GEOG101 Study Guide

Unit 12: Australia and New Zealand

 12a. Summarize how colonialism affected the development and conditions of Australia and New Zealand

  • How has the population of Australia and New Zealand changed since colonization?
  • How did the colonists contribute to the extinction of native species?
  • To what extent are Australia and New Zealand still tied to Britain?

Britain's colonization of Australia and New Zealand is apparent in a variety of ways.

  • The ancestry of both countries is predominantly European.
  • Both Australia and New Zealand are part of the Commonwealth of Nations, which recognizes Queen Elizabeth II as their monarch. Almost all members of the Commonwealth are former territories of the British Empire.
  • English is the lingua franca of both countries. Indigenous languages are in danger of dying out.
  • The extinction of a number of animal species in Australia and New Zealand are attributed to the arrival of the British colonists and the new species they introduced.
  • The distribution of Australia's large coastal cities, such as Sydney and Brisbane, is a reflection of colonial settlement.

Since Britain colonized Australia and New Zealand, these countries have also become destinations for Asian immigrants.



12b. Determine where the Wallace Line and the Weber Line were located

  • Why were some species able to move between islands and continents during periods of glacial advance?
  • Why are marsupials found only in Australia and New Zealand?

Wallace's Line and Weber's Line, as shown in the following figure, are hypothetical lines separating biogeographical realms. These lines are also known as faunal boundaries. The naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace proposed that the line separating species of Asian origin from species of Austral origin ran between Borneo and Sulawesi and between Bali and Lombok. Max Carl Wilhelm Weber, a biogeographer and zoologist, proposed that the boundary between the species was farther east, between Sulawesi and Buru and coming much closer to the island of New Guinea and the continent of Australia.

During ice ages, colder temperatures globally meant that glaciers could advance and sea levels were lower. Thus, it was possible in some locations for animals to cross from one landmass to another across land bridges. In some locations, however, the continental shelf may have still been too deep for animals to cross, separating them. Marsupials, for example, are found only on the Austral side because they were unable to cross to the Asian side.

Review Introducing the Realm: Australia and New Zealand.


12c. Explain how isolation has allowed for the high level of biodiversity in Australia and New Zealand

  • Why are Australia and New Zealand geographically isolated?
  • What is the origin of the species found in Australia and New Zealand?

As shown in the following figure, the supercontinent of Gondwana, or Gondwanaland, dominated the southern hemisphere between about 500 and 200 million years ago. Prior to that, Gondwana and the northern supercontinent Laurasia were part of the supercontinent Pangaea. About 180 million years ago, Gondwanaland broke up into the landmasses of Africa, South America, the Indian subcontinent, the Arabian Peninsula, Antarctica, Australia and New Zealand. Thus, any species that lived on those landmasses were separated and evolved independently.

Australia and New Zealand are particularly isolated compared to other landmasses given their distance from other landmasses and the length of time they have been separated. Tectonic stability, climate patterns, and other factors over geologic time have also contributed to the high numbers of unique species. It is estimated that over 80% of Australia's mammals are not found anywhere else in the world. Although many of Australia's and New Zealand's species are descendants of those that existed on Gondwana, there are some that flew there, floated there, or were brought by humans.



12d. Identify how colonialism affected the Maori and Aboriginal populations

  • Describe the population of Australia and New Zealand before the Europeans arrived.
  • How has the population of Australia and New Zealand changed since British colonization?

Australia was inhabited at least tens of thousands of years before Europeans arrived. The descendents of these indigenous or native peoples are known as Aboriginal Australians. The Māori people arrived in New Zealand from Polynesia thousands of years before the Europeans. The arrival of Europeans and British colonization devastated these populations.

  • Initially, many Australian Aboriginals and Māori died of disease and, later, from conflict with settlers as their lands were taken from them and they were forced to assimilate
  • The White Australia Policy, the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901, sought to keep Australia 'British.' It subsidized the relocation of British citizens to Australia and limited the immigration of non-Whites, particularly Asians. New Zealand adopted a similar policy for the same reasons. By the 1970s, these policies were eliminated in both countries.
  • Currently, the majority of the populations of Australia and New Zealand are White and have British ancestry.
  • In Australia, less than three percent of the population is Aboriginal, and in New Zealand, less than seventeen percent is Māori.



