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Timeline of Australian history

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Title: Timeline of Australian history  
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Subject: History of Australia, History of Australia (1851–1900), History of Australia (1901–45), History of Australia since 1945, Constitutional history of Australia
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Timeline of Australian history

This is a timeline of Australian history, comprising important legal and territorial changes and political events in Australia and its predecessor states. To read about the background to these events, see History of Australia. See also the list of Prime Ministers of Australia.

Centuries: 16th · 17th · 18th · 19th · 20th · 21st

15th century

Year Date Event
1451 Dutch documents record the journeys of Indigenous traders from Indonesia to Australia, or as they knew it to ‘Marege’, [1]

16th century

Year Date Event
1500 Indonesian fishers visit northern Australia, which would last two centuries. [2]
1521 Several writers have argued that Portuguese expeditions visited Australia at this time.[1][2] However, historians generally disagree and the evidence remains contentious.[3][4] (to 1522)

17th century

Year Date Event
1606 February/March The Dutch East India Company (VOC) ship Duyfken, under Captain Willem Janszoon, explored the western coast of Cape York Peninsula. This was the first recorded landfall by a European on Australian soil.
May Pedro Fernandes de Queirós believed that he had found the southern continent. He named it La Austrialia del Espiritu Santo, in honor of Margaret of Austria, Queen of Spain. He was actually in Vanuatu.
August Portuguese or Spanish seaman Luís Vaz de Torres sailed through the Torres Strait, between Australia and New Guinea, along the latter's southern coast. He may well have sighted the northernmost extremity of Australia, although this is not recorded. Torres reported 'shoals', some of which may have been the northernmost atolls of the Great Barrier Reef.
1616 25 October Dutch captain Dirk Hartog in the Eendracht made the second recorded landfall by a European, at Dirk Hartog Island on the western coast of Australia. He left behind a commemorative plate, the Hartog Plate.
1618 July VOC ship Mauritius under command of Supercargo Willem Janszoon, landed near North West Cape, and named Willem's River, later renamed Ashburton River.
1622 1 May The English ship Tryall sighted Point Cloates on the west coast of Australia.
25 May The Tryall was wrecked on Tryal Rocks, northwest of the Montebello Islands, crew spent seven days ashore before sailing to Batavia in a longboat - this was the first recorded shipwreck in Australian waters.
1623 Dutch captain Jan Carstensz navigated the Gulf of Carpentaria aboard the Pera and Arnhem. The Arnhem crossed the Gulf to reach and name Groote Eylandt.
1629 4 June VOC ship Batavia wrecked on Houtman Abrolhos, off Geraldton. Mutiny ensued and at least 110 men, women and children were murdered. First European structure in Australia - Wiebbe Hayes Stone Fort on West Wallabi Island.
1642 Dutch explorer Abel Tasman explored the west coast of Tasmania, landed on its east coast and named the island Anthoonij van Diemenslandt.
1681 English navigator John Daniel on the New London charted the west coast of Australia, including Rottnest Island and the Wallabi Group of the Houtman Abrolhos.
1688 English explorer William Dampier explored the west coast of Australia.
1696 Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh charted the southwestern coast of Australia, making a landfall at Rottnest Island and the site of the present-day city of Perth.

