Part of the New Guinea Commerce Winners Don’t Cheat Series.
By Sean Jacobs
‘There are far more tales of heroism and sacrifices in the penetration of the Australian outback,’ notes the eminent historian Paul Johnson, ‘than in the whole history of the American Far West.’
Such an accolade, from such a distinguished observer of history, is worth unwrapping for many younger Australians. Certainly, Australia is a unique nation. Few others in history have been as stable, prosperous or carry as special a heritage.
But we tend not to celebrate in a way that’s expected of people rising to such heights from such humble beginnings. Indeed, ANZAC Day and Australia Day aside, moments of national pride are rarely expressed loudly. Our patriotism, thankfully, is subtle and not boisterous.
By examining the past we see the reasons for this. And we see what makes Australia a unique nation with traditions worth replicating, sustaining and taking advantage of.
America, the most powerful nation in history, was founded in 1620. But Australia was founded a century and half later in 1788. A great deal happened in between that, arguably, set Australia up for a more successful start.
In 1687 Sir Isaac Newton – a candidate for the smartest person in history – produced Principia Mathematica, kick-starting the English Enlightenment and stoking an unmatched period of human innovation and enterprise. Under a spirit of progress and an expanding market economy the list of ‘game-changing’ inventions grew: telegraphy, photography, the rotary press, the telephone, the typewriter, the phonograph, the transatlantic cable, the electric light, movies, the locomotive, rockets, the steamboat, the x-ray, the revolver, and the stethoscope.
It was a unique and beneficial time to settle somewhere new. In 1788, the Sydney Harbour Bridge certainly didn’t exist. There were no buildings, no streets and no airports. Not even a jetty or pontoon welcomed the First Fleet. Australia, as put by one historian, was a place where ‘not a wheel had turned, no permanent structures existed and agriculture was unknown.’