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Australia Day Address, Melbourne 2011 Print E-mail
Written by ACM   
Tuesday, 25 January 2011

AUSTRALIA DAY COUNCIL (VICTORIA) INC

64th Australia Day Dinner

24th January 2011 

‘The First Fleet: They did not come alone’ Professor David Flint AM*
 


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The First Fleet was that extraordinary  venture when, under the command of Captain, later Admiral  Arthur Phillip, eleven ships sailed from Portsmouth, Hampshire, Great Britain on 13 May 1787 with about 1,487 people to establish the first European colony in Australia. They did not come alone.

Captain Phillip did not only bring people and provisions - he brought institutions which are with us today and which have made this nation. Those institutions - and the concepts and ideas behind them - are not the property of the Anglo-Saxons of Australia, to the extent that there are still people whose lineage over the last two hundred and twenty three years can be described as pure Anglo Saxon.

Just as in the USA, these are their institutions, the concepts and the ideas which belong to all Australians, whenever they or their ancestors came to this land, wherever they came from and whatever their race.
To understand what was being brought here, we should recall the sort of country Britain was when Captain Phillip gave the order to sail.

David Landes says that the pre-eminence that Britain enjoyed in the industrial revolution resulted from the fact that the British people had “elbow room”.[i]


Far from perfect, by comparison with most communities across the Channel, the British were free and fortunate.
Britain, writes Landes, was developing into a precociously modern industrial nation. The salient feature of a successful society, he writes, is the ability to adapt to new things and ways.

And one key area of change was the increasing freedom and security of the people.

Yet, he says, the British still call themselves subjects of the Crown, while they have longer than anyone else been citizens.
This was due to that extraordinary constitutional settlement in 1688, the Glorious Revolution. This was a rejection of James II’s attempt to direct the constitution towards the absolutist centralist model of government which prevailed on the continent, and especially in the France of Louis XIV. 

The Glorious Revolution achieved, as Thomas Babbington Macaulay put it, an “auspicious union of freedom and power.”[ii]


 [i] David S. Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor 1998
[ii] Thomas Babbington Macaulay, The History of England, Penguin Classics, 1079, p.51
 
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