18th century

Year Date Event
1770 English Lieutenant James Cook's expedition in HMS Endeavour charted the eastern coast, and claimed it for the British Crown. Australia was dubbed "terra nullius"[5] i.e., according to the European legal precepts of the era, it was "owned" by no-one.
1787 13 May The First Fleet of 11 ships, led by Governor Arthur Phillip, departed from Great Britain for Australia to begin European colonisation.
1788 3 January Captain Arthur Phillip of the First Fleet, having decided to sail ahead of the rest of the fleet to prepare for the new settlement, sighted the coast of Van Diemen's Land.
18 January At 2:15 pm, the brig HMS Supply anchored on the northern side of Botany Bay. He began exploring the surrounding countryside and made contact with the Aborigines.
19 January In the morning, the transports Alexander, Friendship and Scarborough arrived at Botany Bay, watched by a large number of Aborigines who gathered on Point Solander.
20 January The remaining seven ships of the First Fleet, led by HMS Sirius, anchored in Botany Bay.
21 January Deciding that Botany Bay was unsuitable for settlement, Captain Arthur Phillip set out with a party in three open boats to seek out another site. He later reported to Lord Sydney, British Secretary of State; "We got into Port Jackson early in the Afternoon, and had the satisfaction of finding the finest harbour in the world, in which a thousand Sail of the line may ride in the most perfect security." He selected a cove with a stream and named it Sydney Cove.
24 January The French ships Boussole and Astrolabe commanded by Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse appeared off Botany Bay.
25 January Captain Phillip sailed out of Botany Bay aboard the Supply and reached Sydney Cove in the evening.
26 January Early in the morning, Captain Phillip took a party ashore Sydney Cove, raised the British colours and British sovereignty over New South Wales was formally proclaimed. This day is now celebrated as Australia Day. In a ceremony at sunset Phillip and the officers drank to the health of the king and the royal family, and success to the new colony. In the meantime, La Perouse entered Botany Bay as the remaining British ships prepared to leave.
27 January Convicts disembarked at Sydney Cove and helped clear the ground.
28 January 17 Wives of marines and 14 children disembarked from the Prince of Wales. They were the first women and children to land. The first of the livestock was brought ashore.
3 February Rev. Richard Johnson held the colony’s first religious service ‘on the grass’.
6 February The women convicts came ashore. There followed a ‘scene of debauchery and riot’, accompanied by a violent thunderstorm.
7 February The whole party assembled on the west side of Sydney Cove, where the deputy judge-advocate David Collins read the King’s commission establishing Phillip’s governorship over the colony and the letter patent establishing civil and criminal courts. Phillip addressed the convicts, wishing them ‘reformation, happiness, and prosperity, in this new country'.
11 February At the first criminal court, Samuel Barnsley was sentenced to 150 lashes for assault and Thomas Hill to confinement in irons on a small rocky island at the head of the cove for stealing bread.
14 February Lt. Philip Gidley King sailed with a party of 23 including 15 convicts, in the Supply to found a settlement on Norfolk Island, where native flax was to be harvested and others grown.
17 February Rev. Johnson celebrated holy communion for the first time in the colony, according to the rites of the church of England. The ritual took place in the tent of Lt. Ralph Clark. Lt. Henry Ball, commander of the Supply on its way to Norfolk Island, discovered an island that he named after Admiral Lord Howe.
27 February Thomas Barratt was hanged for stealing in stores, the first execution.
29 February James Freeman was pardoned for stealing flour, on the condition that he became public executioner.
2 March Phillip set out to explore Broken Bay. On this trip he discovered and named Pittwater.
6 March Lt. King took possession of Norfolk Island. British settlement founded.
10 March The two French ships left Botany Bay, and were later wrecked near Santa Cruz (Solomon Islands).
March Phillip issued the first government conservation order: that no trees should be cut down within 50 feet (15 metres) of the stream that ran into Sydney Cove.
26 April An exploring party led by Phillip sighted and named the Blue Mountains.
6 May Following an outbreak of scurvy, the Supply sailed for Lord Howe Island to catch turtle to supplement the settlement's meat supply. Having failed to catch any, it returned on 25 May.
21 May A convict was killed and another seriously injured by Aborigines.
30 May The bodies of two rushcutters, William Okey and Samuel Davis, were found pierced with spears and beaten, evidently on reprisal for stealing a canoe belonging to the Aborigines. The next day Phillip led a party to apprehend the murderers, but he was unable to identify them.
June Owing to the neglect of the convict who was supposed to look after them, two bulls and four cows strayed from the settlement and were lost.
5 July In a despatch to the under-secretary of state, Evan Nepean, Phillip recorded the rations for marines and male convicts. For seven days each received 7 pounds of bread or in lieu thereof 7 pounds of flour, 7 pounds of beef or in lieu thereof pork, 3 pins of pease, 6 ounces of butter, 1 pound of flour or in lieu thereof 12 pounds of rice. The women received two-thirds of this amount and the children generally had one-third although some received as much as the women.
20 August Lt. William Bligh in HMS Bounty, en route to Tahiti, anchored at Adventure Bay, Van Diemen's Land. The party planted apple trees, fruit stones and various vegetables before departing on 4 September.
28 September Phillip decided to send the Sirius to Cape Town for urgently needed food supplies.
September The last remaining cow was killed.
2 November A party of marines with 10 convicts left to establish a farming settlement at Rose Hill (Later called Parramatta).
19 November The last two ships of the first fleet, Golden Grove and Fishburn, sailed for England with despatches and reports.
11 December Phillip set out to explore Arabanoo was captured and held in confinement. Phillip hoped to learn his language and so to promote good relations between Aborogines and Europeans.
1790 3–28 June 5 of 6 ships of the beleaguered Second Fleet arrived. The colony was gripped by a food crisis.
1791 9 July The first ship of the Third Fleet arrived at Sydney Cove.
1792 Two French ships, Recherche and Espérance, anchor at Recherche Bay, near the southernmost point of Tasmania.
Governor Philip returned to England, accompanied by Bennelong, who became the first Australian-born person to sail to Europe.
1797 Sydney Cove was wrecked and some survivors travelled from Bass Strait to Port Jackson allowing for the rescue of others. This also furthered knowledge of the geography of Australia.
1798 Matthew Flinders sailed from Sydney and circumnavigated Tasmania, thus proving it to be an island. (to 1799)

