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Your list of moments

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.

Your list of moments

Suggestions for defining moments have been pouring in via this website, social media and email. We are capturing these moments as they arrive, and we suggest you keep an eye on this page to watch this exciting and diverse list grow and evolve.

Note: Many suggested moments not included here are already in the Museum’s initial list of 100 defining moments.

65 million years ago: Australasian landmass separates from Gondwanaland

18,000 years ago: Australia separates from Papua New Guinea due to sea level rise

1606: Luis Vaez de Torres navigates the strait later named after him

1616: Dutch navigator Dirk Hartog lands on the island off Western Australia that now bears his name. More

1629: Dutch vessel Batavia wrecks off western Australia resulting in mass murder and the marooning of two men on the mainland. More

1642: Abel Tasman discovers and names Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) 

1642 & 1644: Tasman establishes that the Australian continent was not part of the theoretical ‘great south land’

1699: William Dampier becomes the first Englishman to explore parts of the Australian coastline 

1789: Smallpox outbreak in Sydney devastates Aboriginal population

1791: Establishment of the whaling industry in Sydney

1799: First scientific description of the platypus  

1804: Convict uprising known as the Castle Hill Rebellion (or the Battle of Vinegar Hill) put down by New South Wales Corps. More

 A picture illustrating the arrest of Governor Bligh.
Governor Bligh's arrest

1808: The Rum Rebellion, in which Governor William Bligh is deposed by the New South Wales Corps

1813: Introduction of Australia’s first coin, the holey dollar 

1815: Governor Macquarie establishes Bathurst – first inland European settlement

1817: Governor Lachlan Macquarie establishes Bank of New South Wales (now Westpac) – Australia’s first bank  

1823: John Oxley founds settlement that later becomes Brisbane

1824: Ex-convict Andrew Bent founds first free press in the Australian colonies

1827: Founding of the Colonial Museum (now the Australian Museum) –  first museum in the country 

1829: Settlement of Perth

1830–31: Australia’s first novelist Henry Savery writes Quintus Servinton 

1833: Convict transportation peaks when nearly 7000 people arrive in one year

1835: Batman Deed signed 

1836: Founding of South Australia, the first colony established with only free settlers

1840: British government decides to end convict transportation to New South Wales

Late 1840s: Establishment of the Australasian Anti-transportation League 

1848: Ludwig Leichhardt’s third expedition vanishes  

Sydney University’s Main Quadrangle
Sydney University’s Main Quadrangle

1850: Founding of Sydney University

1850s: Spread of feral cat colonies 

1851: The separation of the colony of Victoria from New South Wales

1853: Establishment of State Library of Victoria, the first free public library in Australia 

1859: The separation of the colony of Queensland from New South Wales

1860s: South Sea Islanders brought to Queensland as indentured labour

 Camel caravan near Bourke, NSW
Camel caravan near Bourke, NSW

1860: The arrival of the first cameleers in Australia; known as ‘Afghans’, only a few were from that country

1861: Australia’s first mosque built in Marree, South Australia

1861: Australia’s first stock exchange established in Melbourne 

1861: Founding of the National Gallery of Victoria – the oldest art gallery in Australia 

1864: The Great Fire of Brisbane

George Goyder
George Goyder

1865: Goyder’s Line declared, showing where in South Australia it was possible to grow crops

1865–67: Publication of Samuel Bennett’s The History of Australian Discovery and Colonization – the first history of the colonies

1867: Australia’s first royal visit (by Prince Alfred, son of Queen Victoria) 

1877: First England v Australia test match at the MCG

1880s–90s: The Heidelberg School is established, Australia’s first home-grown art movement  

1884: Hugh Victor McKay invents the Sunshine Harvester, which could harvest, thresh and winnow wheat. More 

1889: Henry Parkes gives his Tenterfield oration

1890: Banjo Patterson writes 'The Man From Snowy River' 

1892: Discovery of gold at Coolgardie leads to gold rush in Western Australia

1892: Jack Howe shears 321 sheep in one day using hand shears – a record that still stands 

1894: Lawrence Hargrave lifts off in his box-kite at Stanwell Park south of Sydney

