When British wizards initially began settling in Australia, they brought with them their most trusted (and unappreciated) workers: the house elves. Bound by complex magics to their "owners", a house elf could only ever be freed by a gift of clothing from the head of the family to which they belong.The Sock Rebellion of 1993
House elves are still widely used by Australian wizarding families, especially those with strong British heritage. They tend to be a marker of wealth and status, in much the same way a muggle might regard a butler or a maid.
However, significant changes in Australian magical law have impacted how house elves now carry out their roles as the caretakers of wizarding families.
There is no gossip tree quite like the house elf gossip tree, a network that connects house elves together by word of mouth. It has been suggested that to spread a message far and wide, wizards would be fools to use the internet---and far better to whisper it in the ear of the nearest house elf instead.Legislation for Sentient Rights
It is through this network that the release of Dobby from the high-profile wizarding family, the Malfoys, became something of an inspiration and a legend among Australian house elves.
Australia already had a dedicated Sentient Rights Group campaigning for the full recognition of house elves as a species equal to humans, and as such a number of progressive-minded families had already taken it upon themselves to free the elves within their charge. These free elves, and the SRG, became the basis of the rebellion.
The free elves worked in cooperation with the SRG to boost their ranks by following the lead of Harry Potter, and tricking family leaders into releasing elves from their charge. This was done quietly, and shamed family leaders were not willing to admit to their failure. Ranks of the rebellion grew swiftly, and as more stories came in of abuse and intolerance, the nature of the rebellion became more and more aggressive.
Everything came to a head in late 1993, when the free elves and their human supporters stormed the Australian Ministry of Magic with a flood of socks. Elves angry at centuries of mistreatment ran wild, shoving socks over hands, feet, and heads. Some pureblood ministers were directly attacked, kicked in the knees and covered in buckets of laundry lint.
It was at this point that wizarding authorities agreed that something needed to be done.
Following the Sock Rebellion, ministers were locked in arguments in favour of, or against the abolishment of what was deemed a "traditional practice of our culture". However, the arguments held no water---the exact same could be argued regarding the slavery of humans, and of animal abuse. Simply because something had been a tradition, did not mean it was correct to continue.Fair Elf Work
The Ministry voted in favour of the re-classification of house elves under the Sentient Rights Act of 1994. This act deemed that any species that was deemed to have the same level of sentience as a human deserved the same respect and rights as a human. This meant that families that continued to exploit the "loyalty bond" could now be charged with Sentient Rights Abuse.
The expectation was that families would formally free any elves in their service, and use of the loyalty bond would be illegal under Australian magical law. An amnesty "freeing period" was held until the end of 1994, in which families could not be prosecuted for using the services of a slaved elf. After January 1st, 1995, however, this was entirely illegal. Families emigrating from other wizarding societies would be forced to prove any elf in their employ was free as part of their application for citizenship.
Now formally recognised as equal to humans, the next step for the free elves and SRG was to aid the Ministry in developing and implementing national laws that would protect elves as workers.Post-freedom effects
These were largely based off existing legislation applied to humans, and covered aspects such as minimum wage, paid holidays, parental leave, shift length, and work safety requirements.
It is now law that any elf undertaking work that would normally be paid, must be paid equal to (or above if the employer chooses) what a human would be paid for the exact same work.
In 1995, the free elves and SRG formally combined and created the first formal non-human union in Australia, Sentient Worker Equality, Advocacy & Rights or SWEAR.
For a majority of house elves, the re-classification and recognition as equal was a positive thing. House elves could now legally own property, choose their employer, and exercise a level of freedom that house elves in other nations could only dream of. Many were re-employed by the same families and establishments that had freed them.Lifestyle
For others, the change to tradition was taken hard. Especially among older elves who believed in their place as beneath humans, adjusting to equality was a struggle. Some did not want freedom, but legally had to be given it. Some found that freedom was more difficult to navigate than expected.
Suddenly being allowed to do whatever humans did was a catalyst for some elves to fall into vices that had previously not affected the house elf community. Drinking and gambling became problematic as some elves struggled without the structure of the old ways, and---just as a house elf could be fairly employed, a house elf could now also be fairly terminated for failure to perform. Social services began to implement programs focused on house elf adjustment, rehabilitation, residetial assistance and job skills.
Though most employed house elves choose to live on site, some own property. Colonies of house elves are also known to exist in rural areas, some of them rather anti-human, but mostly peaceful communities hidden away in deep bush or mountains.
House elf fashion has also become a huge market, driving fashion designers to create bright, functional, quirky selections that reflect the diverse and unique nature of the house elf species.