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Edmund Barton 01 Jan 1901 1st Prime Minister and 1st Governor-General
Lord Hopetoun became the first Governor-General and Edmund Barton the first Prime Minister. Both were sworn in at the ceremony inaugurating the Commonwealth of Australia.
Edmund Barton 29 Mar 1901 1st federal elections
Voters elected 75 members to the House of Representatives. Voters in the six states elected 36 representatives to the first Senate. This was the only federal election to take place on two days, 29 and 30 March.
Edmund Barton 09 May 1901 Parliament House for a day
The grand opening of parliament in Melbourne's Exhibition Building in the morning, was followed by the first sitting of the House of Representatives and the Senate in their borrowed home, Victoria's Parliament House.
Edmund Barton 10 May 1901 Parliament sits in Melbourne Parliament House
The first meeting of the Australian parliament took place in the Melbourne Exhibition Building on 9 May 1901. By the next day, parliament had moved to its new home for the next 26 years, the Melbourne Parliament House.
Edmund Barton 03 Sep 1901 An Australian flag chosen
A huge flag showing the winning design of Union Jack and Southern Cross on a blue background was unfurled over the Exhibition Building, Melbourne. The same design on a red background was used for merchant ships. It was many years before the blue flag officially replaced the British Union Jack for all other uses.
Edmund Barton 23 Dec 1901 Dictating a 'White Australia'
The enactment of the Immigration Restriction Act meant a dictation test became an effective way of excluding people from Australia. It enabled the government to create a predominantly European population. The 'White Australia' policy was finally dismantled in 1966 by the Holt government.
Edmund Barton 31 May 1902 Boer War ends
From 1899 when the war in South Africa broke out, troops from the Australian colonies had been sent to fight for Britain against the Afrikaners (former Dutch colonists). Despite the passionate arguments of Leader of the Opposition GH Reid, parliament agreed to send Commonwealth troops. They arrived shortly before the surrender of the Boer army.
Edmund Barton 09 Aug 1902 Coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra
When Queen Victoria died on 22 January 1901, her son Edward acceded to the throne. Prime Minister Edmund Barton led the Australian representation at the coronation in Westminster Abbey the following year.
Edmund Barton 03 Nov 1902 The empire cable
Postmaster-General James Drake opened the submarine telegraph cable from Vancouver, Canada to Southport, Queensland. This completed an all-British link thirty years after a London to Darwin cable was connected to South Australia’s overland telegraph line. The telegraph cable circling the globe enabled information to be sent by Morse code in ‘dot-dash’ electrical signals.
Edmund Barton 09 Jan 1903 2nd Governor-General
Lord Tennyson, a former South Australian Governor, was confirmed as Australia’s second Governor-General. He had been acting since 17 July 1902 when Lord Hopetoun left Australia. Lord Tennyson remained in office until 21 January 1904.
Alfred Deakin 24 Sep 1903 2nd Prime Minister
When Edmund Barton resigned to become a judge of the High Court, his friend and deputy Prime Minister Alfred Deakin succeeded him.
Alfred Deakin 06 Oct 1903 High Court established
Sir Samuel Griffith, Sir Edmund Barton and Richard O’Connor met for the first sitting of the High Court of Australia. In 1906 HB Higgins and Sir Isaac Isaacs joined them when the Deakin government increased the bench to five. In 1913 the Fisher government gave the Court its present size of seven judges.
Alfred Deakin 16 Dec 1903 2nd federal election
House of Representatives and 19 Senate seats
Alfred Deakin 16 Dec 1903 Women stand and vote
The 1903 federal election was the first where women had the same rights as men to stand for parliament and to vote. Vida Goldstein, Nellie Martel and Mary Ann Bentley stood for the Senate. Selina Siggins stood for the seat of Dalley in the House of Representatives.
Alfred Deakin 21 Jan 1904 3rd Governor-General
Lord Northcote served as Governor-General until 9 September 1908.
Alfred Deakin 02 Mar 1904 Opening of 2nd parliament
The second parliament opened and closed with the same Prime Minister, but there were four changes of government and three different Prime Ministers between the 1903 and 1906 federal elections. This was the most unstable of Australia's 40 parliaments.
Chris Watson 27 Apr 1904 3rd Prime Minister
Australia’s first federal Labor government led by JC Watson, achieved office when Labor members withdrew support for the Deakin government on an amendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.
George Reid 18 Aug 1904 4th Prime Minister
Leader of the Opposition from 1901, GH Reid became Australia’s fourth Prime Minister in three years.
George Reid 15 Dec 1904 Arbitrating arbitration
The Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was finally enacted, establishing a federal Conciliation and Arbitration Court. The Bill put two Prime Ministers out of office.
George Reid 24 May 1905 Empire Day
Britain decided to continue the public celebration of Queen Victoria’s birthday after the end of her 64-year reign in 1901. Following this lead, George Reid made Empire Day a national event in Australia. It remained a public holiday until 1958.
Alfred Deakin 06 Jul 1905 Prime Minister for the 2nd time
Alfred Deakin became Prime Minister for the second time, when the Reid government lost majority support in the House of Representatives.
Alfred Deakin 18 Oct 1905 Wireless communications
Enactment of the Wireless Telegraphy Act gave the Postmaster-General responsibility for radio communications. Signals had first been sent across the Atlantic, from England to the United States, four years before. In 1905 radio signals were successfully sent across Bass Strait.
Alfred Deakin 18 Jun 1906 Counting the Commonwealth
GH Knibbs was appointed head of the new Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. Some 4.5 million people were counted in the first census on 3 April 1911. Indigenous people were first included officially in the federal census in 1971 when the population was 12.8 million.
Alfred Deakin 01 Sep 1906 Papua: a new territory
Southeastern New Guinea became the Australian territory of Papua. Britain had annexed the area in 1888, following Germany’s annexation of the northeastern region in 1884. The western half of the island had been under Dutch sovereignty since 1828.
Alfred Deakin 12 Dec 1906 1st referendum
At the third federal election, voters approved a change to Section 13 of the Constitution. This minor change adjusted the timing of Senate elections and the date senators would commence their terms of office. This was the first of eight alterations to the Australian Constitution in its first century.
Alfred Deakin 12 Dec 1906 3rd federal election
House of Representatives and 18 Senate seats
Alfred Deakin 02 Jul 1907 Trunk calls begin
The dual-line cables necessary for telephone conversations first linked the Sydney and Melbourne exchanges. The Postmaster-General’s Department completed the main trunk lines to Adelaide in 1914, to Brisbane in 1923 and to Perth in 1930. Tasmania was connected by submarine coaxial cable in 1936.
Alfred Deakin 23 Oct 1907 Women’s work on show
Some 15,000 people crowded Melbourne’s Exhibition Building for the opening of the Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work by Lady Northcote. Pattie Deakin ran the model creche. The five-week exhibition showcased the work of musicians, artists and craftswomen.
Alfred Deakin 08 Nov 1907 The Harvester case
Justice Higgins established the principle of a male basic wage in a Conciliation and Arbitration Court case. This was the only decision under a ‘new protection’ law that tied excise duties to wages. The High Court declared the law unconstitutional a year later.
Alfred Deakin 16 May 1908 Writers fund begins
The Commonwealth Literary Fund was established as a pension fund for writers in poverty. In 1939 the Menzies government, at the urging of James Scullin, transformed it into a grants scheme for writers. The Fund and its Advisory Board ceased in 1973 when they were absorbed into the new Australia Council.
Alfred Deakin 20 Aug 1908 ‘Great White Fleet’
In the first United States naval visit to Australia, a fleet of white-painted ships steamed into Sydney Harbour. Their four-month tour of Australian ports was part of a lengthy promotional voyage arranged by US President Theodore Roosevelt.
Alfred Deakin 09 Sep 1908 4th Governor-General
Lord Dudley served as Governor-General to 31 July 1911. Lord Chelmsford was acting Governor-General from 21 January 1909 to 27 January 1910.
Andrew Fisher 13 Nov 1908 5th Prime Minister
Andrew Fisher became Prime Minister after Labor withdrew its support from the minority Deakin government.
Andrew Fisher 15 Dec 1908 1st pensions
The Invalid and Old Age Pensions Act became law and set up a national aged pension scheme. The scheme began in July 1909 for men aged 65. Women aged 60 had to wait until December 1910, when invalid pensions were also introduced.
Andrew Fisher 09 Mar 1909 New endeavour
The Endeavour, an Australian-built hydrographic survey vessel, was the Commonwealth’s first seagoing ship. Its research work included locating fishing grounds off the east coast and in the Great Australian Bight. The ship and crew were lost at sea in 1914, while attempting to rescue a member of the Mawson Antarctic expedition.
Alfred Deakin 02 Jun 1909 Prime Minister for the 3rd time
Alfred Deakin became Prime Minister for the third time after negotiating the ‘fusion’ of members from the three non-Labor political groups in the House of Representatives.
Alfred Deakin 13 Dec 1909 Military training
The Commonwealth Defence Act became law. It provided for the compulsory military training scheme that began on 1 January 1911, and for the establishment of the Royal Military College at Duntroon, Canberra, on 27 June 1911.
Alfred Deakin 13 Dec 1909 High Commissioner
The Act establishing a High Commission in London became law. A month later GH Reid became Australia’s first High Commissioner. During his term the building of Australia House commenced. Reid was also closely involved in ordering the vessels for Australia's first naval fleet.
Alfred Deakin 13 Apr 1910 4th federal election
House of Representatives and 18 Senate seats
Alfred Deakin 13 Apr 1910 Referendum
Voters at the fourth federal election approved the second alteration to the Constitution. This was a minor change to Commonwealth-State arrangements for public debts under Section 105. A second proposal, to amend Section 87 (the ‘Braddon Clause’), was not carried.
Andrew Fisher 29 Apr 1910 Prime Minister for the 2nd time
Andrew Fisher was sworn in as Prime Minister for the second time. On 1 July 1910 the fourth parliament was opened, the first time a Prime Minister had a majority in both Houses.
Andrew Fisher 30 Jun 1910 A flying machine
The government offered 5000 pounds for the invention of a military flying machine. Australia’s first five military aircraft, ordered in 1912, were French and British designs. They were first used in 1914 at the new Central Flying School at Point Cook, Victoria, the nucleus of the Royal Australian Air Force in 1921.
Andrew Fisher 01 Jan 1911 Two new territories
The Northern Territory and the Federal Capital Territory were formally transferred to the Commonwealth. The territory for the new national capital included an area of 2360 square kilometres near Yass, New South Wales and a seaport at Jervis Bay.
Andrew Fisher 26 Apr 1911 Referendum
This referendum included two proposals related to powers of the Commonwealth Parliament over trade and commerce and nationalisation of monopolies, neither of which was carried.
Andrew Fisher 17 Jun 1911 Suffrage in Britain
A week before the Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary, Margaret Fisher led Australian and New Zealand women in a London demonstration. Some 40,000 marched in support of a Bill granting women the right to vote. The British government did not enact the suffrage law until 1919.
Andrew Fisher 22 Jun 1911 King George V and Queen Mary
Prime Minister Andrew Fisher headed an Australian delegation to London, for the coronation in Westminster Abbey and celebrations in the city.
Andrew Fisher 31 Jul 1911 5th Governor-General
Lord Denman was Governor-General until 18 May 1914.
Andrew Fisher 02 Dec 1911 Australian Antarctic expedition
Douglas Mawson left Hobart in the Aurora for Macquarie Island. The expedition spent three years exploring overland and mapping some 1500 kilometres of the coast of Antarctica.
Andrew Fisher 15 Jul 1912 A Commonwealth bank
The Commonwealth Bank began savings bank business in Victoria. It used post offices as agencies to extend facilities to other States. Six months later, on 20 January 1913, it opened for general banking. The Prime Minister laid a foundation stone for the head office at Pitt Street and Martin Place, Sydney. It opened for business on 22 August 1916.
Andrew Fisher 19 Sep 1912 Wattle for the Coat of Arms
A new Commonwealth Coat of Arms was granted. This followed moves to improve the original design by adding the States’ Arms and making the kangaroo and emu more lifelike. The government had declared wattle Australia’s national flower and added it to the new design.
Andrew Fisher 10 Oct 1912 Maternity Allowance Act
Under this ‘baby bonus’ law mothers received 5 pounds on the birth of each child. Indigenous mothers and others not defined as citizens were ineligible for this payment.
Andrew Fisher 02 Jan 1913 First Australian stamp
The Fisher government issued the Commonwealth penny stamp. It featured a kangaroo on a white map of Australia. Although later stamps reintroduced the King’s head, the kangaroo design remained in use for some forty years.