19th century

Year Date
1803 Matthew Flinders completed the first circumnavigation of the continent (still known as "New Holland")
1804 A settlement was founded at Risdon on the Derwent River in Van Diemen's Land by Lt. John Bowen.
4–5 March Castle Hill convict rebellion, also known as the second Battle of Vinegar Hill, occurred in New South Wales.
The Risdon settlement was moved to Sullivan's Cove (now Hobart) by Colonel David Collins.
1808 The Rum Rebellion
1813 Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth crossed the Blue Mountains.
Matthew Flinders referred to New South Wales by the name "Australia".
1817 John Oxley charts the Lachlan River
Australia's first bank, the Bank of New South Wales, opened in Macquarie Place, Sydney. (The bank became Westpac in 1982).
Governor Lachlan Macquarie petitioned the British Admiralty to use the name "Australia" instead of "New Holland"
1818 Oxley charted the Macquarie River.
1824 A penal colony was founded at Moreton Bay, now the city of Brisbane.
Bathurst and Melville Islands were annexed.
Permission was granted to change the name of the continent from "New Holland" to "Australia"
The Hume and Hovell expedition travelled overland to Port Phillip Bay and discovered the Murray River (to 1825)
1825 The New South Wales western border was extended to 129° E. Van Diemen's Land was proclaimed.
1826 26 December New South Wales established first settlement in Albany in 1832
1827 21 January The whole of Australia was claimed as British territory when Major Edmund Lockyer formally annexed the western portion in a ceremony at King George Sound.
1829 Charles Sturt charted the Darling River.
2 May Captain Charles Fremantle took possession of the western side of New Holland for the British crown.
12 August The settlement of Perth was founded.
1830 November Administration of King George Sound passes to Swan River Colony, convicts returned to New South Wales.
Sturt arrived at Goolwa, having charted the Murray River.
1831 18 April The Sydney Herald (later to become The Sydney Morning Herald) was first published.
1832 Swan River Colony had its name changed to Western Australia.
1833 The penal settlement of Port Arthur was founded in Van Diemen's Land.
1835 John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner established a settlement at Port Phillip, now the city of Melbourne.
William Wentworth established Australian Patriotic Association (Australia's first political party) to demand democracy for New South Wales.
1836 Province of South Australia proclaimed with its western border at 132° E.
1838 First Prussian settlers arrived in South Australia; the largest group on non-British migrants in Australia at the time.
1839 Paul Edmund Strzelecki became the first European to ascend and name Australia's highest peak, Mount Kosciuszko.
1840 Australia's first municipal authority, the City of Adelaide, was established, followed by Sydney City Council.
1841 1 July New Zealand was proclaimed as a separate colony, no longer part of New South Wales.
1842 Copper was discovered at Kapunda in South Australia.
1843 Australia's first parliamentary elections was held for the New South Wales Legislative Council (though voting rights are restricted to males of certain wealth or property).
1845 4 August The ship Cataraqui was wrecked off King Island in Bass Strait. It is Australia's worst civil maritime disaster, with 406 lives lost.
Copper was discovered at Burra in South Australia.
1849 1 June Western Australia became a penal colony.
1850 Australian Colonies Government Act [1850] granted representative constitutions to New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. These colonies set about writing constitutions which produced democratically progressive parliaments.
1 October Australia's first university, the University of Sydney, was founded.
1851 1 July Victoria separated from New South Wales.
The Victorian gold rush started when gold was found at Summerhill Creek and Ballarat.
15 December Forest Creek Monster Meeting of miners at Chewton near Castlemaine
1852 Francis Cadell, in preparation for the launch of his steamer service, explored the Murray River in a canvas boat, travelling 1,300 miles (2,100 km) downstream from Swan Hill.[6]
1853 First paddle steamers on Murray River on the spring flood. From South Australia, the Lady Augusta captained by Francis Cadell, reached Swan Hill while Mary Ann captained by William Randell, made it as far as Moama (near Echuca).[7]
Bendigo Petition and Red Ribbon Rebellion at Bendigo
1854 3 December The Eureka Stockade
1855 The transportation of convicts to Norfolk Island ceased.
All men over 21 years of age obtained the right to vote in South Australia.
1856 1 January Van Diemen's Land name changed to Tasmania.
1857 Victorian Committee reported that a 'federal union' would be in the interests of all the growing colonies. However, there was not enough interest in or enthusiasm for taking positive steps towards bringing the colonies together.
Victorian men achieved the right to vote.
1858 Sydney and Melbourne linked by electric telegraph.
New South Wales men achieved the right to vote.
1859 6 August SS Admella wrecked off south-east coast of South Australia with the loss of 89 lives.
Australian rules football codified, Melbourne Football Club founded
6 June Queensland separated from New South Wales with its western border at 141° E.
1860 John McDouall Stuart reached the centre of the continent. The South Australian border changed from 132° E to 129° E.
1861 The ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition occurred.
Skiing in Australia introduced by Norwegians in the Snowy Mountains goldrush town of Kiandra.
1862 Stuart reached Port Darwin, founding a settlement there. Queensland's western border was moved to 139° E.
1863 South Australia took control of the Northern Territory which was previously part of the colony of New South Wales.
1864 Great Fire of Brisbane
1867 Gold was discovered at Gympie, Queensland.
Saint Mary MacKillop founded Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart.
1868 The transportation of convicts to Western Australia ceased.
1869 Children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent are removed from their families by Australian and State government agencies. This practice lasted 100 years and is known as the Stolen Generation.
1872 22 August The Overland Telegraph Line linking Darwin and Adelaide opened.
1873 Uluru was first sighted by Europeans, and named Ayers Rock.
1875 24 February SS Gothenburg strikes Old Reef off North Queensland and sank with the loss of approximately 102 lives.
September Adelaide Steamship Company was formed.
1878 First horse-drawn trams in Australia commenced operations in Adelaide.
1879 The first congress of trade unions was held.
1880 11 November The bushranger Ned Kelly was hanged.
Parliamentarians in Victoria became the first in Australia to be paid for their work.
1882 First water-borne sewerage service in Australia commenced operations in Adelaide.
1883 The opening of the Sydney–Melbourne railway.
Silver was discovered at Broken Hill
1887 15–19 March The first Test match is played between Australia and England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The first direct Inter-colonial passenger trains began running between Adelaide and Melbourne.
Gold was discovered at Southern Cross, Western Australia.
1888 Louisa Lawson established The Dawn: A Journal for Australian Women.
1889 The completion of the railway network between Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.
24 October Sir Henry Parkes delivered the Tenterfield Oration.
1890 The Australian Federation Conference called a constitutional convention.
26 April Banjo Paterson published The Man from Snowy River
1891 A National Australasian Convention met and agreed on adopting the name "the Commonwealth of Australia," also drafting a constitution.
The first attempt at a federal constitution was drafted.
The Convention adopts the constitution, although it had no legal status
A severe depression hit Australia
1893 The Corowa Conference (the "people's convention") called on the colonial parliaments to pass enabling acts, allowing the election of delegates to a new constitutional convention aimed at drafting a proposal and putting it to a referendum in each colony.
1894 South Australia became the first Australian colony, and the second place in the world, to grant women the right to vote, as well the first Parliament in the world to allow women to stand for office.
1895 The premiers, except for those of Queensland and Western Australia, agreed to implement the Corowa proposals.
"Waltzing Matilda" was first sung in public, in Winton, Queensland
1896 The Bathurst Conference (the second "people's convention") met to discuss the 1891 draft constitution.
1897 In two sessions, the Second National Australasian Convention met (with representatives from all colonies except Queensland present). They agreed to adopt a constitution based on 1891 draft, and then revised and amended it later that year. Catherine Helen Spence became the first female political candidate for political office, standing for election as a representative for South Australia.
1898 The Convention agreed on a final draft to be put to the people.
After much public debate, the Victorian, South Australian and Tasmanian referendums were successful; the New South Wales referendum narrowly failed. Later New South Wales voted "yes" in a second referendum, and Queensland and Western Australia also voted to join.
1899 The decision was made to site the national capital in New South Wales, but not within 100 miles of Sydney.
1–7 December The Australian Labor Party held office for a few days in Queensland, becoming the first trade union party to do so anywhere in the world.
The first contingents from various Australian colonies were sent to South Africa to participate in the Second Boer War.
1900 Several delegates visited London to resist proposed changes to the agreed-upon constitution.
The constitution was passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom as a schedule to the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, and was given royal assent