1895–1902: Federation Drought, the worst since European settlement; camels become main form of transport in affected outback areas

1896: Victorian Edwin Flack is the first Australian to compete in a modern Olympic Games

1897: Probably Australia’s oldest surviving sound recording is made, a novelty song featuring a man imitating chickens 

1898: Haddon Anthropological Expedition makes first film of Meriam (Murray Islanders)

1899: First Labor government in the world forms in Queensland 

1900: Bubonic plague outbreak becomes the first major epidemic in Australia 

1900: Armand Gallad invents the lamington for Governor of Queensland  

1901: Pacific Island Labourers Act leads to the deportation of most of the 10,000 Pacific Islanders working in Australia

1901: Miles Franklin publishes My Brilliant Career

1902: British execute horseman, soldier and poet Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant

1903: Opening of pipeline bringing water from Perth to Kalgoorlie gold fields  

1904: Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration established

1906: World’s first feature length film The Story of the Kelly Gang produced in Victoria 

1906: First concert of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the oldest professional orchestra in Australia 

1907: Australia’s first lifesaving club established at Bondi, Sydney 

1908: The National Rugby League splits from Rugby Union  

1913: The newly created Royal Australian Navy's 'fleet unit' sails into Sydney Harbour. More

1914–18: ANZAC biscuits created 

1915: Battle of Lone Pine at Gallipoli 1915: Duke Kahanamoku introduces surfing to Australia

1915: Federal government levies taxes for war effort, moving into an area previously governed by the states 

1924: David Unaipon becomes the first Aboriginal writer to be published

1926: CSIRO founded

1928: Donald Bradman’s first international cricketing century 

1928: Royal Flying Doctor Service founded

1928: Hubert Opperman heads the first Australia/New Zealand team to compete in the Tour de France 

1928: First national netball (‘women’s basketball’) championships played 

1929: First Australian Ballet established by Louise Lightfoot and Mischa Burlakov 

1932: Opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

1932: Australia’s first milk bar opens 

1932: Australian Joan Richmond and Brit Elsie Wisdom become first women to win a major international motor race against male competitors  

A cane toad
A cane toad

1935: Cane toads introduced into Australia to control pest beetles in Queensland’s sugar cane crops. More

1936: Area schools start in Tasmania, making rural children more employable 

1938: Albert Namatjira’s first solo exhibition in Melbourne  

1938: Decima Norman wins five gold medals at Commonwealth Games in Sydney, and becomes the first female Australian world record holder the following year 

1938: William Cooper (Wallithica elder) leads the only march against Hitler in the world 

1941: Prime Minister Curtin forms an alliance with the USA, shifting Australia’s allegiance from Britain

1941: Curtin declares war on Japan, independently of Britain

1942: Japanese Imperial Army invades Singapore. More 

1942: Curtin brings home Australian troops to fight in the Pacific

1942–43: Australian prisoners of war forced to work on the Thai-Burma Railroad 

1944: Cowra breakout of Japanese POWs

1945 onwards: Systematic mapping of Australia

1949: Australian Citizenship Act creates distinct Australian nationality

1951: Constitution Alteration (Powers to deal with Communists and Communism) Bill defeated in referendum

1951: Australia’s first School of the Air established in Alice Springs 

1952: First British nuclear testing in Australia (Montebello Islands) under PM Menzies

1953: Passing of the Flags Act, which defines the official Flag of Australia

1953: Black box flight recorder invented by Dr David Warren of the Aeronautical Research Laboratory 

1956–66: Rugby League team St George wins 11 premierships in a row 

1961: Bennie Lew Fatt and John Bonson first Indigenous people to represent Australia in basketball

1963: Discovery of bauxite in Arnhem Land leads to Europeans moving into the last traditional Indigenous region in Australia

1963: Prime Minister Menzies introduces government aid for non-government schools

1963–66: Australian troops fight in Indonesia during the Konfrontasi 

1964: Collision of HMAS Melbourne and HMAS Voyager kills 82 sailors – Australia’s worst peacetime military disaster

 Freedom Ride activists

Freedom Ride activists

1965: Aboriginal activist Charles Perkins leads ‘Freedom Ride’ bus tour around New South Wales towns to raise awareness of discrimination against Aboriginal people. More

