G'day from Down Under
Known for its eclectic cuisine, sparkling beaches, and enviable skyline, Australia’s largest city, Sydney, has a fascinating history.
Despite my extreme jetlag, I venture from my lofty hotel room to explore the city. My first stop? The iconic Sydney Harbor Bridge, which provides an opportunity for adrenaline junkies to scale the structure. Naturally, I embark on the harrowing climb, which provides a bird’s-eye view of the city and its harbor. From the summit, I imagine what first the European sailors to reach these shores would have seen, and what the Aboriginal people must have thought as the tall ships approached.
While historians dispute the exact timeline, it is estimated that the Aboriginal people have lived in Australia for somewhere between 30,000 and 60,000 years. We do know that the Gadigal tribe was living in what is now Sydney for at least 8,000 years prior to the arrival of the Europeans.
The Sydney we know today was founded in 1788 as a penal colony for convicts exiled by the British Empire. When the British settled here, they failed to treat the Aboriginal people well, and like the Native Americans, the Aborigines endured a similar fate that drastically diminished their population. Those who did not succumb to infectious disease were forced to abandon their culture and assimilate to the ways of the newly established colony.
In the shadows of discrimination, Sydney continued to flourish as more immigrants from Britain and Ireland moved to Australia over the next few centuries. Slowly, through more awareness and education, Australia began to confront its long and complex history with the indigenous people, and is still in the process of reconciliation today.