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More on Defining Moments

About Defining Moments

Learn about our Digital Discovery Wall, plans for a Defining Moments Digital Classroom from 2020, and the history of Defining Moments.

Video series for students

Check out our free, animated videos on topics including the gold rush, Eureka Stockade and women’s suffrage, narrated by historian David Hunt.

National Museum objects

Browse our Collection Explorer records to learn more about objects that relate to key moments.

Remembering the fall of Singapore

Read more about our fall of Singapore symposium with insights from historians including Professor Joan Beaumont and Frank Bongiorno.

Defining Moments audio

Defining Moments audio series

Tune into our free audio recordings of experts discussing key events, people and places in Australia’s history, in partnership with ABC Radio National.

Defining Moments audio tour

Discover a new exciting audio tour that connects defining moments in Australian history to objects in our galleries.

Join the conversation

8th Oct 2018 11:10am

Percy Trezise and Dick Roughsey's friendship and bond resulting in them winning the Order of Australia and the Order of the British Empire as they created and left a legacy of more than 30 childrens books about indigenous history and culture published in every state and territory in Australia, and worldwide.

Dick Roughsey was awarded the Order of the British Empire, as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, for Service to Aboriginal Art and Culture in 1978.
Percy Trezise AM (1923 - 2005) was a painter and writer as well as an historian and documenter of Aboriginal rock art. Trezise served in the RAAF during WW2, and from 1956 he worked in northern Australia as an airline pilot. From the air he would gauge areas likely to contain Aboriginal rock art that he would later explore. Trezise collaborated on a series of children’s books with Aboriginal artist Dick Roughsey, and as well as being a member of the Order of Australia, in 2004 he received an Honorary Doctorate from James Cook University.

Roughsey's passion for the preservation of Indigenous culture and traditions presented him with the opportunity to be appointed to the Aboriginal Advisory Committee for the Australia Council in 1970. In 1971 he wrote the first autobiography by an Aboriginal author. In 1973 Roughsey became the Chair of the Aboriginal Arts Board, continuing this role until 1975. He was also a member of the Institute of Aboriginal studies.

Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award, Picture Book of the Year, 1974: commended for The Giant Devil-Dingo
Fellowship of Australian Writers Patricia Weickhardt Award to an Aboriginal Writer, 1976 for The Rainbow Serpent
Fellowship of Australian Writers Patricia Weickhardt Award to an Aboriginal Writer, 1976.
Children's Book Council Book of the Year Award, Picture Book of the Year, 1976: winner for The Rainbow Serpent
Children's Book Council Book of the Year Award, Picture Book of the Year, 1979: winner for The Quinkins
IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) Honour Diploma, Illustration, 1980 for The Quinkins
Children's Book Council Book of the Year Award, Picture Book of the Year, 1983: commended for Turramulli the Giant Quinkin
The Order of the British Empire, Officer of the Order of the British Empire, for Service to Aboriginal Art and Culture, 1978
These notable awards for his publications were significant in contributing to cross-cultural communication between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

His cultural contributions inspired the establishment of the Gooalathaldin Memorial Community Centre, which opened in his honour on Mornington Island in 2003.

Roughsey met Percy Trezise in 1962 at Karumba Lodge at the mouth of the Norman River. Trezise was a pilot for Ansett Airlines who painted casually and quickly became Roughsey's mentor. Trezise encouraged Roughsey to paint the stories that were part of his country and not to mimic the styles and narratives of the then famous Albert Namatjira. Trezise encouraged Roughsey to develop his personal painting style on bark paintings initially, then move to oil on canvas. Throughout their relationship Trezise regularly supplied Roughsey with art materials often cutting bark himself from around his home in Cairns.

8th Oct 2018 11:10am

ICAN awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) originated in Australia launching in 2007 in Melbourne as a grassroots movement growing to 122 countries. It is the first Australian-born group to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Former Federal MP and UN lawyer Melissa Parke spoke at the 2018 History Teachers' Association about how, especially with current tensions so high in the region between Asia and the US, and Australia complicit in selling uranium to overseas buying knowing that nuclear and indiscriminate weapons are made and possibly stored on bases in and around our country, public awareness and global understandings not just about the threats from nuclear weapons, but also from prohibited weapons which are classed as indiscriminate and inhumane such as biological and chemical weapons, land mines, cluster munitions is important to be known and talked about. These concerns are based on the principles of international humanitarian law.

27th Sep 2018 1:33pm

This timeline is amazing
Thank you so much to the researchers :)

Could I suggest 'Statement of the heart' 2010's

21st Sep 2018 4:10pm

2017- ICAN wins Nobel Peace Prize

10th Aug 2018 12:21pm

Lucy Osburn: The founder of modern Australian nursing
Lucy Osburn was an English nurse trained at the School of Nursing founded by Florence Nightingale. She is regarded as the founder of modern nursing in Australia.

In the wake of a damning report into the Sydney Infirmary and Dispensary (known as Sydney Hospital from 1881), NSW Colonial Secretary Henry Parkes made a request to British nursing legend Florence Nightingale (1820–1910) to help reform the lax system of patient care. Nightingale appointed Lucy Osburn (1836–91) to head a team of six nurses to travel to Sydney to reform nursing at the infirmary and to establish a school to train local women, who would then spread the system of “Nightingale nursing” throughout hospitals in the colony.

