During the five months I spent here I learned a lot about Australia. It is a country which has a very different history from that of European countries mainly because it was discovered by Europeans during the 18th century which created a break in its history. This report is a brief summary of Australia’s history from before its discovery by Europeans until today. A few questions about Australia’s future have also been raised.

Quick presentation of Australia

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the southern hemisphere comprising the mainland of the world's smallest continent, the major island of Tasmania, and numerous other islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The distance on the mainland from east to west is 3983 km and from north to south 3138 km. Its area is 7 682 300 square kilometres, which makes it about the size of the US excluding Alaska and around 11.5 times the size of the whole of France.

Australia is made up of six states and several territories:

  • New South Wales
  • Queensland
  • South Australia
  • Tasmania
  • Victoria
  • Western Australia
  • Northern Territory
  • Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
  • Other minor territories

In most respects, the territories function like the states, but the Commonwealth Parliament can override any legislation of their parliaments.

Figure 1: Map of Australia

By contrast, federal legislation only overrides state legislation in certain areas that are set out in Section 51 of the Australian Constitution; state parliaments retain all residual legislative powers, including powers over hospitals, education, police, the judiciary, roads, public transport, and local government.

Each state and territory has its own legislature: unicameral in the Northern Territory, the ACT, and Queensland, and bicameral in the remaining states. The states are sovereign, though subject to certain powers of the Commonwealth as defined by the Constitution. The lower house is known as the Legislative Assembly (House of Assembly in South Australia and Tasmania) and the upper house is known as the Legislative Council.

The head of the government in each state is the Premier, and in each territory the Chief Minister. The Queen is represented in each state by a Governor; an Administrator in the Northern Territory and the Australian Governor-General in the ACT, have analogous roles.

Most of the estimated 21.3 million Australians are descended from colonial-era settlers and post-Federation immigrants from Europe, with almost 90% of the population being of European descent. For generations, the vast majority of both colonial-era settlers and post-Federation immigrants came almost exclusively from the British Isles, and the people of Australia are still mainly of British or Irish ethnic origin.

  • Australian symbols
  • Flag

The Australian flag uses three prominent symbols:

  • The Union Flag (also known as the Union Jack)
  • A large white seven-pointed star known as the Commonwealth Star
  • The Southern Cross constellation, made up of five white stars – one small five-pointed star and four, larger, seven-pointed stars
Figure 2: the Australian flag

The Union Flag is thought locally to symbolize Australia's history as six British colonies and the principles upon which the Australian Federation is based, although a more historic view sees its inclusion in the design as demonstrating loyalty to the British Empire.

The Commonwealth Star originally had only six points, representing the six federating colonies. However, this changed in 1908 when a seventh point was added to symbolize the Territory of Papua and any future territories.

The Southern Cross is one of the most distinctive constellations visible in the Southern Hemisphere and has been used to represent Australia and New Zealand since the early days of British settlement.

Coat of Arms

The Coat of Arms of Australia (formally known as Commonwealth Coat of Arms) is the official symbol of Australia. The initial coat of arms was granted by King Edward VII on 7 May 1908. Originally the words on the shield were “Advance Australia”. That’s why the kangaroo and the emu were symbolically chosen to hold the shield as both the kangaroo and the emu are unable to walk backwards... they could only “Advance”. The shield is the focal point of the coat of arms, contained within is the badge of each Australian state.

Figure 3: the Commonwealth Coat of Arms

National Anthem

‘Advance Australia Fair’ is the national anthem of Australia. The song was first performed in 1878 but remained a patriotic song until 1984. It then faced a vote between the Royal anthem God Save the Queen and the "unofficial anthem" Waltzing Matilda and officially became the national anthem.

Australians all let us rejoice, For we are young and free; We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil; Our home is girt by sea; Our land abounds in nature’s gifts Of beauty rich and rare; In history’s page, let every stage Advance Australia Fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing, Advance Australia Fair.

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross We’ll toil with hearts and hands; To make this Commonwealth of ours Renowned of all the lands; For those who’ve come across the seas We’ve boundless plains to share; With courage let us all combine To Advance Australia Fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing, Advance Australia Fair.

Australia also has a royal anthem, "God Save the Queen (or King)", which is played in the presence of a member of the Royal Family when they are in Australia. In all other appropriate contexts, the national anthem of Australia, "Advance Australia Fair", is played.

Before 1788 Prehistory

The first humans arrived in Australia between 60,000 and 40,000 years ago. During the last glacial period the sea level was much lower than today. The Australian coast was level with the Timor Sea and Australia and New Guinea were the same continent known as Sahul. Searchers believe ancestral people navigated from Indonesia to Sahul.

