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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Australia Day, January 26th

Read on for a bit of Australian history by Genre-ista, Margaret Tanner.

Hi everyone.

I know this has nothing to do with New Years Resolutions or a lead up to Valentine’s Day, but as I am an Aussie, I thought this would be a change of pace.
The Australian flag shows the British Union Jack in the upper left and six white stars on a blue background

Captain James Cook (1728 – 1779) was born in Yorkshire, England.  He was the man who discovered Australia. He led an expedition to the South Seas in command of the Endeavour. They sailed from Plymouth on the 26th August 1768 with a compliment of ninety four, including the Botanist, Joseph Banks. Sailing via Cape Horn they reached Tahiti on the 13th April 1769.

Cook had been instructed to determine the existence of a southern continent. He sailed to New Zealand in August, circumnavigated the islands, and charted the coastline and took possession of New Zealand for the British government.

On the 19th April, 1770, they spotted land at the south east of the Australian mainland. Cook continued sailing north, charting the coast as he sought a safe harbour for repairs to the Endeavour. They landed at Stingray Bay on the 29th April and renamed it Botany Bay. As he did with New Zealand, Cook claimed the great south land for the British government, who a few years later decided that this would be a great place to send their unwanted convicts, many of whom, because of overcrowding in the prisons because they could no longer be shipped off to America, were incarcerated in rotting hulks on the river Thames.  Many were petty thieves, who were transported for what we would consider minor crimes – stealing a loaf of bread, shop lifting some hair ribbons. Others were political prisoners or innocent victims of an unjust and uncaring society, like Maryanne Watson, the heroine in my 1820’s novel, Savage Utopia, which is set against the background of transportation to the penal colony of Australia.

On the 26th January 1788 Captain Arthur Phillip, who guided the First Fleet to the island continent of Australia, claimed the Colony of New South Wales for the British Empire.  He also became Governor of the colony. Slowly, a British society evolved based on the distinctions between convicts and free settlers.

 The fledgling colony began to mark the anniversary of the 26th January 1788 with formal dinners and informal celebrations.

In 1817 when Governor Macquarie recommended the adoption of the name ‘Australia’ for the entire continent instead of New Holland, a new nation started to emerge. By the 1820’s, Australia began to prosper and Australian patriotism started to be expressed at gatherings. In the early days the colony was a small society of cliques, with severe social requirements and rigid class lines, but the stain of convict blood could not be completely obliterated even though many tried to hide their tainted past. Many ex-convicts prospered and their Australian born children began to see themselves as unique because of their upbringing and isolation from Europe.

Throughout the early nineteenth century, Foundation Day, as it was called, became known for sporting events. But the growing sense of patriotism was being expressed in by poets. On the 26th January 1824, poet, Charles Thompson paid tribute to his native country with a collection of poems even though his father had been transported to Australia as a convict.

In the summer of 1836, a group of seafaring Sydneyites decided to celebrate the founding of their new nation with a sailing regatta. The Australia Day Regatta is still held on Sydney Harbour on the 26th January each year and it has become the oldest continuous sailing regatta in the world.

In 1838, fifty years after Captain Phillip landed, a number of celebratory events were organised and the first public holiday ever marked in Australia was announced for the 26th January.  This started a tradition which lasts to this very day.

SAVAGE UTOPIA published by Whiskey Creek Press

On board the convict ship taking them to the penal colony of Australia, Maryanne Watson and Jake Smith meet and fall in love, but Jake hides a terrible secret that will take him to the gallows if it ever comes out.

On arrival in Sydney the lovers are separated. Maryanne is sent to work for the lecherous Captain Fitzhugh. After he attacks her she flees into the wilderness and eventually meets up with Jake who has escaped from a chain gang.  They set up home in a hidden valley and Maryanne falls pregnant.  Will Jake come out of hiding to protect his fledgling family? And how can love triumph over such crushing odds?

Margaret Tanner is an award winning, multi-published, Australian historical romance writer who loves delving into the past.

Her website is


Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Everyone,
Hope you enjoy reading about Australia Day.
Thanks for posting it Judith.



Judith Ashley said...

Thanks for sharing, Margaret. I love history and now know more about Australia's. I can only imagine the stigma of having convicts for ancestors must have impacted society...even though the 'crime' may have been being poor and hungry.

Sarah Raplee said...

What a fascinating history! I'm going to have to read more about Australia and New Zealand. Always wanted to visit!

ElaineCharton said...

Great post! I've always been fascinated by Australia. Now I know more about it. Thanks!

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Sarah and Elaine,

Thank you for dropping by, I appreciate it. We do have a fascinating history here in Australia, even if it is a little on the blood stained side.



Paty Jager said...

Hi Margaret, I always enjoying learnign about other countries and their traditions. Your book sounds like a good read.

Genene Valleau, writing as Genie Gabriel said...

Thanks for sharing some history, Margaret. I also find Australia fascinating.