February 25, 2011

Flinder map will not be returned to Australia

Posted at 2:12 pm in Similar cases

A few days ago, various people in Australia were claiming that the Flinders Map was Australia’s equivalent of the Elgin Marbles. This was a fairly spurious comparison to make, as there is no real connection between the two cases, which involve entirely dissimilar circumstances. Unsurprisingly, Britain has taken the point of view that the map is legally owned by the British Hydrographic Office.

The Australian

UK claims first map to identify ‘Australia’ made by Matthew Flinders is theirs
From: AAP
January 26, 2011 4:03AM

AUSTRALIANS may claim it to be the nation’s “birth certificate” but that does not mean English authorities are going to be handing it over easily.

A campaign has been launched to take ownership of the first map to use the name “Australia”, which is currently located in the archives of the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO) in Taunton, Somerset.

British explorer and cartographer Matthew Flinders drew the original chart while in prison in 1804 after completing his famous circumnavigation of Australia in a leaky, rotting boat the previous year.

A group of academics, politicians and students rallied in front of Flinders’ statue in Melbourne’s CBD yesterday to launch an online petition urging the British government to give the map he drew to Australia.

But in the early hours of Australia Day (Aust time), the UKHO firmly rejected the nation’s claims to the chart in a carefully-worded statement.

“Matthew Flinders was a Commander in the Her Majesty’s Royal Navy on board the HMS Investigator and as such, the UK Government holds it as a public record and is officially part of the UK National Archives,” it said.

Historian and president of Federation of Australian Historical Societies Don Garden said Flinders was the first person to use the term Australia.

Until then, the continent was known as Terra Australis – on the eastern side it was New South Wales, while to the west it was New Holland.

“It seems the birth certificate of Australia because it was the first time there was a map of Australia drawn up, the first time that title was used,” he said.

“It is a significant part of our history.”

Flinders set out to circumnavigate Australia in 1801 after being commissioned by Sir Joseph Banks.

He completed his journey in June 1803 and was jailed by the French in Mauritius, where he had stopped for repairs, on his journey back to Britain.

Flinders remained in jail for six years.

Only on returning to Britain in 1810 was he able to work more on his map and an account of his journey, called A Voyage to Terra Australis.

His map of Australia and book were not published until 1814 while Flinders was on his deathbed. He died without seeing the fruits of his work.

Students from Flinders Christian Community College in Tyabb, southeast of Melbourne, have written a letter they plan to send to British Prime Minister David Cameron demanding the return of the map.

Federal opposition heritage spokesman Greg Hunt said he believed the petition would have bipartisan support.

“This is the Elgin Marbles of Australian history,” he said.

“I believe we will get the map back.”

He said he hoped 100,000 people would put their names to the petition to have the map returned in time for the bicentenary of Flinders’ death.

The original idea to have the map returned to Australia came from Sydneysider Bill Fairbanks.

BBC News

8 February 2011 Last updated at 19:13
Historic Australia map ‘should stay’ in England

A Somerset historian has said a historic map of Australia that is the subject of a campaign to have it sent abroad should remain in England.

A group of Australian politicians and academics have started a campaign to get the chart, held at the Hydrographic Office in Taunton, sent to Australia.

The document is thought to be the first map to use the word Australia.

It was drawn by a British naval officer in 1804 when the island was known as Terra Australis or New Holland.

After circumnavigating Australia, Captain Matthew Flinders was captured by the French and drew the map while in prison on the island of Mauritius.

Campaigners have now launched a petition to the British government to take the map to Australia in time for the bi-centenary of Capt Flinders’ death in 2014.

Australian MP Greg Hunt said in a statement: “This is the true birth certificate of our nation and deserves to be placed on public display here in Australia.

“A document so vital to our national heritage should not remain in obscurity. We want to work co-operatively with the British Government to have Flinders’ original map gifted to the people of Australia.”

The map has been dubbed the Elgin Marbles of Australian history.

The 2,500-year-old Parthenon Marbles, also known as the Elgin Marbles, were removed from the ancient Greek Parthenon in 1811 by Lord Elgin, the British ambassador at the time.

They have been in the British Museum in London since 1817. Greece hopes one day to display the collection in the Acropolis Museum.

Somerset’s former county historian disagreed with the campaigners’ argument.

Dr Robert Dunning said: “The Elgin Marbles are real things pinched from Greece, in my view perhaps they ought to go back.

“But this chart was never pinched from Australia, it was actually compiled by an Englishman at the behest of Englishmen and taken back to England where it belongs.”

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