Then they spread all over the continent. Archaeological evidence indicates human habitation at the upper Swan River, Western Australia about 40,000 years ago. Tasmania (at that time connected via a land bridge) was reached at least 30,000 years ago. Some believe that Australia was reached before that, but their beliefs are far from unanimous.

Because of the terrestrial link between Australia and New Guinea, a lot of animal and plant species are common to the two countries. The land bridge was covered around 6,000 years ago when sea level stabilised.


The word aboriginal appeared in English in the 17th century and means "first or earliest known, indigenous," (Latin Aborigines, from ab: from, and origo: origin, beginning). It has been used in Australia to describe its Indigenous peoples as early as 1789. It soon became capitalised and employed as the common name to refer to all Indigenous Australians. Strictly speaking, "Aborigine" is the noun and "Aboriginal" the adjectival form; however the latter is often also employed to stand as a noun.

Australian Aborigines lived in near total isolation for 60 000 years. Since they didn’t have written history, their past is told only by stories and cave paintings.

Indigenous Australian people conceive of all things beginning with The Dreaming (also called the Dreamtime), a sacred 'once upon a time' time in which spirits formed The Creation. "Dreaming" is also often used to refer to an individual's or group's set of beliefs or spirituality. For instance, an Indigenous Australian might say that they have Kangaroo Dreaming, or Shark Dreaming, or Honey Ant Dreaming, or any combination of Dreamings pertinent to their "country". However, many Indigenous Australians also refer to the creation time as "The Dreaming". The Dreamtime laid down the patterns of life for the Aboriginal people. "The Dreaming" was the time of creation.

Dreaming stories vary throughout Australia, and there are different versions on the same theme. For example, the story of how the birds got their colours is different in New South Wales and in Western Australia. Storytelling is an integral part of life for Indigenous Australians. The stories help to explain how the land came to be shaped and inhabited; how to behave and why; where to find certain foods, etc. In some states in Australia it is now mandatory for Aboriginal Studies to be taught in schools.

Legend of the Three Sisters Mountain

This version of the 3 sisters legend was found online but different versions telling a slightly different story exist.

According to an Aboriginal dreamtime story, the three huge rocks formation were once three beautiful sisters named "Meehni", "Wimlah" and "Gunnedoo" from the Katoomba tribe. The three sisters fell in love with three brothers from the Nepean tribe but their tribal laws forbade their marriage. The three brothers did not accept this law and tried to capture the three sisters by force. This caused a major tribal battle and the lives of the three sisters were thus threatened.

Figure 4: 3 sisters mountain

A witchdoctor decided to turn the sisters into rocks in order to protect them and thought to reverse the spell only after the battle. Unfortunately, he was killed in the battle and the three sisters remained as the enormous and beautiful rock formations until today. The magnificent formation stands at 922m, 918m, and 906m respectively.

Aborigines believed in a spiritual link with the earth that was given to them by the creator of Dreamtime. They believed men were born from the spirit that lived in the earth and died to return in the earth and be reborn. Each man descends from a plant or an animal and must follow rules accordingly.

The spirit of the child is culturally understood to enter the developing foetus during the 5th month of pregnancy. When the mother felt the child move in the womb for the first time, it was thought that this was the work of the spirit of the land in which the mother then stood. Upon birth, the child was considered to be a special custodian of that part of their country and taught of the stories and songlines of that place.

Before the arrival of Europeans the aborigines occupied most of the country. About 600 tribes coexisted in peace. Each lived and hunted on its part of the land. The elders made sure the law was followed. When someone breached a law they were severely punished. Their economy was based on hunting, fishing and picking up seeds. Drought and famine were seen as a punission from the spirits. All aborigines made spears, boomerangs and sticks to dig, all in wood. They also used tools made of stone before Europeans. Boomerangs were used for hunting, birds but also large game, and for games.

The Aboriginal society was very creative. Art, musique and danse were part of sacred rituals and everyday life. The elders presided the rituals of initiation, marriage and burial. The rest of the tribe, including dancers and singers were also part of the ritual.

Aboriginal people developed unique instruments and folk styles. The didgeridoo is commonly considered the national instrument of Aboriginal people, and it is claimed to be the world's oldest wind instrument. It has possibly been used by the people of the Kakadu region (in the Northern Territory) for 1500 years.

Figure 5: Didgeridoo

Australia has a tradition of Aboriginal art which is thousands of years old, the best known forms being rock art and bark painting. These paintings usually consist of paint using earthly colors, specifically, from paint made from ochre. Traditionally, Aborigines have painted stories from their dreamtime.

Figure 6: Red hands cave è

First views of Australia

For a long time people believed a large Southern land existed. This mysterious land was named «Terra Australis Incognita». Although no one could confirm its existence because no one had seen it, it was believed because it seemed there had to be a large Southern land to balance the large mass of the Northern hemisphere.

