Australia’s Great Depression

Joan Beaumont

Australia's Great Depression
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Australia’s Great Depression

Joan Beaumont

Some generations are born unlucky. Australians who survived the horrors of the Great War and the Spanish flu epidemic that followed were soon faced with the shock of the Great Depression. Today we remember long dole queues, shanty towns and destitute men roaming the country in search of work. With over a third of the workforce unemployed in 1932, Australia was one of the hardest hit countries in the world. Yet this is not the complete story.


In this wide-ranging account of the Great Depression in Australia, Joan Beaumont shows how high levels of debt and the collapse of wool and wheat prices left Australia particularly exposed in the world’s worst depression. Threatened with national insolvency, and with little room for policy innovation, governments resorted to austerity and deflation. Violent protests erupted in the streets and paramilitary movements threatened the political order.

It might have ended very differently, but Australia’s democratic institutions survived the ordeal. Australia’s people, too, survived. While many endured great hardship, anger, anxiety and despair, most ‘made do’ and helped each other. Some even found something positive in the memory of this personal and communal struggle. Australia’s Great Depression details this most impressive narrative of resilience in the nation’s history.

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