lost all contact with Greenland.


I think the only way Australian Aboriginals could've visited Aotearoa (NZ) in the distant past was by being blown out to sea by a storm and surviving the long drift. in which case they probably would've been just one or two men fishing from a simple dugout off the NSW or Queensland coast. In that scenario a few people may have lived the remainder of their lives in New Zealand but would've left no trace or descendants(if any women were with them) in big enough numbers to establish a settlement. If Polynesians ever landed in Australia I'd think that the Aborigines there would've either killed them or driven them away because they'd easily have the upper hand being well established. Polynesians often went looking for new islands because of overcrowding and would have no interest in trying to co-exist somehow especially with such a very alien culture.

  • 3
    Sources would improve this answer.
    – MCW
    Commented Dec 10, 2017 at 3:29
  • 1
    It's a good point, I was thinking in terms of a peaceful chance encounter, but if any Maoris had actually tried to settle in Australia they would have got wiped out by the aborigines, and probably died leaving no trace.
    – Ne Mo
    Commented Dec 10, 2017 at 10:07

If the Maoris landed in New Zealand 1,200 BC, and the Australian Aboriginals landed in Australia 50,000 years earlier. One would think that the Aboriginals would have travelled to New Zealand first. Because 50,000years is such along time to do so many things such as travelling to other countries. I have herd of myths and legends about a race of people who were present in New Zealand before the Maoris. Nothing is recorded in History about the Maoris to prove such things. So I keep an open mind about history and myths because I am Maori........Chur

  • 3
    The Maoris arrived in 1200 AD not BC, and we know they had oceangoing vessels. The aborigines may have had like vessels once upon a time, but they are long lost if so. So you're right, it's possible the aborigines did sail to NZ, but it would take a greater number of big assumptions to believe this.
    – Ne Mo
    Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 17:02
  • 1
    The Australian Aboriginal people were not long distance voyagers. The Polynesians were experienced and surviving at sea for long periods and skilled navigators. I think it’s fair to expect that they would have been more likely to make it to Australia. However, neither culture has written language so if there was pre-European contact, records of it have long since been lost.
    – Tom Kelly
    Commented Jun 6, 2018 at 14:38

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