12e. Summarize the colonial exploitation and development of Australia

  • How did the British use Australia between 1787 and 1868?
  • What evidence is there of the core-periphery pattern of urbanization?
  • Why did the British remove the Aborigines from their native lands?

The pattern of urban development along Australia's coast, as shown on the following map, can be traced to British colonization.

  • Between 1787 and 1868, Britain shipped convicts to Australia to alleviate the overcrowding of its prisons. Sydney of New South Wales was the first penal colony established in Australia.
  • Penal colonies were also established in the vicinity of what would become the cities of Brisbane in Queensland and Perth in Western Australia, among other locations. Many modern day Australians can trace their lineage to transported convicts.
  • The coastal cities that began as British penal colonies now anchor Australia's two core regions. The inland areas that buffer Australia's core form the peripheral regions, which provide the food, raw materials, and other goods needed to support the core regions.

Almost 70% of Australia's population lives in these urbanized regions rather than in the interior.

In addition to using Australia as a destination for convicts, the British also took advantage of the territory's natural resources.

  • The government and private interests seized Aboriginal land and converted it to agricultural and mining operations.
  • There were several gold rushes in South Australia in the mid-nineteenth century that brought immigrants from Europe, North America, and China
  • Miners also discovered silver, lead, and copper in the region. They did not, however, compensate the Aboriginal people who had inhabited that land for over 25,000 years. 

The efforts of indigenous peoples to receive compensation for their losses at the hands of colonists have had limited success in the courts.



12f. Describe the basic characteristics of Australia and New Zealand's physical geography and cultural attributes

  • How are the physical landscapes of Australia and New Zealand different?
  • How do the climates of Australia and New Zealand differ?
  • Describe Australia's interior.
  • Why is New Zealand tectonically active?

New Zealand's physical landscape is more varied than Australia's, which is the flattest of all the continents. New Zealand has rugged coastlines, mountain ranges, and volcanoes. Australia has low relief; deserts, grassy plateaus, and scrublands dominate its interior. Australia is tectonically stable, whereas New Zealand is tectonically active. Located along the southwest rim of the Pacific Ring of Fire, New Zealand experiences frequent and intense earthquakes. Although there is evidence of past volcanism throughout New Zealand, the only active volcanoes are on the North Island and the smaller, outlying islands.

Although their latitudinal locations are similar, the climates of Australia and New Zealand are different. Australia's larger landmass makes its temperatures more extreme than New Zealand's.

  • Arid to semi-arid climates (type B) dominate Australia to the west and the interior and become more temperate (type C) approaching the east coast.
  • The northern coast of Australia experiences tropical (type A) conditions. The northernmost tip of Australia, Cape York, is just 10° south of the Equator. 
  • Temperate climates (type C) prevail in New Zealand. Snow falls on the South Island in the winter and at higher elevations on the North Island.
  • The west coasts of New Zealand receive more rain than the east coasts due to the rain shadow effect of the Southern Alps.

Their location in the southern hemisphere means that December, January, and February are the summer months, and June, July, and August are the winter months in Australia and New Zealand.



Unit 12 Vocabulary

This vocabulary list includes terms that students need to know to successfully complete the final exam for the course.

  • Aboriginal
  • assimilate
  • Austral
  • Australia 
  • biodiversity
  • biogeographical realms
  • British Empire 
  • colonial settlement
  • colonization
  • Commonwealth of Nations
  • convicts
  • core regions 
  • extinction
  • faunal boundaries 
  • gold rushes 
  • Gondwana(land)
  • indigenous
  • indigenous languages
  • isolated
  • Māori
  • marsupials 
  • monarch 
  • New Zealand 
  • North Island 
  • Pacific Ring of Fire
  • peripheral regions 
  • Queen Elizabeth II
  • South Island 
  • Southern Alps 
  • southern hemisphere 
  • type A climate
  • type B climate
  • type C climate 
  • urban development 
  • urbanized regions
  • Wallace's Line
  • Weber's Line
  • White Australia Policy (Immigration Restriction Act of 1901)