Glencoe World Geography

Chapter 33: The Cultural Geography of Australia, Oceania, and Antarctica

Chapter Overviews

The region of Australia, Oceania, and Antarctica is a blend of indigenous peoples that arrived from Asia as early as 60,000 years ago, European colonists, and later Asian immigrants. Today the countries have a mix of modern, urban lifestyles and traditional lifestyles with strong kinship ties.

Population Patterns Australia's Aborigines, who probably arrived from Southeast Asia 40,000 to 60,000 years ago, may have the oldest surviving culture in the world. The islands of Oceania were probably first settled by peoples from Asia more than 30,000 years ago. New Zealand's indigenous peoples are known as the Maori. Europeans began arriving in the 1500s and now make up the majority of the population in Australia and New Zealand. Asians followed during the 1800s. Almost half of the world's languages are spoken in Oceania alone, and with the arrival of Europeans Strine and pidgin English developed. Since much of the region's land is unsuited for humans, most people live in coastal areas and in cities.

History and Government The Aborigines led a nomadic life, moving in clans within their ancestral territories. Family groups in Oceania settled along island coasts. Increased trade among these groups led to migrations among the islands and the eventual settlement of New Zealand by the Maori. European settlements began with the explorations of British sailor James Cook and the British penal colony of Botany Bay in today's Sydney, Australia. Colonization had disastrous results for the indigenous peoples. Most countries in the region won their independence after World War II. An international agreement established Antarctica as a peaceful research site.

Cultures and Lifestyles The indigenous peoples in the region developed lifestyles and traditions in harmony with their natural environment. These blended with European and later Asian elements. While in many parts of the region people have modern, urban lifestyles, in other parts traditional ways remain. Many Pacific islanders work at subsistence farming and live in traditional houses. Education and healthcare are easily available in urban areas, but access to them can be difficult in rural areas and for indigenous peoples.

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