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Defining Moments in Australian History aims to stimulate public discussion about events of profound significance to Australians. Launched in 2014, it has grown to include this website, a dedicated Digital Classroom website for schools, public events and online conversations.

At the Museum

Objects linked to Defining Moments are on show throughout the Museum and there is a Defining Moments Discovery Wall in the Gandel Atrium.

Digital Classroom

In 2020 the Museum launched a dedicated digital resource for schools, in partnership with Gandel Philanthropy. Australia's Defining Moments Digital Classroom includes:

  • 120+ Defining Moments with curriculum-aligned questions, critical thinking activities and research tasks
  • Games and quizzes
  • 100+ videos, including over 50 archival clips from the National Film and Sound Archive
  • A library of more than 1000 images, including historical photographs, artworks and maps.
A crowd of hundreds of people walk across a bridge, closed to traffic. People it the foreground carry an Aboriginal and Australian flag.
Sydney Harbour Bridge during the Walk for Reconciliation, Corroboree 2000

Discussion and debate

The success of Defining Moments is gauged by the level of public involvement as people join this national debate about our nation’s past.

We aim 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 public events organised in collaboration with ABC Radio National's Big Ideas.


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 created your list of defining moments. Our Defining Moments timeline includes the initial list and suggested 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.

Launch and commemorative plaques

Defining Moments in Australian History was launched by Prime Minister Tony Abbott 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 commemorated with plaques in the Gandel Atrium at the Museum and at significant sites across Australia.

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