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The Great Depression In Australia History Essay

1894 words - 8 pages

The Depression was a dark period in Australian history as it suppressed its economic and social growth. During the 1920’s Australia was growing rapidly and was poorly prepared for the impending crisis. The roaring twenties saw to post world war one optimism, but resulted in over production, following Prime Minister Stanley Bruce also led Australia to increasing debt by borrowing heavily to finance expansion. The New York Stock Exchange Crash in 1929 signaled the beginning of a severe economic downfall in Australia. After the Stock Market crash Britain (heavily exposed in the NYSE) could no longer afford to buy Australian goods, this resulted in falling demand, job losses and a decline in prices in Australia. The turmoil of the Australian economy did not affect all areas of the community and while unemployment intensified within the working class communities, certain groups in society were able to maintain a positive outcome. Firstly this essay discusses the negative effects of the Depression and argues that certain communities outside of the working class were not as greatly affected. Secondly this essay discusses both political and social responses to mend the effects of the Depression, however, most responses proved to be inadequate for those affected the worst. Lastly, this essay discusses how social cohesion in Australia was threatened and maintained.

A large proportion of the Australian population experienced the suffering and deprivation caused by the Depression. It was the working class and those who became unemployed, however, who faced the greatest force of the depression. Macintyre suggests that from mid 1930 until approximately 1934 one-fifth of all wage and salary earners were out of work, and in 1932 to 1933 almost two-thirds of all breadwinners were receiving an income of less than the basic wage. Under these conditions a large majority of the Australian population were unable to make ends meet and were unable to find any job security to protect themselves and their families. According to the Sydney Morning Herald the Depression can be seen to have created a new class of people, of beggars… augmenting their ranks...with hunger in their eyes. However, the impact of unemployment went beyond basic hardships and financial loss. As the unemployment rate began its rise to thirty two percent traditional roles upheld in society were obscured. Society was seen to be suffering a ‘moral crisis’ in which the traditional masculinised and feminised roles were no longer upheld. ‘They were forced into all sorts of tricks and expediencies to survive, all sorts of shabby and humiliating compromises. Fathers deserted the families… mothers cohabited with male boarders… and children were in trouble with the police’. (Lowenstein).

While the Depression caused social and economic suffering, this did not impact upon the lives of people equally (Potts). This meant that certain communities were not as negatively affected. The Depression also caused...

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