Timeline of Australian History

Significant events in the timeline of Australian History
A nation experiences countless moments of significance every year … but which ones should make the short list for the timeline of Australian history? Some moments choose themselves like the time when the first people populated the land, to the arrival of the Europeans in 1788 and the foundation of the nation of Australia in 1901. Others are less grand and of little note to the rest of the world but still significant to the people of Australia. These range from the tragic death of Victor Chang in 1991 to the national celebration of Phar Lap winning the Melbourne Cup in 1930 to Don Bradman scoring 452 in an innings of cricket in 1930.

Ask 100 Australians for a list of significant events in the timeline of Australian history and you would get 100 different outcomes. Here is mine …

 Australian History – a Timeline

arts.anu.edu.au – Ancient Australia

monash.edu.au – Aboriginal Rock Paintings

acl.arts.usyd.edu.au – Aboriginal Tools

geo-sites.zoomshare.com – Aboriginal Art

Dreamtime Australia – comm.unt.edu

cap.nsw.edu.au – Lake Mungo

aboriginalartonline.com – Boomerangs

wikipedia.org – 1543 Dieppe Map

sl.nsw.gov.au Dirk Hartog Plate

nsw.gov.au Sydney Cove 26 January 1788

migrationheritage.gov.au Governor MacQuarie

utas.edu.au Port Arthur

www.garwood-voigt.com NZ part of NSW

ballarat.edu.au Gold Rush Ballarat

slv.vic.gov.au Eureka Stockade

nla.gov.au Queen Trucanini

nla.gov.au Ned Kelly

awm.gov.au Banjo Paterson

slsa.sa.gov.au Federation of Australia 1901
nla.gov.au Dorothea Mackellar

anzacsite.gov.au Anzac Cove 1915

library.act.gov.au Opening Canberra Parliament

mosman.nsw.gov.au Charles Kingsford Smith

rowinghistory-aus.info Empire Games 1938

naa.gov.au Darwin Attack 1942

cyca.com.au Rani 1945 winner Sydney – Hobart

john.curtin.edu.au First Holden

aoml.noaa.gov Australian Flag – Blue ensine

rba.gov.au Melbourne Olympics

rba.gov.au Australian Decimalisation


naa.gov.au Gough Whitlam

naa.gov.au/ Sydney Opera House Opens

naa.gov.au Gough Whitlam dismissal

l.yimg.com Australia 11 wins Americas Cup

zipworld.com.au Ayres Rock handover to Mutitjulu

naa.gov.au – Australia’s bicentenary

adcq.qld.gov.au Mabo Decision

unimelb.edu.au John Howard PM
eq.edu.au Sydney Olympics 2000

library.act.gov.au Kevin Rudd PM

goldcoast.com.au 2009 Victorian Bushfires

Jessica Watson yachtyakka.co.nz

 The ‘First Australians’ – Indigenous Aboriginals 

120,000 years ago: An analysis of pollen and charcoal provides evidence of people using fire to clear land in the Lake George basin in the Southern Tablelands of NSW.
60,000 years ago: Ancient camp sites and human remains dated to this time have been found in the area of Lake Mungo south-western NSW.