20th century

Year Date Event
1901 1 January Australia becomes a federation. Edmund Barton becomes the 1st Prime Minister of Australia; the 7th Earl of Hopetoun becomes Governor-General
The first parliament met in Parliament House, Melbourne
The Immigration Restriction Act was introduced forming the bases of the White Australia policy
The Australian National Flag was flown for the first time
1902 The Franchise Act guarantees women the right to vote in federal elections (by this stage, most states had already done this). However, it excludes most non-European ethnic groups, including Aboriginal people, unless already registered to vote on State roles.
King Edward VII approved the design of the Australian flag.
27 February Breaker Morant is executed for having shot Boers who had surrendered
1903 25 August The High Court of Australia is established with Samuel Griffith as the first Chief Justice.
The Defence Act gives the federal government full control over the Australian Army
16 December Australian federal election, 1903: Alfred Deakin is elected as the 2nd Prime Minister of Australia.
1904 A site at Dalgety, New South Wales chosen for the new national capital
Chris Watson forms the first federal Labor (minority) government
27 April Deakin resign and Chris Watson assumes office as the 3rd Prime Minister of Australia.
18 August Prime Minister of Australia.
1905 5 July Alfred Deakin return to the position of Prime Minister.
1906 Australia takes control of south-eastern New Guinea
12 December Australian federal election, 1906: Alfred Deakin was reelected.
1908 Dorothea Mackellar publishes My Country
The Dalgety proposal for the national capital is revoked, and Canberra is chosen instead
13 November Andrew Fisher became 5th Prime Minister of Australia.
1909 The first powered aeroplane flight in Australia is made.
2 June Alfred Deakin become Prime Minister.
1910 Andrew Fisher forms the first federal majority Labor government.
29 April Andrew Fisher become Prime Minister.
1911 The Royal Australian Navy is founded
The Northern Territory comes under Commonwealth control, being split off from South Australia
The first national census is conducted.
Australian Capital Territory proclaimed.
1912 July Australia sends women to the Olympic Games for the first time
Walter Burley Griffin wins a design competition for the new city of Canberra
1913 The foundation stone for the city of Canberra is put in place
31 May Australian federal election, 1913: Joseph Cook elected as the 6th Prime Minister of Australia.
1914 Australian soldiers are sent to the First World War. This was first time Australians had fought under the Australian flag, as opposed to that of Britain's.
17 September Andrew Fisher become Prime Minister.
1915 25 April Australian soldiers land at ANZAC Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey.
Jervis Bay Territory comprising 6,677 hectares surrendered and becomes part of the Australia Capital Territory.
Surfing is first introduced to Australia
27 October Billy Hughes became the 7th Prime Minister of Australia.
1916 Hotels are forced to close at 6 p.m., leading to the beginning of the "six o'clock swill"
Australia suffers heavy casualties in the Western Front Battle of the Somme
The Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia, the forerunner to the Returned and Services League of Australia is founded
The Labor government under Billy Hughes splits over conscription. First referendum on conscription is rejected
1917 Second referendum on conscription is rejected. Transcontinental railway linking Adelaide to Perth is completed.
5 May Australian federal election, 1917: Billy Hughes reelected as Prime Minister.
31 October Battle of Beersheba: Australian 4th Light Horse Brigade launches last cavalry charge in modern warfare to capture Beersheba from the Ottoman Turks.
1918 King George V
11 November First World War ends – 60,000 Australians dead.
17 December The Darwin Rebellion takes place, with 1,000 demonstrators demanding the resignation of the Administrator of the Northern Territory, John A. Gilruth.
1919 Prime Minister Billy Hughes signs Treaty of Versailles: the first signing of an international treaty by Australia. Australia obtains League of Nations mandate over German New Guinea.
13 December Australian federal election, 1919: Billy Hughes reelected as Prime Minister.
1920 The airline Qantas is founded
1921 12 March Edith Cowan becomes the first woman elected to an Australian parliament
1922 The Smith Family charity is founded in Sydney
16 December Australian federal election, 1922: Billy Hughes reelected as Prime Minister.
1923 Vegemite is first produced
9 February Stanley Bruce became 8th Prime Minister of Australia.
1925 16 December Australian federal election, 1925: Stanley Bruce reelected as Prime Minister.
1926 The first Miss Australia contest is held
1927 9 May The tenth parliament is formally opened in Canberra, finalising the move to the new capital
1928 Bert Hinkler makes the first successful flight from Britain to Australia, and Charles Kingsford Smith makes the first flight from the United States to Australia. The Shrine of Remembrance is built.
1929 Western Australia celebrates its centenary
Labor returns to office under James Scullin. The Great Depression hits Australia.
1930 6 January New South Wales batsman Don Bradman scores a world record first-class individual innings of 452 not out in a Sheffield Shield match against Queensland
4 November Phar Lap wins his only Melbourne Cup
1931 Sir Douglas Mawson charts 4,000 miles of Antarctic coastline and claims 42% of the icy mass for Australia
1932 19 March The Sydney Harbour Bridge opens
The Labor government falls and Joseph Lyons becomes Prime Minister
