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I originally meant to send this YouTube link to Didge, but then thought everyone might enjoy playing with the concept. Because Australia started as something of a penal colony, with a few people given huge land grants and access to free convict labor to develop their land (and personal wealth). "Democratic" was an epithet of scorn...

But then Australia, like the USA, ended up with a remarkable democratic republic! And although I am now questioning the doctrine of American exceptionalism, I still wonder if there might be a special strength and beauty when the world's castoffs and low-life come together?

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One man's riffraff is another man's hoi-polloi. I suppose the view changes, depending on one's elevation in society, but as a lifelong riffraffer I'll try to explain. Well, as far as I understand it, anyway.

The transportation system says more about the British ruling classes than it does about the convicts who were transported to the Great South Land. Most convicts were guilty of no more than stealing food, or a piece of clothing. The powers-that-were seized the opportunity to send them all to the colony of Botany Bay where they could be used to develop the land. Botany Bay soon expanded to encompass New South Wales (Australia didn't exist till 1901) and the other states.

My own maternal great grandparents were transported from Ireland. I believe they met on the boat and managed to stay together after their arrival. I'm not even sure that they were *gasp* joined in holy wedlock.

With so much convict labour available, wealthy settlers followed. A kind of southern gentry was formed under the not very flattering title of the squattocracy. These were the opportunists who squatted on whatever land they could hold, often slaughtering the blacks or forcing them to leave.

It was like that from the first settlement in 1788 (with an increasing number of free settlers) until 1849. That was when gold was discovered at places like Bathurst, Ballarat ,and Bendigo. From that time forward it was very difficult to spot the difference between the wealthy and the poor.

I read one story about an English toff disembarking at Sydney's Circular Quay. There was a shabbily dressed man sitting by the jetty watching the arrivals and the toff threw him a coin. "Here's a penny, my good man. Carry my bags." And the local threw back a coin of his own and said, "Here's a sovereign. Kiss my arse."

It was from that period that the Australian culture of mateship developed and continues, with some modification, to this day.

By 1901 it was time for the colonies to unite into a single nation and our first federal parliament was formed.

Your question is more than interesting because Australia has been a country in which oppression and discrimination gave way to settlement, unity, and the rule of law.

Our laws have borrowed heavily from the British system and we are no longer a colony--although, as late as the 1940s, even 1950s, we often acted as though we were. But the British Empire gave way to the British Commonwealth of Nations, and we are a part of that. We are not quite an independent nation but a "self governing dominion" like Canada. The English queen is our head of state and the Governor General, is her representative.

It could be argued that she is only a figurehead but she holds substantial constitutional power. For instance, in 1973 (or '74) the Governor General Sir John Kerr dismissed a properly elected government at the instigation of Malcolm Fraser, leader of the right-wing, but misnamed, "Liberal" Party. That should have signalled a push toward declaring a republic but the furor died down. We'll still become a republic, of course but probably not in my lifetime.


ty Didge, I was especially fascinated by that process you describe, where "...oppression and discrimination gave way to settlement, unity, and the rule of law."

I had known something about Australia, mostly from you, but learning more is still fascinating!


@Virginia: Thanks for that. That is perhaps the briefest history of Australia ever written. :)

+3 votes

I think in both cases, there was so much land to be had (often at the expense of relatively defenseless indigenous people), that egalitarian cooperation (despite, for example, the robber barons) was at least the ideal among the settlers, if not always the norm.

But don't forget, the more genteel folk of Canada and New Zealand also developed democracies.  I once remarked to a friend of mine from New Zealand, that I thought Canadians are to Americans as New Zealanders are to Australians.  He laughed and agreed.

What do you say, Didge?


Well it is an intriguing observation, O'Tink! The vastness of the land as an equalizer...and your four-place equation brings a chuckle!

...and having lived most of my seven decades within easy drive of the Canadian border, I can vouch at least for the British Columbians; indeed a more genteel folk...relatively at least - and this video of Australia's founding DID discuss the displacement of the aboriginal people.


Poor old Captain Bligh!   :D

It seems someone was always mutinying against him.  :D :D

I suspect he must have been somewhat lacking in inter-personal skills. :D :D :D


THAT was certainly an intriguing side-story, O'Tink...yes indeed, poor old Captain Bligh...


@Tink: You have an interesting point. The Kiwis assimilated their Maori population while we pushed our aborigines away, often resorting to killing them. We have a sorry record in our aboriginal relations. So, yeah, it may be that NZ and Oz are Canada/US equivalents.


@ Didge:  yes the treatment of the natives in the US and Australia was sorry indeed.  Here is a song (by two Canadians), about one of the rare occasions in which the Native Americans gave as good as they got.


@Tink: I hadn't heard that before. It's very moving and the emotion is really enhanced by singing a capella. Thanks for sharing. A couple of weeks ago I read about the mass hanging of Sioux in Minnesota in 1862. It was horrifying.



Yes that is beautiful, O'Tink! I had forgotten about Ian and Sylvia, enjoyed their music so long ago now...

Didge, as you know I run with some rather off-beat folk, and one of them believes that even now, some kind of genetic memory haunts the collective North American psyche because of how our ancestors treated Native Americans. I don't know much about that kind of thing, but I don't discount it either...


@ Didge:  yes, it was dreadful, and would have been much worse (300 could have been hanged), had not Lincoln commuted all but 38 of the sentences, which was quite bad enough, considering that the uprising was mostly brought on by the corruption of the government agents that were supposed to be distributing food.

And a large part of this reaction was also due to fear on the part of the settlers, when many of the soldiers that protected them were called east to fight in the Civil War.

