Historical analysis demonstrates the speedy development of Australia’s metropolitan areas. Urbanization was an important aspect of life in Australia from the very beginning of the nation’s history. The administration of settlements and penal colonies required the centralization of a large group of individuals to oversee daily activities. This began with Sydney and extended throughout the nation such that by the 1980’s nearly two-thirds of the country’s population lived in urban settings. The evolution of service and trade industries bolstered preexisting cities. “Australian urban life is dominated by the same five cities – the mainland state capitals- which dominated it at the end of the nineteenth century.” These five cites are Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide. The industries of each of these cities provide the nation’s inhabitants the vast majority of jobs centered within their urban centers. The limited demand for work did not limit the mass migration to these cities because these metropolitan areas offered further advantages.
Early People of Australia
The early emigrants to young Australia were mainly comprised of working class individuals who had traveled from urban areas such as Glasgow and London.6 “Emigration to Australian cities in the nineteenth century was dominated by three broad streams from England, Scotland, and Ireland.” They traveled to Australia in search of economic stability after suffering from an “unsatisfactory urban experience” in which they found themselves unable to sustain an acceptable standard of living by dwelling within some of Europe’s largest and most thriving cities. Their dissatisfaction brings up a paradox unexplained in the context of Australia’s history: how did the nation, comprised of a majority of individuals who had experienced negative associations with urban Europe, become one of Europe’s most developed nations? These individuals emerged from a society that could still remember the sustenance gained through a more rural lifestyle and they likely yearned for a suburban existence that was financially beyond their reach in Europe. However, a transition to a rural existence was not a possibility in Australia. About 70% of the island nation’s land mass is unsuitable for agriculture and most of the land that is fit for farming is limited in its ability to support livestock.
Those who have attempted to survive through agricultural development have been faced with constant challenges throughout Australia’s history. Today, the situation has worsened considerably, causing large quantities of farmers to give up their rural lives and move into the nation’s cities.
“The devestation of the farm sector has been reflected in the destruction of the social and economic infrastructure that is essential to maintain viable communities in the bush. In New South Wales alone, in the past decade of economic rationalization, over 100 towns and communities outside Sydney have lost their last bank branches in a process that has resulted in the disappearance of almost a quarter of the state’s rural bank branches.”
The frustration experienced by members of Australia’s rural population is demonstrated through recent increases in the amount and severity of violent crime. Comparisons between city and rural statistics demonstrate a noticeable gap. For example, in 1998, while 40 sexual assaulted occurred per 100,000 people, the rural New South Wales experienced over 160 sexual assaults for the same amount of persons. Such a situation only contributes further to the phenomenon of gentrification; individuals seeking to relocate to safer neighborhoods have little alternative but to consider moving to the nation’s more urbanized areas.
The Australian government has also contributed to the construction of a significant public transportation system. This relatively inexpensive mode of transportation allows the people of Australian to move between their suburban homes and urban jobs with ease. They have little reason to venture outside the city’s metropolitan area and this has led to the nation’s concentrated urbanized landscape.