Andrew Fisher 12 Mar 1913 ‘I name this city Canberra’
The Foundation Day of the national capital was an elaborate ceremony in the empty paddock that was Capital Hill. Governor-General Lord Denman, Prime Minister Andrew Fisher and Minister for Home Affairs King O'Malley laid the foundation stones of a commemorative column. The column was never finished and the base is now in front of Parliament House.
Andrew Fisher 03 May 1913 5th federal election
House of Representatives and 18 Senate seats
Andrew Fisher 31 May 1913 Referendum
None of the six proposals related to trade and commerce, corporations, industrial matters, trusts, nationalisation of monopolies or railways was carried.
Joseph Cook 24 Jun 1913 6th Prime Minister
Sworn in after a close election result, Prime Minister Joseph Cook held a majority of only one in the House of Representatives.
Joseph Cook 04 Oct 1913 Royal Australian Navy
Huge crowds lined Sydney Harbour for the arrival of Australia’s new naval fleet, the battle cruiser HMAS Australia and three cruisers and three destroyers. The Royal Australian Navy had been established on 19 July 1911. The Naval College had temporary quarters in Victoria until HMAS Creswell at Jervis Bay was opened on 10 February 1915.
Joseph Cook 30 Mar 1914 Norfolk Island
The Island, governed as part of New South Wales since 1788, was proclaimed a Commonwealth territory, thirteen years after Federation.
Joseph Cook 18 May 1914 6th Governor-General
Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson was Governor-General to 6 October 1920.
Joseph Cook 04 Aug 1914 Australia at war
Britain declared war on Germany and automatically the British Dominions, including Australia, were also at war. Recruitment began a week later and on 1 November the First Division of the Australian Imperial Force left Australia. They arrived at their training camp in Egypt on 5 December.
Joseph Cook 15 Aug 1914 Panama Canal
The 64 km channel between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans was officially opened. The Panama Canal saved ships making the 11,300 km voyage around Cape Horn. It had taken ten years to build across the isthmus between North and South America.
Joseph Cook 05 Sep 1914 6th federal election
House of Representatives and all 36 Senate seats
Joseph Cook 13 Sep 1914 Capture of New Guinea
An Australian force occupied Rabaul and, on 17 September, the German governor surrendered New Guinea. The area remained under Australian military control until 1921.
Andrew Fisher 17 Sep 1914 Prime Minister for the 3rd time
Andrew Fisher was sworn in as Prime Minister for the third time. Labor was comfortably returned to government at Australia's first double dissolution election on 5 September.
Andrew Fisher 09 Nov 1914 The first Sydney
HMAS Sydney engaged the German cruiser Emden off the Cocos Islands, sinking the enemy ship in the first naval action of the war. Australians celebrated the battle as a successful test of the new Royal Australian Navy.
Andrew Fisher 25 Apr 1915 ANZACs land
The Australian and New Zealand forces landed at Gallipoli. They fought a desperate campaign against Turkish forces until 20 December when 80,000 men successfully withdrew.
Andrew Fisher 12 Jul 1915 Wartime broadcasting
The Department of the Navy separated from the Defence Department and took control of broadcasting for the duration of the war. The departments merged again in 1921.
William Morris Hughes 27 Oct 1915 7th Prime Minister
After the forced resignation of Andrew Fisher, Labor parliamentarians elected WM Hughes as Party leader.
William Morris Hughes 01 Dec 1915 Australian Wheat Board created
This Commonwealth body coordinated State wheat boards to ensure equitable marketing of the Australian wheat crop under wartime conditions. The Prime Minister chaired the Board, which ceased operations in 1923.
William Morris Hughes 29 Apr 1916 Irish rebellion crushed
A pro-independence Easter rebellion in Dublin was violently suppressed by British troops. Protest demonstrations in Australia caused some Australians to be suspicious of the loyalty of people of Irish descent.
William Morris Hughes 28 Jun 1916 National ships
The government established a Commonwealth Shipping Line with the purchase of fifteen seagoing steamers from Britain.
William Morris Hughes 28 Oct 1916 Conscription referendum
The first referendum on compulsory military enlistment failed. The issue bitterly divided communities and created a rift in the Labor Party. On 13 November the Party expelled Prime Minister WM Hughes over his support for conscription.
William Morris Hughes 17 Feb 1917 New Cabinet
WM Hughes formed a new ministry and retained the prime ministership despite his expulsion from the Labor Party. Ten days earlier he had formed the Nationalist Party, merging other expelled Labor members and some former Liberals.
William Morris Hughes 06 Apr 1917 United States at war
President Woodrow Wilson declared war against Germany. The United States joined the Allies in defending Atlantic shipping and on the frontline in France.
William Morris Hughes 05 May 1917 7th federal election
House of Representatives and 18 Senate seats
William Morris Hughes 17 Oct 1917 National railways
The Commonwealth completed construction of the 1690 km Port Augusta to Perth section of the TransAustralia Railway, linking Perth to Sydney. In the Northern Territory, the Commonwealth government had added only 85 km, from Pine Creek to Katherine, to the 235 km line from Darwin to Pine Creek, built by the South Australian government.
William Morris Hughes 07 Nov 1917 Revolution in Russia
Bolshevik revolutionaries occupied the Russian capital, St Petersburg (then Petrograd). They overturned a provisional government established after the forced abdication of Tsar Nicholas II in March.
William Morris Hughes 20 Dec 1917 Peace Army riots
The second conscription referendum failed. The ‘No’ majority was more than double that of the first referendum in 1916. Campaigns were bitterly fought throughout Australia. Women’s Peace Army protestors were arrested in Melbourne. In Warwick, Queensland, an egg thrown at Prime Minister WM Hughes led to his setting up a Commonwealth police force.
William Morris Hughes 10 Jan 1918 Prime ministerial promise
Prime Minister WM Hughes was again sworn in as Prime Minister. He had vowed to resign if the conscription referendum failed. It did, so he had resigned on 8 January. The Nationalists held a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives, and Hughes was not replaced as party leader. The Governor-General thus swore Hughes in again.
William Morris Hughes 03 Aug 1918 Australia House opened
King George V officially opened Australia House on The Strand. Andrew Fisher, the first occupant, had been High Commissioner since 1916.
William Morris Hughes 22 Sep 1918 Prime Minister calling
In the first direct radio telephone call from the United Kingdom to Australia, the Prime Minister spoke from Caernarfon in Wales to Sydney. WM Hughes and Minister for the Navy Joseph Cook were away from Australia for sixteen months from April 1918.
William Morris Hughes 11 Nov 1918 Armistice Day
Germany’s surrender ended World War I. Australia had nearly 60,000 official casualties. This loss was commemorated with the establishment of Armistice Day in 1919, observed each year at 11 am.
William Morris Hughes 17 Dec 1918 Darwin rebellion
Some 1000 demonstrators marched to the Residency in Darwin. They burnt an effigy of Northern Territory Administrator John Gilruth and demanded his resignation. Their grievances were against the two main Territory employers, Vestey’s meatworks and the Commonwealth. Gilruth left Darwin soon after, while Vestey’s meatworks closed in 1920.
William Morris Hughes 06 Mar 1919 Homes for heroes
The Commonwealth War Service Homes Commission began operations. It provided low-interest home loans for returned servicemen.
William Morris Hughes 09 May 1919 Seamen’s strike
Australia’s seamen went on strike for better wages and conditions. The immediate interruption of fuel and coal supplies created a serious crisis that worsened as job losses mounted. The strike lasted the whole winter before the demands were met.
William Morris Hughes 28 Jun 1919 Treaty of Versailles
At the end of the six-month Peace Conference in Paris, Australia’s Prime Minister WM Hughes and Minister for the Navy Joseph Cook signed the Peace Treaty at Versailles that established the League of Nations. With Britain’s other dominions, Australia established its status as an independent member of the world’s first international organisation of governments.
William Morris Hughes 02 Jul 1919 The Nauru mandate
Britain, New Zealand and Australia signed an agreement for Australian administration of Nauru, located 4000 km northeast of Sydney. Australia had captured the island from Germany in 1914 and in 1920 the League of Nations designated it an Australian mandate.
William Morris Hughes 10 Dec 1919 First flight
Ross and Keith Smith won the prize money offered by the government for the first flight from Britain to Australia. They landed their Vickers Vimy aircraft in Darwin after a 28-day flight from Hounslow in England.
William Morris Hughes 13 Dec 1919 8th federal election
House of Representatives and 19 Senate seats
William Morris Hughes 13 Dec 1919 Referendum
Held with the 8th federal election, neither of the two proposals related to legislative powers and the nationalisation of monopolies (this being the third referendum at which the latter was put to the electorate) was carried.
William Morris Hughes 22 Jan 1920 Country Party
The Australian Country Party was officially formed by members of the Farmers Federation. The new party benefited from the introduction of preferential voting for both Houses of parliament. At the 14 December 1919 election it won 8 seats in the House of Representatives.
William Morris Hughes 27 May 1920 Prince of Wales tour
Prince Edward (later briefly King Edward VIII) arrived in Australia. The 26-year-old travelled overland from Adelaide to Wallangarra, on the Queensland border. The royal visitors were provided with ‘a varied programme of kangaroo and emu hunting, buckjumping, with exhibitions of shearing etc’. Hugely popular, the Prince of Wales left Australia on 18 August 1920.
William Morris Hughes 31 Aug 1920 Engineers case
The High Court decision in the case Amalgamated Society of Engineers v Adelaide Steamship Co Ltd was a milestone in constitutional interpretation and in Commonwealth-State relations. In holding that Arbitration Court decisions were binding on State governments, the Court took an expansive view of how Commonwealth powers derive from the Constitution.
William Morris Hughes 06 Oct 1920 7th Governor-General
Lord Forster served as Governor-General until 8 October 1925.
William Morris Hughes 30 Oct 1920 Communist Party of Australia
The Party was first formed at a Sydney meeting. It later divided into two groups. One favoured adherence to doctrine, the other a practical trades union approach.
William Morris Hughes 31 Dec 1920 Trouble in Canberra
Prime Minister WM Hughes removed Walter Burley Griffin as director of construction at Canberra after disagreements over his supervisory role. Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahoney Griffin had won the competition to design the national capital on 14 May 1912.
William Morris Hughes 07 Mar 1921 Health a federal concern
The Commonwealth Department of Health was formed. It took over the quarantine service of the Department of Trade and Customs, the Australian Institute of Tropical Medicine and the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. It also became responsible for national health functions such as the treatment of infectious diseases in returned soldiers.
William Morris Hughes 12 Aug 1921 Australian Federation of Women Voters
Bessie Rischbieth founded this federated body of Australian women’s political associations. Their aim was to participate in the international federations and establish credentials as lobbyists and advisers at the League of Nations. As a result of their efforts, each Australian delegation to the League of Nations General Assembly included a woman member.
William Morris Hughes 01 Feb 1922 Red flag for merchant ships
The red Australian flag, authorised by the British Admiralty for merchant shipping in 1902, became compulsory under the 1920 Navigation Act.
William Morris Hughes 21 May 1922 Empire settlement
The Empire Settlement Act enabled the intake of large numbers of British immigrants. Over 200,000 assisted settlers arrived in Australia between 1922 and 1929.
William Morris Hughes 03 Nov 1922 QANTAS
Australia’s first airline, Queensland and Northern Territory Air Service began regular passenger services with two war surplus biplanes. The first flight was from Charleville to Cloncurry, Queensland.
William Morris Hughes 16 Dec 1922 9th federal election
House of Representatives and 19 Senate seats
Stanley Melbourne Bruce 09 Feb 1923 8th Prime Minister
Stanley Melbourne Bruce was sworn in as Prime Minister after the Nationalist Party displaced WM Hughes as leader.
Stanley Melbourne Bruce 09 Jun 1923 Loan Council
The government agreed to form a Loan Council to coordinate States’ borrowing. The Council’s first meeting was on 1 February 1924.
Stanley Melbourne Bruce 05 Oct 1923 Imperial Conference
Prime Minister SM Bruce arrived in London for the Imperial Conference. He advocated the ‘men, money and markets’ empire trade policy that shaped Australia’s agricultural, pastoral, financial and population policies throughout the 1920s.
Stanley Melbourne Bruce 01 Jan 1924 Mt Stromlo observatory
With the appointment of its first director, the Commonwealth Solar Observatory was established. Located on Mount Stromlo, outside Canberra, it enabled scientific research on the sun and geophysics.
Stanley Melbourne Bruce 01 Jan 1924 Federal roads
The Australian Automobile Association was formed. It lobbied for federal finance for roads and a national traffic code. Commonwealth funds for national highways were provided for in the Federal Roads Act 1926.
Stanley Melbourne Bruce 30 Jan 1924 Cabinet in Canberra
The first Cabinet meeting was held in Canberra. The ministers were lodged at Yarralumla House, later the residence of the Governor-General. The building of Parliament House had begun on 28 August 1923.
