In this episode Tony examines the beginnings of white settlement in Australia. Why did it remained undiscovered by European maritime nations for so many hundreds of years? And how was Captain Cook able to claim it for Britain in 1770? Tony gets an aboriginal perspective of what it was like to witness boatloads of ghost like creatures arriving from over the horizon…the first contact. And he finds a man with an incredible theory about who really got to Australia first after the aborigines. Was it the Dutch? The French? The Chinese? Or perhaps, just perhaps, Egyptians set foot Down Under thousands of years ago.
In this new and exciting History Channel production Tony Robinson of Time Team fame, takes us on a journey through time and places across Australia, offering a revealing, unique perspective on Australian society and history.
The colony started with a bang, but from that point it was a bitter struggle for survival. With the assistance of Tim Flannery, Tony recreates the orgy that was said to have taken place when women were brought ashore many days after the men first landed. From day one the challenge was to find and grow food to sustain the new colony. Captain Phillip had come well stocked, but had neglected to bring a farmer. Knowing that food was their lifeline, he issued a decree: if food is stolen, the thief will be hanged whether he be convict or soldier. Phillip also tried to engage the indigenous people, with disastrous results. Thomas Keneally takes Tony to the beach where Australia’s first assassination attempt took place: the spearing of Governor Arthur Phillip.
As the early settlers began to sink their roots deeper into the soils of the new colony, the first rumblings of liberty and freedom began. The authority of the penal government is questioned more and more by the convicts and by the soldiers themselves. Early attempts to escape betrayed a complete ignorance about where they were in the world. Tony visits Port Arthur, and subjects himself to solitary confinement to find out first hand what it was like for the wretched souls who were incarcerated there. He also recounts the story of Australia’s daftest escapologist, a convict who tried to escape disguised as a kangaroo.
But later the lone voices of dissent became a chorus. And on at least one occasion the fledgling country faced its destiny: remain loyal to mother Britain? Or break away like America into the uncertain waters of Republicanism. Tony finds out just how close Australia came to choosing the latter.
Tony Robinson of Time Team fame takes viewers on a journey through time and places across Australia, offering a revealing, unique perspective on Australian society and history.
Hear about the early explorer who was shot by his own camel? Tony goes to the scene of the crime, recreating one of Australia’s most peculiar chapters in history. He walks in the footsteps of the early inland explorers and discovers how the grab for land led to atrocities against the indigenous inhabitants.
The fortunes of Australia were turned around by the discovery of gold. It brought people, commerce, corruption and dissent. It started with a trickle, and quickly spread to a tide of prospectors, deserting the cities and heading to the goldfields in search of fortune. But earlier it was the lure of the unknown, the promise of new discoveries in Australia’s vast and at times forbidding interior that spurred on teams of early explorers. This episode is about the mixed fortunes of these two groups – the foolhardy explorers who set out into the wilderness, and the gold seekers hungry for riches, and united as they rebelled against corrupt police and a tax hungry government.
Tony does an entrance examination to see if he’d qualify as an acceptable migrant to Australia. Trouble is the 1930s dictation test is given in Gaelic!
From its earliest days, Australia needed free migrants to grow and prosper, And it needed women. Schemes were devised to achieve both objectives, with bounties offered for bringing boatloads of human cargo from the UK and Ireland. But the people merchants got greedy, and the human toll was terrible.
The gold rush brought people from a diversity of countries, and that led to conflict. There was a toll placed on the importation of people from China, so ship captains would dump them on the coast hundreds of kilometers from port. The Chinese would walk to the gold fields from there.
Through all of this Australia started to take shape as a nation. Tony traces immigration and multi-culturalism from the early 1800s, through the White Australia Policy, to the first arrival of Vietnamese boat people in the 1970s. He decides that the best way of exploring a country’s diversity is to talk to taxi drivers. Dozens of them.
Having achieved Federation, who are these people today? What exactly is an Aussie? In the final episode of Tony’s exploration, he looks at the legacy of 222 years of British settlement. How did the country founded as a penal colony grow into a nation? And where are its loyalties today? Tony takes us to the true birthplace of The Ashes, helps re-create the first powered flight by an Australian, goes on a legal Fox Hunt (one of the most incongruous sights on the Australian landscape), takes a spin with invention buff James O’Loughlin in the first model Ute, retraces The Dismissal with cartoonist Warren Brown, and interrogates former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd about his convict past.
From this, Tony reaches his own conclusions about how the past has influenced the Australia of today….and where it’s heading tomorrow.
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