Australasia

Australasia is a geographic place name for a large region of the southern part of the world. As to which countries are considered a part of Australasia has not been universally defined. Different countries are included depending on the use of the term, and throughout its history, Australasia has often been used interchangeably (and usually no more accurately) with others such as Oceania, the Antipodes, the South Pacific, the Sealing Islands, the Southern Continent, the South Seas, and even the colloquial ‘down under’. In its most simple contemporary use, it is a generalist term used to describe just Australia and New Zealand, but in times past and in modern scientific disciplines, such as botany, it has had more specific meanings and definitions, and has been taken to include parts of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and other Pacific Islands. In New Zealand, the term is unpopular and considered redundant. But in business, science, and administration, it still lingers. In this manner, the use of ‘Australasia’ provides a classic example of how geographical place names – even those with long histories covering vast parts of the Earth’s surface – are fluid, imprecise, and contested. Since its origin over 250 years ago, the idea of Australasia has had a life of its own, coming to mean different things to different people. From French scholarly origins, ‘Australasia’ has become a phrase bound up in colonial imaginations of distant lands; a label considered by some to be benign, to others offensive; and a moniker surviving today as a word of convenience in science and bureaucracy.

Colonial Origins and Imaginations

Australasia as Ecoregion

A Contemporary Australasia?