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Defining Moments in Australian History

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Defining Moments in Australian History

WARNING: This website includes images and names of deceased people that may cause distress to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.


What do you think is a significant moment in Australia’s history?

Join the conversation

The project

The Defining Moments in Australian History project aims to stimulate a public discussion about the events that have been of profound significance to the Australian people. More about the project

Your suggestions

Your suggestions continue to pour in and are helping us to shape the growing list of defining moments in Australian history. Explore your list

Object stories on film

Mikey Robins has worked with the Museum on a series of videos investigating key objects in the Museum's collection that relate to defining moments in Australian history. View more videos on our YouTube channel

Latest featured moments

Each month we provide detailed background to particular defining moments. View all featured moments

1978: First Gay Mardi Gras march, Sydney
First Gay Mardi Gras
24 June 1978
1935: Cane toads introduced into Australia to control pest beetles in Queensland’s sugar cane crops
Cane toads
24 June 1935
1902: Commonwealth Franchise Act gives women the vote in federal elections
Franchise Act
12 June 1902
3 June 1992: High Court Decision in Mabo Case recognises Native Title
Mabo decision
3 June 1992

Commemorative plaques

We are unveiling a series of commemorative plaques representing particular Defining Moments.

1788: Convict cargo
Convict cargo
1788: Captain Arthur Phillip establishes a convict settlement at Sydney Cove
1792: Pemulwuy
Pemulwuy
1792: Aboriginal warrior Pemulwuy leads resistance against Sydney colonists
3 June 1992: High Court Decision in Mabo Case recognises Native Title
Mabo decision
1992: High Court decision in Mabo case recognises native title

The word on the street

Writer and comedian Mikey Robins hit the streets in Sydney and Melbourne to find out what people think are defining moments in this nation’s history. View more videos on our YouTube channel

Objects on display in the Main Hall

Four of the defining moments from the initial list, dating from the ancient past to the 20th century, are represented by items on show in the Main Hall of the National Museum.


Evidence of first peoples

Piece of ochre from 53,000–59,000 years ago

about 1700: Makasar from Sulawesi visit northern Australia and trade with Aboriginal people

Trade with the Makasar

Makasar Prau, 1966, bark painting by Birrikitji Gumana, Yirrkala

1788: Captain Arthur Phillip establishes convict settlement at Sydney Cove

Convict settlement

Wedgwood medallion, also known as
the Sydney Cove Medallion, 1789

1948: Australia’s first locally made car, the Holden 48-215, launched

Holden's launch

Chrome-plated hub cap from an FJ Holden, 1953–56