In 1606 a Dutch vessel under the command of Willem Jansz was the first to confirm the existence of the Australian continent to Europeans. He sighted Cape York Peninsula but did not do a lot of exploring because his men were attacked by the inhabitants. Most of the early exploration of Australia was done by the Dutch and they were the ones who put definite limits to the continent.

Some Dutch explorers include Dirk Hartog who landed on the Western Australian coast, leaving behind a pewter plate engraved with the date of his landing, and Abel Tasman for whom Tasmania was eventually named -- he originally called it Van Diemen's Land after a senior member of the Dutch East India Company.


Figure 7: Dutch map dating from around 1690

Figure 8: European voyages of discovery

In 1768 British Lieutenant James Cook was sent from England on an expedition to the Pacific Ocean to observe the transit of Venus from Tahiti, sailing westwards in HM Bark Endeavour via Cape Horn and arriving there in 1769. On the return voyage he continued his explorations of the South Pacific, in search of the postulated continent of "Terra Australis". He first reached New Zealand, and then sailed further westwards to sight the south-eastern corner of the Australian continent on April 20, 1770.

In doing so, he was to be the first documented European expedition to reach the eastern coastline. He continued sailing northwards along the east coast, charting and naming many features along the way. Continuing up the coastline, the Endeavour was to later run aground on shoals of the Great Barrier Reef (near the present-day site of Cooktown), where she had to be laid up for repairs. Once corrected the voyage recommenced, eventually reaching the Torres Strait and thence on to Batavia, Dutch East Indies. The expedition returned to England via the Indian Ocean and Cape of Good Hope.

On 22 August 1770 James Cook raised the Union Jack, taking possession of the entire east coast of New Holland for the Crown of England. He named it New South Wales. The land was claimed without the consent of the natives, and England regarded it as terra nullius or empty land.

Figure 9: Replica of Captain James Cook’s boat Endeavour in Darling Harbour

The last great naval explorer was Matthew Flinders, who was responsible for filling in the gaps in the map left by other explorers. In 1796 with George Bass, he explored some of the coastline south of Sydney. They proved that Tasmania was an island in 1798 when they circumnavigated it. In 1802-03 Flinders was sent back from England to Sydney with a much more ambitious task - to circumnavigate Australia. He sailed first along the south coast to Sydney, then completing the circumnavigation back to Sydney.

A lot of explorers have given their names to land or landmarks in Australia (Bass Strait, Flinders Island, Tasmania).

Origin of the name Australia

Australia was first given the name New Holland in 1644 by the Dutch seafarer Abel Tasman as Nova Hollandia, naming it after the Dutch province of Holland, and remained in use for over 150 years. In 1804, Matthew Flinders recommended that the name Australia be adopted in preference to New Holland, but it was not until 1824 that the name change received official sanction by the United Kingdom.

Colonisation First settlers

Since 1717 transportation to America had been England’s remedy for overcrowded prisons.Between 1717 and 1776 30000 convicts from England and Scottland and 10000 convicts from Ireland were transported to the colonies in America. In 1983 the American colonies (which had by then claimed their independence and become the United States of America) refused to admit anymore English felons.

Early in 1984 the British Parliament began to debate the question of where to send the convicts. The gaols were bursting and 10,000 prisoners had been transferred in 1776 to old ships, or prison hulks moored in the Thames or in harbours. But the death rates were high and conditions a disgrace so in 1783, the British Parliament decided to send convicts to New South Wales.

In 1787, the First Fleet of 11 ships and about 1305 people (736 convicts, 211 marines, 17 convicts' children, 27 marines' wives, 14 marines' children and about 300 officers and others) set sail for Botany Bay under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip. Botany Bay had been recommended a good place for settling by Sir Joseph Banks, the eminent scientist who had accompanied Captain James Cook on his 1770 voyage. On arrival, 19,000km and 7 months later, however it was judged unsuitable and the First Fleet moved to Port Jackson on January 26, 1788. This date is now celebrated every year as Australia Day. Captain Arthur Phillip became the first governor of New South Wales.

Figure 10: 1788 - New South Wales is established

Most of the convicts had a sentence of between seven and fourteen years or "for the term of their natural lives". The death sentence was a common punishment but was often later reduced to an imprisonment sentence. When the convicts arrived in a colony they were assigned to a certain work task according to their skills. Female convicts, who made up 20% of the convict population, worked as servants for free settlers.

When a convict disobeyed he was punished by leg irons or flogging. He could also be sent to a stricter penal colony. Convicts were assigned to a free settler who was in charge of feeding and disciplining him. The others were housed at barracks like the Hyde Park Barracks or the Parramatta Female Factory but having free settlers look after some of the convicts made work easier for the government. In exchange the free settlers were granted land.

