Bringing Home Australia's Birth Certificate
May 7, 2012
Most people would agree that a birth certificate is an important document.
It confirms your existence, describing who you are and by what name you will be known to the world.
Australia has just such a document: the very first map of the continent with its name written prominently across the middle.
It was drawn in 1804 by navigator Matthew Flinders after his historic circumnavigation of what had until then largely been referred to as Terra Australis.
This was the first time any European had circled the continent, the first time an accurate map of the entire “great south land” had been drawn and the first reference on any such map to the name Australia.
The story of Flinders’ amazing voyage around Australia has all the elements of a swashbuckling adventure: shipwreck, extreme hardship, survival against the odds, even imprisonment by colonial rival France.
He was taken prisoner on the island of Mauritius while on his way back to England. It was during this six-year incarceration that Flinders drew the very first map of Australia. He titled the map “Australia or Terra Australis”.
Upon returning to England in 1810, the Admiralty ordered Flinders to produce a new map with the order reversed to ‘Terra Australis or Australia’. It was this map that was published in 1814, the day before Flinders’ death.
In 1817, Governor Macquarie, learning of Flinders’ preference for the name ‘Australia’, adopted the name Australians have come to cherish.
Since Flinders’ time, the map has been kept under lock and key by the British Admiralty.
The Matthew Flinders map is an important piece of our national heritage. It is Australia’s birth certificate and it should be here in Australia, on public display, for all Australians to see.
That is why I have launched a campaign to persuade the British to hand the map to Australia.
Keeping the map in England probably made sense during the early, turbulent years of Australia’s formation. But we’re now a mature, independent nation with a standard of living and quality of life that’s the envy of the world. We can be trusted to look after it.
To keep the map locked away in some dusty British archive is a terrible waste of an extraordinary historical document.
I urge all those who believe we should have this vital piece of our heritage here in Australia to join my campaign to reclaim Australia’s birth certificate.
It would be a wonderful gesture on the part of the British if the map were gifted to Australia to mark the bicentenary of Flinders’ death in 2014.
Source: National Trust News
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