Australia Evolves

This Saturday marks the centenary of the Anzac landing at Gallipoli. A defining moment for our nation, the campaign almost led to the downfall of the great Winston Churchill. Gallipoli was but one of the theatres in which Australians engaged; over the course of the war, 65,000 Australian service men lost their lives. Lest we forget.

This week, it’s fitting to take time to reflect on how the face of Australia has evolved over the century and the role the great war(s) had in that evolution.

In 1918, Australia’s population had just exceeded 5 million. Over the decade following the conclusion of World War One more than 300,000 immigrants arrived, the majority coming from Britain but with growing interest from Italians and Greeks. World War Two marked a change in the pace of Australia’s immigration history, with the Australian government planning an ambitious post-war reconstruction and expansion program.

The perception that Australia needed a larger population was emphasised by threats to Australia in World War Two, leading to an increasing sentiment that such a small population in charge of a vast land could not defend itself. These perceptions gave way to the catch cry ‘Populate or Perish’, and the scene was set for an extraordinary post-war immigration program supported by virtually all sections of the community and fuelled by the post war economic boom.

By 1950 net overseas migration reached a record high of 153,685, the third highest figure of the century, only surpassed in 1919 (166,303) with troops returning from World War One and in 1988 (172,794). By 1955 Australia’s millionth post-war immigrant arrived.

Migration has had a significant effect on Australia’s population. At the conclusion of World War Two Australia’s population reached over seven million, with around 90 per cent born in Australia. Today, approximately one in four of Australia’s population of more than 22 million people was born overseas. New Zealand and the United Kingdom are the largest source countries for migrants; however, migration from other regions – notably Asia – has increased significantly.

Immigration is an important contributor to Australia’s economy, affecting the demand side of Australia’s economy through:

  • migrants’ own spending on business expansion (investment to produce extra goods and services)
  • expansion of government services (health, education and welfare)

It also affects the supply side of the economy through:

  • labour, skills and capital introduced into Australia
  • new businesses developed by migrants
  • migrant contributions to technology
  • increased access to and knowledge of international business markets.

For the property market, immigration places immediate demand side pressure on housing supply, contrary to the effects of natural increase. Blue Wealth pays particular attention to identifying regions with strong migrant appeal when assessing supply and demand during the research process.  

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