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About the project

Defining Moments in Australian History

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

We invite you to join this debate about our nation’s past and suggest a defining moment of your own.

Suggest a moment

Important moments in Australia’s history

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

The project was initiated by the National Museum and its co-patrons the late Michael Ball AO and the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG.

An initial list of 100 defining moments was compiled by Museum staff in consultation with an advisory panel of leading historians. Suggestions for more defining moments have poured in. From these suggestions, we have created your list of defining moments.

Thanks to Professor Judith Brett, Professor Rae Frances, Professor Bill Gammage, Dr John Hirst, Dr Jackie Huggins, Professor Marilyn Lake and Professor John Maynard for their help compiling the initial list.
View the initial list of the 100 defining moments (PDF 57kb)

Digital Discovery Wall

a long digital touch screen mounted on a wall. A woman dressed in red top and dark trousers is facing the screen.

The digital Discovery Wall showcases Defining Moments in the Museum's Gandel Atrium. It’s a time line with a twist, revealing key moments in Australian history from early archaeological evidence of first peoples to profoundly significant 21st century events.

Visitors can touch the wall to learn more about a moment in time. They can also watch a video, test their knowledge with a quiz and have fun moving animations across screens. Objects linked to Defining Moments are on show throughout the Museum.

Digital Classroom

In May 2018 the Museum announced a Defining Moments Digital Classroom partnership with Gandel Philanthropy. The Digital Classroom will allow students to explore history through in-school interactive smart boards, iPads, videos, virtual tours, 3D scans and trivia quizzes. It will be aligned to the national curriculum, tailored to year groups and available nationally from 2020.

Read our Gandel Philanthropy partnership media release

Sydney Harbour Bridge during the Walk for Reconciliation, Corroboree 2000, with the Aboriginal flag flying beside the Australian flag.
Sydney Harbour Bridge during the Walk for Reconciliation, Corroboree 2000, with the Aboriginal flag flying beside the Australian flag. Photo: Loui Seselja. National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an24526893.

Discussion and debate

We hope to take the Defining Moments discussion into classrooms and universities, local historical societies and even the local pub. The success of Defining Moments will be gauged by the level of public involvement, so we invite you to join this national debate about our nation’s past, and to suggest a defining moment of your own.

In the process, we hope to develop a language for frank discussions about our past, from moments of success and celebration to those that are much more challenging. The project includes live public events, an online conversation and physical and virtual content at the Museum.

Launch and commemorative plaques

Defining Moments in Australian History was launched by The Hon Tony Abbott MP, Prime Minister of Australia, on 29 August 2014. Mr Abbott unveiled a plaque commemorating Captain Arthur Phillip's establishment of the convict settlement at Sydney Cove, in the month of the 200th anniversary of Phillip's death. More defining moments are being commemorated with plaques.

Watch launch videos