Australia is unique in being home to an ancient, 60,000-year-old Indigenous culture and also a very young European influence of just over 200 years. While their coexistence has been far from peaceful, both have proven to be tenacious, resourceful and resilient, eking out an existence on one of the toughest continents on Earth. On top of that, Australia is the only country on the planet founded solely to contain convicts. This gives it a fascinating, bloody, but ultimately rich, penal history, complete with numerous tales of down-on-their-luck convicts making daring escapes, ranging the bush as folk heroes, or triumphing over circumstance to become respected Australians. Those who came to these shores included felons, brave settlers, entrepreneurial squatters, hopeful miners, optimistic but poor free selectors and many immigrants, each adding a chapter to our nation's story. These strands of our Aboriginal, penal and pioneering past, coupled with a proud war record and strong democratic principles, are woven together to create our social history.
The right to own land, to vote, to run for parliament, to speak freely, to be given a "fair go" at work, to receive a fair trial by jury, and to not be constrained by a class system are all values enshrined over time by our pioneering ancestors. I hope that this book inspires you to learn more about our tough-as-nails settlers, most of whom arrived with little or nothing, but left us with so much more - a multicultural, prosperous and proud Australia.