Milestones in Australian democracy

Our Turning Points in Australian Democracy timeline contains nearly 500 milestones that mark key events and turning points in Australian democracy. It takes you on a virtual journey through time and place, and glimpse key moments in the history of democratic ideas, laws and institutions.

View of the Female Orphan School near Parramatta, New South Wales.
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Our Turning Points in Australian Democracy timeline contains nearly 500 milestones that mark key events and turning points in Australian democracy. It takes you on a virtual journey through time and place, and glimpse key moments in the history of democratic ideas, laws and institutions.

View of the Female Orphan School near Parramatta, New South Wales.
1770

British sovereignty established

British sovereignty established

Lieutenant James Cook charts Australia’s eastern coastline and proclaims it Britain’s possession. This marks the first claim to British sovereignty over the Australian continent. It follows the issue by the British Government of the Secret Instructions for Lieutenant James Cook Appointed to Command His Majesty’s Bark the Endeavour 30 July 1768. Cook made three voyages to the South Pacific between 1768 and 1779.


1775

American Revolution (1775–83)

American Revolution (1775–83)

In July 1776, the 13 American colonies declare independence from Great Britain and establish the United States of America. The revolutionaries are inspired by republican ideals of equality, liberty and people’s right to govern themselves. A peace treaty in 1783 ends the war with Britain and recognises the sovereignty of the United States.


1786

Establishing the new colony

Establishing the new colony

The British Government selects Captain Arthur Phillip to establish a new British colony, to become known as New South Wales. His first Commission is signed on 12 October 1786. A second Commission issued in April 1787 appoints Captain Phillip as Captain-General and Commander-in-Chief of the First Fleet, and a third Commission, dated 24 April 1787, provides him with details concerning the limits of the new colony and sets out his general tasks.


1787

First criminal court

First criminal court

The New South Wales Courts Act 1787 (UK) establishes the first criminal court in Australia to impose discipline in the new penal colony.


First Charter of Justice

First Charter of Justice

Australia’s first Charter of Justice is issued by the British Parliament. This provides the authority for the establishment of the first NSW Courts of Criminal and Civil Jurisdiction, and establishes a Deputy Judge-Advocate, a Civil Court and six court officers to be appointed by the Governor. The Governor is required to give his permission for any death sentence imposed by the Court, and is empowered to give pardons. The Civil Court has the power to deal with disputes over property and has jurisdiction over wills and estates. A Second Charter established in 1814 creates the three Courts of Civil Judicature: Governor’s Court, Supreme Court and Lieutenant Governor’s Court.


1788

First printing press

First printing press

A printing press arrives with the First Fleet. It is another eight years before a convict with skills to work the press can be found, but it plays a important role in disseminating ideas, waging political campaigns, and promoting public debate and awareness of issues; crucial issues in the history of Australian democracy. George Hughes, Australia’s first government printer, produces over 200 individual government orders and regulations between 1796 and 1800. He also prints playbills for the first two plays staged in the colony: Farquhar. The Recruiting Officer and Shakespeare. Henry the Fourth. Hughes is replaced by another convict, George Howe, and in 1802 he publishes the colony’s first book, “New South Wales Standing Orders”. In 1803, he publishes the first newspaper, The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser and, 16 years later, the first literary work, “First Fruits of Australian Poetry” by Judge Barron Field.


First Fleet lands

First Fleet lands

On 19 January the First Fleet enters Botany Bay under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip, and on 26 January, from the landing site at Port Jackson in Sydney Cove, he proclaims the new colony of New South Wales. The First Fleet comprises 1030 people including male and female convicts, marines and civil officers and their wives, and 37 children.


First criminal case

First criminal case

Governor Phillip assembles Australia’s first Court of Criminal Jurisdiction, and Samuel Barsby is the first person to be brought before Judge-Advocate David Collins and the six officers of the Court. Barbsy is found guilty of personally abusing a drum major in the Detachment of Marines and of striking a drummer with an adze. He is sentenced to receive 150 lashes with a cat-o’-nine-tails.