56,000 years ago: Archaeological evidence identifying this date were found in two north Australian sites (Nauwalabila and Malakunanja) located about 300 kms east of Darwin in the Northern Territory. These  suggests that a rock shelter was habituated by an ancient people who used stone tools and red ochre probably to prepare pigments for rock painting or body decoration.
45-42,000 years ago: Aboriginal rock engravings are found in Olary region South Australia dating back to this time. These are the earliest dated petroglyphs
35,000 years ago: Aborigines are thought to have reached Tasmania by this time.
30,700 years ago: Archaeological evidence suggests Aboriginal people were living at the Keilor site (20 kms north-west of Melbourne) in Victoria.
30,000 years ago: The oldest evidence of bread making in the world was found at Cuddy Springs (ancient lake located between Marra Creek and Macquarie River, near Carinda, western NSW). Also the Devils’ Lair in southernmost Western Australia, was home to Aboriginal people who left bone tool artefacts, including unique bone-beads of split-pointed macropod shin bones. The cave was occupied from this time until 6,000 BP. 
26,000 years ago: Archaeological evidence of bones found in sediment at the Willandra Lakes Region of far western NSW date back to this time. The body of a woman from Lake Mungo provides the earliest evidence in the world of ritual cremation. The body is prepared with ochre before cremation. This is one of the earliest known burials of a distinctly modern people evidenced by signs of spiritual and creative life, including technology linked to much later Aboriginal culture.
22,000 years ago: An ancient occupation site identified at Wentworth Falls. NSW. Also, about this time, Aboriginal people living at Malangangarr in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, use ground-edge grooved axes. They are the first ancient people to do so. Furthermore, in deep caves under the Nullarbor Plains at Koonalda (at the western edge of South Australia, about 50 kms from the ocean), Aboriginal people mine flint and leave grooved designs on the cave walls. This is early evidence of the close relationship between art and work in Aboriginal life.
20,000 years ago: Aboriginal people have dispersed across the entire continent, occupying places as remote as rock shelters on the Franklin River in south-west Tasmania and at Birrigai in the ranges of the Australian Capital Territory. Kutikina Cave on the Franklin River is occupied by Tasmanian Aboriginal people at the height of the last ice age.
16,000 years ago: Sea levels begin to rise as ice caps melt. Inland lakes such as Lake Mungo have dried up. Hearths, stone and bone tools dating back to this time are discovered at Shaws Creek near Yarramundi (60 kms north-west from Sydney), NSW.
18,000 years ago: Archaeological evidence  of art at Ubirr in Kakadu National Park (Northern Territory, 300 kms east of Darwin) depicts now extinct animals, like the Thylacine (Tasmanian tiger), and Zaglossus (the long-beaked echidna)
13,000 years ago: Land bridges between mainland Australia and Tasmania are flooded. Archaeological evidence identifies Aboriginal people at Kow Swamp near Cohuna, 230 kms north of Melbourne, Victoria, were wearing kangaroo teeth headbands.
10,000 years ago: Archaeological evidence  of Aboriginal people at Wyrie Swamp near Millicent, 340 kms south-east of Adelaide, South Australia, using returning boomerangs to hunt waterfowl.
8,000 years ago: The Torres Strait Islands are formed when the land bridge between Australia and New Guinea is submerged by rising seas. The earliest visible evidence of the Aboriginal belief connected with the rainbow Serpent, making this the longest continuing belief in the world..

5,000 years ago: Archaeological evidence of an occupation site, Penrith Lakes (about 50 kms west of Sydney), NSW. The coastline of Australia takes its present form where Rottnest Island (off Perth, WA), separates from the mainland Australia to become an island. 
4,000 years ago: The date when the first domesticated animal, the Dingo, reaches Australia.

 European Discovery 

1522: Date Australia was sighted by a Portuguese expedition led by Cristóvão de Mendonça. Australia originally named Jave la Grande (The Greater Java)

1606: Portuguese or Spanish seaman Luis Váez de Torres sails through the Torres Strait that separates Australia and New Guinea.
1606: Dutchman Willem Janszoon (Jansz) in the ‘Duyfken’ explores the western coast of Cape York Peninsula. This was the first recorded landfall by a European on Australian soil.
1606: Pedro Fernandes de Queirós believed that he had found the southern continent and named it La Austrialia del Espiritu Santo (The Great South Land of the Holy Spirit). 
1616: Dutch captain Dirk Hartog in the ‘Eendracht’ makes the second recorded landfall by a European (Duyfken was the first), at Dirk Hartog Island on the western coast of Australia. Leaves behind the Hartog Plate.
1623: Dutch captain Jan Carstensz navigates the Gulf of Carpentaria aboard the Pera and Arnhem. The Arnhem crosses the Gulf to reach and name Groote Eylandt.
1642: Dutch explorer Abel Tasman explores the west coast of Tasmania, lands on its east coast and names the island Anthoonij van Diemenslandt. After 1650 the Dutch stopped calling Australia Zuid Landt (South Land) and Terra Australis, and began calling the land New Holland.
1688: English explorer William Dampier explores the west coasts of Australia.
1696: Flemish explorer Willem de Vlamingh charts the southwestern coast of Australia, making landfall at Rottnest Island and the site of the present-day city of Perth.
1770: English Lieutenant James Cook‘s expedition in HM Bark Endeavour charts the eastern coast. He raised the Union Jack on what is now called Possession Island on 22 August to claim the eastern half of the continent as New South Wales for Great Britain 

 European Colonisation 

1788: British Navy captain Arthur Phillip arrived at Sydney Cove on 26 January and raised the Union Jack to signal the beginning of the penal settlement at Sydney. He had arrived with a fleet of 11 vessels, carrying nearly 800 convicts. The Aboriginal population numbers several hundred thousand at the time. Governance included the current islands of New Zealand.

