Canada and Australia

Canada and Australia are large, highly industrialized and urbanized countries with small populations and with standards of living tied to the export of natural resource products.
Canada and Australia are large, highly industrialized and urbanized countries with small populations and with standards of living tied to the export of natural resource products.

Canada and Australia

Canada and Australia are large, highly industrialized and urbanized countries with small populations and with standards of living tied to the export of natural resource products. Both countries achieved independent Dominion status within the British Empire (Canada in 1867, Australia in 1901) as federations of former British colonies, and their parliamentary structures of federal government are comparable. Their economies have depended on substantial immigration. Both have experienced economic penetration by foreign investors, with a concomitant sense of cultural threat. Their similar interest in matters related to investment by foreign parties is, nevertheless, subordinate to the maintenance of military alliances with countries that are also their trading partners.

In 1941 Robert Menzies became the first Australian prime minister to visit Canada; more recently, Pierre Trudeau's 1970 visit to Australia, the first by a Canadian prime minister, led to greater public recognition of mutual interests and common problems and to increasing contact between the countries, especially in trade and technology. In early 1984 former Governor General Edward SCHREYER became Canada's high commissioner to Australia.

Early links between the colonies were sporadic and often accidental. Movement was predominantly from Canada to Australia, with London, England, as a common base. James COOK's navigational experience in the Gulf of St Lawrence during the SEVEN YEARS' WAR influenced his appointment to HMS Endeavour and led to his 1770 survey of Australia's East coast.

The first settlement of Sydney Cove in 1788 included officers with experience in N America, mostly in Halifax. Four of the first 6 governors of New South Wales - John Hunter, Philip King, Lachlan Macquarie and Sir Thomas Brisbane - had served in British North America. A fifth, William Bligh, had been on the NORTHWEST COAST with Cook on the latter's third voyage. Later Australian governors Sir George Gipps, Sir Charles FitzRoy and Sir William Denison continued this pattern. The settlement at Sydney was George VANCOUVER's only link with British officials from 1791 to 1794 when he negotiated with the Spaniards at NOOTKA SOUND and surveyed the Northwest coast.

Expansion westward in Canada and Australia was effected in large part by companies devoted to exploiting the land's capacity to produce staple commodities: the Australian Agricultural Co and the Van Diemen's Land Co produced wool, whereas the NORTH WEST COMPANY and the HUDSON'S BAY COMPANY sought furs. Settlement was conducted in part by COLONIZATION COMPANIES, such as the South Australia Co and the West Australian Co and, in Canada, the BRITISH AMERICAN LAND COMPANY and the CANADA COMPANY. The British settlers' common heritage can be seen in similar PLACE-NAMES, indicating close ancestral ties or the perception by settlers of resemblances between the landscape of the new country and that of the old.

After the Canadian REBELLIONS OF 1837, a number of rebels were sent into exile. Through George Arthur, lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada and previously of Van Diemen's Land [Tasmania], 91 followers of William Lyon MACKENZIE were sent to Van Diemen's Land. A monument in Hobart commemorates their pardon and return. Fifty-eight followers of Louis-Joseph PAPINEAU were transported to New South Wales where France Bay, Exile Bay and Canada Bay in Sydney remain as evidence of their presence there before their pardon.

Notable British North Americans moving to Australia included Henry Samuel Chapman and Francis Forbes. Chapman, who in 1833 founded the first daily newspaper in Canada, the Montreal Daily Advertiser, supported demands for an elective legislative council as a step towards RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT. Subsequently, as a member of the Victoria Legislative Council, he contributed to the evolution of responsible government in Australia (a constitutional gain indebted to Canadian precedents). Forbes, chief justice of Newfoundland 1816-23, became first chief justice of New South Wales, where he served from 1823 to 1837.

During the 1850s, British North Americans, including villagers from Barrington, NS, and Carbonear, Nfld, mined gold in what is now Australia. Canadians Alexander Robertson, John Wagner and William Bradley assisted in the extension and reorganization of Cobb & Co coach services, which revolutionized Australian inland transport. Others built slipways and took Maritime timber entrepreneurship to Tasmania. Cape Breton Highlanders followed Rev Norman MCLEOD to Victoria before moving on to New Zealand.