Indigenous resistance to colonisation

Indigenous resistance to colonisation

The arrival of the First Fleet in January 1788 signals the beginning of British colonisation in Australia. Convicts and soliders establish a settlement on the southern shores of Sydney Harbour, the traditional territory of the Indigenous Eora people, and the British Government issues instructions to the colonial Governor to treat the Indigenous inhabitants kindly. However, it does not recognise Indigenous ownership of the land, nor are the Indigenous inhabitants protected by law as they are not considered to be British subjects. Conflict erupts on the colonisal ‘frontier’, as white settlement escalates and Indigenous inhabitants resist colonisation and defend their territory and resources. Thousands of Indigenous people are killed in the process, leading to calls by the 1830s and 1840s for greater protection of Indigenous people and the establishment of Indigneous reserves and protection boards.


First civil case

First civil case

In the first civil court action in Australia, convicts Henry Cable and his wife successfully sue the captain of their transportation vessel over a lost parcel. Cable later becomes a merchant in New South Wales.


1789

French Revolution (1789-99)

French Revolution (1789-99)

The French people rise up against absolute monarchism and the feudal privileges of the aristocrats and Catholic clergy during a time of famine, unemployment and a national financial crisis. The revolution’s leaders support Enlightenment ideals of reason, liberty, equality and fraternity.


1791

Europe’s first democratic constitution

Europe’s first democratic constitution

The Polish Constitution of 3 May under King Stanislaw August is Europe’s first democratic codified constitution creating a constitutional monarchy. It introduces political equality between townsfolk and nobility, and places peasants under government protection. It is influenced by the British and American experience.


First successful slave revolt

First successful slave revolt

The Haitian Revolution — the world’s first successful slave revolt — establishes a free republic in the French colony under the leadership of former slave, Toussaint Louverture.


1794

Scottish Martyrs transported

Scottish Martyrs transported

Thomas Muir, Thomas Palmer, William Skirving and Maurice Margarot are sentenced to transportation to New South Wales for their part in advocating parliamentary and constitutional reform in Britain. Their radical ideas are influenced by the French Revolution and, together with Joseph Gerrald who was transported later, they become known as the Scottish Martyrs.


1801

First welfare institutions

First welfare institutions

NSW Governor Philip King establishes Australia’s first welfare institution — a girls' Orphan School. The first private welfare organisation — the Benevolent Society of New South Wales — forms on 8 May 1813 to aid the poor.


1804

Penal settlement in Hobart

Penal settlement in Hobart

Colonel David Collins chooses the site of Hobart as the base for the new convict settlement of Van Diemen’s Land, and serves as Lieutenant-Governor until his death in 1810.


Convict rebellion at Castle Hill

Convict rebellion at Castle Hill

One of Australia’s first convict uprisings occurs at Castle Hill in New South Wales when predominantly Irish Catholic convicts attempt to escape from servitude. After clashing with government troops the rebel leader, Philip Cunningham, is captured and hanged.


1807

Slave trade outlawed in the British Empire

Slave trade outlawed in the British Empire

Britain outlaws the slave trade in the British Empire, although it is still legal to own slaves. The complete abolition of slavery in Britain and its colonies does not occur until 1833.


1808

Rum Rebellion

Rum Rebellion

Tensions over power in the new colony erupt when Governor William Bligh arrests John Macarthur, a prominent pastoralist, and refuses him the bail granted by an illegally constituted court. The commander of the NSW Corps, Major George Johnston, deposes Bligh and assumes government of the colony. Macarthur serves as colonial secretary until Bligh is replaced by Lieutenant-Colonel Foveaux. Johnston is later dismissed for his part in the mutiny, while Macarthur is exiled from the colony for seven years.


