Australian History: wool and gold

Although Australians were interested principally in wool and gold before 1860, many new areas were occupied and their varied resources were exploited between 1860 and 1900. The population of the continent expanded from little more than 1,000,000 to nearly 4,000,000 during those decades.

The occupation of the drier central portions of the continent as well as the tropical northern districts was investigated and undertaken after the decline of the early gold rush in 1860. Explorers pushed their way into the interior and to the north coast, but their reports were not very encouraging to the grazier and farmer. Nevertheless, both groups pushed steadily into the marginal districts. The moist eastern coast of Queensland afforded opportunities for tropical farming, and the dense forests furnished attractive cabinet woods. Lumber interests also were attracted to the rich forests of jarrah and karri in the extreme southwest and to the blackwood and mountain ash of Victoria and Tasmania. Sandalwood from Western Australia provided a commodity for export to the Orient. Pearls and pearl shell provided a new source of wealth along the north coast. These decades were also characterized by the establishment of the states in essentially their present form, the adoption of the framework of the modern railroad pattern, the establishment of systems of widespread land ownership and leasing arrangements, the introduction of largescale wheat raising as a basic primary industry, the creation of early water conservation and irrigation facilities, and the steady growth of cities with their associated activities and problems.

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