+1 vote

Like in every country's history, evolution and civilisations had experienced tormented periods, crises, wars, disasters and "painful chapters".

No evolution is really gentle, and no system is perfect, but there are nations, which offer better opportunities and living conditions than others.


(Australia ranks before Sweden!)

But my personal impression of Australia and of Australians was (and still is) excellent - because, I met very friendly, open-minded and laid-back people - and I am quite aware that life is not easy for many of them.

Now, to talk facts, I'd rather get back to some historical info:





General info:



Marianne, I am sure you saw that Switzerland ranks very high on the World Happiness scale! That scale is something I actually learned about on a Q/A site...isn't it amazing that the Scandinavian countries consistently come in so high?


Lol, yes, Virginia, I am aware that stability, safety and well-being of populations on a national level can play an important role in economic growth and performances of the countries, though these statistical comparisons are rather recent. It is not surprising that the Scandinavian countries are among the leaders of these lists, as living conditions, education and social structures are basing on more equalitarian principles than in other countries with less tolerant, authoritarian systems.

Some examples:






Yes, also in Switzerland, stability and neutrality have helped a lot, and the presence of many humanitarian organisations had certainly a beneficial effect, in spite of certain old-fashioned mentalities and strange "customs".

By the way, these timelines about women's legal rights and suffrage reveal some weird and surprising details:




Virginia, I think the Scandinavians' happiness index increased markedly when the North Sea oil field exploitation began.  :)


Before that, they had to worry about Nazi invasions and occupations, and before that, they were emigrating in droves to Wisconsin. :)


Well O'Tink, Pete Seeger and his friend Lillebjorn made my heart beat fast, being of Swedish extraction myself...yes the Scandihoovians went to Wisconsin, although you also found lots of them roaming in the woods of SW Washington State, from which extraction my own family arises...I could dance the Varsouvienne pretty much before I could walk good! I picked this one because it is in Astoria, in Washington State across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon, and thus not far from where I was born...I liked this SO much the nostalgia that I played it twice...

Enjoyed the North Sea oil article, although it does look like the Swedes are not in on that much...


Yes, Virginia, Sweden is less involved, and this map might help:


Lol, the video about the Varsovienne is nice. And thinking of Poland, I am thinking of Chopin:

not to forget another Polish "specialty"


Virginia, the melody of that Varsouvienne is sooo familiarI keep thinking it was used as background music in old films, but I can't place them.  :unsure:

And yes, the Swedes seem to have gotten little of the North Sea oil, but the Norwegians made out like banditsEspecially on a per capita population basis. :)


State capitalism at its best.  :D


Marianne, I loved all of the four Chopin, so lovely...although Horowitz was the only artist I recognized..

However, they were all exquisite, truly masters of their craft.


O'Tink I don't yet fully 'get' the concept of state capitalism, yes I could define it but still don't see all the ramifications I feel certain...VERY interesting link, however, and I note that Britain has apparently squandered much of its share of that Britain-Norway oil partnership?

"...a succession of governments that largely squandered the country’s North Sea oil windfall."

Is it accurate to say you are making the point that much of Norway's "happiness quotient" comes with personal wealth and security for much or all of the citizenry, which the Brits apparently did not handle as well? 

So, does it then follow that Norway for some reason has had ethical governments doing their job with the people in mind? Does it also follow, would you say, that here in the USA our less ethical governments have not done their job, because this North American continent had HUGE wealth...mostly ending up now in the control of the top 1/10 of one percent? Or did I miss what you were saying?


Yes, Virginia, I think I am saying something like that, although with Norway's small population, the government officials in charge could be skimming off generous amounts for themselves and depositing the proceeds in Swiss or Cayman Islands bank accounts with no one the wiser, since there would still be plenty to go around to keep the general population happy.   :ermm:

I was once told by an old Chicagoan about Mayor Daley.  Yes, his city government was corrupt, but they only skimmed 10% or so, and the city worked a lot better than it does today as a result.


O', O'Tink! I am laughing... :P  :D  :silly:  ...that concept of "more reasonable" skimming at 'only' 10% or so...as I read all this capitalism stuff (with apologies everyone tired of this I'm sure), I saw where Warren Buffet was asking his fellow super-rich capitalists to slow down on the plundering, or they would kill the capital-economic goose that lays the golden egg!

...so then, Norway's relatively small population could be something of a hidden factor...SO much wealth, prolly partner Britain has a larger population, meaning smaller per capita riches + plus who-knows-what other factors in this British squandering so-called...


Yes, exactly. David Cameron, former PM of the UK admitted to hiding income in Panama.


And more recently, even *choke* The QUEEN. :O



Yes O'Tink I had read of the Queen...I am certain that would be here on Solved, perhaps one of Marianne's links...and more and more, I do like The Guardian! 

First of all, they have friendly links I can open, but here they treated David rather gently, airing his defenses ("My father did it!!! Not my fault I am rich, and I am not ashamed :sick: !!!)


Virginia, I love how these privileged political scoundrels find ways to avoid the very taxes they impose on the rest of us.


Truly so, Tink...


Lol, yes, Virginia, Chopin's music is exquisite and the pianists' performances too.

And each one of you has contributed with precious details and thoughts, which, alltogether, allow a more realistic insight into the history of former colonies.

Didge, you said very rightly that many of the prisoners were deported for "minor offenses" (whether guilty or not), to provide "cheap labour" for wealthy opportunists. And invasions, or colonialism, whether in the name of mighty empires or of an oppressive religion, philosophy or doctrine look much like slaving, or even genocide.

And with black - oops, a grim sense of humour, it is easier to deal with certain realities: a special thumbs up for you, T(h)ink.


And for all:


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