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Exploring the history and experiences of mixed heritage persons and inter-racial relationships across the world

Oceania

Over Water Bungalow In Bora BoraIn this article, Oceania includes Australasia as well as the Pacific island regions of Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia.   The following countries will be covered in greater detail in this section: New Zealand, Tahiti and Hawaii.

The Spanish got to be the ones with automatic rights to colonise most of the Pacific in their Treaty of Tordesillas with the Portuguese.  In a later treaty, parts of the East Indies and some of Australasia would be included in their sphere.  Most of their energies however went into colonising the Americas and it was the Dutch in the form of Willem Janszoon and later Abel Tasman working for the East Indies Dutch company VOC, who first explored the Australasia and southern pacific islands in the 1640s.  Captain Cooke followed a few years later.  The British followed that by colonising Australia in 1788 continuing until much of Oceania were part of the British Empire. Other European powers managed to get in on the act with French New Caledonia and French Polynesia and Germany in New Guinea and Samoa which they lost after WWI. Hawaii became a U.S. territory in 1898.

Oceania on the GlobeWhat is obvious today is this area was populated by very early migrations from the East Indies with the Micronesians the last in the region to develop from a mixture of Melanesians, Filipinos and Polynesians.  New Zealand's Māori are the country's largest minority having arrived from Polynesia in several groups some time before the 12th century.  Only Australia in the form of the Aborigines appears to have had an indigenous population.

Australia's history is not a happy story.  A year or so after the first settlements, a smallpox epidemic broke out and together with a later epidemic wiped out about half the Aborigines of South Eastern Australia.  These early settlements included prisoners and several penal colonies were created with even the free colony in Western Australia accepting British convicts because of an acute labour shortage.  Between 1788 and 1868 when the transportation policy was stopped, 161,700 convicts, the vast majority male and working class, were transported. 

The gold rushes brought many immigrants to Australia from all over Europe, North America and China which dwarfed the original penal immigration levels with Victoria's population growing from 76,000 to 530,000 in some 6 years.  Following the usual pattern in the colonial era, men made up the vast majority of settlers and there is no doubt that Aboriginal women came in for some attention.  Some proof lies in the 'Stolen Generations' policy which allowed the removal of  'indigenous children' said to be a response to the abandonment of mixed race children (called 'half-castes', 'crossbreeds', 'quadroons' and 'octoroons') though rarely was that the case for removal.  The book and the movie 'The Rabbit Proof Fence' depicts a story during this period that only ended in 1969.  It has been suggested is that the ultimate aim of this policy was the assimilation of such individuals into white society in 4 or 5 generations in which it was believed the native indigenous Aborigine would be near extinction.

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