6th Jun 2018 1:03pm

1)The autumn of 1832 (March) when Yagan assembled all the tribes of SW/ E of Perth, WA and performed a corroboree for the new settlers, inviting them to understand the indigenous culture. Amazing moment I reckon, just thinking about the logistics of getting, say, the Albany tribes to come up to the Swan River. Great moment worth knowing and celebrating.

The summer of 1873 when Garnet Walch (playwright extraordinaire) and Marcus Clarke penned their respective pantomimes in Melbourne. That summer W. G. Grace arrived with his English cricket team - they were the major topic of Walch's panto Australia Felix and a part of Clarke's revamp of Twinkle Twinkle. What a summer!!

1st Jun 2018 4:48pm

Australian WW2, RFDS and Ansett pilot, archaeologist and author Percy Trezise, who was also made blood brothers with Dick Roughsey, joining the Order of Australia and Order of the British Empire in 1996 and 1978. Their friendship turned publishing partnership led to them researching, capturing and publishing more than 20 award winning children’s books so the traditional stories were never lost, and accessible to all. These books, as well as Dream Road and their incredible paintings, are now in schools, museums and libraries all over Australia (including Parliament House) and the world. Showing what friendship, and open minds and hearts can achieve towards preserving our past for future generations, I love the pictures of them on google with Gough Whitlam, on the ABC’s Australian Story and whenever I see their books on displays in schools across Australia and the world!

1st Jun 2018 12:06pm

The first time refuges were disallowed from entering australia

24th May 2018 4:10pm

Vegemite is invented

NMA team

The invention of Vegemite is certainly a Defining Moment in Australian food! Check out our page here:

Thanks for your contribution

14th May 2018 7:11am

1983 - Ash Wednesday fires sweep across Victoria and South Australia, killing 71 people.

NMA team

Thanks for the suggestion, Ike. We will add Ash Wednesday to the timeline

11th May 2018 1:27pm

Peter Broke winning Bathurst

Alan Roy

Hi Alan,

We have added Peter Brock's first win at Bathurst in 1972 to the timeline.

Thanks for your contribution.

20th Apr 2018 9:17am

2017 - ABC's War on Waste television series first aired in Australia, spurring a broad national conversation about waste.

13th Apr 2018 8:00pm

Vietnamese boat people arriving at East Arm refugee centre 1976

NMA team

Thanks for your suggestion. We've published a Feature Moment on this. You can visit it here:

21st Mar 2018 12:14pm

Australia's first female prime minister, sworn in by the first female governor-general, during the reign of a female head-of-state. Soon after, Australia's first female attorney-general was appointed, creating a moment of women in power for Australian politics.

19th Mar 2018 8:41pm

Eureka Stockade
The Eureka Stockade was caused by a disagreement over what gold miners felt were unfair laws and policing of their work by government.

Miners were unable to claim the land on which they worked, and so risked being relocated at a moment's notice. They were also required by law to buy a licence and carry it with them at all times, or face a fine and arrest. The miners felt this was an unfair system and were prepared to fight for change.

Police invaded the mines to enforce the licensing laws, in late November 1854. The miners refused to cooperate, and burned their licences and stoned police. Several miners were seriously wounded.

NMA team

Hi Ashna, we’re thrilled to say that this moment is already on our website – you can check it out here:

Thanks for your contribution.

5th Mar 2018 3:28pm

The Appin Massacre, April 17 1816. The first major massacre in the early colony that effectively ended resistance warfare around the Sydney region and allowed the colony to expand beyond the mountains with firm military control at its centre. The massacre was the culmination of British military and militia strategies and tactics to combat Aboriginal warriors that led to the infamous dawn raid that was to be replicated in First Nations across the country over the next 100 years.

NMA team

Definitely a defining moment. Thanks for your contribution, Stephen.

24th Feb 2018 9:55am

Newcastle earthquake

NMA team

Thanks for the suggestion Dennis, we've added it to the list.

25th Jan 2018 12:58am

the Defeat of the Whitlam government in 1975
provided the momentum for what we have left
of our once great notion.

21st Jan 2018 1:42pm

Legalisation of marriage equality

29th Dec 2017 10:17am

1st cricket game between Australia and England held in Sunbury, exact date not known. Estimate is 1901

15th Nov 2017 5:24pm

Wednesday 15th November 2017, when the Australian population showed that they belive in love and equality, and that the political leaders are not voting in the people interest. When the result of the plebiscite was in favour of gay marriage.

15th Nov 2017 10:24am

10 am 15th November 2017
Yes vote wins.
Results for the same sex marriage postal vote are released.
Australia shows it is a nation of acceptance and kindness.

15th Nov 2017 10:17am

My defining moment is the majority of Australians voting yes to the same sex marriage survey, showing we are not an antiquated nation that allows hate to rule it.

15th Nov 2017 10:15am

10am 15 November 2017 - Australia returns a YES vote in the same-sex marriage postal survey!

NMA team

Agreed. Thanks Penelope.

7th Nov 2017 7:02am

June 1971 - The first Green Bans started in Sydney, with building workers refusing to work on projects that would be socially harmful.


Thanks Anne. Definitely a Defining Moment.

30th Aug 2017 5:20pm

1802 to 1803: The Baudin expedition from France maps the coast of New Holland (now Australia)

9th Aug 2017 2:10pm

25 July 2017: Cardinal Pell attends Melbourne Magistrate’s Court for historic child sex abuse charges, third most powerful Catholic globally, most senior Catholic in Australia.

9th Aug 2017 1:48pm

The addition of braille to the $5 note.

NMA team

Agreed. Definitely a Defining Moment. Thanks Jo.

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