Stanley Melbourne Bruce 04 Sep 1924 Agricultural science
The Commonwealth Citrus Research Station opened at Griffith, New South Wales in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. In March 1927 it became a research station of the Commonwealth Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.
Stanley Melbourne Bruce 14 Apr 1925 Big brother
The ‘Big Brother’ child immigration scheme was launched as part of the scheme for British settlement in Australia. The Barnardo and Fairbridge organisations brought children for settlement at locations around Australia. Fairbridge farm school at Pinjarra, Western Australia had been established in 1912.
Stanley Melbourne Bruce 08 Oct 1925 8th Governor-General
Lord Stonehaven served as Governor-General until 22 January 1931. Lord Somers was acting Governor-General from 3 October 1930 to 22 January 1931.
Stanley Melbourne Bruce 14 Nov 1925 Compulsory voting
The 10th general election was the first in which voting was compulsory after the Commonwealth Electoral Act was enacted on 10 October 1924.
Stanley Melbourne Bruce 14 Nov 1925 10th federal election
House of Representatives and 22 Senate seats
Stanley Melbourne Bruce 22 Jun 1926 CSIRO
The government set up the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (later CSIRO) to foster applied research. In 1927 the CSIR moved into its building at Black Mountain in Canberra.
Stanley Melbourne Bruce 04 Sep 1926 Referendum
Two proposals, one related to industry and commerce and the second to the power of the Parliament to protect the public against the interruption of essential services, were rejected by the Australian electorate.
Stanley Melbourne Bruce 19 Nov 1926 Free and equal
At the Imperial Conference agreement was reached on the independent and equal relationship of the British Dominions. The agreement recognised the Dominions as ‘autonomous communities within the British empire, equal in status . . . and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations’.
Stanley Melbourne Bruce 01 Dec 1926 1st petrol tax
A federal levy on imported petrol was imposed for the first time. A tax on locally refined petrol was introduced the following year. The Commonwealth Oil Refineries at Laverton, Victoria and the Shell company’s works at Clyde, New South Wales began refining petrol in 1924.
Stanley Melbourne Bruce 30 Apr 1927 Forestry School
The Forestry School, established in Adelaide, transferred to permanent premises in the national capital.
Stanley Melbourne Bruce 09 May 1927 New Parliament House
The ceremonial opening of parliament in Parliament House, Canberra was the deadline for completion of many other buildings, including the Hotel Canberra and Hotel Kurrajong, and the prime ministerial residence, The Lodge. As Commonwealth departments were transferred from Melbourne to Canberra, housing construction was accelerated in an attempt to keep pace.
Stanley Melbourne Bruce 02 Jun 1927 Australian films
A Royal Commission into the film industry was appointed. It reported in April on the state of film-making in Australia. It also reported on the process of distributing films from the United States to the 1250 Australian cinemas.
Stanley Melbourne Bruce 09 Jun 1928 1st Pacific flight
Charles Kingsford-Smith and Charles Ulm completed the first flight across the Pacific. They flew the Southern Cross from Oakland, California to Brisbane. In August they made the first non-stop flight across Australia, from Perth to Point Cook. In September, they achieved the first flight from Australia to New Zealand.
Stanley Melbourne Bruce 17 Nov 1928 11th federal election
House of Representatives seats and 19 Senate seats
Stanley Melbourne Bruce 17 Nov 1928 Referendum
A successful referendum altered constitutional provisions on Commonwealth-State financial relations. The referendum was held with the 11th federal election.
Stanley Melbourne Bruce 31 Jan 1929 The Warrigal
The Royal Australian Air Force purchased its first Australian plane, the Warrigal 1.
Stanley Melbourne Bruce 02 Aug 1929 End of the line
The Alice Springs to Adelaide railway line was completed. In 1930, however, Commonwealth construction of the North Australia railway ceased with the line from Darwin terminating at Birdum.
Stanley Melbourne Bruce 23 Aug 1929 Industrial challenge
The government attempted to pass a Bill abolishing the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. The Bill aimed to relegate arbitration powers to the States, except in the ‘external’ industries of shipping and stevedoring.
Stanley Melbourne Bruce 12 Oct 1929 12th federal election
House of Representatives only
James Scullin 22 Oct 1929 9th Prime Minister
James Scullin was sworn in as Prime Minister after the election of Australia’s third Labor government.
James Scullin 24 Oct 1929 Wall Street collapse
The fall of the New York Stock Exchange had an impact throughout the world. Investment loans were called in and financial firms across the globe collapsed.
James Scullin 01 Jan 1930 Ticket to fly
Pioneer aviators Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm began the first air service between Sydney and Brisbane.
James Scullin 01 Dec 1930 New High Court justices
The Labor government filled two vacancies on the High Court. Thirty-six-year-old Herbert Vere Evatt became the youngest Justice of the High Court. Edward Aloysius McTiernan went on to become the oldest. Justice McTiernan served the longest term on the High Court, retiring in September 1976 at the age of 84.
James Scullin 22 Jan 1931 9th Governor-General an Australian
Sir Isaac Isaacs became the first Australian-born Governor-General. He served until 23 January 1936.
James Scullin 19 Apr 1931 United Australia Party
Joseph Lyons formed the United Australia Party. It was a merger of the Nationalist Party and other groups, after Lyons left the Labor Party.
James Scullin 19 Dec 1931 13th federal election
House of Representatives and 18 Senate seats
Joseph Lyons 06 Jan 1932 10th Prime Minister
Joseph Lyons was sworn in as Prime Minister. His new United Australia Party won government at the election on 19 December.
Joseph Lyons 03 May 1932 Unemployment relief
The Loan (Unemployment Relief Works) Act authorised the government to grant money from a fund of 1,800,000 pounds for relief work approved by employment councils in each State.
Joseph Lyons 01 Jul 1932 The ABC is born
The Australian Broadcasting Commission was established to set up and operate national broadcasting stations. Broadcast programs were to address as many of the interests of the community as compatible with ‘suitable broadcasting’.
Joseph Lyons 29 Nov 1932 Nine miles from Gundagai
Prime Minister Joseph Lyons unveiled the ‘Dog on the Tucker Box’ statue near Gundagai, in the southwest of New South Wales. Thousands of people assembled for the ceremony.
Joseph Lyons 07 Feb 1933 Australian territory in Antarctica
The Australian Antarctic Territory was formally proclaimed by Douglas Mawson aboard the Discovery in Antarctic waters. Britain had ceded Antarctic claims to Australia and the Australian Antarctic Territory Acceptance Act came into effect from 24 August 1936.
Joseph Lyons 14 Jul 1933 Nazi government
The National Socialist Party assumed power in Germany. It was declared the only legal political party.
Joseph Lyons 15 Sep 1934 14th federal election
House of Representatives and 18 Senate seats
Joseph Lyons 06 Nov 1934 Egon Kisch
Journalist Egon Kisch was invited to speak at a conference in Melbourne but he was prevented from leaving his ship at Fremantle. In Sydney, the government attempted to bar his entry by giving him a dictation test in Gaelic, knowing he spoke seven European languages. Kisch challenged the ban on his entry and won the case. He spoke at workers’ meetings until he left Australia in March 1935.
Joseph Lyons 06 May 1935 Silver jubilee
King George V and Queen Mary celebrated the 25th anniversary of their reign. Among the guests were Robert and Pattie Menzies, making their first visit to Britain.
Joseph Lyons 18 Nov 1935 Invasion of Ethiopia
Australia joined other League of Nations members in advocating sanctions against Italy after Italian troops entered Ethiopia in October. The Lyons government's Sanctions Act 1935 prohibited Australians from all commercial dealings with Italy.
Joseph Lyons 20 Jan 1936 King Edward VIII
The Prince of Wales succeeded to the throne on the death of his father, King George V, but abdicated on 11 December 1936. His brother, the Duke of York was proclaimed King George VI two days later.
Joseph Lyons 23 Jan 1936 10th Governor-General
Lord Gowrie served as Governor-General until 30 January 1945.
Joseph Lyons 06 Mar 1937 Referendum
At this referendum two proposals were rejected by voters. The first sought to give the Commonwealth Parliament power with respect to air navigation and aircraft, while the second related to Section 92 of the Constitution, trade within the Commonwealth to be free.
Joseph Lyons 01 May 1937 King George VI
After the abdication of Edward VIII on 11 December 1936, the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth took place in Westminster Abbey.
Joseph Lyons 24 Jun 1937 Censorship Board
The Commonwealth Literature Censorship Board was established. The new Board (temporarily) lifted the old Book Censorship Advisory Committee’s ban on James Joyce’s Ulysses.
Joseph Lyons 23 Oct 1937 15th federal election
House of Representatives and 19 Senate seats
Joseph Lyons 26 Jan 1938 Aboriginal Day of Mourning
The 150th anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove was officially celebrated as Australia’s Sesquicentenary. Unofficially, it was a Day of Mourning for Indigenous people who lobbied in vain for representation in parliament and for legal equality.
Joseph Lyons 31 Mar 1938 Capricornia
Xavier Herbert won the Commonwealth Sesquicentenary literary competition with his novel Capricornia, set in the Northern Territory.
Joseph Lyons 15 Nov 1938 ‘Pig iron’ dispute
Waterside workers at Port Kembla, New South Wales refused to load scrap iron destined for Japan, arguing that it would be used in munitions factories. Attorney-General Robert Menzies attempted to enforce the loading of the cargo.
Joseph Lyons 01 Dec 1938 Jewish refugees accepted
Australia agreed to take 15,000 Jewish refugees fleeing from Europe after the German occupation of Austria and Czechoslovakia.
Earle Page 07 Apr 1939 11th Prime Minister
Earle Page became the eleventh Prime Minister following the death of Joseph Lyons. His term lasted nineteen days.
Robert Menzies 26 Apr 1939 12th Prime Minister
Robert Menzies was sworn in as Prime Minister, after he was elected leader of the United Australia Party.
Robert Menzies 03 Sep 1939 Australia declares war on Germany
After German troops invaded Poland on 1 September, Britain declared war. The Dominions, including Australia, followed with separate declarations the same day.
Robert Menzies 20 Oct 1939 Compulsory military training
Six weeks after Australia entered World War II, Prime Minister Robert Menzies announced the reintroduction of compulsory defence training. It took effect on 1 January 1940. Unmarried men aged 21 were required to undergo three months training with the militia.
Robert Menzies 20 Dec 1939 Australia calling
Radio Australia began broadcasting from Sydney. The station moved to Melbourne the following year.
Robert Menzies 07 Jan 1940 Australia’s first diplomats
Australia’s first diplomatic post was set up with the despatch of RG Casey to Washington. On 18 August John Latham was appointed to Tokyo in the first exchange of diplomats with Japan.
Robert Menzies 13 Aug 1940 Canberra air disaster
A Lockheed Hudson plane crashed near the Canberra aerodrome, with the loss of all aboard. The passengers included three federal ministers and the Chief of the General Staff.
Robert Menzies 21 Sep 1940 16th federal election
74 House of Representatives seats and 19 Senate seats.
Arthur Fadden 29 Aug 1941 13th Prime Minister
Arthur Fadden succeeded Robert Menzies as Prime Minister.
John Curtin 07 Oct 1941 14th Prime Minister
John Curtin was sworn in as Prime Minister after the Fadden coalition government lost majority support in the House of Representatives.
John Curtin 19 Nov 1941 The second Sydney
The HMAS Sydney and the German raider Kormoran fought an hour-long battle 150 miles west of Shark Bay, Western Australia. Both vessels were stricken. The Sydney was on fire but moved slowly away. Most of the Kormoran crew survived and were picked up, but the Sydney and all 645 men aboard disappeared. Ten anguished days later Prime Minister John Curtin made the news public.
John Curtin 09 Dec 1941 Declaration of war
Two days after the Japanese attack on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Australia declared war on Japan, and on axis powers Finland, Hungary and Romania.
John Curtin 19 Feb 1942 Bombing of Darwin
Japanese bombers made the first attack on Darwin four days after Japan captured Singapore. The Japanese advance was stopped in the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway atoll in May, and at Kokoda in November 1942. Attacks on Darwin and Katherine continued until November 1943. Bombs were also dropped on Townsville, Queensland, and Wyndham, Derby, Broome and Port Hedland in Western Australia.
John Curtin 31 May 1942 Submarines in Sydney Harbour
A torpedo fired from a midget submarine missed its target, the USS Chicago, and struck HMAS Kuttabul at Garden Island in Sydney Harbour, killing 19 sailors. Two other midget submarines, launched from a flotilla of Japanese submarines lying off the coast, were disabled and captured.
