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28.7.09

A changing society
The 1960s was a period of change for Australia. The ethnic diversity produced by post-war immigration, the decline of the United Kingdom and the Vietnam War (to which Australia sent troops) all contributed to an atmosphere of political, economic and social change.

In 1967 the Australian people voted overwhelmingly in a national referendum to give the federal government the power to pass legislation on behalf of Indigenous Australians and to include Indigenous Australians in future censuses. The referendum result was the culmination of a strong campaign by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. It was widely seen as a strong affirmation of the Australian people's wish to see its government take direct action to improve the living conditions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The long post-war domination of national politics by the coalition of the Liberal and Country (now National) parties ended in 1972, when the Australian Labor Party was elected. The next three years saw major changes in Australia's social and economic policy agenda and a heavy legislative program of reforms in health, education, foreign affairs, social security and industrial relations. However, a constitutional crisis resulted in Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam being dismissed by the then Governor-General. In the subsequent general election the Labor Party suffered a major defeat and the Liberal–National Coalition ruled until 1983, when Labor again won office. In 1996 a Coalition Government led by John Howard won the general election and was re-elected in 1998, 2001 and 2004.

Today Australia is one of the most cosmopolitan and dynamic societies in the world. Over 200 languages are spoken, with English the common language. The nation has thriving ethnic media, an international business reputation, an innovative artistic community, diverse religious and cultural activities and variety in foods, restaurants, fashion and architecture.

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