Convicts who behaved well were granted tickets of leave which gave them a little more freedom. When a convict finished his sentence he could become a free settler and be responsible for other convicts.

Figure 11: In the Hyde Park Barracks museum a database containing records of all convicts housed there can be searched for familiar names

The first few years were very though as the colony had difficulty growing food and relied on what was hunted. At one point the governor even had to send out an expedition to Jakarta to get some food so the colony wouldn’t die of hunger. The settlers had trouble understanding the land and weather of Australia and not many of them had experience in farming. It took a few years for the colony to manage to grow grain. In 1790 convict James Ruse was the first to successfully grow grain in the colony near Parramatta. The colony began to grow enough food to support itself, and the standard of living improved considerably.

Before transportation ceased in 1868 nearly 162,000 convicts would be sent to Australia. The majority of them were petty criminals with an average of 6 further offences after their arrival in Australia (minor and trivial crime). These convicts were the unlikely pioneers of a new nation.


The relationship between Aborigines and European settlers & their descendants has always been an issue in Australia. Although the colony’s first Governor, Captain Arthur Phillip took into account the presence of the Aborigines and treated them reasonably well, the arrival of the Europeans was catastrophic for the Aborigines.

The British settlers introduced epidemic diseases to Australia. 50% of the Aboriginal population died from smallpox. The British also claimed the land that the Aborigines had lived on for years. The settlement took all the land with natural resources from the Aborigines who were left to live on the borders of European settlements or on lands considered unsuitable for settlement.

When the Aborigines resisted and fought against what was happening, they were massacred. As a result, between 1788 and 1900 the Aboriginal population was reduced by up to 80%. Many Aborigines were forced to adapt to a new lifestyle and become workers for the settlers. They became dependent on the Europeans who had stolen their land and killed so many of them.

Figure 12: Men from south-eastern Australia, photographed in the 1870s

  • Exploring Australia

Figure 13: European exploration of Australia

  • New Colonies

Figure 14: 17 February 1846 - Colony of North Australia proclaimed

After the arrival of the First Fleet in New South Wales in 1788, the rest of Australia was gradually colonised. In 1803 British settlers arrived in Van Diemen’s Land and in 1826 it became a separate colony. The rest of the Island was declared British in 1829. New South Wales is divided into colonies: South Australia in 1836, Victoria in 1851, Queensland in 1859. Northern Territory, first annexed to South Australia becomes independent in 1911. Some colonies were created as free colonies, without convict but since it was a good source of cheap labour they accepted to receive convicts.

First part of New South Wales, New Zealand is proclaimed an independent colony in 1840. In 1907, New Zealand became an independent Dominion and a fully independent nation in 1947.

Figure 15: 1 February 1927 - Northern Territory divided into North Australia and Central Australia

Between 1855 and 1890, all six British colonies become independent with its own government. The British law is adopted in each colony and evolves with time. The British Government maintains control on some aspects such as foreign affairs, defence and international trade.

Although Australia’s economy is mainly rural, most of the Australian population lives in cities, and a majority is concentrated in Melbourne and Sydney. In the 80s Melbourne is the second biggest town of the British Empire. Australia is also known as a worker’s paradise and socially advanced.


The Commonwealth of Australia was proclaimed on the first day of the century, 1 January 1901.

The idea of joining the colonies grew very slowly. The vast distances between the capital cities of the colonies made it difficult to communicate so the idea of a union wasn’t considered. By 1890 the development of railways, steamships and the telegraph brought the colonies closer. People began to talk about the advantage of having an Australian Parliament that would make uniform laws for all the colonies.

A serious movement for federation of the colonies arose in the late 1880s, at a time when there was increasing nationalism amongst Australians, the great majority of whom were native born. The idea of being "Australian" began to be celebrated in songs and poems. The Australian colonies were also influenced by other federations which had emerged around the world, notably the United States, Canada and Switzerland.

The individual colonies were somewhat wary of federation. Smaller colonies in particular were wary of delegating power to a national government which they feared would be dominated by the more populous New South Wales and Victoria. For the larger colonies there was the possibility that they could be required to subsidise the struggling economies of Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia.

Furthermore, there was debate about the form of government that a federation would take.

The colonies had custom posts on the borders and duties were paid for goods imported. The colony of Victoria had started setting up a high rate of custom duties in the 1860s. Because of economic problems and the import of goods from overseas or neighbouring colonies, Victorian goods were being sold for cheaper than the manufacturers could produce them. Placing a high custom duty and custom posts along the border was a way for the Victorian government to protect its manufacturing and agricultural industries.

Many people considered these duties unfair and argued that free trade between the colonies would mean consumers could purchase goods at lower prices because of the competition between suppliers. The issue of free trade remained one of the hottest political issues until Federation in 1901. After Federation, protection was abolished between the new states but remained for goods imported from overseas.

