Australian Immigration And Its Effects Essay Research

Australian Immigration And Its Effects Essay, Research Paper

Australian Immigration and Its Effects

Australia is an island continent which is geographically isolated from

the rest of the world. This has resulted in the evolution of many unique plants

and animals and the development of a very fragile ecosystem. This ecosystem has

been influenced by human immigration for many thousands of years.

The original immigrants were the Aborigines who are thought to have

migrated to Australia from Asia between 50 and 100 thousand years ago. These

primitive people learned to live in the inhospitable environment of Australia

with very little effect. Their major environmental impact was from the use of

controlled burning of the land. Over the years they had learned the benefit of

periodic fires to control pests and to clear debris before it accumulated and

led to large uncontrolled disastrous fires. This also returned nutrients to the

soil which helped to grow back new vegetation. Unlike those who followed, the

Aborigines had very little impact on the environment.

Following the Aborigines, Asian seafarers are believed to have traveled

to Australia to trade on the north shores. Experts are not sure, but they

believe that these seafarers are the ones who first introduced the dingo into

Australia almost 3,500 years ago. The dingo rapidly became the top predator and

is probably the cause of the disappearance of the Tasmanian wolf and the

Tasmanian devil from Australia. They will hunt down almost anything but they

are not known to attack humans. They will attack kangaroos, wombats, rabbits,

and even lizards. After the settlers arrived and the sheep were brought in, the

dingo started to hunt the sheep. The sheep were much easier for them to get.

As a result of this the sheep grazers built a 3,307 mile long fence to separate

the sheep from the dingo. A $20 US bounty is now placed on the pelt of each


European immigrants did not come to Australia until after April 29, 1770

when captain James Cook landed in Botany Bay and made the first claim for

England on the eastern part of the island. He called it New South Wales.

In 1787, England started their first colony in Australia which was a

penal colony since England’s prisons were very overcrowded. That year, on May

13, eleven ships carrying almost 1,500 people, 800 of them convicts, left

England for the new colony. The ships first landed in Botany Bay on January 18,

1788 but found it unsuitable for a colony. They then moved north to Port

Jackson, one of the world’s best natural harbors. The settlement was started on

January 26 which is now celebrated every year as Australia day. The settlement

was later named Sydney after Britain’s secretary, Lord Sydney. Lord Sydney was

responsible for the entire colony.

The first European immigrants brought with them their livestock, plants,

and traditional ways. Much of this was not suitable for Australian conditions.

They also brought with them cultural beliefs including the Christian belief that

man was superior to the rest of creation and had the God given right to exploit


The Europeans believed that the Aborigines were inferior and refused to

use the knowledge that they had acquired about the environment. They began a

campaign of genocide with bullets, diseases, and even poison. With few

Aborigine survivors the practice of periodic burning came to an end. This led

to many of the plants and animals which had become dependent on this regular

burning to die off.

Sheep ranching quickly became a major agricultural practice in Australia.

By 1860 over 20,000,000 sheep were grazing and by 1890 there were over

100,000,000 spread over the entire continent. Sheep graze in large herds and

their hooves destroy the fragile soil by trampling it down so hard that roots

and water can not easily get through it. Over grazing quickly led to soil

erosion turning pastures into dust bowls. This also led to the overgrowth of

tougher plants, some of which were poisonous. Destruction of the grazing land

also effected many of the small native animals such as bandicoots which had

depended on it for food and cover.

The European rabbit has also been able to thrive in Australia at the

expense of the environment. They were first introduced by a squatter named

Thomas Austin who had 24 rabbits sent to him in 1859. He used them for breeding

and also released some to hunt. The rabbits found that there was plenty of good

food and liked the sandy soil for burrowing. They reproduced rapidly and

quickly took over and replaced other native animal species. Large stretches of

the country became scarred from the burrowing and barren from the rabbits eating

the vegetation in sight.

The water buffalo is another non-native animal which has caused several

problems. They were introduced by the Australian Army in the far north during

the early 1800’s. Originally there were only about 100 in Australia but by 1981

there were nearly 300,000 roaming the wet-lands. When they were introduced into

Australia they brought the blood sucking fly with them. When the fly sucks the

blood from animals it releases a chemical that can kill them. These flies

breed in the dung of the buffalo and have been able to breed freely because the

Australian dung beetle cannot get rid of the large patties left by the buffalo.

The Australian dung beetle is only use to the small pellets left by the sheep.

The buffalo also tear up the ground which has led to severe soil erosion and

their wallowing turns the wetlands into muddy bogs harming breeding grounds of

many small water-living plants and animals.

The unpredictable Australian weather, particularly the droughts led the

immigrants to develop reservoirs and irrigation systems. Unfortunately, life

along these rivers had adapted to the periodic floods and droughts. Many of

these native plants, deprived of this natural cycle, have suffered and are in

danger of extinction. The cooling effects of the dams, due to water drawn off

the bottom, has made many rivers too cold for native fish to spawn.

The European immigrants had specific ideas regarding the beauty of

nature. The Australian landscape did not fit these standards of beauty. They

therefore began to landscape by first clearing native plants and replacing them

with imported ones. The list of these plants grew year after year. Some failed

while others thrived and overcrowded the native plants. One of these plants is

the Prickly pear. It was originally imported as a hedge plant but eventually

took over 120,000 square miles of land.

The effects of immigration on the Australian environment over the last

few centuries has been devastating. The original European immigrants could not

foresee the major impact their transplants and traditions would have on the

environment. Even if they had, conquering the land was necessary for their

survival. In many areas the environmental degradation may have past the point

where it can be restored and is now beyond repair. However, with greater

understanding and knowledge of the Australian ecosystem it is hoped that further

degradation can be stopped or even reversed. What is needed now is the

commitment of people and resources to make it happen.

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