The founders of this new nation promoted their belief in civil, economic, political and social equality for all. Free education, trade unions, women's suffrage, maternity allowances, sick leave and old-age pensions were successfully introduced.
On April 25 each year (ANZAC Day), Australia commemorates the anniversary of the landing of troops of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps during World War I at Gallipoli, Turkey. That decision to fight alongside Britain partially decimated the male population of Australia, as over 60,000 of its bravest were killed and many thousands were severely wounded.
During World War II, Australian forces played a significant role in the Allied victory in Europe, as well as in the South Pacific, where they engaged the Japanese in many difficult battles in remote areas of New Guinea. The Aussies stood tall, and helped win the war.
World War II literally sparked the Australia's economy, as major growth swept across the country. Workers were needed and countless thousands of migrants from Europe arrived to fill the positions. Many were the wide-eyed young, all hopeful for a bright and profitable future, and they would not be disappointed.
In total, almost two million immigrants came to Australia between 1948 and 1975. Across the country major construction projects paid solid wages, and home ownership rose dramatically.
In 1956, Melbourne, Australia hosted the Olympic Games and the world watched this new country shine.
The 1960's were a transition period for Australia. At the forefront of change, the far-sighted citizens of Australia voted (overwhelmingly) for full citizenship and a (government-mandated) quality education for the estimated 350,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that lived in their country. And after some (short-sighted) immigration restrictions were finally lifted, Australia is today a beacon of democratic procedures and non-discriminatory policies.
In September of 1999, Australia led the international peacekeeping force sent to restore order in East Timor. That same year, Australia's 11.6 million voters rejected a referendum that would have ended Australia's formal allegiance to the British Crown.
Australia remains a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is the Queen of Australia. She is represented (symbolically) by the Governor-General at the federal level, and by the Governors at the state level. Although the Governor-General maintains certain powers, the leader of the political party with the majority of support in the House of Representative becomes the country's Prime Minister.
Australia has an enviable, strong economy with a per capita GDP on par with the dominant European economies. Robust business and consumer confidence and high export prices for raw materials and agricultural products are fueling that economy, particularly in mining states. Australia's emphasis on reforms, low inflation, a housing market boom, and growing ties with Australia have been key factors behind the economy's 16 solid years of expansion.
At the end of the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, the Australian based rock group "Men at Work" sang their popular and patriotic signature song, "Down Under." One of the lyrics asks, "Do you come from a land down under?" Well, millions of travelers each year could easily answer, "No, but I've been to the land down under, and I loved it!"
Of all the travel destinations on Planet Earth, Australia remains one of the most attractive choices. Surely it offers a wide variety of things to do, sites to see and family attractions of all description, but in this land of dazzling scenery and big blue skies, it's the charming, friendly faces that make all the difference.
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