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Globalization is one of the integral aspects characterizing Australia’s history especially in relation to the experiences of white settlement in 1788. Hitherto the settlement of white settlers from Britain, what is currently known as the land of Australia was inhabited by local indigenous communities among them the aboriginal communities and the Torres Strait islanders (Duyker & Maryse 2001). Based on the definition of globalization which can be summarized to the integration of labor, capital, and commodity markets, before the arrival of the white settlers in North South Wales Harbor globalization didn’t apply. This papers therefore seeks to outline the historical unfolds that mark the process of globalization in Australia. This will be done through review of existing literature.


18th century globalization activities

Immediately after British explorers established Australia and identified it as a British colony, the immediate benefits where not obvious. Even though according to authors the government’s intentions at the time have been debated, the settlements at the time suggested the prospects of using the colony as a jail. The initial convicts sent to the colony however found the land productive in particular with mineral abundance and agricultural products (Butlin 1964). Even though these convicts from Britain had been sent to Australia with the intent of imprisoning them, this marks the initial and arguably the first instance in the history of globalization in Australia. These convicts had skills and therefore, it qualifies to be a form of labor transfer from Britain to Australia.

The presence of the British settlers in Australia and the activities of colonization served in triggering a radical change to the otherwise traditional and “bush” (Schedvin 1979) Australia. In particular, colonization altered the existing patterns of human resource activity and resource management in general in not only that part of the world, but also modern day Tasmania, and the southwest corner. By the turn of the century, there had been an extremely successful settler activity and a booming economy which was largely to the favorable climate in the larger parts of the southeast. The better fraction of the products as well as minerals realized from the settler activity was exported to the colonial master, Britain hence marking the second type of globalization of Australia.

During the first decade of the white settlers’ arrival in Australia, their increased activity as well as success was more because of the ease of exploiting the readily available resources among them minerals, and the suitability of land that was appropriate for European oriented agricultural activities. The abundance of mineral deposits and the unresisting indigenous community added to the rapid growth of economic activity in the colony and the growth of exports from Australia to Britain. This period of time between 1788 and 1820 according to Sinclair (1976) is referred to as the bridgehead economic period. This has been defined as the period of time when the colony was used by Britain as a penal institution.

Based on the fact that the mother country was preoccupied with the war in France at the time of the discovery of Australia, was used for the purpose of supporting the penal regime. These convicts however established agriculture on the basis of land grants. These were to senior officials as well as the emancipated convicts. However, for the emancipated convicts, limitations on what they could produce were imposed. For agricultural production as well as economic life in general to thrive, it dependent on the government commission to supplier money, goods, and foreign exchange. These aspects of reliance of external transfer of goods and other facilitating services signify globalization of Australia.

Despite the fact that majority of supplies and support came from Britain, individual rights to property and labor were recognized in the colony and there was a functional private market for both property and labor. However, in 1808, the recall of the New South Wales Corps greatly disrupted the order of the land in due to separation of private interests from the interests of the government. The recalled New South Wales Corps is the group that had benefited mostly from the land and imported products therefore they had created interdependence and an entanglement of both private and government interests. In addition to recall of these corps, a new governor was appointed, Lachlan Macquarie (James 1998). By 1810, more labor personnel had been transferred to New South Wales in particular craftsmen, tradesmen, laborers, clerks, and the many convicts transferred has skills required for a certain activity in the settlements. As the terms of these personnel ended, they were added to the permanent free population and this had a major impact in changing the character of the colony.


19th century pastoral and rural expansion

According to several historians (White 1992; Schedvin 1979; Borjas 1994), the events of 1810 were a major game changer in the creation of the New South Wales Colony. During the 1820s decade, economic activity in the colony was based mainly on the production of wool and other products that were meant for the markets in Britain as well as the other industrialized markets in Europe. The transfer of these products from Australia to Britain and the entire industrialized European market was further integration of the regions hence further globalization. Due to the growing interdependence between Australia and the rest of the world, in particular Europe, the effects of the 1840s and the 1890s depressions were life and well felt in Australia. However, this was stimulated in a complex way by the discovery of rich gold mines in Victoria in 1851 (Sachs et al. 1995).

Regardless of the effects of the depressions and the discovery of gold, the underlying dynamics of operations in the colony remained unchanged. With the growing populations, other needs like housing and the need for processed goods necessitated the development of local manufacturing and construction industry as well as expansion of the agricultural industry. These required transfer of more skilled labor from Britain to fill in the expanding demand as well as train the local population which comprised on the emancipated convicts and indigenous persons. In addition, the expanding mining and agricultural industries attracted additional British capital and development of the local infrastructure for example communication and transport.

The effects of this expansion in almost every sector of the local economy lead to large-scale immigration so as to satisfy the demand for workers. The shortage of manpower had been brought about by the fact that the transportation of convicts to the colony had came to an end in 1840s therefore, skilled manpower was highly required. To facilitate the transfer of skilled labor from Britain to New South Wales, the government of the day subsidized immigration costs (Reid 1976). This action saw numerous settlers mainly from the UK transfer skilled labor to the colony and contributed in enormous growth of the colony’s economy. The growth of the colony necessitated the establishment of colonial societies. In addition to the existing New South Wales, other four British colonies were established namely; South Australia in 1836, Western Australia in 1829, Queensland in 1859, Victoria in 1851, and Van Diemen’s Land in 1825 which was later in 1829 changed to Tasmania (Butlin 1964). Each of the colonies acquired independent government in 1850 but in 1901, they were federated and the Commonwealth of Australia Created.


