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date: 23 April 2024

An Economic History of Australialocked

An Economic History of Australialocked

  • Martin ShanahanMartin ShanahanSchool of Business, University of South Australia


A new world for Europeans and an ancient land for its Indigenous populations, Australia has provided resources that have sustained its inhabitants for millennia. For the past century the nation’s standard of living has been among the world’s highest. This has accompanied the transformation from an economic frontier to a staples-based economy and to a modern, industrial economy over 150 years. Although a fundamentally urban society, it has been the continued use of the country’s natural assets, especially its land, that has underpinned these changes. While reliant on protective barriers in the first half of the 20th century, the country’s ongoing development has always depended on the inflow of overseas capital, an openness to international trade, and an eagerness to receive new people. When these elements have fluctuated so too has Australia’s economy. The sources of capital, trade, and people have changed over time, but a willingness to follow ideas from overseas has persisted. Not every member of society has benefited from development, and long-term inequality has followed the rise, fall, and rise evident in many Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations. Although still a leading nation when measured on the Human Development Index, environmental constraints, increased global tensions, and climate change pose challenges for Australian’s living standards that will again require them to transform their economy.


  • Economic History

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