1814

Naming a nation

Naming a nation

Matthew Flinders completes the first circumnavigation of the continent in 1803. He writes in his journal, A Voyage to Terra Australis, that the name Australia is more agreeable to the ear. Governor Macquarie subsequently adopts the name Australia; in official correspondence after receiving a copy of Flinders journal, A Voyage to Terra Australia, published in 1814.


1815

Napoleon defeated at Waterloo

Napoleon defeated at Waterloo

The defeat of France gives Britain about a century of largely unchallenged dominance as an imperial power.


1819

Emancipists’ petition

Emancipists’ petition

Colonists inherit the Westminster tradition of petitioning the House of Commons. One of Australia’s earliest petitions to the Prince Regent concerns civil and commercial limitations in the colonies, and the lack of an effective legal system. The petition marks the emergence of the Emancipists as a political force in the colonies.


Peterloo Massacre

Peterloo Massacre

On 16 August a crowd of 60,000 assembles on St Peter’s Field in Manchester, England, to demand parliamentary representation for the city. ‘Rotten boroughs’, like Old Sarum with only 11 voters, had two Members of Parliament whereas Manchester, with 200,000 people, had none. Troops violently attempt to arrest the main speaker. Eleven people are killed and 500 injured.


1821

Petition for rights of ex-convicts

Petition for rights of ex-convicts

The Emancipists successfully petition King George IV following an 1817 King’s Bench ruling that people freed by governor’s pardon, unlike those freed by pardons issued under the Great Seal in London, cannot pursue legal action or own property. The ruling is overturned by the New South Wales Act 1823 (UK).


1823

Foundations of democracy

Foundations of democracy

The Charter of Justice 13 October 1823 (UK) establishes a system of justice for Van Diemen’s Land and provides for the appointment of John Lewes Pedder to preside over it as Chief Justice. The New South Wales Act 1823 (UK) authorises the establishment of a legislative council in New South Wales and Australia’s first supreme courts in New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land, as well as providing for Van Diemen’s Land to become a separate colony. The Legislative Council conducts its first meeting in August 1824. These new laws follow criticisms of the administration and justice system in New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land by Commissioner John Thomas Bigge.


1824

The Australian — first independent newspaper

The Australian — first independent newspaper

The Australian newspaper (no relation to the modern day broadsheet of the same name) begins publication, founded by Dr Robert Wardell and William Wentworth. The colonial press is less restricted than in Britain, and newspapers flourish in the colonies. By 1882 there are 146 newspapers in Victoria, 95 in New South Wales, 47 in South Australia, 27 in Queensland, 11 in Tasmania, and four in Western Australia.


1825

Creation of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania)

Creation of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania)

An Order-in-Council separates Van Diemen’s Land from New South Wales following petitions from colonists, and legislative and executive councils are established.


1827

First Mechanics Institute and School of Arts

First Mechanics Institute and School of Arts

The Mechanics Institute and School of Arts is founded in Hobart and is one of Australia’s first public education institutions.


1828

Penalties for masters’ and servants’ actions

Penalties for masters’ and servants’ actions

Under the Servants and Labourers Act of NSW servants can be docked wages or imprisoned for refusing to work or for property destruction. Masters found abusing their servants are liable to pay damages. There is considerable debate in the colonies about these laws.


Trial by jury established

Trial by jury established

The Australian Courts Act 1828 (UK) ensures that the laws of England will be applied in the two existing Australian colonies: New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land. The Act strengthens the role of both supreme courts, as appeals from supreme court decisions to the Governor are ended. It provides for trial by jury in the Supreme Court in civil cases and empowers the Governor to introduce general trial by jury in criminal matters. Australian statute law thus has a firm foundation, but is able to evolve according to its own conditions and needs. Trial by jury for people charged under criminal law is established in 1833 in New South Wales and, in limited circumstances, in 1834 in Van Diemen’s Land.


