Roslyn Russell, Kylie Winkworth
© Commonwealth of Australia, 2010
ISBN 97 80977544363 (pbk)
Case studies of international significance
Convict records of Australia—State Records Offices of New South Wales and of Western Australia; Archives Office of Tasmania
Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney, NSW, built to a design by convict architect Francis Greenway and listed on the National Heritage Register
Photo: Roslyn Russell
The forced emigration to the continent of Australia of some 165 000 people in the eighty years between 1788 and 1868 represents the beginning of the modern age of globalisation by government agency. Selected by the judicial apparatus of industrialising Britain, the convicts were sentenced to the punishment of exile; yet their forced labour ultimately resulted in the establishment of viable colonies. In 1901 these colonies became an independent federation of states—the Commonwealth of Australia—just over a hundred years after the first convicts landed at Sydney Cove in 1788.
The convicts' lives were minutely documented by a dedicated bureaucracy, generating a rare body of records of nineteenth-century working-class people, from their British roots to their Australian fates. These records contain information relating to all aspects of convicts' lives, including physical appearance, literacy level, trade or calling, crime and sentence, behaviour in incarceration, further punishment, pardon, ticket of leave and marriage. The forensic details about individual convicts have enabled historians to build a picture of the human capital that shaped the economy, demography and culture of early colonial Australia.
Nowhere else in the world do the complete records of the inner workings of an eighteenth- and nineteenth-century penal system exist over such an extended period (for example, in Britain, only trial records exist for convicts transported to North America and the West Indies, 1615–1776). The occasional experiments in penal management had significant legal consequences for the freedom of all citizens. Rehabilitative and retributive approaches to crime and punishment are documented scrupulously in the convict records.
The significance of the convict records of Australia is further enhanced by their association with a suite of sites associated with the convict system across the country. These are listed on the National Heritage Register and have been nominated for the UNESCO World Heritage Register.
The convict records of Australia are of international historical significance as they document the demographic foundation of the Australian nation, and the nature and workings of the British system of transportation that created the first European colony in Australasia.
Dauar and Waier Islands?, Collection of Art Works by Edward Koiki Mabo 1964
Reproduced courtesy of the National Library of Australia
In June 1992 the High Court of Australia, in its judgment in the Mabo Case, overturned the doctrine of terra nullius — that Australia was an empty land owned by no one at the time of European colonisation. The judgment changed Australia's legal landscape, and influenced the status and land rights of its Indigenous peoples and race relations in Australia generally. It is a rare instance in world history of pre-existing customary law being recognised as superior to the law of the 'invading' culture, regardless of the economic and political implications. The Mabo Case papers, 1959–92, are significant for their documentation of a crucial period in the history of race relations in Australia, featuring a series of battles and legal cases over the ownership and use of land, growing awareness of racial discrimination, and the social and health problems of Indigenous peoples. The issues discussed in the papers bear on the rights of Indigenous peoples and the descendants of European settlers throughout Australia. The papers document much of the life, experiences and thoughts of Edward Koiki Mabo, who was 'the successful principal plaintiff in the landmark High Court ruling on native land title'.
The Mabo Case papers were inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World International Register in 2001, along with the Endeavour journal of James Cook, the first two inscriptions from Australia on the Register.
Eddie Mabo's paintings and drawings of the Torres Strait, held in the National Library of Australia and the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), are significant as visual depictions of the connection between land and sea that most Australians now associate with his name, and 'provide an insight into the many facets of his keen awareness of the world and his own environment'.
The Mabo Case papers are of international historical significance as a rare example in world history of pre-existing customary law being recognised as superior to the law of an invading culture, regardless of the economic and political implications.
Palaeontological collections, Department of Earth and Marine Sciences, Australian National University
Oldest known complete fossil vertebrate eye capsule, perfectly preserved as acid extracted from 400 million-year-old limestones at Burrinjuck, New South Wales
(see G Young, 2008, Biology letters 4: 110–114. Micro-X-Ray tomography by A/Prof. Tim Senden, Research School of Physics and Engineering; 3D rendering using 'Drishti' by Dr Ajay Limaye, Vizlab, Supercomputer Facility, Australian National University)
Reproduced courtesy of the College of Science, Australian National University
The internationally significant palaeontological collections of the Department of Earth and Marine Sciences, Faculty of Science, Australian National University (ANU), hold in excess of 70 000 registered specimens, including Australia's largest collection of Quaternary marine microfossils.
The holdings of palaeozoic fishes from Australia are of international significance, and have been documented in numerous research publications and monographs by ANU scientists. They include the world's largest vertebrate collection from the famous early Devonian limestone deposits of Burrinjuck, NSW. This has been a focus of ANU collecting and research for over thirty years (the British Natural History Museum mounted two collecting expeditions to this area in 1955, 1963, when some 500 specimens were removed to London). ANU holdings include type material of some of the world's oldest lungfishes (Dipnorhynchus, Speonesydrion); some of the largest predatory placoderm fishes known from this geological period (Cathlesichthys, Dhanguura), and uniquely preserved acid-prepared specimens displaying internal structure from 400 million years ago of the primitive vertebrate braincase, including the oldest completely preserved vertebrate eye capsule. No comparable material is held in any other institution, in Australia or overseas. The collections contain the largest collection in existence of unprepared vertebrate material from Burrinjuck.
Other material of international significance includes samples of the world's oldest known fossil fish (Arandaspis, Ordovician, central Australia), oldest known vertebrate hard tissues (Cambrian, Queensland), oldest scales, teeth, and braincases of various chondrichthyans (cartilaginous sharks and rays, a major living vertebrate group), the only known Devonian amphibian (first land animals) from the entire Gondwana supercontinent (Metaxygnathus, central NSW), and extensive type material from the Aztec fish fauna of southern Victoria Land (the most diverse fossil vertebrate assemblage from the Antarctic continent).
The palaeontological collections of the Department of Earth and Marine Sciences, at the Australian National University include holdings of international significance for their outstanding scientific interest and research potential, and their historical significance as some of the oldest specimens of their types.