Australia and the Pacific was the last region in the world to be discovered. It was terra incognita; a region at the very edge of the known world. In the early years, when the continent was still being discovered, explorers and thinkers helped to create an image of the Pacific as a paradise on Earth. It was captured in the popular imagination through art and writings and its very discovery was the focal point of great political rivalry.
However, in the modern era, following the end of colonialism, this idealised paradise landscape has been replaced by a recognition of the vibrancy of this region’s politics. Australia’s status as a leading world power, both economically and increasingly its political power, has brought the region into sharp focus. Australia is a country growing rapidly and it is determined to place itself at the centre of the changes affecting its neighbours in Asia.
Across the Pacific there is growing recognition of these nation’s political influence. New Zealand has positioned itself as a ‘Scandinavian‘ style economy and political power, whilst the Pacific Island states have been keen to assert their national, post-colonial identity in the modern world. Whilst some states have faced trouble in the form of military coups and some, such as Tuvalu, face total catastrophe as a result of rising sea levels, this is a region that has enjoyed good relations with world powers and peace for many years.
“There is no probability, that any other detached body of land, of nearly equal extent, will ever be found in a more southern latitude; the name Terra Australis will, therefore, remain descriptive of the geographical importance of this country…had I permitted myself any innovation upon the original term, it would have been to convert it into Australia; as being more agreeable to the ear”.
Matthew Flinders, (1774-1814) English Navigator & Cartographer