1803: Matthew Flinders completes the first circumnavigation of the Australian continent.
1804: Hobart Town is established in Van Diemens Land (Tasmania)
1808: The Rum Rebellion
1813: Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth cross the Blue Mountains.
1817: Governor Macquarie accepted the recommendation of Captain Matthew Flinders, that the continent be called “Australia”.
1817: Australia’s first bank, the Bank of New South Wales, opens in Macquarie Place, Sydney (it later became Westpac, in 1982)
1824: A penal colony is founded at Moreton Bay, now the city of Brisbane.
1829: Colony of Western Australia established at Perth by Captain James Stirling.
1831: Sydney Herald (later to become The Sydney Morning Herald) is first published.
1832: Swan River Colony has its name changed to Western Australia.
1833: The penal settlement of Port Arthur is founded in Van Dieman’s Land.
1835: John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner establish a settlement at Port Phillip, now the city of Melbourne.
1836: South Australia established, with Adelaide as its capital.
1841: New Zealand is proclaimed as a separate colony and so no longer part of New South Wales.
1850: Australia’s first university, the University of Sydney, is founded.
1850: Western Australia becomes a penal colony.
1851: The Victorian gold rush starts when gold is found at Summerhill Creek and Ballarat.
1853: The last convicts are shipped to Tasmania.
1854: The Eureka Stockade
1856: Australia becomes the first country to introduce the secret ballot – or ‘Australian ballot’ – for elections.
1856: Van Diemen’s Land name changed to Tasmania.
1859: Australian rules football codified, Melbourne Football Club founded
1861: The ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition occurs.
1867: Gold is discovered at Gympie, Queensland.
1868: The transportation of convicts to Western Australia ceases.
1869: Children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent are removed from their families by Australian and State government agencies.
1876: The last full blooded Tasmanian aboriginal, Queen Truganini, dies.
1877: Australia and England play the first-ever cricket Test match in Melbourne.
1880: The bushranger Ned Kelly is hanged.
1883: Silver is discovered at Broken Hill
1883: The opening of the Sydney-Melbourne railway
1887: An Australian cricket team is established, defeating England in the first Ashes series. 
1889: Sir Henry Parkes delivers the Tenterfield Oration.
1891: A National Australasian Convention meets, agrees on adopting the name “the Commonwealth of Australia” and drafting a constitution.
1892: Gold is discovered at Coolgardie, Western Australia.
1894: South Australia becomes the first Australian colony, and the second place in the world, to grant women’s suffrage.

1895: Banjo Paterson publishes “The Man from Snowy River”. Link takes you to Poems of the Australian Bush.
1895: Waltzing Matilda is first sung in public, in Winton, Queensland. Listen HERE
1899: The Australian Labor Party holds office for a few days in Queensland, becoming the first trade union party to do so anywhere in the world.
1900: The constitution is passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom as a schedule to the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, and is given royal assent

 Commonwealth of Australia 

1901: The Australian colonies federated to form the Commonwealth of Australia. The Union Jack continued as the national flag, taking precedence over the Australian red and blue shipping ensigns. Melbourne was the interim federal capital. Edmund Barton becomes Prime Minister; the 7th Earl of Hopetoun becomes Governor-General

