National Library of Australia

Settlement, Land and Nature

As Europeans familiarised themselves with this strange new land, they recorded their impressions and experiences in journals and sketchbooks.

These records reveal a sometimes heavy psychological toll, such as that afflicting those who attempted to settle Australia’s harsh northern regions. The pain of convict life is symbolised by leg-irons and a humiliating uniform.

Artists, both amateurs and professionals, played a crucial role in documenting Australia in the era before photography. However, the illustrations in Governor Arthur’s proclamation of equality between Aboriginal people and Europeans before the law did not reflect the clash of cultures occurring at the time.

Natural history is particularly well represented in this section, in particular through items from the Ducie Collection of First Fleet Art attributed to George Raper contrasted with Captain John Hunter’s 1788–90 sketchbook. Australian libraries hold the great collections of natural history and documentary illustration.

Items like the spectacular landscape photographs in Richard Daintree‘s Queensland Album reveal a growing appreciation of the beauty of Australia’s ancient landscape, and mark the advent of photography in this country.

The opening of Parliament House, Canberra, in 1927 concludes this section and marks a symbolic moment in the history of European settlement and the development of nationhood.