1933 8 April Western Australia votes at a rerefendum to secede from the Commonwealth, but the vote is ignored by both the Commonwealth and British governments
1936 The last Thylacine dies
1937 The radio series Dad and Dave begins
1938 5–12 February Sydney hosts the Empire Games, the forerunner to the Commonwealth Games
1939 13 January Victoria is devastated by the Black Friday bushfires
7 April Prime Minister Joseph Lyons dies in office and is replaced by Robert Menzies and the first Menzies Government
September Australia enters the Second World War following the German Invasion of Poland. The 2nd Australian Imperial Force is raised.[8]
The first flight is made by an Australian-made warplane, the Wirraway
1940 A team of scientists, under Howard Florey, develops penicillin
Fascist Italy enters war, Royal Australian Navy engages Italian Navy in the early stages of the Battle of the Mediterranean.
1941 3 Divisions of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force join operations in the Mediterranean. After initial successes against Italy, 2nd AIF suffered defeat against the Germans in Greece, Crete, and North Africa.[9]
Apr–Aug, Australian garrison (Rats of Tobruk) halt advance of Hitler's panzers for the first time during the Siege of Tobruk.
Menzies resigns and John Curtin becomes Prime Minister in the Curtin Government of 1941–45.
1942 February Singapore falls, 15,000 Australians become Prisoners of War of the Japanese
Japanese air raids – almost 100 attacks against sites in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland (to 1943). Bombing of Darwin sees largest attack on Australia by a foreign power.
The Royal Australian Navy and 6th and 7th Divisions of 2nd AIF are recalled from Mediterranean Theatre to participate in the anticipated Battle for Australia.
Sparrow Force engages in guerilla campaign in Battle of Timor (to 1943)
4 May – 8 May Battle of the Coral Sea: United States and Royal Australian Navy halt advance of the Japanese towards Port Moresby (Australian Territory of Papua)
21 July – 16 November Battle of Kokoda Trail: Australian soldiers halt Japanese march on Port Moresby
Aug–Sep Australian forces inflict the first defeat on the Imperial Japanese Army in the Battle of Milne Bay.[10]
Jul–Nov Australia's 9th Division plays crucial role in the First and Second Battle of El Alamein, which turned the North Africa Campaign in favour of the Allies.[11]
National daylight saving is introduced as a war time measure.
The UK Statute of Westminster is formally adopted by Australia. The Statute formally grants Australia the right to pass laws that conflict with UK laws.
1943 4 March Australia wins its first Oscar, with cinematographer Damien Parer honoured for Kokoda Front Line! documentary.
2,815 Australian POWs die constructing Japan's Burma-Thailand Railway[12]
Australian forces engage Japan in New Guinea, Wau, and the Huon peninsula.[9] (to 1944)
1944 5 August Cowra breakout, mass escape of Japanese prisoners of war occurs in NSW.
Japanese inflict Sandakan Death March on 2,000 Australian and British prisoners of war – only 6 survive. The single worst war crime perpetrated against Australians.[13]
Australian forces battle Japanese garrisons from Borneo to Bougainville.[9]
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme is introduced, providing subsidised medicine to all Australians
1945 the Liberal Party of Australia is established with Robert Menzies as its first leader.
Australian forces lead Battle of Borneo
7 May Nazi Germany surrenders
July Prime Minister Curtin dies and is replaced, briefly by Frank Forde, then by Ben Chifley and the Chifley Labor Government
14 August Japan surrenders
Australia becomes a founding member of the United Nations
26 December 1945 – 3 January 1946 The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race is held for the first time
1946 Minister for Immigration Arthur Calwell introduces the major post-war immigration scheme
Norman Makin, is voted in as the first President of the United Nations Security Council.
1948 Minister for External Affairs, Dr. H. V. Evatt is elected President of the United Nations General Assembly.
Australia becomes a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
1949 All indigenous ex-servicemen and any Indigenous Australians who are eligible to vote in State Elections (NSW, VIC, SA and TAS) are given an unrestricted right to vote in federal elections.
26 January The Nationality and Citizenship Act is passed. Rather than being identified as subjects of Britain, the Act established Australian citizenship for people who met eligibility requirements.
17 October Construction of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme officially begins
10 December Australian federal election, 1949: Robert Menzies returns to power as leader of the new Liberal Party Menzies Government.
1950 Australian troops are sent to the Korean War to assist South Korea. (to 1953)
1951 Voters reject a referendum to change the Constitution to allow the Menzies Government to ban the Communist Party
1 September Australia signs the ANZUS treaty with the United States and New Zealand
1952 3 October Operation Hurricane: First nuclear test conducted in Australian territory by the United Kingdom off the coast of Western Australia.
1954 Elizabeth II and Prince Philip make a royal visit; the Soviet diplomat Vladimir Petrov defects, leading to the Petrov Affair and another split in the Labor Party
1955 Democratic Labor Party splits from Australian Labor Party over concerns of Communist influence in the labour movement
Australia becomes involved in Malayan Insurgency
Hotels in New South Wales no longer have to close at 6 p.m., ending the "six o'clock swill"
1956 16 September Television in Australia is launched.
22 November – 8 December The 16th Summer Olympics is held in Melbourne
