Oceania in a Globalized World: Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia

Oceania in a Globalized World: Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia

Oceania in a Globalized World


Since the Cold War, Oceania has continually faced identity issues, as well as environmental concerns. Despite these challenges, most countries in Oceania have prospered since the Cold War.


Learning Objectives

  • Evaluate the contemporary successes and challenges in and for Oceania.


Contemporary Australia


Since the end of the Cold War, Australia has emerged as a major, global actor and significant power in Oceania. As its influence has grown, Australia’s politics have also shifted dramatically in response to a globalized, modern world. No longer is the country steeped in white nationalism and restrictive immigration policies. Instead, Australia took a lead role in the protection of peoples around the world, especially in Asia, through its peacekeeping missions.


Map showing (in blue) where Australians have helped with peace-keeping missions.
Included are: South Korea, Serbia, Sudan, Mozambique, Indonesia, Guatemala, Cambodia, and many others.


Domestically, Australia has achieved significant gains in the protection and promotion of Aboriginal rights. Challenges continue to face Aboriginal Australians, though. Poverty, drug and alcohol addiction continue to affect more Aborigines than white Australians.

Australia is also a world leader in conservation and environmental protection. Much of Australia’s promotion of conservation and climate change awareness stems from the continent’s firsthand experience with the effects of climate change. Since the 1970s, Australia has suffered from diminishing coral reefs, expansive wildfires, severe flooding, and cyclones. Since the 1980s, both public and private sectors, including the Australian government, have worked to reduce the effects of climate change and promote conservation.


New Zealand enters a New Millennium


New Zealand has long searched for its identity. In the late 1990s, it scrapped its old political system in favor of one that allowed voters to vote for both their representative and a political party. Although the switch produced some difficulties, it has helped shape New Zealand’s identity in the post-Cold War world.

The island nation has also developed into a multicultural center. Māori and white New Zealanders serve in politics at all levels. Māori culture has been integrated into broader New Zealand society. Moreover, New Zealand serves as a haven for immigrants from Asia and the Middle East.

New Zealand tourism has been fueled by movies and its inviting wilderness. In the early 2000s, Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy catapulted New Zealand to the forefront of public awareness. Tourism skyrocketed as visitors poured into the country to tour the famous film locations. Additionally, athletes and thrill-seekers visit New Zealand to experience its rugged, Southern Alps, whitewater rivers, canyons, and coasts.


Hokitika Gorge in New Zealand. New Zealand is famous for its stunning landscapes, which are nothing like its southerly cousin, Australia. Its two islands have landscapes ranging from high mountains, volcanoes, gorges, plains, rolling hills, rugged coasts, glacier-carved valleys, and crystal-clear lakes. The South Island is particularly recognized for its landscapes and is considered the one of the adventure capitals of the world.


Like other nations in Oceania, New Zealand continues to face challenges. Primarily, the country is far removed from any other nation, including Australia. This makes New Zealanders prone to a sense of isolationism, despite their strong tourist industry.  Like Australia, and many of the nations in Oceania, New Zealand also faces numerous environmental challenges. Pollution, high greenhouse emissions, overfishing, and diminishing plant and animal biodiversity are a few of the environmental concerns that New Zealanders face in the twenty-first century.

Despite the challenges, New Zealand has discovered its identity. It is neither a miniature version of England nor of Australia. It is a prosperous, multicultural country that is rich in history and people.


Indonesia's New Beginnings


In 1999, Indonesia established a multi-party system and elected a president as head of their nation. Their mixed economy involves big business and government ventures. Historically, Indonesia’s wealth has come from agriculture and oil. Cash crops such as palm oil are particularly important to the country. Natural resources also are abundant in Indonesia and sold globally. In the twenty-first century, Indonesia has increased its manufacturing exports, leading to significant profits.

As a nation that consists of more than 17,000 islands, Indonesia faces numerous environmental concerns, including rising sea levels. It also sits on an oceanic fault that is famous for producing underwater earthquakes and oceanic tsunamis. On December 26, 2004, a major underwater earthquake produced the world’s largest, recorded tsunami. Massive tidal waves reaching 100 feet in height crashed to shore throughout the day. By the end of the surge, more than 220,000 people had died. Since the famous “Boxing Day Tsunami,” numerous other, smaller earthquakes have struck the Indonesian islands.


Effects of the “Boxing Day Tsunami” in Indonesia. The photo shows the devastation two weeks after the event.


Since the Cold War, Indonesia has become the largest Muslim country in the world, as well as the fourth most populous nation in the world. As such, it has emerged as a new, strong power in global finance and manufacturing. Although a large gap remains between wealthy and poor, rural and urban populations, Indonesia has emerged as a major, multicultural center in the modern world.

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