John Curtin 07 Jun 1942 Income tax goes federal
Enactment of the Income Tax (War-time Arrangements) Act enabled the Commonwealth to take over from the States the power to levy personal income tax.
John Curtin 11 Aug 1942 Hollywood bombshell
Film star and Austrian refugee Hedy Lamarr and a fellow inventor took out a United States patent for a technique for generating a secure spectrum of radio frequencies to guide torpedoes. The technique was later used in missiles and for mobile phones.
John Curtin 24 Dec 1942 Planning for a future
A Department of Post-War Reconstruction was established. Dr HC Coombs was appointed Director-General in January 1943.
John Curtin 03 Mar 1943 Soviet embassy
A Soviet embassy was established in Canberra and an Australian diplomat was posted to Moscow.
John Curtin 14 May 1943 Centaur tragedy
The hospital ship Centaur with 268 people aboard was torpedoed off Cape Moreton, Queensland. It sank in 3 minutes, with all lives lost. It was en route to the war zone and carrying no patients.
John Curtin 21 Aug 1943 17th federal election
74 House of Representatives seats and 19 Senate seats
John Curtin 23 Sep 1943 First women, 17th parliament
Forty years after women candidates first stood for parliament, Dame Enid Lyons and Dorothy Tangney became the first women to win seats in parliament. Enid Lyons took a seat in the House of Representatives and Dorothy Tangney a seat in the Senate.
John Curtin 22 Jul 1944 World Bank
The agreement by allied powers to establish the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund was reached at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. The initial aim was to establish international institutions to fund reconstruction in countries ravaged by the second world war.
John Curtin 05 Aug 1944 Cowra outbreak
Japanese prisoners of war broke out of their detention camp in Cowra, New South Wales. They were armed with improvised weapons and 231 prisoners were killed and 108 wounded. The survivors were captured in the next few days.
John Curtin 19 Aug 1944 Referendum
A proposal related to post-war reconstruction and democratic rights, including constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and religion, was not carried.
John Curtin 14 Dec 1944 Liberal Party of Australia
The new party was formed at a conference in Canberra. It emerged from an agreement to merge the United Australia Party and other non-Labor organisations, including the extensive Australian League of Women Voters.
John Curtin 30 Jan 1945 11th Governor-General
The Duke of Gloucester served as Governor-General until 11 March 1947. Sir Winston Dugan was acting Governor-General from 19 January to 11 March 1947.
John Curtin 25 Apr 1945 United Nations
The San Francisco conference to establish the United Nations opened. A new organisation to promote international peace, replacing the League of Nations, had been planned since representatives from China, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and the United States met at Dunbarton Oaks in Washington DC in 1944. Forty-six nations sent delegates to draw up the Charter which was signed on 26 June 1945.
John Curtin 08 May 1945 VE-Day
Germany’s surrender to the allied forces ended the war in Europe.
Francis Forde 06 Jul 1945 15th Prime Minister
On the death of John Curtin, deputy Prime Minister Frank Forde was sworn in until the federal parliamentary Labor Party elected a new leader.
Ben Chifley 13 Jul 1945 16th Prime Minister
New Prime Minister Ben Chifley was sworn in after being chosen the day before as the new leader of the Labor Party.
Ben Chifley 06 Aug 1945 Hiroshima
The first atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. On 15 August Japan surrendered, ending the war in the Pacific.
Ben Chifley 17 Oct 1945 Peace time intelligence
The Commonwealth Investigation Service was formed. It combined the wartime Security Service and the Investigation Branch.
Ben Chifley 10 Jul 1946 Parliament at home
Proceedings in the House of Representatives were broadcast for the first time. Legislation required the ABC to relay the parliamentary sessions on the interstate radio network. Senate broadcasts began a week later.
Ben Chifley 15 Aug 1946 Coal Board
Under an agreement with the New South Wales government, a Joint Coal Board was established. It enabled the government to continue the regulation of coal production, distribution and prices managed during the war by the Commonwealth Coal Commissioner. Coal production tripled in the next 25 years. In 2002 the Board was replaced by a private company, Coal Services Pty Ltd.
Ben Chifley 28 Sep 1946 National social security
A referendum to alter Section 51 of the Constitution was successful. It granted the Commonwealth power to provide maternity allowances, widows pensions, child endowment, unemployment, pharmaceutical, sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental services, and student and family allowances. Two further proposals related to marketing and industrial employment were not carried. The referendum was held with the 18th federal election.
Ben Chifley 28 Sep 1946 18th federal election
74 House of Representatives seats and 19 Senate seats
Ben Chifley 13 Dec 1946 Papua New Guinea
The United Nations granted Australia trusteeship of New Guinea and Papua. The two regions were administered jointly, with the capital at Port Moresby.
Ben Chifley 11 Mar 1947 12th Governor-General
Sir William McKell served as Governor-General until 8 May 1953. Lord Northcote was acting Governor-General from 19 July to 14 December 1951.
Ben Chifley 01 Apr 1947 Woomera
The Woomera rocket range was established as a joint facility for testing British and Australian short and long-range missiles. The range was sited within the 127,000 square kilometre Woomera Prohibited Area in the northwest of South Australia. From 1957 the facility has also been used for Australia’s space program.
Ben Chifley 01 Jul 1947 Good news
At 7 pm, the first ABC news broadcast under amendments to the Broadcasting Act was aired. The changes aimed at removing bias by requiring all news to be produced by ABC journalists, rather than gathered from commercial sources.
Ben Chifley 21 Jul 1947 Displaced persons accepted
Australia’s Minister for Immigration Arthur Calwell signed an agreement with the United Nations Refugee organisation to accept displaced persons from European countries ravaged by war.
Ben Chifley 18 Nov 1947 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
Australia applied the reduced tariffs under the GATT, signed in Geneva that year. The agreement established an international forum to encourage free trade between members by reducing tariffs on traded goods and by providing a means for resolving trade disputes.
Ben Chifley 26 Dec 1947 Antarctic territories
Britain transferred Heard and MacDonald Islands in Antarctica to Australia. The Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition (ANARE) was established in August. Scientific stations were set up on Heard Island in December, and on Macquarie Island the following May, using the small vessel Wyatt Earp.
Ben Chifley 01 Jan 1948 40-hour week
Workers covered by Commonwealth awards began the reduced 40-hour week. The date for the change had been set by the Conciliation and Arbitration Court in September 1947.
Ben Chifley 29 May 1948 Referendum
A proposal to give the Commonwealth Parliament ongoing power to make laws with respect to rents and prices was not carried.
Ben Chifley 24 Jun 1948 National sea and air lines
The Qantas Empire Airways Act meant Australia’s only overseas airline was now publicly owned. In 1948 the government also re-established a Commonwealth shipping line.
Ben Chifley 21 Sep 1948 United Nations president
Australia’s Minister for External Affairs, HV Evatt, was elected president of the United Nations General Assembly.
Ben Chifley 29 Nov 1948 First Holden
Prime Minister Ben Chifley launched the first Holden ‘family motor car’ off the assembly line. Ten years later, 500,000 Holdens had been produced.
Ben Chifley 26 Jan 1949 Australia’s first citizens
The Nationality and Citizenship Act came into operation, creating Australian citizenship. Although Australians remained British subjects, they were now citizens of their own country as well. The Act retained the definition of ‘aliens’ as those not British subjects. Irish citizens and ‘protected persons’ within the British Commonwealth were excepted.
Ben Chifley 16 Mar 1949 ASIO established
The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation was established to protect the Commonwealth from espionage, sabotage and subversion.
Ben Chifley 11 May 1949 More seats in parliament
The 1948 Representation Act was enacted. It increased the the House of Representatives from 75 to 122 seats, including a new member for the Australian Capital Territory, and the Senate from 36 to 60 seats. The Commonwealth Electoral Act introduced proportional representation for Senate elections.
Ben Chifley 12 Sep 1949 Planting the national garden
Prime Minister Ben Chifley planted a eucalypt at the entrance of the National Botanic Gardens during a visit by international foresters. The gardens had been established at Black Mountain in Canberra four years before.
Ben Chifley 17 Oct 1949 Snowy scheme
Work began on the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric scheme to divert water from the upper Snowy River through tunnels and dams. The scheme aimed to generate electricity for New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory, and provide water for irrigation along the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers. This major postwar development project employed many immigrant workers and was completed in 1974.
Ben Chifley 10 Dec 1949 19th federal election
House of Representatives and 42 Senate seats
Robert Menzies 19 Dec 1949 Prime Minister for the 2nd time
Robert Menzies became Prime Minister for the second time, starting a 16-year term that set a record in Australian politics. The Liberal/Country Party coalition had been convincingly returned at the federal election on 10 December.
Robert Menzies 27 Dec 1949 Independence for Indonesia
The independent Republic of the United States of Indonesia was established. This ended five years of revolution and military struggle with the Dutch authorities. Nationalist forces had unilaterally declared independence on 17 August 1945 after almost 350 years of Dutch rule.
Robert Menzies 09 Jan 1950 Colombo Plan
The idea of a network of developing and donor countries was raised at a conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon). A 5-year scheme commenced in 1951 and was repeated until 1980. The Colombo Plan then became a permanent resource for development and education in East and Southeast Asian countries.
Robert Menzies 23 Jun 1950 Communist Party ban
The Communist Party Dissolution Bill was passed by parliament. After it was enacted in October, the law was challenged in the High Court and, on 9 March 1951, was held to be unconstitutional. The Court ruled that parliament could not invoke its defence powers to rule an association unlawful when the nation was not at war.
Robert Menzies 26 Jul 1950 Australia joins Korean War
The government announced Australia would send troops to fight in Korea. This was part of the United Nations response to the invasion of South Korea by North Korea on 25 June. The frontline moved into North Korea and the war continued for three years.
Robert Menzies 01 Jan 1951 Commonwealth Jubilee
Celebrations began throughout Australia to mark the 50th anniversary of Federation.
Robert Menzies 19 Mar 1951 Parliament dissolved
The Governor-General granted a double dissolution of both houses of parliament. He held that the Senate’s action in referring the Commonwealth Bank Bill to committee was a ‘failure to pass’ the Bill. This was only the second double dissolution of the parliament, the first being in 1914.
Robert Menzies 12 Apr 1951 National Service begins
The first call-up notice was issued under the National Service Act. The Act provided for compulsory military training of 18-year-old men, who were then to remain on the Reserve of the Commonwealth Military Forces for five years. Between 1951 and 1960 when the scheme ended, over 500,000 men had registered, 52 intakes were organised and some 227,000 men were trained.
Robert Menzies 28 Apr 1951 20th federal election
House of Representatives and 60 Senate seats
Robert Menzies 09 Sep 1951 Peace Treaty signed
At San Francisco, 49 nations signed the peace treaty with Japan, agreeing to the binding terms of the war settlement.
Robert Menzies 22 Sep 1951 Referendum on Communism
A referendum to alter the Constitution so as to grant parliament the power to outlaw Communism was lost narrowly.
Robert Menzies 06 Feb 1952 Queen Elizabeth II
Elizabeth II was proclaimed Queen after the death of her father, King George VI. The Queen was crowned in Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953.
Robert Menzies 29 Apr 1952 ANZUS Treaty
The security treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States, signed in Canberra on 1 September 1951, came into force. Aimed at maintaining peace in the Pacific, the ANZUS Treaty endured until 1986. The United States suspended their agreement with New Zealand after the ban on nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed US Navy ships in New Zealand waters.
Robert Menzies 03 Oct 1952 Montebello atomic tests
The first British atomic tests were held in the Montebello Islands, 120 km northwest of Dampier, Western Australia. Tests were then moved to Emu Field in northwestern South Australia.
Robert Menzies 08 May 1953 13th Governor-General
Sir William Slim served as Governor-General until 2 February 1960. Lord Northcote was acting Governor-General from 30 July to 22 October 1956 and Sir Dallas Brooks was acting Governor-General from 8 to 16 January 1959.
Robert Menzies 27 Jul 1953 Korean War over
The United Nations and North Korea signed the agreement ending three years of war on 27 July 1953. Relations between the Republic of Korea in the south and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north remained strained. Australia did not establish diplomatic relations with North Korea until 1974.
Robert Menzies 03 Feb 1954 The Queen in Australia
Queen Elizabeth arrived in Sydney aboard the royal yacht Gothic. The first reigning monarch to visit Australia, the Queen and Prince Phillip covered 10,000 miles by air and 2000 miles on the ground by the time they left Australia on 1 April.
Robert Menzies 13 Feb 1954 Mawson Station
Australia’s first permanent station in Antarctica was established. The Kista Dan was used to convey men and materials. Davis, the second station, was established in 1957 as part of Australia’s contribution to the International Geophysical Year.
