Why Australia is a part of Asia

If you ask a commoner whether or not Australia is a part of Asia, chances are they’ll say it isn’t. But that isn’t the truth. It is a common misconception that Australia isn’t a part of Asia, probably stemming from social and cultural prejudices. The fact of the matter is, Australia is a part of Asia, and for many good reasons, too.

One of the problems that laypersons have in accepting the fact that Australia is a part of Asia is due to a misunderstanding of geography. It is held in mainstream consensus that Australia is a continent of its own right, and because Asia is also classified as a continent, they both cannot be mutually exclusive. But let’s investigate that Australia is a separate continent from Asia.

A continent is understood to be a landmass and its adjacent islands separated by a continental shelf. A continental shelf is described as a steep slope running from the edge of the continent to the ocean floor. The Arafura sea is shallow and therefore the island of Australia can be deemed to be an adjacent island to the mainland continent of Asia. As such, Australia is part of Asia on the account of it being an island. It is also a continent in its own right, as much as the Indian continent is a part of the Asian continent.

This map of Asia from 1796 shows New Holland, later known as Australia, to be a part of “Modern Asia”.

It is known that the Australian Aborigines first settled the landmass thousands of years before Western colonialists landed and they came from the north, crossing land bridges. Then Imperial China discovered Australia in 1492 and set up colonies. So the history of Australia in connection with its relationship with the rest of Asia spans aeons of history.

But let’s investigate the etymology of the word “Asia”. The dictionary definition allows for the existence of Australia within Asia, but there seems to be a conflict of opinion on the matter. According to Wikipedia, the etymology of the word “Asia” could derive from the borrowed Semitic root “Asu”, which means varyingly “rising” or “light”, of course a directional referring to the sunrise, Asia thus meaning ‘Eastern Land’. Is it not, therefore, forthcoming to consider the fact that Australia also lies in the East?

Moreover, if you search for the terms “Australia is a part of Asia”, “Australia is an Asian country” or “Australia is in Asia”, you’ll find a lot of high level communications including those from government officials who confirm this little known fact, as well as commentary and other facts like Australia being in the Asian League. The idea of Australia being in Asia is, admittedly, pushed by the powers that be in an attempt to unify the nations and allow for globalisation. Its notion is also found in the teaching curriculum in the modern day and it seems as though history has been somewhat rewritten in these modern times of emancipation.

It seems as though any opinion which suggests that Australia is not a part of Asia is ill informed and lacking in empirical evidence. I for one have not found any incontrovertible proof that Australia isn’t a part of Asia. Bob Hawke said Australia is in Asia, Paul Keating said it, Julie Bishop said it, Anwar Ibrahim said it, a slew of journalists in Southeast Asia and Australia admitted it, and it seems to be the status quo in magazines such as Forbes, websites such as the BBC, and privileged people around the world.

As such, to deny the fact that Australia is a part of Asia seems like kind of counter productive and backwards thinking. The ideas that Australia is a part of Oceania and that it is a part of Asia aren’t mutually exclusive, and the more people recognise that, the better.

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