1901: Immigration Restriction act was introduced – The White Australian Policy
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.
1903: The High Court of Australia is established with Samuel Griffith as the first Chief Justice.
1906: Australia takes control of south-eastern New Guinea
1908: Dorothea Mackellar publishes the poem “My Country
1912: Australia sends women to the Olympic Games for the first time
1914: Outbreak of World War I. Australian soldiers are sent to help the British war effort. This was first time Australians had fought under the Australian flag, as opposed to that of Britain’s.
1915: Australian soldiers land at Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. Their participation – alongside New Zealanders – in this campaign leads to heavy casualties. The Gallipoli landings help cement a sense of identity in the young nation.
1915: Surfing is first introduced to Australia
1916: The Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia, the forerunner to the Returned and Services League of Australia is founded
1917: Trans-continental railway linking Adelaide to Perth is completed.
1920: QANTAS is formed as a local airline.
1921: Edith Cowan becomes the first woman elected to an Australian parliament
1923: Vegemite is first produced
1927: Parliament House opened in Canberra
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
1930: Don Bradman scores a record 452 not out in one cricket innings
1930: Phar Lap wins his first Melbourne Cup
1931: Sir Douglas Mawson charts 4,000 miles of Antarctic coastline and claims 42% of the icy mass for Australia
1932: The Sydney Harbour Bridge opens
1933: Western Australia produces a referendum for secession from England but it is rejected by Parliament.
1937: The radio series Dad and Dave begins
1938: Sydney hosts the Empire Games, the forerunner to the Commonwealth Games
1939: Australia follows Britain’s lead and declares war on Nazi Germany.
1940: A team of scientists, under Howard Florey, develops penicillin
1941: The United States declares war on Japan. Australia turns to the US for help in its defence after the Japanese take Singapore. Australia allows the US to base its supreme command for the Pacific war on its territory.
1942: The UK Statute of Westminster is formally adopted by Australia. The Statute formally grants Australia (along with New Zealand, South Africa, and the Irish Free State) the right to pass laws that conflict with UK laws.
1942-43: Japanese planes make almost 100 attacks against sites in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland. Hospital ship Centaur sunk by Japanese Sub. 

 Post-war Australia 

1945: Australia becomes a founding member of the United Nations

1945: The Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race is held for the first time
1946: An Australian, Norman Makin, is voted in as the first President of the United Nations Security Council.
1948: Australia becomes a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
1948: Australia begins a scheme for immigration from Europe. Over the next 30 years, more than two million people arrive, about one-third of them from Britain.
1948: Australian Minister for External Affairs, Dr. H.V. Evatt is elected President of the United Nations General Assembly.
1948: The Nationality and Citizenship Act created a symbolic Australian citizenship. Australians remained British subjects.
1948: The first all Australian car is produced-the Holden.
1949: Construction of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme begins
1950: Australian troops are sent to the Korean War, as well as to fight a communist insurgency in Malaya
1951: Australia signs the ANZUS treaty with the United States and New Zealand
1951: Voters reject a referendum to change the Constitution to allow the Menzies Government to ban the Communist Party
1952: First nuclear test conducted in Australian territory by the United Kingdom off the coast of Western Australia.
1954: The Australian blue ensign was designated the Australian national flag and given precedence over the Union Jack. The Australian red ensign was retained as the commercial shipping ensign.
1956: Melbourne holds the Olympics
1964: The Beatles tour Australia and 82 sailors die when HMAS Voyager sinks after being rammed by HMAS Melbourne
1965: Indigenous Australians gain right to vote in state of Queensland
1965: Australian troops sent to the Vietnam War. 
1966: Decimalisation; on *14 February the Australian currency is changed to dollars and cents, with the Australian Dollar replacing the Australian pound.
1966: The ban on the employment of married women in the Commonwealth Public Service is lifted; Menzies retires as Australia’s longest-serving Prime Minister and is succeeded by Harold Holt.
1967: Prime Minister Holt drowns and is succeeded by John Gorton; Aboriginal Australians gain the right to citizenship after a referendum to allow the federal government to legislate for them is supported by over 90% of the population.
1968: Australia signs the nuclear non-proliferation treaty; Aboriginal boxing champion Lionel Rose defeats Masahiko “Fighting” Harada in Japan.
1970: More than 200,000 people participate in the largest demonstrations in Australian history, against the Vietnam War
1971: 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.
1971: Neville Bonner becomes the first Aborigine to become an Australian Member of Parliament; 
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.

 Modern Australia 

1972: The first Labor government since 1949 is elected under the leadership of Gough Whitlam

