Geography and History of the World © 2010 Indiana Edition

Chapter 33: Cultural Geography of Australia and Oceania

Chapter Overviews

The region of Australia and Oceania, 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. There is no permanent human settlement on Antartica, as by international agreement, activity there is limited to peaceful scientific research.

Australia and New Zealand Indigenous peoples and foreign colonizers have made this subregion very diverse. Aborigines, Australia’s earliest people, probably arrived from Southeast Asia. The Maori of New Zealand came from Polynesia. The Europeans arrived in the 1500s. Today most people of the subregion are of British descent. A number of East and Southeast Asians have moved to the country for its economic opportunity.

James Cook explored the region in the mid to late 1700s, claiming eastern Australia for Great Britain. Britain used the Australia as a penal colony, and later as a settlement colony. New Zealand was also used as a settlement colony. They came into conflict with the nomadic Aborigines and Maori, who lost most of their land. In the early 1900s Australia and New Zealand won their independence. In their arts, religion, language, and leisure activities, the people of Australia and New Zealand have a mix of indigenous and European cultures.

Oceania Oceania’s vast size, and dependence on the Ocean influence life in the region. The people are divided into three major groups, Melanesians, Micronesians and Polynesians. A high percentage of islands are unsuited for human life so population density varies dramatically.

Asian migrants settled along island coasts, making lengthy voyages in well-built canoes. Europeans settled the area in the 1800s and developed commercial plantations. Many islands were the sites of fierce battles in World War II. Starting in the 1900s countries in the subregion began to gain their independence. The culture of the region is extremely diverse, many people speak French or a form of pidgin English. Sports are often based on European games, or traditional sports like canoes racing or spearfishing.

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