Another argument for Federation was the need for a uniform rail system. Before 1901 each colony had built their own railway system with a different gauge between the tracks. The trains couldn’t cross the borders so passengers and goods had to be transferred from one train to another. This restricted trade and made the colonies more vulnerable to enemy attacks since troops couldn’t be transported quickly within Australia.

Finally on 5 July 1900, after nearly two decades of negotiations, the Constitution was approved by all 6 colonies and was given the Queen’s assent on 9 July 1900. This resulted in the creation of one federal Australian state as of January 1, 1901.

The new constitution established a bicameral Parliament, containing a Senate and a House of Representatives. The office of Governor-General was established as the Queen's representative. The Constitution also established a High Court, and divided the powers of government between the states and the new Commonwealth government.


Between 1869 and 1969, many children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent were removed from their families. These actions were commissioned by the Australian and State government agencies and church missions. Although it is not clear, it seems that the motivations were child protection, fears of miscegenation and a desire to maintain white racial purity. These children taken from their family are known as the Stolen Generations.

Only recently have Aborigines started to be considered as Australians. In 1962 they were given the right to vote in Commonwealth elections. In 1967 it was voted that they be included in counts determining electoral representation. In 1971 however, it was ruled in the Gove land rights case that Australia had been terra nullius before British settlement, and that no concept of native title existed in Australian law. In 1972, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy was established on the steps of Parliament House in Canberra to represent the rights of Australian Aborigines.

In 1992 in another Aboriginal rights case known as Mabo, the High Court of Australia declared the concept of terra nullius to be invalid. On 13 February 2008 Prime Minister Kevin Rudd issued a public apology to members of the Stolen Generation on behalf of the Australian government.

The Aborigines now account for only 2.6% of the Australian population. The state with the most significant population is Northern Territory where 32.5% of the population is Aboriginal.

Building a capital

Because of a big dispute between the two main cities Sydney and Melbourne over which one would be the capital of Australia, it was decided that a separate territory would be chosen to build a new city as capital. This territory named Australian Capital Territory was established in New South Wales and in 1908 the site of Canberra was chosen for the nation’s capital.

An international contest for the design of the city was held and the winners, Chicago architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin saw their design brought to construction from 1913. This way of entirely designing the city before building it gives Canberra an unusual layout. The capital holds large areas of vegetation that have earned it the title "bush capital".

Figure 16: Canberra’s layout

Canberra is the seat of the government of Australia and holds the Parliament House, the High Court of Australia and numerous government departments and agencies. A lot of countries also have their embassy in Canberra’s Yarralumla suburb. It is a very nice suburb to visit as the embassies are built in a traditional style reflecting that of their respective home countries.

Figure 17: The Papua New Guinea embassy in Canberra

The National Gallery of Australia and the National Museum of Australia can also be visited in Canberra, along with many commemorative buildings or monuments and the Australian War memorial.

Over 40% of Canberra’s workforce is employed in government administration and defence. The federal government is the largest single employer in Canberra. In 2006 the unemployment rate was the unemployment rate was 2.8%, well below the national unemployment rate of 4.8%.

Figure 18: Parliament House and Old Parliament House

What about the future?

Rise of oil costs

Like all nations today, Australia faces issues due to the increasingly constrained international oil supplies. How does the increase of fuel costs affect Australia? What solutions could be implemented?

The reliance on oil in Australia

Because Australia is a very big country with cities expanding on very large areas, Australians depend on the use of cars much more than people in other countries. This higher vehicle ownership (more than 600 vehicles per thousand people) is explained by recent demographic and economic changes in Australia. These changes have also led to lower household occupancy rates and fewer local shopping centres. Transport accounts for 14% of Australia’s total national greenhouse gas emissions (about the same as the emissions due to agriculture).

Australia is more vulnerable to changing market circumstances than some other countries due to its relatively high vehicle use, the relatively high fuel consumption by vehicles in its fleet, its 97 per cent reliance on oil-based fuels for transport and declining domestic reserves of conventional oil.

Road travel contributes 89 per cent of total transport greenhouse gas emissions. Aviation, rail and shipping account for approximately 6, 3 and 2 per cent respectively.

The increased costs of oil based fuels are also going to generate increased costs on all goods and services and have an impact on all Australian economic sectors. The mining and metal manufacturing sectors are among the highest users of transport as an input to production.

The food industry will also be touched by this increase:

  • first of all because transport of food to retail outlets accounts for between one and six per cent of the cost of grocery items,
  • also because of the use of transport in food production.

Transport is only a small component of the services and tourism sector that accounts for more than 70% of Australia’s GDP. However, these sectors may be indirectly impacted by reductions in household expenditure and travel.

