ften referred to as “Down Under,” Australia lies totally in the Southern Hemisphere, between the Indian and South Pacific Oceans. Australia is the sixth largest country in the world and the smallest continent. In the seventeenth century Dutch explorers extensively mapped the northern and western coastlines of Australia, but it wasn’t until 1770 that British explorer Captain James Cook claimed the continent for Great Britain. On January 1, 1901, the British colonies of Australia federated themselves as states to form the Commonwealth of Australia. As a constitutional monarchy it has a parliamentary system of government, but still recognizes the British monarchy as the head of state.
Although Australia was originally a penal colony of Great Britain, most of the population descends from nineteenth- and twentieth-century British and Irish immigrants. Since World War I the population has quadrupled due to aggressive immigration policies: today more than one quarter is foreign-born. The native peoples, known as Aborigines, declined for 150 years, but policies established in the mid-twentieth century have helped reestablish them.
British colonists took advantage of the country’s vast natural resources and developed agricultural and manufacturing industries that quickly established Australia as a world leader. Its strong economy compares with the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. Australia is an exporter of wheat, barley, sugarcane, fruits, cattle, sheep, and poultry. Industries include mining, industrial and transportation equipment, food processing, chemicals, and steel.
Adventist Life: Ellen White arrived in Australia in 1891. Her nine years there had a deep impact on the Church’s early work in the South Pacific. She first received visions of the work in Australia on April 1, 1874, and January 3, 1875. However, it wasn’t until 1885 that Stephen Haskell,
J. O. Corliss, M. C. Israel, William Arnold, and Henry Scott, along with their families, left San Francisco harbor to become the first Adventist missionaries in Australia.
By the middle of 1886 the first church, Melbourne Seventh-day Adventist Church, had grown to 90 members. Like most postmodern secular nations today, the church in Australia struggles to grow in membership. Over the past 10 years the Church in Australia has grown by only 8 percent, as compared to the world church’s growth of 66 percent.
n Ellen White contributed to the selection of the site for Avondale College in 1894 and the Sydney Sanitarium (now Sydney Adventist Hospital) in 1903.
• Sydney Adventist Hospital is the largest private hospital in New South Wales, the most populous state in Australia. The church also operates 15 retirement centers throughout the country.
• The first Adventist primary school was established on June 10, 1900, with two teachers and 60 students. Today there are more than 55 primary and secondary schools in Australia.
• In 1927 Pastor David Sibley is believed to have broadcast the first Adventist radio program in Melbourne. In 1956 Faith for Today was the first Adventist television program broadcast in Australia. In 1966 the Adventist Media Centre in Australia began production on Focus on Living films.
–Compiled by Hans Olson,
Office of Adventist Mission