Thursday, 17 July 2014, 6:30PM
Australia House

Discovering Australia: The legend and the reality of the navigator-explorer Matthew Flinders

David Hill

Matthew Flinders is remembered as one of Britain’s greatest navigator-explorers. But to what extent does the legend fit the reality?

In 1791 Mathew Flinders first sailed to the south-seas as a seventeen year old midshipman on a two year voyage with Captain William Bligh. Three years later he returned to Australia and in a tiny dingy named Tom Thumb explored much of Australia’s south east coast with his good friend lieutenant George Bass. Later, Flinders and Bass sailed in the Norfolk and discovered that Tasmania was a separate island from the mainland of Australia.

After returning to England Flinders was again sent in 1801 to complete the exploration of the entire Australian coast line in the Investigator. In April 1802 while charting the south coast where no ship had sailed before, he had a remarkable chance encounter with another explorer. Frenchman Nicholas Baudin had been sent by his government on exactly the same quest: to explore the remaining uncharted coast of the great southern land and find out if the west and east coasts, four thousand kilometres apart, were part of the same land.

And so began the race to complete the first complete map of Australia and to finish the exploration of the region started two hundred years before by the Dutch, the Portuguese, the Spanish and later the French and the English.

Flinders three year voyage featured great hardship, sickness, the death of crew, shipwreck and finally imprisonment. Flinders beat his French rivals in discovering and charting the remaining unknown coast but they beat him to publishing the first complete map of Australia.



David Hill is a best-selling author and historian.

He was born in Eastbourne, England in 1946 and migrated to Australia with his two brothers, followed by his mother, under the Fairbridge Farm school scheme in 1959. He left school at 15 and later matriculated from East Sydney Technical College before completing an economics degree at Sydney University in 1968. From 1969-70 he was an economics tutor at the university, whilst completing a Master of Economics degree.

From 1971 to 1975 he worked variously as an economics journalist, investment banker and accountant in London and Sydney while extensively traveling in Europe – particularly Greece.

From 1976 till 1980 he headed the Economic and Financial advisory office for New South Wales Premier Neville Wran.

From 1980 to 1986 he was CEO of Australia’s largest rail network, the State Rail Authority.

From 1986 -1995 he was Chairman then Managing Director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

From 1995-1998 he was Chairman of Australia’s Football Association (Soccer Australia).

His other appointments have included, Chairman, Sydney Water Corporation 1997 - 1998, Chairman, Railways of Australia 1985 -1986, Fellow, Sydney University Senate 1984 -1986, Member, FIFA Olympic Football Committee, Zurich 1996 -1998, Member, International Television Council (NATAS), New York 1989 - 1995, Executive Member, Asian Pacific Broadcasting Union, Kuala Lumpur 1991 - 1994, Director then Trustee, Visnews (now Reuters TV) London 1991 – 1994, President of the North Sydney (‘Bears’) Rugby League Club 1989 -1992, President of the North Sydney Leagues Club 1989 -1992 and Director Australian Airlines (now Qantas domestic) 1983 – 1986, Foundation executive member of the Australian Republican Movement 1991-1999 and Trustee of Sydney’s Centennial and More Park 1995-98. In 1994 he became Chairman and later Patron of CREATE - an organisation representing Australian children in institutional care.

He is the Chairman of the Australians for the Return of the Parthenon Sculptures and since 2005 has been the President of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures.

In 2005 he was awarded a Diploma of Arts with Merit (Classical Archaeology) from Sydney University. Since 2011 he has been the Project Manager of the Troizen archaeological study in Greece and is Honorary Associate at the Sydney University Departments of Archaeology and Classics and Ancient History.

He is also the best-selling author of a number of books published by Random House, including The Forgotten Children (2006), 1788 (2008), The Gold Rush (2009) and The Great Race (2011)

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17 July 2014

Discovering Australia: The legend and the reality of the navigator-explorer Matthew Flinders
David Hill

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