2018: Same-sex marriage becomes legal in Australia.
2021: Australia votes to become a Republic.
2025: An outbreak of antibiotic-resistant foot-and-mouth disease devastates Australian beef and livestock exports.
2027: Central Australia is hit by the most sever droughts in recorded history, triggering years of severe and widespread bushfires.
2029: China drastically reduces its reliance on Australian coal exports, and the expected Indian market for Australian coal does not emerge.
2031: Australia enters a ten-year economic recession.
The Australian economy has crumbled. Multinational corporations have fled the country, and the government has shrunk and become decentralised, losing its reach and influence. As a country, we must buy rather than produce most of our energy and renewable energy infrastructure. Food and water scarcity are serious issues. Yet at the same time, at the community level, society becomes highly resilient – people bond, and look out for one another. Violent crime, especially domestic crime, are at the lowest levels they have ever been. Local communities are more ethnically diverse and self-sufficient, and remote Indigenous communities, left to self-manage, flourish.
The population peaked in the early 2040s at 35 million people, then declined due to an increase in disease epidemics and poorer healthcare. The population is beginning to rise again but slowly, as higher birth rates are matched by higher rates of infant mortality. Only the wealthiest Australians expect to live into their 80s.
Economically, the last three decades have been exceptionally poor. Only in the last few years has Australia started to come out of the recession that began in the 2020s, which triggered massive unemployment, hyperinflation, and the collapse of major industries.
Healthcare services have declined significantly as hospitals have closed and treatments complex illnesses are too expensive for most Australians. Medicare has been defunded, and now health services are offered by communities, and vary drastically region to region.
Energy – Australia has not adapted well to renewable energy. We are buying power rather than producing it, and there are even a few coal power plants still in use, despite international sanctions. Most households have their own solar cells, but the infrastructure is produced elsewhere, and Australians tend to own second-hand or low quality equipment. Each family owns a solar cell and turns the electricity on only when it is needed.
Australia was not able to adapt effectively to deal with climate impacts, and responses to droughts, bushfires and floods are local and community-based rather than facilitated by the government. Drought has rendered much of southern Australia uninhabitable. Families have moved from rural regions to the coast, and many people now live in informal settlements on the outskirts of cities.
In some ways, Indigenous Australians are better off, as the government’s decline has led to much greater self-determination for Indigenous affairs. However, Indigenous communities face significant climate impacts and the consequences of resource scarcity, as well as the withdrawal of many support services. In addition, communities in the Northern Territory and Western Australia are directly facing the arrival of the huge swell of recently arrived refugees.
Water is scarce, and access to clean drinking water is always a concern. Tapwater is not drinkable outside key metropolitan centres. Most people purchase bottled water. Showers are a rare luxury, and most people would bathe 1-2 times a week.
Communities are more self-sufficient with regard to food, with urban gardens and small-scale hydroponics infrastructure distributed broadly. Australians now include processed insects, synthetically grown food and krill in their diet. But still, food is a constant concern, with food shortages and riots occurring semi-regularly.
Our international relations with our Pacific Island neighbours is more benign, as Australia has reduced its interventionist role in the region and become more open to migration and climate refugees. There is consequently a greater ethnic diversity in the eastern states.
Australia receives limited aid and financial assistance from the US, and much more from China.
Refugees and migration – In the north of Australia, massive movements of refugees from disasters and conflicts in Indonesia and the ASEAN (many hundreds of thousands of people a year) have overwhelmed the Australian Defence Force and are colonising the Northern Territory and Western Australia in mostly informal settlements. Of the two million refugees that have arrived in Australia in the last few years, nearly half have died or are at risk of dying. Refugees are connecting with Indigenous communities in the interior, sometimes positively, sometimes not.
Meanwhile, most wealthy Australians move overseas to China, Korea or Japan for work.
Teen and youth culture is much less of a feature in Australia post-recession. Teens begin working at a much younger age, and marry and have children younger too. Young people are expected to support parents and grandparents rather than being supported by them. As Australia comes out of the recession of the 20s and 30s, however, young people are starting to pull away from the very frugal, conservative values of their parents, and becoming more culturally curious.
Education happens much more informally. Most communities self-organise to provide primary schooling to young people, but from the early teens, education is more of an apprenticeship model.
Technology – Australia still uses communication technology infrastructure laid down in the 2020s. There are technological advances in media and digital technology (eg hologram live streaming, 3D printing) but they aren’t easily available to Australians because we lack the basic infrastructure, and the materials costs are very high.
Transport – The transport infrastructure dates mostly from the 2020s, with much of it failing due to a lack of servicing in recent decades. Public transport is expensive to run, and there is still a signicant reliance on old petrol-powered cars.
The justice system varies community to community, with a much greater sense of community self-regulation. Security and law enforcement is often provided by gangs and militia, which can involve conflict between communities. Much of the justice system relates to clashes over food and water scarcity.
The police force has a significantly reduced presence and is greatly under-resourced. The police use outdated forensic technology and poor quality equipment.
Because of the decline of cultural industries, boy bands are much more focused on live performance. Bands are maybe similar to The Beatles in 1963 – from working class backgrounds, playing smaller venues, with a lot of attitude and not at all scripted in interviews.