Oceania is a geographical division of the world, including Australia, New Zealand and several clusters of islands around the Pacific Ocean. There are about twenty thousand islands and atolls. Oceania is traditionally divided into four parts: Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.
Australasia includes Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and smaller islands. Australia and New Zealand, inhabited mainly by indigenous and European descendants, have an economy far superior to that of other countries in Oceania. Australia is the largest island on the Planet, although some authors consider it as the smallest of the continents, but its area is smaller than that of Brazil and has no tradition as a continent.
The name Oceania comes from the French: Océanie. It was adopted to designate the “fifth part of the world” in the Géographie Universalle by Conrad Malte-Brun (1775-1826), one of the founders of the Société de Géographie. Malte-Brun originally proposed the term Océanique, published in that work in 1812, but other French authors preferred Océanie, especially explorer Domeny de Rienzi, author of the description of Oceania, in his work l’Univers Pittoresque (1836). The following editions of the Géographie Universalle also adopted Océanie.
Oceania’s indigenous population consists of Aborigines, Melanesians, Papuans, Micronesians and Polynesians. Already some 50,000 years ago, when Australia and New Guinea were united (Sahul), the land was populated by dark-skinned (“Sundanoida”) people who had emigrated via the Indonesian islands (Wallacea) from the Southeast Asian mainland and whose descendants are contemporary Aborigines and Papuans. Nearly 10,000 years ago, immigration of Mongolian peoples, also from the Southeast Asian mainland, began, and at the same time the Neolithic revolution (domestication of food plants and domestic animals) occurred in New Guinea. About 5,000 years ago, these people had developed boatbuilding and navigation techniques that enabled them to populate the islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia over the following millennia.
The population density is low in Australia, Papua New Guinea and the rest of Melanesia and New Zealand, and there are large areas that are uninhabited. Polynesia and Micronesia are much more densely populated.
Oceania globally has a fairly low population growth rate, about 1 percent per year, but there are major differences within the region. Australia and New Zealand have a natural population increase of less than 1 percent per year, extensive immigration and an age pyramid similar to that of North America (slightly higher proportion of children and lower proportion of pensioners than in Sweden). However, most states and territories have rapid or very rapid population growth and a very large proportion of children, often more than 35 percent of the population.
The life expectancy is just over 80 years in Australia and New Zealand and in most territories 70-75 years, but in Papua New Guinea only 64 years.
The total number of languages in the oceanic island world (including New Guinea) is very large, about two thousand, and accounts for perhaps 40% of all languages in the world. About half of these belong to the Austronesian (previously called Malayo-Polynesian) language family. In New Guinea, Papua languages dominate. However, it is unclear both if these truly form a family and what possible kinship relationships they have with other languages. Among the indigenous people of Australia, languages of Australian languages are spoken. European languages, especially English and French, now have a strong position in most states in Oceania.
Of the indigenous religions in Oceania, it has a ktonic profile (with predominantly underground gods) in Melanesia. The spirits, often portrayed as colorful marvels, reside on the earth and can both help and steal, e.g. the ancestral sands, whose symbolic bone remains, especially the skulls, are preserved in the huts of the men’s associations. Great rites take place after a person’s death, when chiefs compete to be generous to the guests with invitations and gifts. The cult of the spirits (and a few goddesses) includes swine victims and the media, possessed by the dead. Preferably, however, you avoid the spirits. The magic is widespread, and the belief in a mysterious power (mana) in many things has made the Melanesian religion widely known. In Micronesia there is faith in both heavenly and earthly spirits. The ancestral cult is common, and the ancestors are believed to provide protection as long as the descendants act within the traditional tribal trademarks. In the homes there are altars for them; you sacrifice vegetable food and clothing. The spirits communicate with the living by occupying media. Magic dominates the spiritual existence. The chief of e.g. The Palau Islands have the power to tabulate (ie prohibit with religious sanction) important nutrients (pigs, coconuts, etc.) needed for joint parties or for the prince’s private needs. Polynesia’s pre-Christian religions had the same structure everywhere, and the same gods appeared on the different islands, though with different names. Typically, the individual is the distance from the deity. In the cult, God is invited to take a seat, usually in a stone sculpture, and listen to the desires of men, but then he is sent away. If his help is of little use, you ask him to disappear for good and turn to new gods. The many Polynesian gods are creator gods, natural gods or gods of various professions. For their services, they receive victims, usually first victims. Famous are the Polynesian creation stories: cultural heron Maui separated the Heavenly Father and Mother Earth as they lay united, and he let the light and the sun come forth. He is also said to have fished the islands out of the urocean.
Oceania is today, as the only continent, largely dominated by Christianity. The historical development of the various churches has played, and still plays, a prominent role for social life. Among the archipelagos, only Fiji have represented other world religions, larger groups of Hindus and Muslims, through labor movement. Christianity was introduced in Oceania at the pace of colonialization, and the foundations of modern school education were laid largely by the churches. The various ancestral cult of indigenous religiosity, with a vital relation to creation, has characterized the development of the churches. Christianity stands for a holistic belief that affects most things in people’s everyday lives. Religiosity is thus deeply entrenched in society at large. The London Missionary Society (LMS) began working in Tahiti in the late 18th century. This evangelical mission then affected large parts of Oceania by educating Polynesian, and later also Micronesian, missionaries to build domestically-embraced churches. Methodism came to Tonga in the 1820s and then spread to Samoa, Fiji and Melanesia. The Anglican Church was introduced from New Zealand and came to characterize Melanesia in the first place. In this case, too, the new faith was spread through domestic missionaries. The Roman Catholic Church was established early in Guam and Micronesia through the provision of Spanish colonial power in the 1670s (see Philippines, Religion). However, the Catholic Church was not established in the other countries of Oceania until the middle of the 19th century. The early churches also included the Baptist Church, which was introduced in Melanesia through returning black-birding workers from Queensland. The Roman Catholic Church and the largest Protestant churches in Oceania coordinate much work through its Ecumenical Cooperation Council, the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC). As a result, they have for many years worked to protect Oceania’s unique culture and environment. PCC, based in Suva, Fiji, is a new power factor in Oceania.