Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/20

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but treasured with national pride, wherever the sons and daughters of Hibernia have found a home. What other writers have done for the Irish in America, I propose attempting to do, in some measure, for the Irish in L Australia; and, by way of introduction to the subject, a few historical and descriptive details will be serviceable.

Australia is the great island-continent of the globe. It has an area nearly equal in extent to the whole of Europe, although its population falls short of four millions. Until very recently, its interior was a terra incognita, but the systematic efforts of explorers have succeeded in thoroughly opening up the central regions, so that it has been found practicable to run a telegraph wire across the continent from north to south—a distance of nearly two thousand miles. The mainland of Australia is politically divided into five colonies, which, in the order of their birth, are as follow:—New South Wales, Western Australia, Victoria, South Australia, and Queensland. There are also two insular colonies—Tasmania, or, as it was known in bygone days. Van Diemen's Land, an island of about the size of Ireland lying to the south of Victoria; and New Zealand, the "Great Britain of the South," a chain of islands in the Pacific at a distance of more than a thousand miles from the mainland in a south-easterly direction.

Though New South Wales is the parent colony of the Australian group, she has been outstripped in the race of progress by one of her youngest children—Victoria, the wealthiest, most populous, and most important of the antipodean states. Thirty years ago the present colony of Victoria was only the Port Phillip district of New South Wales, the latter geographical term being at that time synonymous with the whole eastern half of the continent.