20th century Australian settlement

The creation of the commonwealth created a broad opportunity for the publication of private markets. The federal government instituted a number of measures with the objective of promoting economic growth and by extension, globalization of the colony. The most immediate and notable measure was the abolition of inter-colonial barriers and tariffs and established a single Australian market. The other measure was the transfer of a number of institutions to the national level, institutions that several of the colonial societies had experimented with. These institutions included the tribunal for arbitration of disputes industrial disputes, which had the power to determine wage levels and set a discriminating white Australian policy (Borjas 1994) that required exclusion of non-Europeans from the labor market.

By the first decade of the 20th century, there had been established urban areas in the commonwealth. With this development and considering the discriminating laws, there was an organized labor structure with urban based businesses and professional interests that had hitherto been represented in the colonies laws. This organized labor force resulted to political organizations. With the rural-based producers left out from these developments, they too formed their own political parties. With such organizations representing interests of the people, federal government ended up being formed by the Australian Labor Party or coalitions of other urban based conservatives as well as the country party (James 1998). These developments had little effects on globalization for ordinarily, immigration was for whites from Europe to the colony and the labor laws only discriminated non-Europeans hence meant continued demand for skilled ‘white-labor’.

However, this was not long terms because it soon affected on imports. One of the functions of these parties which represented constituencies was to create an insulation that protected the individuals from the full effects of market outcomes especially with reference to the two previous depressions. The projected outcomes were in the form of imports competition, uncertain employment opportunities, or volatile prices of commodities. These parties and the various institutional arrangements that they created have been referred to as the ‘Australian settlement’ because they had been used to balance competition among producers and at the same time stabilized economic development up to 1970s regardless of the inevitable consequences (Schedvin 1979). One of the consequences was that they stifled globalization by restricting imports.

The population influx resultant of the 1850s immigration subsidies had its effects manifested in mid 20th century and with a slow growth in the manufacturing industry, necessitated importation to cover the prevailing deficit. In addition to manufacturing being small-scale, the material made in the local industries included raw materials and rural products, goods for immediate consumption e.g. soaps, brewing and distillation, and repair and assembly work. After federation of the colony, the various challenges impending expansion of the manufacturing industry were addressed through expansion of the rural market, promoted the use of agricultural machinery and refrigeration services, and promotion of producers to spend the proceeds generated from farm produce to be spend in the rural market. Some authors (Sinclair 1976; Sachs et al. 1995; White 1992) also argue that the removal of the inter-colonial tariffs may have helped.

According to Butlin (1964), the manufacturing industry didn’t pick not until and after the Second World War. In the 1960s, the industry grew to about 28% based on 1960-69 prices. The post-war economic boom in the world opened a globalization opportunity with the increased demand for commodities for the rural products as well as mining products. The breakneck growth surge in East Asia was a major opportunity for iron core. With this being a major product in the Australia mining industry, it was exported to East Asia expanding opportunities for Australian miners. By the end of the 1950s, Britain which had been the major expert destination for Australia declined significantly and by 1960s, it was overtaken by Japan as the primary destination for Australian experts and the US became the primary source of imports.


21st century liberalization and change of structure

In later 20th century, the post-war boom ended and the manufacturing fell and resulted to unemployment (Butlin 1964). Later in the century new opportunities were required by the federal structure was a cap. Change was inevitable and in the last decade of the century, reforms were instituted deeply and widely. Key of these was the floating of the Australian dollar and deregulation of the country’s financial system. These reforms were further prompted by the favorable international environment. These reforms ended up with Australia joining the Cairns Group during the GATT negotiations in Uruguay to promote reductions in agricultural protection as well as the Asia Pacific Cooperation (APEC) forum with the objective of promoting market liberalization.



Since the start f the European occupation if New South Wales, the economy of Australia had in several ways promoted globalization either through commodity or labor integration. The notable first features of globalization in the colony were the importation of machinery and goods, as well as skilled labor to the colony, and the exportation of minerals and agricultural products to Britain. This expanded with time other European countries, next to East Asia, then the US. In the wake of the 21st century globalization in Australia is marked through increased integration and membership of various international organizations for example APAC and GATT.



  1. Borjas G.J. 1994. “The Economics of Immigration,” Journal of Economic Literature, Vol. 32, No. 4, pp. 1667-1717
  2. Butlin N.G. 1964. Investment in Australian Economic Development. Cambridge University Press.
  3. Dunn C. 1995. Governor Hunters Assignment Report 1798, Milton NSW.
  4. Duyker E. & Maryse 2001.Voyage to Australia and the Pacific 1791–1793. Melbourne University Press.
  5. James M. 1998. “Globalization and International Relations”, in Review of International Studies, Vol. 24, pp. 239-250.
  6. Osterhammel J. and Petersson N.P. 2005. Globalization: A Short History (Princeton University Press)
  7. Reid A. 1976. The Whitlam Venture, Hill of Content.
  8. Sachs J.D.A. Warner A.Å. & Fischer S. 1995. Economic Reform and the Process of Global Integration, Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Vol. 26, No. 1, 25th Anniversary Meeting, pp. 1-118
  9. Schedvin C.B. 1979. Midas and the Merino: A Perspective on Australian Economic History.Economic History Review 32, no. 4: 542-56.
  10. Sinclair W.A. 1976. The Process of Economic Development in Australia. Melbourne: Cheshire.
  11. White C. 1992.Mastering Risk: Environment, Markets and Politics in Australian Economic History. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

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