Robert Menzies 20 Apr 1954 The Petrovs defect
A week after the defection of Vladimir Petrov, Evdokia Petrov also appealed for political asylum in a dramatic scene at Darwin airport. Based on evidence provided by the two Soviet Embassy cipher officers, a Royal Commission on Espionage was held. After the Commission reported on October 1955, the Petrovs became Melbourne suburbanites Sven and Maria Allyson.
Robert Menzies 29 May 1954 21st federal election
House of Representatives and Senate seats
Robert Menzies 08 Sep 1954 SEATO established
The formation of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation, a defence alliance of countries in southeast Asia and part of the southwest Pacific, was aimed at containing Communism. Australia, Britain, France, New Zealand, Pakistan (until 1973), the Philippines, Thailand and the United States were members. SEATO was disbanded in 1977.
Robert Menzies 11 Jun 1955 Privilege of parliament
Newspapermen Frank Browne and Raymond Fitzpatrick were charged in the House of Representatives with breaching parliamentary privilege. In the only such case in the 20th century, they served three months in gaol on the order of Cabinet.
Robert Menzies 23 Oct 1955 Cocos (Keeling) Islands on board
The Cocos (Keeling) Islands became Commonwealth territory with the proclamation of the Cocos (Keeling) Island Act. The 27 coral islands in two atolls are in the Indian Ocean, some 2800 kilometres northwest of Perth.
Robert Menzies 10 Dec 1955 22nd federal election
House of Representatives and 30 Senate seats
Robert Menzies 16 May 1956 Maralinga atomic tests
The first nuclear tests took place at Maralinga, South Australia. This was developed as a permanent test site in response to a request from the British government after the first tests at Montebello and Emu Field in 1953 and 1954. The tests conducted at Maralinga until 1963 were the subject of a Royal Commission in 1984.
Robert Menzies 14 Aug 1956 Boilermakers Case
The Conciliation and Arbitration Court was replaced by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the Commonwealth Industrial Court. This was made necessary by the High Court ruling in the 1956 ‘separation of powers’ Boilermakers Case. The High Court held that judicial matters must be dealt with by a body separate from one dealing with the non-judicial prevention and settlement of industrial disputes.
Robert Menzies 22 Nov 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, opened Australia’s first Olympic Games in Melbourne. The Games were held during the international Suez crisis and the Hungarian Revolution. Television was introduced into Australia to make these the first Olympic Games televised.
Robert Menzies 13 Dec 1956 ASIO Act
The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act made ASIO a statutory authority. ASIO had been established by government directive in 1949.
Robert Menzies 27 Aug 1957 Labor Party split
The Democratic Labor Party formed in a breakaway of anti-Communist groups from the Australian Labor Party.
Robert Menzies 10 Oct 1957 Constructing Lake Burley Griffin
The National Capital Development Commission started work on the coordinated planning and development of the national capital. Among elements of the city’s original design implemented was the construction of Lake Burley Griffin. On 31 January 1989 the National Capital Planning Authority replaced the Commission.
Robert Menzies 26 Jan 1958 Nuclear startup
The Australian Atomic Energy Commission’s nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights near Sydney began operation. The research facility was established in 1955 after the Commission was set up under the Atomic Energy Act in 1953. It was renamed the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation in 1987.
Robert Menzies 05 Feb 1958 Historic British guest
Harold Macmillan became the first British Prime Minister to visit Australia. His visit was six years after the first visit by the reigning monarch.
Robert Menzies 24 May 1958 A new Commonwealth Day
Empire Day became Commonwealth Day and was no longer celebrated as a public holiday. This anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birthday had been a public holiday since 1905.
Robert Menzies 01 Oct 1958 Christmas Island territory
The proclamation of the Christmas Island Act made an Australian territory located in the Indian Ocean, 2623 kilometres northwest of Perth. Initially the island was administered by an ‘official representative’ of the Australian government. From 1968 an Administrator reporting to the Minister for Territories took this role.
Robert Menzies 22 Nov 1958 23rd federal election
House of Representatives and 32 Senate seats
Robert Menzies 01 Dec 1959 Antarctic Treaty
Australia signed the treaty which came into force on 23 June 1961. It established the legal framework for the management of Antarctica and promoted international cooperation in Antarctic scientific research.
Robert Menzies 14 Jan 1960 A Reserve Bank
The proclamation of the Commonwealth Banks Act and the Reserve Bank Act split the Commonwealth Bank of Australia into the Commonwealth Banking Corporation and the Reserve Bank of Australia.
Robert Menzies 02 Feb 1960 14th Governor-General
Lord Dunrossil served as Governor-General until 3 February 1961. Sir Dallas Brooks was acting Governor-General from 3 February to 3 August 1961.
Robert Menzies 25 Feb 1960 US space tracking
Australia signed an agreement to allow the United States to establish satellite tracking stations. These were located in the Australian Capital Territory at Orroral Creek, Honeysuckle Creek and Tidbinbilla.
Robert Menzies 01 Mar 1960 Good news at the chemist
A new pharmaceutical benefits scheme commenced, with a wider range of prescribed medicines subsidised by the government.
Robert Menzies 16 Nov 1960 Credit squeeze
The government’s response to accelerating inflation and falling wool prices led to a recession. This was the first postwar pitfall for the energetic building industry, eager car salesmen and committed consumers.
Robert Menzies 13 Dec 1960 New security law
Amendments to the Crimes Act introduced tougher definitions and penalties for espionage, sabotage and treason, and identified a new crime of treachery.
Robert Menzies 01 Feb 1961 ‘No fault’ divorce
The Matrimonial Causes Act came into operation. It established a uniform basis for divorce law throughout Australia and recognised a specified period of separation as sufficient grounds to end marriage.
Robert Menzies 17 Jul 1961 Bonegilla riot
Migrants from eastern Europe staged a violent protest against conditions at the migrant hostel at Bonegilla in Victoria.
Robert Menzies 03 Aug 1961 15th Governor-General
Lord De L’Isle served as Governor-General until 22 September 1965.
Robert Menzies 31 Oct 1961 National Astronomical Observatory
The 64-metre radio telescope at Parkes in western New South Wales was opened. It was one of the two largest telescopes in the world for radio observations of the southern sky.
Robert Menzies 03 Dec 1961 The Moonie field
Oil was discovered in explorations at Moonie in southern Queensland. This became Australia’s first commercial oilfield. A pipeline to Brisbane opened on 8 April 1964.
Robert Menzies 09 Dec 1961 24th federal election
House of Representatives and 31 Senate seats
Robert Menzies 09 Apr 1962 Interstate direct dial
A coaxial cable linking Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne was completed. It enabled a caller to dial numbers at exchanges on the other end of the trunk lines, rather than needing an operator to make the connection. The broadband link also enabled data transmission. The last telegram transmitted by Morse Code was sent on 13 December that year.
Robert Menzies 02 Nov 1962 Swan Lake
The first performance of the Australian Ballet in Sydney was a triumph, not only for the new company, but for those in the government who saw supporting national arts initiatives as a move towards greater cultural independence from Britain.
Robert Menzies 01 May 1963 Glorious New Guinea
Indonesia annexed the former Dutch province of western New Guinea and named it Irian Jaya, which means 'Glorious New Guinea'. After Indonesia held a controversial ‘free choice’ vote on self-determination in 1969, the United Nations recognised Irian Jaya as an Indonesian state. An independence movement has continued to protest Indonesian rule.
Robert Menzies 14 Aug 1963 Bark petitions
Yolngu people petitioned the House of Representatives after the government excised land from the Arnhem Land reserve on 13 March, without consulting the traditional owners. When bauxite mining at Yirrkala went ahead, the Yolngu took their case against the Nabalco mining company to the Northern Territory Supreme Court. In its 1971 decision, the court did not recognise their claim.
Robert Menzies 01 Nov 1963 A national franchise achieved
Indigenous people throughout Australia won the suffrage on the same basis as other electors when an amendment to the Commonwealth Electoral Act became law. The 1963 election was the first federal election for Indigenous people in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. Those in the other States had won voting rights in 1949.
Robert Menzies 30 Nov 1963 25th federal election
House of Representatives
Robert Menzies 03 Dec 1963 International direct dial
International dialling became possible with the opening of COMPAC, the Commonwealth Pacific cable. This was part of a scheme to connect the British Commonwealth by telephone. The cable was re-routed after South Africa’s decision to leave the Commonwealth. The COMPAC cable had 80 telephone circuits, each able to carry 22 telegraph circuits.
Robert Menzies 10 Feb 1964 Naval disaster
The destroyer HMAS Voyager sank off Jervis Bay, New South Wales after a collision with the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne. Two Royal Commissions were held to investigate the cause of the disaster in which 81 sailors died.
Robert Menzies 20 Aug 1964 Australia joins INTELSAT
Australia became part of the International Telecommunications Satellite Consortium. INTELSAT was established to develop a global system of commercial satellite links.
Robert Menzies 05 Nov 1964 National Service lottery
Cabinet decided to re-introduce compulsory military service, which had ended in 1960. The National Service Act enabled government to conscript men for a two-year term with a further three years in the Reserve. Marbles denoting birth dates were drawn from a lottery barrel to select those who would be called up. Between the first ballot in 1965 and the last in1972, some 63,000 men were conscripted.
Robert Menzies 28 Apr 1965 War in Vietnam
Prime Minister Robert Menzies announced Australian troops would be sent to Vietnam to support United States forces. The first battalion arrived in Vietnam the following month. After March 1966, National Servicemen were sent to Vietnam to fight in units of the Australian Regular Army. Some 19,000 conscripts were sent in the next four years.
Robert Menzies 22 Sep 1965 16th Governor-General
Lord Casey served as Governor-General until 30 April 1969.
Robert Menzies 01 Oct 1965 Rhodesia sanctioned
The government followed Britain in imposing economic sanctions on Southern Rhodesia. When Britain refused to grant independence, the Ian Smith government had declared self-government. It suppressed groups such as the Zimbabwe African National Union. On 18 April 1980 Southern Rhodesia became the independent republic of Zimbabwe. The leader of the Union was its first Prime Minister.
Harold Holt 26 Jan 1966 17th Prime Minister
After a record 16-year term, Sir Robert Menzies resigned and Harold Holt was sworn in.
Harold Holt 14 Feb 1966 Dollars and cents
Australia changed to a decimal currency. Pounds, shillings and pence were replaced with the new currency.
Harold Holt 27 Aug 1966 Gurindji strike
At Wave Hill in the Northern Territory, 200 Gurindji workers for the Vestey pastoral company went on strike. They were campaigning for recognition of rights to an area at Wattie Creek, on their traditional lands.
Harold Holt 26 Nov 1966 26th federal election
House of Representatives
Harold Holt 27 May 1967 Historic referendum
In the largest majority of any Australian referendum, voters overwhelmingly supported a proposal to count Indigenous people in the national census and to give the federal parliament power to legislate for Indigenous people. A second proposal related to increases to numbers in the House of Representative was not carried.
Harold Holt 16 Sep 1967 North West Cape
The government approved the establishment of a United States Navy communications base in Western Australia that opened on 16 September 1967. A top security joint space facility was established at Pine Gap, near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.
Harold Holt 19 Nov 1967 WRE-SAT
Australia’s first satellite was launched from the Woomera rocket range, carrying research instruments from the Weapons Research Establishment.
John McEwen 19 Dec 1967 18th Prime Minister
John McEwen was sworn in as Prime Minister two days after Harold Holt disappeared in the ocean off Portsea, Victoria.
John Gorton 10 Jan 1968 19th Prime Minister
After the Liberal Party elected Senator John Gorton as the new Party leader, he was sworn in as Prime Minister.
John Gorton 31 Jan 1968 Independent Nauru
Nauru gained independence from Australia and special member status in the British Commonwealth. Australia, New Zealand and Britain handed over their joint control of the local phosphate industry in 1970.
John Gorton 04 Jul 1968 Moratorium protest
A major demonstration in the ongoing campaigns against the war in Vietnam ended in violence. Crowds outside the United States consulate in Melbourne were charged by mounted police. Prime Minister John Gorton had announced in February that no further Australian troops would be sent to Vietnam, but 8000 men were already fighting there.
John Gorton 28 Oct 1968 The postman calls once
Twice-daily mail deliveries, an urban standard since Federation, ceased around Australia. The previous year the national postcode system had been introduced to facilitate sorting large volumes of mail.
John Gorton 01 Dec 1968 Full wages
For the first time Aboriginal workers on Northern Territory pastoral stations earned full wages. The award wage entitlement was later extended to all Indigenous employees of the Commonwealth government.
John Gorton 30 Apr 1969 17th Governor-General
Perth-born Sir Paul Hasluck served as Governor-General until 11 July 1974.