1965: Prime Minister Menzies commits Australian troops to the conflict in Vietnam

1966: The Australian and United States governments sign the Pine Gap Treaty

1966: Switch to decimal currency. More

1967: Ronald Ryan becomes the last person to be executed in Australia

1967: Disappearance of Prime Minister Harold Holt 

1968: Remains of Mungo Lady found

1969: Rod Laver becomes the only man to complete a singles Grand Slam twice  

1969: People around the world watch the moon landing with the help of Australia’s Honeysuckle Creek and Parkes radio telescopes

1970: Collapse of West Gate Bridge in Melbourne

1971: Australia’s first Aboriginal community-controlled health service established in Redfern, Sydney

1971: Neville Bonner becomes Australia’s first Indigenous senator 

1971: Opposition leader Gough Whitlam visits China

1972: ‘Black Moratorium’ marches and work stoppages take place across Australia. More

1972: Gough Whitlam becomes prime minister

1972: Prime Minister Whitlam announces the end of conscription, then withdraws troops from Vietnam

1972: Establishment of Papunya Tula Artists

1973: Author Patrick White wins the Nobel Prize

1973: National Gallery of Australia buys Blue Poles by Jackson Pollock for $1.3 million  

1974: Brisbane floods

1974: Australia qualifies for Soccer World Cup 

1975: No-fault divorce introduced

1975: The Balibo Five die in East Timor 

1975: Racial Discrimination Act passed

1976: First Vietnamese refugees arrive by boat in Darwin Harbour. More

1976: Sir Douglas Nicholls, a Yorta Yorta man, appointed Governor of South Australia, the first Aboriginal person appointed to a vice-regal office

1977: Kerry Packer introduces World Series Cricket

1978: Bionic ear invented by Professor Graeme Clark  

1980: Dual flush toilet invented by Bruce Thompson of the Caroma  plastics company

1981: Australia beats New Zealand with a controversial underarm bowl in the final of the World Series Cup at the MCG

1982: Commonwealth Games

1982: Thomas Keneally becomes the first Australian to win the Booker Prize for his novel Schindler’s Ark 

Australia II and crew

1983: Australia II wins the America’s Cup yacht race, the first non-American crew to do so

1983: Foreign Minister Gareth Evans sends RAAF surveillance planes to proposed Franklin Dam site

1983: Dr Helen Milroy becomes Australia’s first Indigenous medical doctor

1984: Introduction of Medicare – Australia’s publicly funded universal healthcare system.

1985: First broadcast of TV soap opera Neighbours

1985: Australian Government returns Uluru to its traditional owners. More on Uluru

1986: Australia Act removes remaining power of Britain to legislate in Australia, and for legal appeals to be made to the Privy Council

1987: Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody established 

1988: Bicentenary celebrations

1988: First broadcast of TV soap opera Home and Away 

1988: Opening of New Parliament House

1989: Rosemary Follett becomes the first woman to head a state or territory government

1990: Carmen Lawrence becomes the first female premier

1991: Australia wins its first Rugby Union World Cup 

1991: Formation of The Wiggles – the most popular children’s entertainers in the world 

1991: Yothu Yindi's ‘Treaty’ becomes the first song by a primarily Indigenous band to make the Australian charts  

1992: Prime Minister Paul Keating delivers the 'Redfern Speech', acknowledging the impact of European settlement on Australia's Indigenous people 

1993: AFL player Nicky Winmar responds to racist abuse from spectators by raising his guernsey, pointing at his bare skin and declaring, ‘I’m black and I’m proud to be black’

Nicky Winmar

1994: Discovery of Wollemi pine

1994: First access to Internet for the general public

1994: Aboriginal athlete Cathy Freeman uses both flags in her victory laps at the Commonwealth Games in Canada

1996: Nova Peris becomes the first Indigenous Australian to win an Olympic gold medal.
More on Nova Peris's gold medal

1996: Protesters from an Australian Council of Trade Unions rally try to force their way into Parliament House, Canberra

1996: Aurukun Elder Gladys Tybingoompa dances on the steps of the High Court, which had just ruled in favour of the Wik native title claim