Performing artist Barry Humphries introduces Edna Everage to the Australian stage
1957 The song "Wild One" makes Johnny O'Keefe the first Australian rock'n'roller to reach the national charts.
Slim Dusty's Australian country music hit "A Pub with No Beer" becomes the first Australian song to attain international chart success.
1962 Robert Menzies' Commonwealth Electoral Act provided that all Indigenous Australians should have the right to enrol and vote at federal elections, removing remaining restrictions applying in QLD, WA and NT.
Malayan Insurgency ends
1964 12–20 June The Beatles' 1964 world tour reach Australia
10 February 82 sailors die when HMAS Voyager sinks after collision with HMAS Melbourne
The editors of Oz magazine are charged with obscenity
Prime Minister Robert Menzies announces the reintroduction of compulsory military service for men aged from 18–25 years old
First troops sent to Vietnam War.
1965 Indigenous Australians gain right to vote in state of Queensland
1966 The ban on the employment of married women in the Commonwealth Public Service is lifted
26 January Robert Menzies retire as Australia's longest-serving Prime Minister and is succeeded by Harold Holt.
14 February Decimalisation; the Australian currency is changed to dollars and cents, with the Australian dollar replacing the Australian pound.
1967 3 February Ronald Ryan becomes the last person legally executed in Australia.
7 February Black Tuesday bushfires devastate large areas of Hobart and south-eastern Tasmania; 62 people were killed.
9 February Gough Whitlam becomes leader of the Labor Party
27 May The constitution is changed to allow Aboriginal Australians to be included in the population count and for the federal government to legislate for them
Sydney is rocked by a series of brutal underworld killings
Talkback radio is introduced
17 December Prime Minister Harold Holt disappears while swimming at Cheviot Beach
19 December Holt was officially presumed dead by the government. Governor-General Lord Casey swore John McEwen in as Prime Minister, on an interim basis pending the Liberal Party electing its new leader
1968 10 January John Gorton replaces John McEwen as Prime Minister
24 June British comedian Tony Hancock commits suicide in Sydney
1 July Australia signs the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
Aboriginal boxing champion Lionel Rose defeats Masahiko "Fighting" Harada in Japan to become the world bantamweight champion
Australia's first transplant operation is performed in Sydney
1969 French conceptual artist Christo 'wraps' Little Bay in Sydney
November Renowned author-artists Norman Lindsay and May Gibbs die
The Australian production of the rock musical Hair premieres in Sydney
Top pop groups the Easybeats and the Twilights break up; Tim Burstall directs 2000 Weeks, the first All-Australian feature released since Charles Chauvel's Jedda in 1958
25 October Australian federal election, 1969: John Gorton reelected as Prime Minister.
1970 More than 200,000 people participate in the largest demonstrations in Australian history, against the Vietnam War
1971 Neville Bonner becomes the first Aborigine to become an Australian Member of Parliament;
10 March John Gorton resigns as Prime Minister and is succeeded by William McMahon
The 1971 Springbok tour sparks protest all throughout Australia. Premier of Queensland Joh Bjelke-Petersen declares a state of emergency in QLD in response to escalating protest.
Daylight saving is introduced to New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.[14]
1972 The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission rules that women doing the same job as men have the right to be paid the same wage.
Aboriginal Tent Embassy erected in response to the Coalition government's approval of exploration licences and mining tenements on reserves
Queensland abandons Daylight Saving.[14]
2 December Australian federal election, 1972: The first Labor government since 1949 is elected under the leadership of Gough Whitlam
Australia recognises the People's Republic of China
1973 20 October The Sydney Opera House formally opened by Elizabeth II
The White Australian Policy (established 1901) is officially dismantled
Vietnam War ends
The federal voting age is dropped from 21 to 18
Unionists save the historic "The Rocks" area of Sydney from demolition by introducing "Green Bans"
Patrick White becomes the first Australian to win the Nobel Prize in Literature
1974 "Advance Australia Fair" recognised as Australia's national song, but not as national anthem.
24 – 25 December Darwin is devastated by Cyclone Tracy.
1975 The Privy Council (Appeals from the High Court) Act removes the right to appeal High Court decisions to the British Privy Council. Appeals to the Privy Council direct from State Supreme Courts remain until 1988.
January 5 The Hobart Bridge collapsed. A bulk ore carrier travelling on the Derwent River collided into several pylons of the Tasman Bridge killing a total of 12 people. These included 7 crew on board the ship and 5 people that were in 4 cars which drove 45m off the bridge into the Derwent River.
South Australia becomes the first state in Australia to legalise homosexuality between consenting adults in private.
Whitlam government introduced the Aboriginal Land (NT) Bill into Parliament. The bill proposed land rights in the Northern Territory based on land claimed on grounds of need as well as traditional affiliation and traditional landowners maintaining control over mining and development.
A constitutional crisis occurs when Malcolm Fraser blocks supply, bringing the nation to a standstill until Governor-General John Kerr dismisses Prime Minister Gough Whitlam on 11 November 1975. Kerr then appointed Malcolm Fraser, Leader of the Opposition, as caretaker Prime Minister.