Rising fuel costs will impact households with low incomes most as a larger proportion of their income will be used towards fuel. Also households with low incomes own fewer fuel efficient vehicles and have fewer resources to invest in alternative fuel or more efficient vehicles.

Communities living on the urban fringes and out of cities will also be highly impacted because of their higher fuel use and the absence of other transport options.

Government solutions

The list of current government policies that impact on transport is long and spans all levels of government. Included are land use regulations, fringe benefits tax, information programs, public transport infrastructure expenditure, research and development expenditure, vehicle registration and many more.

The four complementary measures modelled are:

• Accelerated scrapping of road vehicles 15 years or older4

• Increasing the rate of fuel excise by a factor of 5 over 40 years

• Mandatory improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency

• A $2000 subsidy for low emission and alternative

Fuel vehicles

Will it be effective?

Increasing the rate of fuel excise was the most effective in achieving a marked additional reduction in fuel use and emissions over the long term, relative to the case where no complementary policy measures are in place.

The modelling found that the policy of compulsory scrapping of 15 year old vehicles is most effective in driving a rapid decline in greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption in the next decade. However, for all the complementary policies, other than increasing excise, the modelling highlighted a significant rebound effect that, if not overcome, could render the policies ineffective in achieving some policy goals.

The rebound effect occurs when policies that initially accelerate the uptake of more efficient and low emission technologies have the opposite effect in the longer term. Such an effect occurs because early uptake of low-emission, high-efficiency technology reduces the impact of price signals that might have encouraged further technological change in the long term.

Given the mixed results for complementary policies in achieving improved energy security and greenhouse gas reduction, their benefits will need to be carefully weighed against their impact on costs.

How long does it take for new technology to be OUT there

Traditionally, lead times for actions such as bringing a new fuel to large scale commercial production or implementing new city design principles are decades long. On the other hand the potential losses from not acting are also high, including, for example, loss of mobility for the consumer and loss of market share for industry.

Studies have shown that the time taken for a new technology or practice to grow from 10 to 90 per cent market share is on average 40 years but can be shorter if the new technology fits well with existing infrastructure.


Firstly, as a result of Australia’s abundance of alternative energy sources, Australia could emerge in the long run as a country with a high level of transport fuel energy security and improved terms of trade.

It could also be reasonably expected that new industries (for example, biofuels production) will emerge in Australia, bringing with them associated trade and employment benefits.

Industry (and to a lesser extent consumers) will also need to grapple with more diverse and unfamiliar fuel supply chains.

Some fuel and technology options for Australia could see sections of industry working together that would not presently identify as having significant links. The potential convergence of industries is likely to create challenges that have not yet received full consideration by all stakeholders involved.

Other solutions

These include:

  • The design of cities including housing density, location of transport hubs relative to community facilities and the general level of investment in transport infrastructure (this is discussed in more detail in the following section titled “The Role of Cities”)
  • Work arrangements, including where individuals work and the timing of travel to and from the workplace
  • Substitutes for private motorised transport not already considered in the modelling, such as walking and cycling

Strategies for improving the ability of cities to respond to significant fuel price rises include:

• Expanding the provision of high quality integrated public transport including the targeted extension of rail services and reconfiguring urban transport networks so that local suburban and circumferential bus services link to rail services. Note, bus services that are capable of using existing road space are likely to provide the fastest response

• Planning for higher urban residential and activity densities and more local services

• Expanding cycle ways and pedestrian infrastructure

• Improved integration of public and non-motorised transport modes

  • IT
  • The importance of ICT in Australia

The Australian information and communications technology (ICT) sector regroups businesses in areas from computer hardware and software, networking and communications to the Internet, telecommunications, multimedia and more. This sector is playing an increasing role in driving economic growth and prosperity. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) the ICT industry contributes 4.6% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and 13.8% of total investment in Australia. ICT now makes a greater contribution to the national economy than the Mining, Education, Defence, Agriculture and Individual Manufacturing sectors.

Australia is well placed to take advantage of the benefits of the information economy. Australia has many advantages in the information economy

  • Australia's well established legal and institutional structures make it a safe and supportive environment for commerce.
  • Australia has a world class telecommunications network and cable rollout, including a leading edge hybrid fiber optic/coaxial cable (HFC) network, providing a strong domestic market for online content and services.
  • Australia has a tradition of rapid technology uptake - including one of the highest personal computer penetration rates in the world - and our consumer markets are sophisticated and enthusiastic about new information products and services.
  • Australia is close to Asian markets, trade strongly in the region already, and have a body of business and trade knowledge that will be critical as the information economy expands in the Asia Pacific.
  • Because Australia lies in a different time zone to Europe and North America, an Australian base allows for global continuity of work flows and efficient handover of activities, for firms servicing markets in two hemispheres.
  • Australian businesses and households are among the most advanced and sophisticated users of information and communications technologies in the world.
  • As an English-speaking country, with great multilingual diversity, Australia has a natural advantage as a regional base for firms looking to build their business in the global information economy.
  • Australia offers a well-educated and highly skilled workforce for new information businesses.
  • Australia's climate, way of life and environment are attractive to international enterprises.
  • Australian life is characterized by creativity and openness [30].
  • The wage of an ICT worker in Australia also compares favorably to those in the US or Europe – at least from a company point of view, he added. There is also a developed infrastructure and stable business environment [31].