Execution for sodomy

Execution for sodomy

The first executions for the crime of sodomy take place in New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land. According to Governor Arthur Phillip, murder and sodomy are the only crimes to warrant execution at the time of colonisation. The death penalty for sodomy is finally removed in 1883 but homosexual sex between males remains illegal in every state and territory in Australia until 1972.


1829

Creation of Western Australia

Creation of Western Australia

The Swan River Colony is proclaimed by Lieutenant-Governor James Stirling. The new colony will later become Western Australia.


1830

Demands for representative government

Demands for representative government

At a public meeting in Sydney, colonists demand a government whereby the elected representatives of the colony are accountable to parliament and ultimately to the people. This a first step towards colonial independence from British authority.


Shipwrights Union formed

Shipwrights Union formed

Several trade unions are formed in the 1830s to seek improvements to wages and conditions. The Shipwrights Union is one of the first in 1830, followed by the Boatbuilders Union formed in 1831 and the Cabinetmakers Union in 1833. Union activity builds during the second half of the 19th century and craft unions such as the Stonemasons Union are formed. The Stonemasons Union in Melbourne and Sydney plays a key role in the Eight Hour Day Movement.


1831

Assisted migration begins

Assisted migration begins

Assisted migration begins and free working people in Britain are encouraged to apply.


1832

First Reform Act in England

First Reform Act in England

The House of Commons overwhelmingly represents landed gentry until 1832, when the Reform Act expands the electorate to 700,000 and enfranchises big manufacturing cities. Urban middle-class men mostly win the vote but, until the electoral rolls grow to about 2 million in 1867, they exclude working-class men. Further reform in 1884 extends suffrage to more than 5 million, but women and 40 per cent of men are still voteless.


1834

Tolpuddle Martyrs arrive

Tolpuddle Martyrs arrive

Six convicts from Tolpuddle in Dorset, England, arrive in Australia. Their crime was to unlawfully administer oaths of loyalty to the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers, established to fight continuing wage reductions. Their ideas are influential in the Australian colonies.


1835

Proclamation of Governor Bourke

Proclamation of Governor Bourke

The Governor of New South Wales, Richard Bourke, issues a proclamation invalidating treaties between squatters and Indigenous people under which the squatters sought to assume ownership of Crown land by purchase from the Aborigines. The proclamation affirms the British claim to have taken possession of the land. It reinforces the assumption, now known as terra nullius, that the land had previously belonged to nobody and could only be acquired through distribution by the Crown. The Mabo High Court decision in 1992 recognises the prior title of Indigenous people to the land.


1836

Creation of South Australia

Creation of South Australia

Letters Patent proclaim the province of South Australia and an Order-in-Council establishes the South Australian Government, making it the only colony to be authorised by an Act of parliament. Convict transportation is forbidden.


Churches receive equal funding

Churches receive equal funding

Having witnessed the effects of sectarian intolerance in Ireland, NSW Governor Richard Bourke introduces the Church Act 1836 to provide subsidies to Catholic, Anglican and Presbyterian churches on an equal basis.


1838

Myall Creek massacre

Myall Creek massacre

Twenty-eight Indigenous people are killed by convicts, ex-convicts and one native-born settler at Myall Creek. Eleven Europeans are charged with murder but are acquitted. A new trial finds seven guilty and they are hanged. A Border Police force is formed amid escalating violence between settlers and Indigenous people.


Immigrants flee religious persecution

Immigrants flee religious persecution

German Lutherans opposed to church taxes begin arriving in Australia in search of religious freedom and new economic opportunities.


1840

Convict transportation to New South Wales ends

Convict transportation to New South Wales ends

An Order-in-Council declares that New South Wales will receive no more convicts. While convict transportation continues to other states, the movement to end the practice grows stronger. Convict settlement in Australia will finally end in 1868.


British Chartists transported for political activities

British Chartists transported for political activities

John Frost, a Chartist who was involved with a rebellion in Newport in Monmouthshire, England, arrives in Hobart after being sentenced to transportation for his part in the uprising. Chartism flourishes in Britain between 1837 and 1848, advocating universal suffrage, secret ballots, and other democratic reforms outlined in the People’s Charter written in 1838. Frost and his fellow Chartists’ revolutionary ideas take root in the Victorian goldfields, and subsequently influence the drafting of the first constitutions in the colonies.


