THE coasts of Australia were explored and mapped (at considerable risk to small sailing vessels), the interior was explored, and the great central desert was crossed. Settlers made good, in spite of drought and the hardships of a new country. The several Australian colonies established in the 1820's and 1830's were given self-government comparatively soon. The last State to receive it was Western Australia in 1890. The discovery of gold in 1851 in what became the State of Victoria, and later in Western Australia, brought many immigrants, including a large Irish element. In its early lawlessness Australia resembled the Western States of America and the bushranger, or armed mailcoach and bank robber, survived into the Test Match era.
The Australian Aborigines, small tribes of Stone Age people, who at one time numbered nearly a million, have been reduced to fewer than a hundred thousand. This is the same fate as has befallen the far more warlike and predatory Indians of North America. In both cases the process of extirpation was assisted by their susceptibility to diseases to which Europeans have developed resistance, and by the European's liquor.
After the dwindling away of the Aborigines large tracts of Northern Australia were very thinly populated, and towards the end of last century this almost vacant territory became of considerable interest to the rising power of Japan, whose territory was by European standards already overpopulated. The urgent necessity of a common policy towards Japan overcame the reluctance of the Australian colonies to federate after their individual attainment of self-government. Local feeling was very strong. The colonies, placed round the coast of the great island, were not in close touch with each other. Each could trade direct with the world and control its own customs duties, and railways had been built with different gauges in order to reduce contacts. However, in 1901 the Commonwealth of Australia was formed. Like Canada, it left considerable powers to the separate States, and the country was overgoverned. Although New Zealand did not join the Commonwealth a unanimous anti-Japanese policy was effectively maintained in Australasia. The most striking feature of Australian development is the concentration of population in a few big cities.
New Zealand has a cooler, damper climate than Australia, and its lack of minerals has given it a different economic development and social life. It is also different in having a strong native race, the Maoris, of Polynesian origin. There were long Maori wars, originating in disputes over land, since natives, as is not surprising, often find difficulty in maintaining existence without it. New Zealand was given self-government in 1852 and was very fortunate in at least one of her early Governors, Sir George Grey. The Maori wars ended in 1870, and, after a period of great financial difficulty, New Zealand became prosperous. Its population has grown to more than one million, and it is distinguished for its advanced social legislation.