John Gorton 19 Jun 1969 Almost equal pay
After decades of campaigning, women workers were granted equal pay rates with men doing comparable work. Because the Arbitration Commission’s decision was for incremental increases, pay parity was not achieved until 1972.
John Gorton 21 Jul 1969 Men on the moon
When two United States astronauts stepped onto the moon, millions of viewers around the world watched on television. The images were received from Apollo II via Australia’s giant telescope in Parkes, New South Wales. The signals were sent from Parkes to Sydney by microwave, and then relayed as television signals to the ABC studios at Gore Hill in Sydney, and then to Houston, Texas for the international telecast.
John Gorton 25 Oct 1969 27th federal election
House of Representatives
John Gorton 29 Nov 1969 The Indian-Pacific completed
The final section of the transcontinental railway was rebuilt to a standard gauge. Preparations then began for the service enabling passengers to cross the continent without changing trains at State borders.
John Gorton 16 Dec 1969 Coming home
Prime Minister John Gorton announced that a withdrawal of Australian troops from Vietnam would commence the following year.
John Gorton 04 Jul 1970 Changing to metric
A Metric Conversion Board was established to implement a gradual transfer from imperial to metric weights and measures.
John Gorton 01 Sep 1970 Uranium discovered
A rich uranium deposit was reported at Nabarlek in the Northern Territory. Prime Minister John Gorton warned two weeks later that any foreign takeover would be prevented if necessary by legislation.
John Gorton 18 Sep 1970 Second moratorium
The second Vietnam moratorium also involved massive rallies around Australia. In November a battalion returning after its tour of duty was not replaced. This was the beginning of the reduction in Australian forces in Vietnam.
William McMahon 10 Mar 1971 20th Prime Minister
After displacing John Gorton as Liberal Party leader, William McMahon was sworn in as Prime Minister.
William McMahon 24 May 1971 Being counted
Senator Neville Bonner became the first Aboriginal parliamentarian. He was nominated by the Queensland Liberal Party for a vacant Senate seat. Indigenous people were included in the national census for the first time in 1971, following the 1967 amendment to the Constitution.
William McMahon 18 Aug 1971 The Vietnam toll
Prime Minister William McMahon announced the final withdrawal of Australian troops from Vietnam. By the time the last men had returned home in 1972, more than 46,000 Australian personnel had served in Vietnam, with 3000 wounded and 500 dead.
William McMahon 02 Nov 1971 Dinner at the White House
At an official dinner with President and Mrs Nixon at the White House, the prime ministerial couple attracted international attention. Television and magazines relayed pictures of Sonia McMahon’s diplomatically daring dress.
William McMahon 26 Jan 1972 A tent embassy
Aboriginal people set up a tent ‘embassy’ in front of Parliament House. Though police removed it several times, it was replaced until February 1975. A second tent embassy, opened on the same site in January 1992, still stands in front of Old Parliament House.
William McMahon 02 Dec 1972 28th federal election – House of Representatives
Coalition under Prime Minister William McMahon lost government.
Gough Whitlam 05 Dec 1972 21st Prime Minister
Labor was elected to government for the first time in 23 years. Gough Whitlam and deputy Lance Barnard were sworn in to comprise the first ministry until a Cabinet was chosen.
Gough Whitlam 19 Dec 1972 Department of Aboriginal Affairs
One of the early reforms of the new Whitlam government was upgrading the Office of Aboriginal Affairs to ministerial level. This fulfilled an election promise designed to meet the responsibilities allocated by the 1967 Referendum.
Gough Whitlam 19 Oct 1973 Queen of Australia
The Royal Style and Titles Act altered the formal title of Queen Elizabeth II to refer specifically to Australia. This was one of the few Bills of the Australian parliament enacted by the monarch personally, rather than by the Governor-General as vice-regal authority. Queen Elizabeth signed her assent during the Royal Tour for the opening of the Sydney Opera House.
Gough Whitlam 31 Oct 1973 Whitlam in China
The first visit of an Australian Prime Minister to China marked Australia’s trade agreement with the People's Republic of China. Gough Whitlam had visited China in 1971, as part of a Labor Party delegation, a month before United States President Nixon made his historic visit.
Gough Whitlam 04 Dec 1973 Governing the continental shelf
The Sea and Submerged Lands Act extended Australian territorial seas from three to twelve miles. This gave the Commonwealth sovereignty of the sea and sovereign rights to resources to the extent of the continental shelf. Australia was a signatory to United Nations Conventions in 1958 and 1964 recognising national rights to territorial seas beyond the three-mile limit, mainly to enable member nations to protect their fishing grounds.
Gough Whitlam 08 Dec 1973 Referendum
At this referendum two proposals were rejected by voters. One sought to give the Commonwealth Parliament power to make laws with respect to prices, and the second with respect to incomes.
Gough Whitlam 23 Feb 1974 Saturday closing
Official post offices ended Saturday opening. On 1 July 1975 Saturday mail deliveries ceased. On the same date two statutory corporations, the Australian Postal Commission and the Australian Telecommunications Commission were established, replacing the Postmaster-General's Department.
Gough Whitlam 18 May 1974 29th federal election - House of Representatives and Senate (all 60 seats - double dissolution)
Labor under Prime Minister Gough Whitlam retained government.
Gough Whitlam 18 May 1974 Referendum
Australian voters rejected four proposals related to simultaneous elections in the House and Senate, allowing electors in territories to vote at referendums, determining the average size of electorates in each state, and giving the Commonwealth Parliament powers to borrow money for any local government body.
Gough Whitlam 11 Jul 1974 18th Governor-General
Sir John Kerr served as Governor-General until 8 December 1977.
Gough Whitlam 05 Aug 1974 Territories get Senate seats
The Senate was expanded to 64 seats when two Senate seats each were assigned to the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. This legislation was challenged in the High Court, and upheld.
Gough Whitlam 24 Dec 1974 Cyclone Tracy
On Christmas Eve 65 people lost their lives when a cyclone destroyed 90 per cent of homes in Darwin. Residents were without shelter, power, transport or water and sewerage services. Acting Prime Minister Jim Cairns ordered the evacuation of the population.
Gough Whitlam 31 Dec 1974 Diplomatic relations with North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea opened an embassy in Australia. The following April an Australian embassy opened in North Korea. On 30 October 1975, North Korea withdrew its embassy from Canberra and on 6 November expelled the staff of the Australian embassy in Pyongyang.
Gough Whitlam 14 Feb 1975 Order of Australia
Queen Elizabeth signs Letters Patent establishing an Australian Honours system to replace British Honours for Australians.
Gough Whitlam 13 Mar 1975 Conservation
Enactment of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act
Gough Whitlam 30 Apr 1975 Evacuation of Saigon
North Vietnamese troops occupied Saigon and remaining Australian and United States personnel were evacuated. Under the new regime, North and South Vietnam were unified. Saigon, the southern capital became Ho Chi Minh City.
Gough Whitlam 11 Jun 1975 Law rules
The Racial Discrimination Act enacted, outlawing discrimination on the grounds of race.
Gough Whitlam 12 Jun 1975 Federal family law
Enactment of the Family Law Act provides for a Family Court of Australia. The new Court came into operation on 6 January 1976.
Gough Whitlam 01 Jul 1975 Medibank begins
The government introduced Medibank, Australia’s first national health insurance scheme.
Gough Whitlam 16 Aug 1975 Handover at Wattie Creek
At Daguragu in the Northern Territory, Vincent Lingiari of the Gurindji people formally accepted from Prime Minister Gough Whitlam title deeds to a part of their traditional lands.
Gough Whitlam 16 Sep 1975 Independence Day
Papua New Guinea became independent, ending remaining Australian responsibilities in the self-governing country.
Malcolm Fraser 11 Nov 1975 22nd Prime Minister
After the Governor-General Sir John Kerr dismissed the Labor government, Malcolm Fraser became ‘caretaker’ Prime Minister pending a general election.
Malcolm Fraser 13 Dec 1975 30th federal election - House of Representatives and Senate seats (all 64 seats – double dissolution)
Coalition under Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser retained government.
Malcolm Fraser 16 Jun 1976 Treaty of Friendship
The Australia-Japan Treaty of Friendship was signed, confirming the important trade relations between the two nations. By 1970 Japan had become Australia’s main overseas customer, with some 19.4 per cent of export trade while Britain’s share fell to 13.4 per cent.
Malcolm Fraser 16 Dec 1976 Land rights
Enactment of Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act
Malcolm Fraser 02 Feb 1977 A federal court
The first judges of the Federal Court were sworn in by the Attorney-General. The jurisdiction of the Court included the areas previously covered by the Industrial Court and the Bankruptcy Court. It also heard appeals from State and Territory courts in specific federal matters. The Federal Court is subject only to the High Court of Australia.
Malcolm Fraser 07 Mar 1977 Royal tourists
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh spent three weeks in Australia on a tour to celebrate the silver jubilee of the Queen’s reign.
Malcolm Fraser 21 May 1977 Referendum
Of the four proposals put to voters at this referendum, only three were carried. These related to Senate casual vacancies, giving residents of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory the right to vote in constitutional elections, and retirement of federal judges. The rejected fourth proposal related to the introduction of simultaneous elections.
Malcolm Fraser 15 Jun 1977 Gleneagles agreement
At a meeting in Scotland, Commonwealth countries affirmed opposition to racial discrimination in sport and insisted that South Africa must lift apartheid to compete in the Commonwealth Games scheduled for Edmonton in Canada that year.
Malcolm Fraser 01 Jul 1977 Ombudsman
The first Commonwealth Ombudsman took office. The Ombudsman has responsibility to investigate complaints about administrative decisions and make recommendations for remedy.
Malcolm Fraser 23 Aug 1977 Uranium
The Fraser government approves the mining and export of uranium.
Malcolm Fraser 08 Dec 1977 19th Governor-General
Sir Zelman Cowen served as Governor-General until 29 July 1982.
Malcolm Fraser 10 Dec 1977 31st federal election - House of Representatives and 34 Senate seats
Coalition under Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser retained government.
Malcolm Fraser 01 Jan 1978 SBS begins
The Special Broadcasting Service came into operation under the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Act. It was established to provide multilingual broadcasting and television services. Regular transmissions began on 24 October 1980.
Malcolm Fraser 20 Jan 1978 Irian Jaya
Foreign Minister Andrew Peacock’s recognition of Indonesian sovereignty over East Timor made Australia the sole country to accept Indonesia’s military takeover in 1976.
Malcolm Fraser 26 Jan 1978 Land rights in the Northern Territory
The proclamation of the Northern Territory Land Rights Act in 1976 enabled traditional owners to claim unalienated land. The Act provided for a Commission to hear claims and with power to grant a limited title. This was the first Australian law enabling claims to traditional ownership to be judged.
Malcolm Fraser 01 Jul 1978 Northern Territory self-government
The Northern Territory achieved limited self-government, with a fully elected Legislative Assembly. This followed 67 years of federal administration, after 50 years of government by South Australia.
Malcolm Fraser 05 Apr 1979 Protecting our environment
An area of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory proclaimed the Kakadu National Park. In October the first stage of the Great Barrier Reef marine park proclaimed.
Malcolm Fraser 07 Oct 1979 Immigration advisors
An Australian Refugee Advisory Council was established. Its role was to advise the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs on the settlement of refugees. Large numbers of Indo-Chinese refugees had become a challenge for receiving countries like Australia.
Malcolm Fraser 19 Oct 1979 Federal Police
The Australian Federal Police force was formed. The AFP combined the Commonwealth Police, the Australian Capital Territory Police and the Federal Narcotics Bureau.
Malcolm Fraser 26 Jan 1980 Australian Institute of Sport
The Minister for Home Affairs announced the establishment of a national institute of sport. It began as a public company with 95 per cent funding from the government. In January 1987 the Institute became a statutory authority under the Department of Sport, Recreation and Tourism.
Malcolm Fraser 29 May 1980 Coastal Waters (State Powers) Act
The Commonwealth returned control of coastal waters to the States. The federal government had taken control of these waters in 1973.
Malcolm Fraser 06 Jun 1980 Saving the whale
Enactment of a Whale Protection Act, following strong lobbying for the end of whaling in Australian waters.
Malcolm Fraser 18 Oct 1980 32nd federal election - House of Representatives and 34 Senate seats
Coalition under Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser retained government.
Malcolm Fraser 01 Jan 1981 The desktop computer
The first personal computers went on sale. Thirty years earlier the first mainframe computer, UNIVAC, had come into use.
Malcolm Fraser 14 Apr 1981 Human rights
Human Rights Commission Act enacted, providing for a body to promote and protect human rights in line with all United Nations instruments ratified by Australia. Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act 1975 and later the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 are also covered by the Commission, renamed the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in 1986.