First elected town councils

First elected town councils

The first city council is established in Adelaide, followed by Sydney in 1842. Men must own property worth more than £1000 to stand for election, and wealthy landowners have up to four votes each.


1842

Debating republicanism

Debating republicanism

At a public meeting in Sydney, Henry McDermott angers anti-republicans when he claims that the ‘rights of man’ entitle all men to be enfranchised, and accuses the colony’s conservative politicians of marginalising skilled workers. The Australian newspaper devotes an editorial to the dangers of republicanism promoted by Thomas Paine and Voltaire, and represented in the French republic — a ‘nation which got drunk with blood to vomit crime’.


First responsible government

First responsible government

The New South Wales Constitution Act 1842 (UK) creates Australia’s first semi-representative legislature and lays the groundwork for the parliamentary system. It does not grant full responsible government, but it enables the first election to be held for the two-thirds elected NSW Legislative Council. Ex-convicts are eligible to vote and stand.


1843

First parliamentary election

First parliamentary election

Voting begins in the first election for the NSW Legislative Council. Created by the New South Wales Constitution Act 1842 (UK), the Council is Australia’s first semi-representative legislature and lays the groundwork for the parliamentary system. It does not grant full responsible government, but it enables the first election to be held for the two-thirds elected NSW Legislative Council. Ex-convicts are eligible to vote and stand.


1846

Potato famine in Ireland

Potato famine in Ireland

Between 1845 and 1852, the population of Ireland is reduced by nearly 25 per cent due to starvation, disease and mass emigration. A potato disease known as ‘blight’ decimates the potato crop on which one-third of the Irish population depend. One million die and 1 million emigrate.


Jeanneret petition

Jeanneret petition

Walter George Arthur, together with his wife Mary Anne and several other Indigenous people in Van Diemen’s Land, send a petition to Queen Victoria seeking the dismissal of Dr Henry Jeanneret, the Superintendent of Aboriginals on Flinders Island. Walter, the son of a senior man of the Ben Lomond tribe, was educated at the Boys' Orphan School near Hobart. Jeanneret had already been replaced as Superintendent in February 1844, but he was subsequently reinstated to the position. On hearing news of his imminent return the group agitates for his dismissal with a petition to the Queen and letters to the Chief Secretary. They complain about Jeanneret’s behaviour and his arbitrary use of power, and demand restitution of their land and rights, referring to an agreement ‘not lost to our minds’. In spite of their protest, Jeanneret is reinstated to the post but is again removed from the position in 1847.


1848

Revolutions across Europe

Revolutions across Europe

Revolutions occur across Europe in ‘the Springtime of the People’. The new middle class, working class and some nobility seek freedom from the absolute rule of the monarchy and church and state power. Notions of democracy, liberalism, nationalism and socialism influence the revolutionary movements in France, Sicily, the Italian and German states, Schleswig, the Hapsburg Empire, Hungary, Switzerland, Greater Poland and Wallachia.


NSW Constitutional Association

NSW Constitutional Association

The NSW Constitutional Association is formed by radical patriots, including Henry Parkes, to agitate for extension of the franchise and land reform. In his first public speech, made at the City Theatre in January 1849, Parkes advocates universal suffrage as the best guarantee that the people, growing in enlightenment, would avoid the excesses of Paris and Frankfurt. His radicalism reaches a high point in April 1850 when John Dunmore Lang and James Wilshire establish the Australian League to work for universal suffrage and transformation of the Australian colonies into a Great Federal Republic.