The 2003 ICT Trade Update revealed that Australia generated an ICT trade deficit of AU$14.4 billion for the 2002-03 financial year – similar to the deficit of 2001-02 – with ICT exports totaling AU$5.3 billion and ICT imports totaling AU$19.7 billion, each marginally down on the previous year Despite the nation's advantages, Australia's AU$14.4 billion trade deficit in ICT remains a sore point with both the ALP and the Australian Computer Society, although the federal government is unconcerned by the large figure.

Australia has the ability to become a world leader in ICT, but fails to commercialize on technology developed in the country. This technology is consequently consistently lost to businesses overseas. "We have talent, we have IP [intellectual property], we don't know how to commercialize it and retain the companies in Australia," said Peter Kazacos, founder of outsourcing specialists Kaz [32].

David Barbagallo, chief technology officer of Mincom, is quoted as saying "we can't maintain the investment levels unless we retain the profits in Australia". He also warned Australia had a limited window of opportunity to capitalize on its advantages. "Our skill base and innovation advantage is a passing phase," said Barbagallo, and claimed there were 10 million Indians in IT and 300 million people in China under 18 learning English. "We have to be an export oriented nation [33]." Australian small-to-medium enterprises have to partner with multinationals to break into foreign markets.

The government also has to do more than just enact policies. Brand Hoff, managing director of Tower Software said only 25 percent of federal government IT purchasing was undertaken with local companies, compared to an average of 55 percent of all IT purchasing undertaken within Australia [34]. Barbagallo said there was no cultural consideration within the government to buy Australian IT. "There are deeply held biases – both subconsciously and consciously – that actually inhibit [purchasing IT from Australian SMEs]," he said [34].

Rob Drury, the executive director of the Australian Information Industry Association, said one of the main problems with commercializing technology in Australia was the nation's tax laws. Things such as capital gains tax discouraged personal investment in start-up companies, according to Drury. It was suggested that if the government gave similar tax concessions to investing in start-up companies as they do to investing in property there would be more research and development and more commercialization of that research in Australia [34].

  • "The deficit remained constant only because of the ICT industry downturn, which saw decreased demand for ICT products and services," said ACS President Richard Hogg. "As conditions gradually improve across the sector, we expect the deficit to resume its previously high growth levels unless steps are taken to reverse the trend [2]." The biggest cause for concern, according to the reports author Professor John Houghton of the Centre for Strategic Economic Studies, is the AU$13.8 billion deficit in ICT equipment. "Of the $2.8 billion in ICT equipment exported from Australia in 2002-03, only 44 per cent was produced locally, with re-exports amounting to $1.6 billion," said Houghton. Re-exports are items brought into Australia and re-exported with little or no value added. Over the last five years ICT equipment exports have declined by two percent annually, but within that figure re-exports have been growing at eight percent per year while locally produced exports fell by 9.5 percent annually [35]. "This is particularly disturbing since it suggests that Australian ICT equipment producers failed to participate in the boom of the late 1990s. For them to participate in the emerging recovery, something has to change," said Houghton [35]. "The rapid growth of offshore outsourcing globally has demonstrated just how portable services have become in the 21st century," said Hogg. "We cannot afford to concentrate on services to the exclusion of other potential growth sectors in light of predictions that a substantial proportion of our software and services sector will move offshore over the next few years [12]."

Shortage of ICT employees

New figures released today forecast that ICT skills shortages will grow by 29% by the year 2010 to just over 14,000 jobs unless we make changes to policy on ICT employment and skills. The gap in ICT unemployment is also predicted to reach an estimated 25,000 jobs by 2020.

The report suggests the current approach of addressing the skills shortfall with temporary migrant Visas is insufficient and will not close the gap on future demands for skilled ICT workers. Since 2004, there has been consistent and strong growth in ICT employment with over 280,000 technical and professional ICT workers now employed across all Australian industries, making a vital contribution to Australian. Results indicate that in order to ease the growing skills gap and maintain economic prosperity, the following measures are needed:

  • Maintain 2007-2008 inward and outward migration levels
  • Increase local graduate numbers by 12.5 per cent per annum from 2007 figures
  • Reduce the “brain drain” of ICT professional migrating for overseas employment.

