Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Australasia. The general name of the numerous islands and island-groups lying to the south and south-east of Asia, and to the southward of the tropic of Cancer. In its proper and widest meaning it embraces the continent of Australia, all Oceania or Polynesia, and the Indian Archipelago; and it includes the following, all of which will be found fully dealt with elsewhere under separate headings: Australia, Tasmania, the New Zealand Islands, the Philippine Islands (Luzon, Mindoro, Mindanao, Samar, Leyte, Palawan, etc.), Sumatra, Java, Billiton, Borneo, Celebes, the Sulu Islands, Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Sumba, Flores, Timor, the Moluccas, the Tenimber Islands, the Arru Islands, New Guinea, the Marianne or Ladrone Islands, the Caroline Islands, the Admiralty Islands, the Bismarck Archipelago, the Solomon Islands, the New Hebrides, New Caledonia, Norfolk Island, the Kermadec Islands, the Marshall Archipelago, the Chatham Islands, the Gilbert Islands, the Ellice Islands, the Fiji Islands, the Phoenix Islands, the Tokelan Islands, the Samoan Islands, the Tonga Islands, the Sandwich Islands, Palmyra, Samarang, Fanning, Christmas, Easter, Maiden, Manikiki, the Cook Islands, the Society Islands, the Low Archipelago, the Marquesas Islands, Pitcairn Island, and many hundreds of others, the majority of those unnamed being very small. The chief native races are the Malay (in the Indian Archipelago), the Papuan (in New Guinea), the Australian, the New Zealand (allied to the Malayan), the Polynesian, and the Micronesian. A large proportion of the smaller islands are of coral formation, and many of them are atolls, or annular reefs. The aborigines retain but few traces of any ancient civilisation, although in the opinion of some they must at one time have possessed considerable cultivation. In several of the islands, and notably in the Carolines and at Easter Island, prehistoric colossal statues and ruins of gigantic works of hewn stone abound. Most of the native Australasians were, at the time of their discovery, cannibals, and many are cannibals still. Very few of them had any distinct religious system; but nearly all the minor groups were governed directly or indirectly by a semi-religious caste, which maintained its influence by means of the institution called tabu, viz. the ceremonial setting aside or consecration of people, places, and things for particular purposes. Violations of tabu, always very rare on account of the supernatural penalties which were supposed to follow its infraction, were, when they occurred, usually punished with death. Christianity has made great progress throughout Australasia, and to-day most of the natives are, at least nominally, either Roman Catholics or members of Protestant Nonconformist sects.