13 December Australian federal election, 1975: Malcolm Fraser wins elections and becomes Prime Minister
1976 The Australian Capital Territory legalises homosexuality between consenting adults in private.
1977 18 January Granville rail disaster killed eighty-three people
1978 24 June First Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
1979 Australian women win the right to maternity leave
Kakadu National Park and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park are both proclaimed.
1980 17 August Baby Azaria Chamberlain disappears from a campsite at Uluru (Ayers Rock), reportedly taken by a dingo.
18 October Australian federal election, 1980: The Coalition is elected.
1981 A referendum is held in Tasmania to vote for whether or not the Franklin Dam should be built.
1982 30 September – 9 October 12th Commonwealth Games held in Brisbane.
The National Gallery of Australia is opened.
1983 16 February The Ash Wednesday bushfires kill 71 people.
5 March Australian federal election, 1983: Bob Hawke defeats Fraser and leads Labor back to government.
14 September – 26 September Australia wins the America's Cup
12 December The Australian dollar is floated.
1984 19 April "Advance Australia Fair" is proclaimed as Australia's official national anthem.
1 February Medicare is established.
14 May The one dollar coin is issued to replace the one dollar note.
1 December Australian federal election, 1984: Labor wins.
1985 The government grants the freehold title of a large area of land in central Australia, including prominent landmarks Uluru and Kata Tjuta, to the Mutitjulu people, who in turn give them a 99-year lease. The last state to do so (New South Wales) abolishes capital punishment.
1986 The Australia Act removes the right of appeal from State courts to the British Privy Council, making the High Court the final court of appeal in Australia. The Act also removes all remaining rights of the UK parliament to pass law for Australia.
2 February Murder of Anita Cobby in Sydney.
27 March Russell Street Bombing in Melbourne.
Crocodile Dundee is released in Australia.
1987 9 August Hoddle Street massacre kills 7 victims and injures 19
1 December Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen resigns as Premier of Queensland after 19 years at the top.
8 December Queen Street massacre kills 8 victims and injures 5.
1988 26 January Australia celebrates its bicentenary, with large celebrations and major funding for capital works projects.
3 September Federal referendums on 4-year parliamentary terms, recognition of local government and other issues are defeated.
30 April – 30 October Brisbane hosts World Expo 88.
9 May The new Parliament House opens in Canberra.
1989 Newcastle Earthquake kills 13 people. ACT gains self-Government. The Kempsey bus crash and Grafton bus crash kill a total of 56 people.
Queensland commences three-year trial of Daylight Saving.[14]
Rosemary Follett (Australian Labor Party) becomes the first Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory and the first woman to become head of government in an Australian state or territory.
1990 Royal Australian Navy deployed in preparation for the First Gulf War. Carmen Lawrence becomes the first female premier of an Australian state. Labor wins the 1990 federal election.
1991 4 July Prominent heart surgeon Victor Chang is gunned down.
17 August Seven people die in the Strathfield massacre.
21 August The Coode Island chemical storage facility in Melbourne explodes, leaving a toxic cloud hanging over the city for days.
20 December Paul Keating replace Bob Hawke to be the 24th Prime Minister of Australia.
1992 The High Court delivers the Mabo Decision, which rules that indigenous native title does exist. This effectively extinguishes the concept of terra nullius. New South Wales Premier Nick Greiner resigns.
22 February Queensland holds a referendum on daylight saving, which is defeated with a 54.5% 'no' vote.[15]
1993 13 March Australian federal election, 1993: Keating defeats John Hewson; the Australian Greens stand candidates for the first time.
1995 The Northern Territory legalises voluntary euthanasia, but it is overruled by the federal government when Liberal MP Kevin Andrews proposes the Euthanasia Laws Bill 1996
1996 The High Court hands down the Wik Decision, which holds that indigenous native title can survive the granting of pastoral leases.
2 March Australian federal election, 1996: Liberal John Howard becomes Prime Minister, defeating Paul Keating after a record 13 years of Labor government
Howard Government leads all Australian states and territories agree to introduce uniform gun laws following the deaths of 35 people in the Port Arthur massacre
1997 Expelled Liberal MP Pauline Hanson forms the One Nation Party
1 May Tasmania legalises homosexuality
30 July 1997 Thredbo landslide: Eighteen people die when the Bimbadene and Carinya Lodges collapse at Thredbo Alpine Village at 11.30 p.m.
1998 A major strike results when Patrick Stevedores attempt to introduce non-union labour to reduce the influence of the Maritime Union of Australia
The Australian Stock Exchange is demutualized and floated as a public company, becoming the world's first stock exchange to be listed on an exchange.
1999 26 August Both houses of the federal parliament pass a Motion of Reconciliation signifying both recognition of and regret at past mistreatment of indigenous Australians.
6 November A referendum on changing to a republic is unsuccessful
Howard Government deploys Australian forces to East Timor to lead the INTERFET mission, following violence in wake of East Timorese vote for independence.
2000 1 July Howard Government introduces a Goods and Services Tax
15 September – 1 October 27th Summer Olympic Games held in Sydney.