Although the report recommends, capping migration, increasing graduate levels significantly and minimising the loss of qualified ICT professionals overseas, this is an unlikely outcome. Without changes to education, skills and migration policies on ICT, the skill shortage will continue to grow significantly.

Australia currently has an accelerating shortage of skills within the ICT sector. Skills availability positively affects Australia’s ability to absorb, use, adapt and innovate new technologies. Without access to appropriate skills:

  • Projects and developments will be delayed and Australia’s ability to use
  • ICT to support and drive productivity in all economic sectors will be affected
  • Because of falling number of students interested in studying ICT, and to the extent that university entrance results are an indicator of student ability, the quality of intake is falling as many universities lower entrance standards to ICT courses; and
  • With significant decreases in the number of students taking appropriate

ICT tertiary degrees, the pool of people qualified and capable to undertake basic research leading to new invention and innovation in ICT is reaching critical (low) levels.




Factors affecting the skills shortage are:

  • A significant decrease in the number of students enrolling in ICT courses at the University and TAFE at a time when there is a growing demand nationally and international for ICT skills
  • graduates are often not considered ‘work ready’ and so are not as employable as they should be
  • The ICT sector has a bad reputation for ‘churn and burn’ and so insufficient professionals are moving across from other disciplines into ICT, but there is strong movement from ICT to other employment sectors
  • Skills learned have a limited lifespan due to the rapidly changing nature of ICT – employees need to constantly update their skills to those the market is going to need
  • employers are not doing sufficient skills foresighting or developing rolling 3 to 5 year skills forecasts that will allow them to re-train or up-skill their workforce in areas of future skills needs; and
  • The retention of women in the ICT sector is poor. (Of these ICT employees, 84.5 per cent were male and people under 30 years of age make up 27.7 per cent.)


There is now wide acceptance of ongoing skill shortages in Australia in many areas including ICT. State and Federal Government, industry, industry associations and academia are mobilizing their efforts towards addressing this issue, although not yet with a sense of urgency that is demanded by the situation.

Current approaches to solving the ICT skills concern are:

  • Increasing short term migration 457 visas;
  • Industry Leadership Group – a joint initiative of the ACS and AIIA with wide ranging industry, government and academic participation. It is looking to develop a supply/demand model for the ICT sector.
  • Raising awareness of the benefits of a career in ICT with students to help increase enrolments in ICT courses – being done by industry, industry associations, governments and academia;
  • Various forums and activities being conducted by industry, industry associations and governments to attract women back to ICT;
  • ACSF through providing scholarships for students to study ICT – funding from industry;
  • ICT career awareness initiatives such as National ICT careers week;
  • Encouraging employment agents and firms to consider older workers - there appears to be significant discrimination against employment of older workers in the ICT sector;
  • Programs on the benefits of a career in ICT aimed at parents and career guidance officers;
  • Programs such as the ACS Professional Year Program, ACS CPEP and ACS graduate diploma aimed at making graduates more work ready;,
  • Changes to the ACS accreditation process to encourage universities to make their courses more relevant to the work place and include work placement programs in ICT courses to improve industry readiness of graduates.


When I was little I always wished I had grown up hundreds of years before so I wouldn’t have as much to learn for my history classes. I had never thought of countries like Australia which has a history of only a few hundred years. But luckily for teachers here, they get to teach not only the history of Australia but also the history of the rest of the world, making Australians very cultivated people.

First a country of Aborigines tribes who lived according to the Dreamtime, then a country of convicts, Australia is now a modern country with a large

  • Appendix
  • Historical populations













































2008 Estimate



Note: 19th Century figures do not include the indigenous population

  • References
  • Books
  • Australia : an illustrated history : from dreamtime to the new millenium / A. K. / Macdougall, Anthony, 1943-
  • Building the nation : from colonies to Federation / / Bereson, Itiel.
  • The little Aussie fact book : everything you need to know about Australia in one / Nicholson, Margaret, 1931-
  • Online publications

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) is the recognised association for Information & Communications Technology (ICT) professionals. Its mission is to advance professional excellence in information technology.

  • Submission by the Australian computer society: National innovation system review
  • Submission to the Australia 2020 summit: ICT skills in Australia

CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia's national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

  • Future Fuels Forum, June 2008

Fuel for thought: The future of transport fuels: challenges and opportunities

  • Other online resources
  • 3 sisters Aboriginal legend from, world-leading provider of online hotel reservation services

  • Australian national anthem from the Australian Government, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

  • Kogod School of Business,American University in Washington, D.C., Impacts of National Information Technology Environments on Business course

  • Historical populations from "AUSTRALIA: population growth of the whole country"