1973: Patrick White becomes the first Australian to win the Nobel Prize for Literature
1973: The federal voting age is dropped from 21 to 18
1973: The White Australian Policy (established 1901) is officially dismantled
1973: Unionists save the historic “The Rocks” area of Sydney from demolition by introducing “Green Bans”
1973: The Sydney Opera House opens.
1974: Darwin is devastated by Cyclone Tracy
1975: The government of Gough Whitlam is plagued by resignations and the blocking of its budget by the upper house of the parliament. In an unprecedented move, the governor-general, Sir John Kerr, dismisses the government. A caretaker administration under Malcolm Fraser is installed. 
1975: South Australia becomes the first state in Australia to legalise homosexuality between consenting adults in private.
1978: The First Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras kicks off in Sydney
1979: Kakadu National Park and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park are both proclaimed.
1982: Commonwealth Games held in Brisbane and The National Gallery of Australia is opened.
1983: Australia wins the America’s Cup.
1984: Medicare is established. Australians ceased to be British subjects. Advance Australia Fair replaced God Save the Queen as the national anthem.
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.
1988: Bicentenary: The new Parliament House opens. Federal referendums on 4-year parliamentary terms, recognition of local government and other issues are defeated. Brisbane hosts World Expo ’88.  
1990: Royal Australian Navy deployed in preparation for the First Gulf War. Carmen Lawrence becomes the first female premier of an Australian state. 
1991: Prominent heart surgeon Victor Chang is gunned down. 
1992: The High Court delivers the Mabo Decision, which rules that indigenous native title does exist. This effectively extinguishes the concept of terra nullius.
1996: John Howard of the Liberal Party becomes prime minister after defeating Paul Keating. Labor served a record 13 years in government
1998: 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: A referendum on changing to a republic is unsuccessful
1999: Australian soldiers are deployed to East Timor as part of the INTERFET peacekeeping force
1999: Both houses of the federal parliament pass a motion signifying both recognition of and regret at past treatment of indigenous Australians.

 21st Century Australia 

2000: Australia hosts the Olympic Games in Sydney, the most popular ever. Australia introduces a Goods and Services Tax.

2001 February: Sir Donald Bradman, Australia’s most famous cricketer, dies at the age of 92.
2002 October: The nation mourns as 88 of its citizens are killed in a night club bombing in Bali, Indonesia, which some call Australia’s September 11.
2003: Australian military deployed to participate in the Iraq War.
2003 July: Australia heads peacekeeping force intended to restore order in troubled Solomon Islands.
2005 December: Sydney beachside suburb of Cronulla sees racially charged riots involving thousands of youths. 
2005 July: Australia says it will deploy 150 special forces troops in Afghanistan to counter rebel attacks. The original contingent was withdrawn in 2002. Further deployments are announced in 2006.
2006: The Commonwealth Games are held in Melbourne.
2006 January: Australia and East Timor sign a deal to divide billions of dollars in expected revenues from oil and gas deposits in the Timor Sea. Under the agreement, discussions on a disputed maritime boundary are postponed.
2007 November: Opposition Labor Party, under Kevin Rudd, sweeps to power with landslide victory over John Howard.

2008 February: Kevin Rudd officially apologises to the Stolen Generation and for past wrongs committed against the indigenous population. Australia ends its policy of sending asylum seekers into detention on small Pacific islands, with the last refugees leaving Nauru.
2008 September: Quentin Bryce sworn in as Australia’s governor-general, the first woman to hold the post.
2009: Black Saturday: Massive bushfires swept across south-eastern state Victoria, resulting in 180 people dead, the largest civilian death-toll in Australian history.
2010: Jessica Watson Buderim, Queensland. becomes the youngest individual to sail non-stop and unassisted around the world returning to Sydney on 15 May 2010, three days before her 17th birthday. 
to be continued …. Click here for Australian song list YouTube Australian Song List


 About the Author

My Australia Knols 


Peter Baskerville was born in Australia and has lived the vast majority of his life in the country of his birth apart from a few years in Fiji and New Zealand pursuing business interests. 

Despite imbibing the inherent non-nationalistic attitude that naturally comes with being an Aussie, we just can’t help loving this place called Australia – its vast open spaces, its pristine beaches, its unspoiled outback landscapes, its melting pot of immigrants, its ancient heritage of the First Australians, its Anzac spirit, it mateship creed, it hard working, positive yet carefree attitude to life … yes, and even its perils, dangers and strife – we love it all. It is a long way to come, but I’m sure you will find it well worth the visit, even better, come join us … the people of the land ‘down-under’.

 Bibliography & Reference – Timeline of Australian History

Info Source #1 – http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/history/aboriginal-history-timeline.html – Australian Aboriginal History Timeline
Info Source #2 – http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/1255673.stm – BBC News
Info Source #3 – http://www.australiaday.org.au/experience/page77.asp – Australia Day Council
Info Source #4 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_Australian_history – Wikipedia – Timeline of Australian History

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