Sir William PARRY and Sir John FRANKLIN were natives of England who made important contributions in both BNA and Australia: both were explorers in what is now the Canadian Arctic; Parry was commissioner, Australian Agricultural Co, 1830-34, and Franklin was lieutenant-governor of Van Diemen's Land, 1836-43.

Between Canadian Confederation and WWII, there was increased contact between the countries, especially after the federation of Australia in 1901. The 2 governments were frequently in touch over matters of education, health, transport, communication, immigration restriction and agriculture. Although the countries competed for immigrants from Britain, some settlers from Australia migrated to the Canadian West, and vice versa. Parallel surges of nationalism were evident as well, and were expressed, for example, in the art of Canada's GROUP OF SEVEN and of the Australian Heidelberg School, a group of Melbourne painters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

A movement of professionals began between the countries; eg, Alfred SELWYN, director of the Geological Survey of Victoria, in 1869 became director of the GEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF CANADA, and Thomas Griffith TAYLOR, first professor of geography at U of Sydney, became professor of geography at U of Toronto in 1935.

Closer international bonds were established during WWII, as 9600 Australian airmen trained in Canada under the BRITISH COMMONWEALTH AIR TRAINING PLAN. After the war, as the promise of mineral resources and concern for defence motivated both national governments to map their large territories, professional links developed in geodetic survey and topographical mapping. Although GEOPOLITICAL priorities influence their foreign policies in different ways, in the 1980s both countries purchased the American F-18 fighter aircraft. Both countries participated with the US in building and operating Starlab, launched on a space shuttle in 1989.

Knowledge and experience in high technology, satellite communication, agriculture, transport, land rights and resource development increase mutual contact. In the early 1980s over 25 Canadian-based oil companies set up joint ventures in Western Australia, creating an economic link which although now modified has continued into the late 1980s. Frequent competition in resource exports includes a British Columbia project, begun in 1983, involving export to Japan of 94 million t of coking coal over 15 years (see also PACIFIC RIM).

In 1894 Canada's first agent to New South Wales was posted. By 1909 the Massey-Harris Co had arranged to sell agricultural machinery to western Australian farmers. Australia established a trade commissioner in Toronto in 1929, reinforcing a long-developing association which has grown recently. Trade missions to Australia from Nova Scotia, Québec, Ontario and Alberta were designed specifically to strengthen trade and technology links. Canadian-Australian trade amounts to over $1 billion annually, operating within the framework of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and a 1960 (revised 1973) bilateral trade agreement.

Since the 1960s a regular public service exchange has occurred at the federal level, especially in immigration, and in mapping and personnel training programs. Higher salaries and landed immigrant status attracted Australians to Canada in the 1960s. Since then graduate studies and educational exchanges have been continual. Canadian medical and health care systems were prototypes for Australia's Medibank in the 1970s. Canada's diplomatic representation (high commission in Canberra, the Australian capital, and consulates in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth) matched that in West Germany, and is second only to Canadian representation in the US.

Considerable interest in each other's literature is symbolized by the Canada-Australia Literary Award, which was inaugurated in 1976. In journalism, the Canadian Award (est 1975) is allocated for merit in reporting international affairs pertaining to the Pacific region. The formalization of comparative studies, which has been attempted since 1945, was achieved in 1981 with the Canada-Australia Colloquium: Public Policies in Two Federal Countries; with the establishment of the Canadian Visiting Fellowship at Macquarie University; and with the formation of the Australian Association for Canadian Studies. The latter (now the Association for Canadian Studies in Australia and New Zealand) has held conferences on, eg, theory and practice in comparative studies, and regionalism and national identity. The annual journal Australian-Canadian Studies (fd 1983) is published jointly by the faculties of social work at Latrobe University, Melbourne and the University of Regina.

Although the national governments have worked in cooperation for many years, and exchanges at the scholarly level are becoming more common, there has been relatively little opportunity for the ordinary citizen of one country to learn about the other. It is to be hoped that this situation will improve as Canada and Australia continue to increase contact with each other.

Further Reading

  • H. Albinski, Canadian and Australian Politics in Comparative Perspective (1973); Bruce Hodgins, Federalism in Canada and Australia (1978).