News – November 2010

First I would like to welcome Colin Jones to the team. He is our Advisor for Aboriginal history, culture and art and it is a great privilege to have him on the Metamorphosoz team. More about him and his achievements on the ‘About’ page.

This month I will take you through the history of ‘words’ and their meaning.
How did Australia get its name? Portuguese sailor Pedro Fernández de Quirós searched for this new land in 1606 while serving in the spanish navy, and called it Austrialia del Espíritu Santo or ‘Great South Land of the Holy Spirit’. The word “Austrialia”, slightly different from the current “Australia”, was a mixture formed by “Austria” (the country of origin of the Habsburg dynasty) and “Austral” (“Southern”). In those times the current nations of Spain and Portugal were under the rule of the same crown. The word Austrialia was intended to be a homage to the ruling monarchs. Different variations on the name were used in many languages. There was, however, a German document dating back to 1545 describing a southern land mass as Australia. (Was Australia Named in 1545?!)

This was great news for me as it gives me an even stronger connection between the two countries and their culture.

Matthew Flinders, who was the first known European explorer to circumnavigate the Australian continent in 1802, is credited with assigning the name ‘Australia’ to this continent although it did not immediately receive universal approval. He first proposed the name “Terra Australis” be adopted instead of “New Holland”, the name by which the Dutch knew Australia, or “New South Wales”, which Cook had named the eastern half when he claimed it for England. In 1814 when Flinders published his work ‘A Voyage to Terra Australis’, he used the term ‘Australia’ within the book. Around 1818, Governor Lachlan Macquarie, arguably the most influential man in Australia at the time, also requested that the name “Australia” be officially ascribed. The name ‘Australia’ was formally adopted in 1824.( – How did Australia get its name)

The word ‘aboriginal’, which comes from the Latin ‘ab origine’ (meaning ‘from the beginning’) emerged in 17th century English to mean ‘the original habitants of a land’. As an English word of that era, it also became a colonial word to mean Indigenous people, as opposed to the colonists. The words ‘aboriginal’, ‘aborigine’ and their plurals did not become common until the 1840s, and existed along with ‘blacks’ and ‘natives’, which often became derogatory, and was used until the middle of the 20th century, even in legislation.
For much of its life, ‘aboriginal’ was used without a capital ‘A’, which gave it a derogatory edge. However, it has been capitalized conventionally since the 1960’s, revealing a new level of respect.The term ‘Aboriginal people’ is now preferred to ‘Aborigines’ or ‘Aboriginals’.
(‘Aboriginal Australians’, Richard Broome)

There is still a lot of emotion attached to the word ‘Aboriginal’ and even today its use can trigger strong reactions.


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