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The rapid expansion and diversifi cation of the economy in the twentieth century brought immense wealth and many new opportunities to many Australians. Real per capita income grew nearly sixfold in the century following Federation. When the first federal parliament met on 9 May 1901, Australia was still suffering the effects of the 1890s downturn, and it would wait another seven years until average incomes returned to their pre-Depression peak of 1891. The following four decades were marked by the uncertainty surrounding two world wars and an inter-war Depression. Higher levels of real income began to be achieved by the mid-1930s but it was not until the second half of the century that incomes rose sharply over a long period that was briefly interrupted by the minor recessions of the early 1980s and early 1990s.