Malcolm Fraser 30 Apr 1981 Razor Gang report
The final report of a committee set up to review government function recommended the abolition of a number of agencies and reduction of others.
Malcolm Fraser 09 Mar 1982 Open information
Enactment of Australia’s first Freedom of Information Act
Malcolm Fraser 29 Jun 1982 Falklands War
Australia lifted a ban on imports from Argentina after Britain defeated Argentina in the 3-month war in the Falklands Islands.
Malcolm Fraser 29 Jul 1982 20th Governor-General
Sir Ninian Stephen served as Governor-General until 15 February 1989.
Malcolm Fraser 01 Jan 1983 TCP/IP enables the birth of the Internet
Adoption of the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) standard enabled the development of a supranational Internet. The first network of computers, ARPANET, had emerged in the United States in 1969.
Malcolm Fraser 03 Feb 1983 Double dissolution
Malcolm Fraser announced a double dissolution of parliament. The same day Bob Hawke was elected leader of the Labor Party after Bill Hayden resigned.
Malcolm Fraser 05 Mar 1983 33rd federal election - House of Representatives and Senate (all 64 seats - double dissolution)
Coalition under Prime Fraser Malcolm Fraser lost government.
Robert Hawke 11 Mar 1983 23rd Prime Minister
A Labor government was sworn in and Bob Hawke became Prime Minister.
Robert Hawke 11 Apr 1983 Economic summit
In an early example of his consensus approach, Prime Minister Bob Hawke called a meeting of leaders of business, government and trades unions. The meeting discussed economic strategy, the approach to unemployment and inflation, and a prices and incomes accord.
Robert Hawke 26 Sep 1983 America’s Cup comes to Fremantle
The yacht Australia II won the America’s Cup. It was the first challenger to remove the 132-year old trophy from the United States.
Robert Hawke 09 Dec 1983 Floating the dollar
The Hawke government deregulated the Australian dollar. Instead of the Reserve Bank determining its value, the international money market set the exchange rate.
Robert Hawke 01 Feb 1984 Medicare
The Medicare health scheme began operating. It replaced the Medibank scheme with one financed by a 1 per cent levy on incomes.
Robert Hawke 29 Mar 1984 Indigenous promotion
Charles Perkins became the first Indigenous person to head a Commonwealth department. He was appointed Secretary of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
Robert Hawke 19 Apr 1984 Let us rejoice
‘Advance Australia Fair’ was proclaimed Australia’s national anthem. This followed a decade of ongoing debate, a national opinion poll in 1974, and a plebiscite in 1977. At the same time, green and gold were proclaimed Australia’s national colours.
Robert Hawke 24 Jul 1984 Nuclear tests revisited
The Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia was established. It was a response to widespread concern about adequate disposal of radioactive substances, the effects of exposure to ionising radiation, and the impact on traditional owners’ use of their lands. The Commission reported on 5 December 1985.
Robert Hawke 01 Oct 1984 Handback of Uluru
Governor-General Sir Ninian Stephen formally handed Pitjantjatjara traditional owners the title deeds to the Uluru area. The arrangement required a lease-back to the National Parks and Wildlife Service and joint management by members of the local Mutijulu community and the service.
Robert Hawke 01 Dec 1984 34th federal election - House of Representatives and 46 Senate seats
Labor under Prime Minister Bob Hawke won government.
Robert Hawke 01 Dec 1984 Referendum
Voters rejected two proposals at this referendum, one related to the terms of senators and the other to interchange of powers between the Commonwealth and states.
Robert Hawke 01 Jan 1985 Espionage uncovered
The 1954 records of the Royal Commission on Espionage were made public under the new Archives Act 1983. This established the ’30-year-rule’ for access to most Commonwealth records.
Robert Hawke 02 Mar 1986 Australia Acts
Australian law became independent of British parliaments and courts. Seven laws enacted by the States, British government and the final one by the Commonwealth government, severed a constitutional tie to Britain. The Australia Acts ended the inclusion into Australian law of British Acts of Parliament, and abolished remaining provisions for appeals from Australian courts to the Privy Council in London.
Robert Hawke 02 Apr 1987 No Australia Card
The Australia Card Bill was rejected by the Senate for the second time and Prime Minister Bob Hawke requested a double-dissolution of parliament. Although the national identity card was a prominent issue in campaigning for the election, it was eventually dropped by the Hawke government.
Robert Hawke 11 Jul 1987 35th federal election - House of Representatives and all 76 Senate seats
Labor under Prime Minister Bob Hawke retained government.
Robert Hawke 30 Nov 1987 Perestroika
Prime Minister Bob Hawke arrived in Moscow on an official visit for discussions on mutual trade and foreign policy. The trip was made possible by post-Cold War changes developed under Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
Robert Hawke 09 May 1988 New Parliament House
Queen Elizabeth II ceremonially opened Australia’s new Parliament House on Capitol Hill in Canberra, above the provisional Parliament House opened by her father and mother in 1927. In 1901 her grandparents had opened Australia's first Parliament in Melbourne.
Robert Hawke 01 Aug 1988 Industrial Relations Act
Enactment of this law provided for the implementation of the government’s industrial relations reforms. It repealed the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904 when it came into effect the following year.
Robert Hawke 03 Sep 1988 Referendum
None of the four proposals put to voters at this referendum was carried. The proposals related to, parliamentary terms, fair and democratic parliamentary elections throughout Australia, giving constitutional recognition to local government, and rights and freedoms.
Robert Hawke 23 Nov 1988 Questacon
Prime Minister Bob Hawke opened the National Science and Technology Centre, a joint Australia-Japan Bicentennial Project.
Robert Hawke 16 Feb 1989 21st Governor-General
William Hayden served as Governor-General until 16 February 1996.
Robert Hawke 11 Dec 1989 Timor Gap Treaty
Indonesian and Australian representatives signed the Treaty in a plane above the Timor Sea, between East Timor and northern Australia. The Treaty came into force on 9 February 1991. It established a zone of cooperation in an oil-rich undersea area where the continental shelf extending from Java meets the northern Australian continental shelf.
Robert Hawke 05 Mar 1990 ATSIC established
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission began work. It was the result of a merger between the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Aboriginal Development Commission.
Robert Hawke 24 Mar 1990 36th federal election - House of Representatives and 40 Senate seats
Labor under Prime Minister Bob Hawke retained government.
Robert Hawke 03 Oct 1990 Fall of the Berlin Wall
After six months of negotiation, East and West Germany were reunified after 45 years. The Berlin Wall, built in 1961 to prevent people leaving Soviet East Germany, was dismantled on 9 November 1989 after the glasnost reforms of Soviet President Gorbachev thawed relations with non-communist countries.
Robert Hawke 27 Feb 1991 End of the Gulf War
The Iraqi army was defeated after US ground attacks. These followed Operation Desert Storm, a massive air strike against military targets in Iraq. Australia sent three warships to support the US-led United Nations forces in response to the invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi troops in August 1990.
Robert Hawke 15 Apr 1991 Deaths in custody
The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody released its final report. The Commission investigated the deaths of 99 Aboriginal prisoners between 1980 and 1989. Its report comprised 11 volumes and more than 5000 pages, and included 339 recommendations.
Paul Keating 20 Dec 1991 24th Prime Minister
In an exchange of Labor Party leadership, Paul Keating became prime minister, succeeding Bob Hawke, who left parliament on 20 February 1992 after 12 years representing the seat of Wills.
Paul Keating 01 Jan 1992 World Wide Web
The first browser program went on sale and transformed the Internet paths to a global network. Developed by scientists in Geneva in 1989, this text-based browser enabled anyone with knowledge of the UNIX operating system to link to the Internet. The first image-based browser, Mosaic, went on sale in September 1993.
Paul Keating 03 Jun 1992 Mabo Case
Ten years after the case began, the High Court’s judgment was handed down in a case bought by people from the Torres Strait island of Mer. The decision inserted the legal doctrine of native title into Australian law. This led to the Native Title Act in 1993, which enabled Indigenous people throughout Australia to claim traditional rights to unalienated land.
Paul Keating 01 Sep 1992 Wattle Day
Australia’s first official Wattle Day. The date was proclaimed as an annual celebration of the golden wattle. This wattle, Acacia pycnantha benth, had been proclaimed the official national floral emblem in August 1988.
Paul Keating 14 Sep 1992 Somalian crisis
Australian personnel, members of a United Nations peacekeeping force, arrived in Somalia in East Africa in a crisis of civil war and famine.
Paul Keating 13 Mar 1993 37th federal election - House of Representatives and 40 Senate seats
Labor under Prime Minister Paul Keating retained government.
Paul Keating 28 Jul 1993 The opal proclamation
Australia was provided with a national gemstone, when the opal was officially proclaimed to fit this role. The environmental conditions necessary for opal to form are more common in Australia than elsewhere. Australia produces 95 per cent of the world’s opals.
Paul Keating 09 Aug 1993 Phosphate payout
Australia agreed to pay Nauru 107 million dollars in compensation for damage caused to the island by phosphate mining. In June 1992 the International Court of Justice ruled on the claim, holding Australia alone liable.
Paul Keating 20 Nov 1993 Strengthening APEC
Regional heads of government met in Seattle in the United States to expand the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum, an initiative of Australia. Malaysia’s Prime Minister did not attend, and relations with Australia deteriorated. Relations recovered with the visit of the Prime Minister to Malaysia in January 1996.
Paul Keating 30 Mar 1994 Industrial Relations Court
An Act established the Industrial Relations Court of Australia to take over the functions of the Industrial Division of the Federal Court of Australia. This arrangement was altered when industrial relations were restructured in 1997.
Paul Keating 10 May 1994 End of apartheid
Nelson Mandela became President of the Republic of South Africa after the first post-apartheid elections. In July South Africa rejoined the British Commonwealth. Australia had played a strong role in the sanctions policy against the apartheid regime that outlawed the African National Congress and gaoled Mandela from 1963 to 1990.
Paul Keating 01 Jan 1995 World Trade Organization
Established in Geneva under the international Uruguay Round negotiations from 1986 to 1994, the WTO was set up to negotiate and implement the regulation of international trade agreements. In 2002 there were 144 member countries
Paul Keating 08 Nov 1995 Death of a Prime Minister
Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli gunman. This threatened the fragile progress towards peace between Israel and Palestine achieved by the Washington agreement two years before.
Paul Keating 14 Dec 1995 Peace in Bosnia
After three years of war in the post-Yugoslav states, the presidents of Croatia and Serbia, and the Bosnian Muslim leader, signed a peace treaty ending hostilities.
Paul Keating 28 Dec 1995 Nuclear weapons testing
Australia joined countries protesting against France’s renewed nuclear weapons testing. The French exploded nuclear devices at Mururoa Atoll in the south Pacific one month after a United Nations vote for an immediate ban on nuclear testing.
Paul Keating 16 Feb 1996 22nd Governor-General
Sir William Deane served as Governor-General until 29 June 2001.
Paul Keating 02 Mar 1996 38th federal election - House of Representatives and 40 Senate seats
Labor under Prime Minister Paul Keating lost government.
John Howard 11 Mar 1996 25th Prime Minister
The first Coalition government for 13 years was sworn in, with John Howard as Prime Minister.
John Howard 28 Apr 1996 Port Arthur massacre
A gunman killed 35 people at Port Arthur, Tasmania. Twelve days later, Prime Minister John Howard announced a scheme for uniform gun laws throughout Australia. A buy-back of privately owned guns was funded by a special levy on taxpayers.
John Howard 11 Dec 1996 Telstra on sale
The Bill enabling the share market sale of one half of Telstra passed both Houses of parliament. This was achieved after Senator Mal Colston left the Labor Party and, with Independent Brian Harradine, held the balance of power in the Senate.
John Howard 23 Dec 1996 Wik native title
The full High Court determined that pastoral leases did not extinguish native title. The Prime Minister proposed a ‘10-point plan’ in April 1997 in an attempt to allay pastoralists’ concerns about the implications of the judgment.
John Howard 01 Jan 1997 Restructuring industrial relations
Most of the provisions of the Workplace Relations Act 1996 came into effect. Under the Act, the Industrial Relations Act 1988 was substantially amended. Jurisdiction of the Industrial Relations Court of Australia, established in 1994, was transferred to the Federal Court of Australia from 25 May 1997.
John Howard 11 Apr 1997 One Nation
Pauline Hanson launched a new political party in Ipswich, Queensland promoting tighter immigration restrictions. Hanson had won the seat of Oxley in the 1996 federal election as an Independent, after she had failed to gain Liberal preselection.
John Howard 26 May 1997 Sorry business
In parliament the Prime Minister tabled the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s report on the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, Bringing Them Home.