21st century

Year Date Event
2001 Australia celebrates centenary of Federation;
Western Australia adopts a uniform Age of consent of 16.
Boat load of asylum seekers is rescued by Norwegian ship, leading to the Tampa affair.
Australian forces deployed to War to topple Taliban for supporting Al-Qaeda
10 November Australian federal election, 2001: John Howard is reelected as Prime Minister.
2002 12 October 2002 Bali bombings, the deadliest act of terrorism in the history of Indonesia, killing 202 people (including 88 Australians).[16]
2003 Australian military deployed to Iraq War to oust the Saddam Hussein regime for serial non-compliance with the 1991 Gulf War Peace Treaty.
Northern Territory introduces uniform Age of consent set at 16 for everyone.
New South Wales becomes the last State to have a Uniform Age of Consent at 16 for everyone.
Australia hosts the Rugby World Cup, with the home side losing the final to England.
2004 9 September A bomb explodes outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, Asia.
9 October Australian federal election, 2004: Howard Government (Liberal-National Coalition) wins fourth term and defeats Mark Latham led Australian Labor Party.
2005 December Sydney beachside suburb of Cronulla sees a protest against the alleged bashing of a beach lifeguard, developing into an alcohol-fuelled, racially-charged riot.
2006 15 – 26 March The Commonwealth Games are held in Melbourne.
Australian Forces are again deployed to East Timor to help stabilize the country.
2007 2 September – 9 September Sydney hosts APEC summit.
Australia avoids recession amidst Global Financial Crisis (to 2010)
24 November Australian federal election, 2007: Kevin Rudd (Australian Labor Party) defeats John Howard (Liberal-National Coalition) to become the 26th Prime Minister of Australia.
2008 13 February Kevin Rudd leads bi-partisan Parliamentary to formally apologise for the Stolen Generations.
Longest heatwave for an Australian capital city recorded in Adelaide.
15–20 July Sydney hosts Catholic World Youth Day
5 September Quentin Bryce assumed office as Governor-General of Australia, becoming the first female to do so.
2009 7 February – 14 March Black Saturday bushfires: Massive bushfires swept across Victoria, resulting in 173 fatalities.[17][18][19]
2010 23 – 24 June Julia Gillard challenged and replaced Kevin Rudd as leader of the Labor Party to become the 27th and first female Prime Minister of Australia.
17 October Mary MacKillop canonised as Australia's first Saint of the Roman Catholic Church.[20]
21 August Australian federal election, 2010: Election results in hung Parliament and narrow victory by Julia Gillard (ALP) over Tony Abbott (Lib-Nat Coalition); Liberal Ken Wyatt becomes the first Aboriginal elected to the Australian House of Representatives
2011 Queensland is affected by major flooding followed by Cyclone Yasi.
2012 1 July Carbon price introduced by the Gillard Government.
2013 26 June Kevin Rudd defeats Julia Gillard in a leadership spill, 57 votes to 45. Gillard resigns from parliament, Rudd is sworned as the prime minister.
7 September Australian federal election, 2013: Tony Abbott defeats Kevin Rudd to become the 28th Prime Minister of Australia.
2014 14 July Carbon price is dropped by the Abbott Government.
15 – 16 November Brisbane hosts G20 Summit.


  1. ^ McIntyre, K.G. (1977) The Secret Discovery of Australia, Portuguese ventures 200 years before Cook, Souvenir Press, Menindie ISBN 0-285-62303-6
  2. ^ Trickett, P (2007). Beyond Capricorn. How Portuguese adventurers discovered and mapped Australia and New Zealand 250 years before Captain Cook. East Street Publications. Adelaide. ISBN 978-0-9751145-9-9
  3. ^ Richardson, W.A.R. (2006). Was Australia charted before 1606? The Jave La Grande inscriptions. Canberra, National Library of Australia, P.96, ISBN 0-642-27642-0
  4. ^ Pearson, M. Great Southern Land; The Maritime Exploration of Terra Australis. Australian Government Department of Environment and Heritage, 2005. ISBN 0-642-55185-5
  5. ^ E. Lauterpacht; C. J. Greenwood (1991). International Law Reports. Cambridge University Press. pp. 211.  
  6. ^ "PRESENT CONDITION AND PROSPECTS OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA.". South Australian Register. 14 Sep 1852. p. 1S. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  7. ^ "Navigation of the Murray". The Sydney Morning Herald. 1 November 1853. p. 2. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  8. ^ 2nd Australian Imperial Force | Australian War Memorial. Retrieved on 2012-05-22.
  9. ^ a b c Second World War, 1939–45 | Australian War Memorial. Retrieved on 2012-05-22.
  10. ^ Battle of Milne Bay | Australian War Memorial. (1942-08-25). Retrieved on 2012-05-22.
  11. ^ Encyclopedia | Australian War Memorial. (1942-10-23). Retrieved on 2012-05-22.
  12. ^ Stolen Years: Australian prisoners of war | Australian War Memorial. Retrieved on 2012-05-22.
  13. ^ Stolen Years: Australian prisoners of war | Australian War Memorial. Retrieved on 2012-05-22.
  14. ^ a b c Australian Government – Bureau of Meteorology. "Daylight Saving Time – Implementation Dates of Daylight Saving Time within Australia". Retrieved 27 July 2010. 
  15. ^ "1992 Queensland Daylight Saving Referendum" (PDF). Retrieved 25 July 2010. 
  16. ^ "Bali death toll set at 202". BBC News. 19 February 2003. 
  17. ^ "Toll capped at 210".  
  18. ^ "Bushfires death toll". Victoria Police. 30 March 2009. Retrieved 31 March 2009. 
  19. ^ "Bushfire death toll revised down". News Limited. 30 March 2009. Retrieved 30 March 2009. 
  20. ^ MacKillop to become Australia's first saint – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). (2009-12-19). Retrieved on 2012-05-22.


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