Australian Urbanisation Early 1900's

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The process of urbanisation is a central feature of Australian history. By 1900 over two-thirds of Australians were living in areas that were classified as urban. The growth of these cities was encouraged by various factors; the interaction and engagement of economic, demographic, political and social characteristics are definitely the key features that promoted the urbanisation of Australia. However, with the development of Australia came problems that people living in cities had to face. Environmental and health difficulties were to be over come in the city suburbs while economic depression followed after a period of prosperity and progress.

Economic factors are fundamental in determining urban structure. Cities can be seen as a form of economic organisation, which plants the seed for important consequences for the non-economic aspects of life. There are two pursuits or economic functions of urban growth resulting from the relationship between a city and it’s surroundings and growth resulting from the cities internal economy. At first the former is more important but in the long run the latter dominates. Yet both internal and external economic aspects are closely related. In Australia, cities developed in advance of their hinterlands. Apart from wool, most Australian industries developed, at first, in order to supply an existing urban market. For example, the influx of workers from rural area’s and migrants pushed forward the building sector.

With the beginnings of a new colony in 1788, capital accumulation, land concentration, foreign trade and free labour markets developed. Australian economy was being set up in a rapidly expanding world market dominated by the expansive phase of the first Industrial Revolution in Britain. By 1820 the colonial economy entered a period of transformation and geographic expansion that culminated in the short-lived emergence of a staple export-oriented economy, wool.

The wool industry played a significant role in Australian urbanisation. Before 1830, jail services, commissariat-supply and whaling were more important as a source of employment, income and in promoting urban growth. Yet by 1830 wool played the major role in the urbanisation of Australia. It attracted labor and was a major source of export earning and capital flow from over seas. Instead of dealing in country towns, graziers lent towards collecting their annual wool cheque and yearly supplies from coastal towns. Thus to serve the woolgrowers, transport facilities and long-routes converged mainly on the coastal capitals and so activities, which assisted and supplied the industry and marketed its produce, had their base in the capital cities.

From 1850 to 1870 wool was superseded by the gold rushes. The gold rushes were ‘an important engine of economic growth’ and so gold was a primal financial asset that benefited communities as well as individuals. Successful miners began their own businesses or took up farms. This strengthened local investment and individuals felt compelled to secure their stakes in the various communities by providing capital for mining, urbanisation and hinterland growth. In Hobart, for example, Profits being made in Victoria were used in the formation of new companies and enlarging existing ones. The gold also found its way into the bank balances of the various societies and clubs. Through this time Hobart was at the height of its prosperity as urbanisation flourished. When the gold fields dissipated, mining, where it persisted on a substantial scale, became an urban industry encouraging the growth of cities. However, in Hobart an economic decline occurred when the economy collapsed to its natural level between 1860 and 1865.

The period after the gold rushes, 1860 to 1890, saw over-seas borrowing become more important than domestic savings as a source of investment funds. Urban house building, construction of transport and communications facilities took a major part of...
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