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If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve seen some of the recent buzz around Australia as an investment space. A country abundant with natural resources and opportunities, investors and major companies alike have been flocking to the southern hemisphere in recent years to get in on the excitement down under. Australia has been a plentiful provider across a number of sectors in the investment space for over a century; if you’re curious about exploring it for yourself, here’s a quick guide on the country’s origins, economy and international relationships. Australia investing: The beginning European settlers first arrived in Australia in the 1780s, and by the 1790s whale oil and baleen (whalebone) had become the colony’s first major exports. When the...

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve seen some of the recent buzz around Australia as an investment space.

A country abundant with natural resources and opportunities, investors and major companies alike have been flocking to the southern hemisphere in recent years to get in on the excitement down under.

Australia has been a plentiful provider across a number of sectors in the investment space for over a century; if you’re curious about exploring it for yourself, here’s a quick guide on the country’s origins, economy and international relationships.

Australia investing: The beginning

European settlers first arrived in Australia in the 1780s, and by the 1790s whale oil and baleen (whalebone) had become the colony’s first major exports.

When the 1820s rolled around, the economy grew exponentially through fine wool production. By the 1830s, wool overtook whale oil as the colony’s biggest export, with New South Wales replacing Germany as Britain’s primary supplier by 1850.

1851 saw the beginning of a major gold rush in Australia, causing the area’s population to surge from 430,000 to 1.7 million by 1871. In 1901, Australia’s first federal government was formed, and for the next 30 years, agricultural goods remained one of the country’s biggest exports, with wheat and dairy products being added to the roster.

The UK was Australia’s biggest export destination by the early 1960s, but it had begun to enhance its relationship with its European neighbors. At the same time, Australia was working to strengthen its ties with Asia, and by 1966/1967 Japan had become the country’s biggest export destination.

Australia investing: Current opportunities

While Australia’s economic roots were formed in the agricultural sector, the 1970s brought a surge of mineral and fuel exports, driven specifically by iron ore and coal.

Fast forward to 2013/2014, and iron ore, coal and natural gas had become the country’s top three exports, with rural commodities falling to the wayside. According to a report from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), minerals and fuels now make up 50 percent of the country’s exports.

During this transitional period, Australia’s trading relationship with the UK waned further waned as Japan and China became the country’s two primary export destinations. China eventually overtook Japan as Australia’s leading export partner in 2009/2010, and DFAT says the UK only made up 1.4 percent of Australia’s exports by 2013/2014.

Australia investing: What’s next?

Major miners are still rapidly making their way through Australia’s widespread natural assets, such as the Pilbara region of Western Australia, home to projects from companies like Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO,NYSE:RIO,LSE:RIO) and BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP,LSE:BLT,NYSE:BHP).

As an example of BHP’s commitment to the country, the firm recently got approval from Western Australia’s Environmental Protection Agency on its 50-to-100-year strategic proposal for the Pilbara.

Aside from iron ore and coal, Australia is also abundant in resources like natural gas, uranium and renewable energy. The country is also home to rare earths, and looks set to become a big contributor to the lithium industry, which is rapidly growing due to the emergence of the electric vehicle market.

While Australia’s major gold rush took place over a century and a half ago, current industry trends show that there is still much to be explored, discovered and put towards modern-day industries and technologies. Those considering Australia investing may have much to look forward to.