1996: CSIRO patent technology that allows optimum performance of Wireless Local Area Networks, permitting the development of stable Wi-Fi  

1997: Demolition of Royal Canberra Hospital kills 12-year-old Katie Bender

1999: Referendum on whether Australia should become a republic is lost 

Olympic fireworks, Sydney Harbour
Olympic fireworks, Sydney Harbour

2000: Cathy Freeman lights the Olympic Flame at the Sydney Olympics and wins the 400-metres gold medal

2000: Largest number of medals won by the Australian Olympic team

2000: Introduction of the GST 

2000: Greater Blue Mountains inscribed on World Heritage List

2002: Speed skater Stephen Bradbury wins Australia’s first gold medal at a winter Olympics 

2002: Glen Murcutt becomes the first Australian architect to win Pritzker prize 

2002: A group of asylum-seekers escape from the Woomera immigration detention centre in South Australia during a protest in which dozens are injured

2003: Canberra bushfires

2003: Aussie Layne Beachley wins her sixth consecutive surfing world title, the only surfer ever to do so

2005: The Cronulla race riots in Sydney’s south injure dozens of people and raise concerns about the future of multiculturalism

2007: Global Financial Crisis and its ongoing impact

2007: Prime Minister John Howard loses his seat

2007: Australia ratifies Kyoto Protocol

Julia Gillard and Quentin Bryce
Julia Gillard (left) and Quentin Bryce

2010: Australia’s first female governor-general, Quentin Bryce, swears in Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard

2010: Election of Ken Wyatt, first Indigenous member of House of Representatives

2010–11: Queensland floods kill at least 33 people

Trapped woman on a car roof during flash flooding.
Queensland floods

2011: Cadel Evans becomes the first Australian to win the Tour de France 

2012: Gillard government introduces carbon tax

2012: Prime Minister Gillard makes misogyny speech

2012: Fourth inquest into the death of Azaria Chamberlain finds that Azaria died as the result of being taken by a dingo. Items in our collection related to the case

2013: Establishment of Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

2013: Aboriginal artist Lena Nyadbi’s work Dayiwul Lirlmim (Barramundi Scales) is installed on the roof of the Musée du quai Branly in Paris

2013: Introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme

2013: Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse established  

2013: Election of the Abbott government

2013: Bureau of Meteorology adds a new colour to its temperature scale to represent 52–54°C

2014: Toyota announces it will cease making cars in Australia in 2017, ending the local car industry

2014: Former Vietnamese refugee Hieu Van Le becomes Governor of South Australia

2014: Loss of flight MH 370 en route to Beijing

2014: Flight MH 17 shot down over Ukraine

2014: First Nation grandmothers march from Melbourne to Canberra to protest against treatment of Indigenous people

2014: Government agrees to export uranium to India

2014: Andrew Barr becomes the first openly gay head of a state or territory

2014: Lindt Café siege, Martin Place, Sydney

2015: Michelle Payne becomes the first woman jockey to win a Melbourne Cup

2016: Toby Price, competing on a motorbike, becomes the first Australian to win any category of the Dakar Rally 


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Photo credits

Left: The arrest of Governor Bligh, 1808, State Library of New South Wales, a128113; The founding of Sydney University, 1850, Toby Hudson, Wikimedia Commons; Arrival of Afghan cameleers, 1860s, Powerhouse Museum – Gift of Australian Consolidated Press under the Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme, 1985, Tyrrell Photographic Collection; Goyder's Line declared, 1865, State Library of South Australia, B 14656.

Middle: Introduction of the cane toad, 1935, Wikimedia Commons; Freedom rides, 1965, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales and Courtesy Tribune / SEARCH Foundation, a5605011; Australia II crew celebrating victory, 1983, Larry Moran.

Right: Nicky Winmar, Wayne Ludbey/Fairfax Syndication; Sydney Olympics, 2000, Wikimedia Commons; Governor-general, Quentin Bryce, signs Julia Gillard's commission as Prime Minister of Australia at Government House, Canberra, 24 June 2010, Alan Porritt, AAPIMAGE; Flash flooding in Toowoomba, Queensland, Timothy Swinson, Wikipedia Creative Commons.