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Australia in the 2000s


Summary of the decade

The year 2000 began with the celebration for the new millennium. Later in the year, Sydney hosted the Summer Olympics and was launched on the international stage as a sporting capital. The opening ceremony featured the best and unique Australiana showcased through a multitude of performing arts.

The centenary of Federation was celebrated on 1 January 2001, featuring a parade in Sydney celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Proclamation of the Commonwealth of Australia.

In August 2001, the Norwegian vessel MV Tampa picked up 433 asylum seekers  from a boat sinking in international waters between Australia and Indonesia. This incident tested the resolve of the Howard-led government to impose harsher penalties for illegal immigration. The captain of the Tampa defied the order not to enter Australian waters and moved towards Christmas Island. The Government rushed through legislation to obtain greater powers to stop the asylum seekers.

On 11 September 2001, terrorist attacks on the New York World Trade Center and the Pentagon signalled the beginning of what would be known as the 'War on Terrorism'. Australia, under prime minister John Howard's leadership, became a key ally in the USA's subsequent 'coalition of the willing'. The government agreed to sending Australian military personnel to Afghanistan in October 2001 and to Iraq in 2003 and 2005.

In 2008, the Global Financial Crisis triggered an international recession, more severe than anything experienced since the Great Depression. Australia, now a key trading partner of China and India, seemed to avoid the worst of the economic fallout.

A snapshot of 2008

  • January
    • The United Nations General Assembly chose 2008 to be the United Nations International Year of Planet Earth.

  • February
    • An official apology by the new prime minister, Kevin Rudd, to the Stolen Generations was made the first order of business of the new federal parliament.

  • June
    • Australia ended its combat operations in Iraq, withdrawing approximately 550 troops from the region.

  • July
    • World Youth Day (WYD), the largest youth event in the world, attracted 223,000 pilgrims to the event held in Sydney.

  • September
    • The Global Financial Crisis began having a serious effect on the Australian economy.
    • Quentin Bryce was sworn in as the first female governor-general of Australia.


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