John Howard 13 Feb 1998 Constitutional Convention
At the conclusion of ten days of deliberations, 116 appointed delegates and 36 elected delegates voted that a proposal for a republic with a president appointed by parliament be put to the people. At the referendum held on 6 November 1999, Australians rejected this model.
John Howard 30 Aug 1998 SEA-ME-WE-3
A new intercontinental communications optical fibre cable system able to transfer 20 gigabits of information per second was completed. It accelerated Internet access in Australia and partner countries including Indonesia, Japan, Hong Kong, the United States and United Kingdom. The cable runs ashore through the sand dunes of Floreat Beach in Western Australia.
John Howard 03 Oct 1998 39th federal election - House of Representatives and 40 Senate seats
Coalition under Prime Minister John Howard retained government.
John Howard 19 Apr 1999 Special envoy
Former prime minister Malcolm Fraser appointed special envoy of the Australian Government to seek release of CARE Australia workers Steve Pratt and Peter Wallace imprisoned in Yugoslavia.
John Howard 16 Jul 1999 New protection
Enactment of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act repeals the 1975 legislation.
John Howard 20 Sep 1999 East Timor crisis
An Australian contingent of 2500 troops arrived in Dili to lead a United Nations peacekeeping team in East Timor. This followed violent disruption after an overwhelming vote for independence from Indonesia on 30 August. The United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) took charge six days later to disarm pro-Indonesia militia and provide shelter, food, and medical aid to the East Timorese people.
John Howard 06 Nov 1999 Referendum
Australians rejected a proposal to establish the Commonwealth of Australia as a republic and the proposed insertion of an additional preamble to the Constitution.
John Howard 03 Dec 1999 Law of the sea
The Federal Court upheld the validity of native title in the sea and the seabed around Croker Island in the Northern Territory. The government had appealed a decision of the Native Title Tribunal set up under the Native Title Act 1996.
John Howard 01 Jul 2000 A new tax
A goods and services tax was introduced as part of the government’s tax reform program aimed at redressing the effects of declining revenue from income tax.
John Howard 25 Jul 2000 Korea
Diplomatic relations resumed between North Korea and Australia. An ambassador from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea presented his credentials in Canberra. Three weeks earlier an Australian ambassador had been received in Pyongyang.
John Howard 15 Sep 2000 Sydney Olympic Games
The Governor-General opened the second Olympic Games held in Australia. Sydney’s successful bid for the ‘Green Games’ involved transforming the polluted wasteland of Homebush Bay into a world standard Olympic Park. Among the records broken at the Games was the number of passengers carried on one day by Sydney’s ferries, exceeding the previous record set on 1 January 1901.
John Howard 01 Jan 2001 Centenary of Federation
The celebration of Australia’s 100th birthday began in Sydney’s Centennial Park, the site of the inauguration ceremonies on 1 January 1901. On 9 May the opening of the first parliament was commemorated at a special sitting of parliament in Melbourne’s Exhibition Building.
John Howard 29 Jun 2001 23rd Governor-General
Anglican Archbishop Dr Peter Hollingworth became Australia’s Governor-General, the first minister of religion appointed to the vice-regal post.
John Howard 07 Aug 2001 Census question 50
The national census measuring Australia’s population 100 years after Federation took place. Respondents were asked to decide whether their names and addresses would be retained for release in 99 years. Some 52 per cent agreed, the rest maintaining Australia's tradition of an anonymous census.
John Howard 29 Aug 2001 Tampa crisis
A Norwegian ship rescued refugees fleeing repressive regimes in Afghanistan and the Middle East from their sinking boat in the Indian Ocean. It then crossed into Australian waters despite the refusal of entry by the Australian government. The refugees were taken to security holding camps in the Pacific while their eligibility for political asylum was assessed.
John Howard 11 Sep 2001 A new war
Afghanistan-based Al-Qaeda terrorists flew hijacked United States airliners into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in lower Manhattan, and into the Pentagon, the US Defence Department headquarters in Washington. A fourth airliner crashed before nearing its apparent target, the White House. The death toll was 3000. Prime Minister John Howard, then in Washington, agreed to support US President George W Bush in the world’s first ‘war on terrorism’.
John Howard 10 Nov 2001 40th federal election - House of Representatives and 40 Senate seats
Coalition under Prime Minister John Howard retained government.
John Howard 04 Mar 2002 Zimbabwe
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Coolum (Queensland) established a three-person committee to work with the Commonwealth Secretary-General to determine the appropriate Commonwealth responses to Zimbabwe’s democratic shortcomings. John Howard was one of the three members of the committee, along with the Presidents of Nigeria and South Africa. On 19 March the committee decided to suspend Zimbabwe from the Councils of the Commonwealth.
John Howard 20 May 2002 Independent East Timor
The proclamation of East Timor’s autonomy followed the vote to end Indonesian rule in 1999. The first elections were held on 1 August 2001 and an 88-member Constituent Assembly was elected on 30 August 2001. In presidential elections on 14 April 2002, independence leader Xanana Gusmao became East Timor’s first president.
John Howard 12 Oct 2002 Bali bombing
A bomb at a nightclub in Kuta (Bali, Indonesia) killed 202 people, nearly half of them Australian.
John Howard 18 Mar 2003 Commitment of Australian forces to Iraq
The government agreed to a request by the President of the United States that Australian forces join the coalition acting to enforce Iraq’s compliance with resolutions of the United Nations Security Council relating to the possession of weapons of mass destruction. Approximately 2000 Australian Defence Force personnel were now deployed in the Middle East.
John Howard 28 May 2003 Resignation of the Governor-General
The Queen accepted the resignation of Dr Peter Hollingworth as Governor-General. The Governor of Tasmania, Sir Guy Greene, served as Administrator of the Commonwealth until the appointment of a new Governor-General.
John Howard 22 Jun 2003 24th Governor-General
Major General Michael Jeffery was appointed Governor-General. He had served as Governor of Western Australia from 1993 to 2000.
John Howard 25 Jun 2004 National Water Initiative
The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to a National Water Initiative and the establishment of a seven-member National Water Commission.
John Howard 13 Aug 2004 Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement
Legislation implementing the AUSFTA was passed by the parliament, concluding a lengthy process of negotiation that had taken place in 2003 and early 2004. The agreement came into operation on 1 January 2005.
John Howard 09 Oct 2004 41st federal election - House of Representatives and 40 Senate seats
Coalition under Prime Minister John Howard retained government.
John Howard 26 Dec 2004 Tsunami
On Boxing Day a tsunami brought major devastation and loss of life to eleven countries, including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Thailand. An Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development was formed to assist Indonesia’s recovery.
John Howard 01 Jul 2005 Senate majority
The Senators elected at the 41st federal election took their seats, giving the Liberal-National coalition a majority in both chambers.
John Howard 15 Sep 2005 Telstra sale
The Senate passed the Telstra (Transition to Full Private Ownership) Bill 2005. With the Governor-General’s assent on 23 September, the Telstra Corporation, Australia’s telecommunications agency, could be fully organised. The first sale had been in 1997, under the Telstra (Dilution of Public Ownership) Act 1996 which enabled the sale of up to one-third of the agency, with $1 billion of the revenue to be allocated to environmental programs.
John Howard 01 Oct 2005 Indonesian terror
More than 20 people are killed and over 120 injured when three suicide bombers set off a blast in Bali, the most serious incident since the 2002 bombing.
John Howard 27 Mar 2006 WorkChoices
The final element in the restructuring of industrial relations initiated by the Workplace Relations and Other Legislation Amendment Act 1997 was introduced – the WorkChoices policy. This restructuring had also replaced the former Commonwealth Employment Service with a competitive market of private employment service businesses.
John Howard 08 Sep 2007 APEC in Australia
Opening of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in Sydney, with a special Protective Security Coordination Centre coordinating tight security measures through its APEC 2007 Security Branch. The breach of a security cordon by TV satirists The Chasers led to criminal charges that were later dismissed, and international enjoyment of their unexpectedly successful comedy stunt.
John Howard 24 Nov 2007 42nd federal election – House of Representatives and 40 Senate seats
Coalition under Prime Minister John Howard lost government.
Kevin Rudd 03 Dec 2007 26th Prime Minister
Ministers of the new Labor government led by Kevin Rudd, with Julia Gillard as Australia’s first female deputy Prime Minister, sworn in by the Governor-General.
Kevin Rudd 03 Dec 2007 Signing Kyoto
Australia signed the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions passed by the United Nations in 1997.
Kevin Rudd 13 Feb 2008 Welcome at last
The opening of Australia’s 42nd parliament was a milestone in Australian political history – the first to be preceded by a welcome to country from local Aboriginal people.
Kevin Rudd 14 Feb 2008 A nation moved
Crowds around Australia watched broadcasts from the House of Representatives when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd led a parliamentary apology for the effect of past government policies on Indigenous people.
Kevin Rudd 19 Apr 2008 2020 vision
1000 participants gathered at Parliament House for a two-day Australia 2020 Summit organised by the government to generate ideas and strategies.
Kevin Rudd 08 Aug 2008 Olympiad
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Thérèse Rein attended the opening of the 29th Olympic Games in Beijing. They had been in China earlier that year during an official world tour.
Kevin Rudd 05 Sep 2008 25th Governor-General
Formerly the Governor of Queensland from 2003 to 2008, Ms Quentin Bryce was sworn in as Governor-General, the first female to hold this office.
Kevin Rudd 21 Jan 2009 US President Obama
Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the United States, is inaugurated.
Kevin Rudd 07 Feb 2009 Black Saturday
Bushfires in northern Victoria take 173 lives and destroy 2000 houses and 4500 square kilometres of country, exceeding the record of Australia’s worst bushfires, the 1983 'Ash Wednesday' disaster.
Kevin Rudd 31 Mar 2009 GFC, the G7 and the G20
Australia's more favourable performance during the global financial crisis (GFC), when all the G7 economies contracted, enabled the formation of a wider international body, the G20.
Kevin Rudd 01 Dec 2009 Abbott new leader
Tony Abbott became Leader of the Liberal Party and Leader of the Opposition after a Party room vote against Malcolm Turnbull.
Kevin Rudd 01 Jan 2010 Fair Work program
The Howard government's controversial Work Choices is replaced with the new Fair Work program, a substantial change in industrial relations processes.
Julia Gillard 24 Jun 2010 27th Prime Minister
In a leadership challenge, Julia Gillard became Australia's 27th Prime Minister and the first woman to hold the office. She was elected unopposed by the Parliamentary Labor Party.
Julia Gillard 21 Aug 2010 43rd federal election
After the closest election result since 1961 produces a hung Parliament, intense negotiations enable Labor to form a minority government with the support of four cross-bench Members.
Julia Gillard 14 Oct 2010 Australian saint
Pope Benedict conducts the ceremony of canonisation of Australia's first saint, Mary MacKillop.
Julia Gillard 15 Dec 2010 Refugee tragedy
Further controversy over Australia's refugee policies follows the wreck, off Christmas Island, of a boat laden with refugee families.
Julia Gillard 07 Jan 2011 Extreme weather in Australia
Cyclones Yasi and Carlos, a flash flood through the centre of Toowoomba, Qld, and devastating floods in Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia contributed to a 1.2% economic slump for the quarter, the biggest fall in 20 years.
Julia Gillard 22 Feb 2011 Earthquake in New Zealand
An earthquake kills 181 people and causes substantial damage to Christchurch, New Zealand's second largest city. The country's second major earthquake in 6 months is followed by further severe aftershocks 4 months later.
Julia Gillard 11 Mar 2011 Worst ever earthquake in Japan
Japan's worst ever earthquake with a magnitude of 8.9 struck 382 kilometres northeast of Tokyo, with major aftershocks and a tsunami. Extensive damage occurred, including meltdown of reactors at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.
Kevin Rudd 26 Jun 2013 Prime Minister for the second time
In a leadership challenge, Kevin Rudd was elected Leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party and became Prime Minister for the second time.
Tony Abbott 18 Sep 2013 28th Prime Minister
The new Coalition government was sworn in, with Tony Abbott as Prime Minister.
Malcolm Turnbull 15 Sep 2015 29th Prime Minister
On 14 September 2015, Abbott was defeated in a leadership ballot by Malcolm Turnbull, who was sworn in as Prime Minister the following day.
Scott Morrison 24 Aug 2018 30th Prime Minister
Scott Morrison is sworn in as Prime Minister by the Governor-General. The full Coalition ministry is sworn in on 28 August 2018.
Scott Morrison 30 Aug 2018 First international visit
Morrison travelled to Jakarta for the Australia–Indonesia Business Forum and met with President Joko Widodo to announce a free trade deal between the two nations.