National Board of Education

National Board of Education

The first National Board of Education is established to regulate schools set up and managed under Lord Stanley’s system of education. Its aim is to create an efficient system of elementary education for a scattered population of different religious denominations (excluding Indigenous children). The Board reports that it is ‘impracticable to attempt to provide any form of education for the children of the blacks’ and from 1883, Indigenous children could be barred from public schools if white parents object to their presence. This regulation remains in the Teacher’s Handbook until 1972.


1849

Anti-transportation movement

Anti-transportation movement

In Australia’s first nationwide political movement, Congregational minister John West circulates an anti-transportation letter among organisations and influential men known to oppose continued transportation to Van Diemen’s Land. The appeal is successful and leads to an abolitionist conference in 1851 in Melbourne, and the formation of the Australasian League for the Prevention of Transportation. West preaches that ‘Australians are one’ and should act together in spite of artificial boundaries.


1850

Victoria (Port Phillip) becomes a separate colony

Victoria (Port Phillip) becomes a separate colony

The Australian Colonies Government Act 1850 is passed by the British Parliament, separating the southeastern Australian district of Port Phillip from New South Wales and establishing it as the colony of Victoria. It is passed in response to the demands of the Port Phillip settlers, who feel inadequately represented in the NSW Legislative Council (self-governing since 1842) and who resent their revenues being channelled to the New South Wales area.


Fitzroy appointed Governor-General of the Australian colonies

Fitzroy appointed Governor-General of the Australian colonies

With the passing of the Australian Colonies Government Act 1850 New South Wales receives a new constitution providing for an elected lower house in a bicameral legislature. Sir Charles FitzRoy, who was Governor of New South Wales at the time, becomes Governor of New South Wales, Van Diemen’s Land, South Australia and Victoria, and Governor-General of all Australian possessions including Western Australia.


John Dunmore Lang’s republicanism

John Dunmore Lang’s republicanism

In a series of lectures in Sydney, John Dunmore Lang promotes republicanism, including the end of convict transportation, and independence and federation for the Australian colonies. He promotes his ideas in The Coming Event; Or, the United Provinces of Australia published in 1850, and Freedom and Independence for the Golden Lands of Australia published in 1852.


The Australian League

The Australian League

John Dunmore Lang, with aid from Henry Parkes, James Wilshire and other radicals, establishes the Australian League to encourage a sense of national identity, to resist any further convict transportation and to promote, by moral means exclusively, the entire freedom of the Australian colonies and their incorporation into one political federation. The League collapses after two meetings.


Self-government in the colonies

Self-government in the colonies

From the 1840s the British Government introduces laws that allow for the election of municipal councils in each colony, then partially elected legislative councils. They invite each legislative council to draft constitutions that will give each colony representative self-government and their own parliament. The Australian Colonies Government Act 1850 (formerly Act for the Better Government of Her Majesty’s Australian Colonies) recognises the colonists’ desire for self-government and provides for a similar limited self-government in South Australia and Van Diemen’s Land.


1851

South Australia initiates church and state separation

South Australia initiates church and state separation

South Australia is the first place in the British Empire to formally separate church and state by ending government aid to churches. The move is supported by George Fife Angas, Member for Barossa and sponsor of the first groups of German Lutheran exiles, who are opposed to church taxes.


1853

Convict transportation to the eastern colonies ends

Convict transportation to the eastern colonies ends

Great Britain formally abandons convict transportation to all colonies of Australia, except Western Australia.


1854

Federation Movement begins

Federation Movement begins

The first of Rev. John West’s 16 articles about a federation of the Australian colonies is published in The Sydney Morning Herald. West, a Congregational minister, journalist and leader of the anti-transportation movement in Van Diemens Land, becomes an influential advocate for federation. He is convinced the colonies must form a federal union if they are to have any influence in London. West publishes his articles under the pseudonym John Adams.


Crimean War (1854–56)

Crimean War (1854–56)

Britain declares war on Russia, beginning British involvement in the Crimean War. The news leads to the establishment of a volunteer corps in some colonies, and the formation of rifle clubs in others. The units are revived in 1859 as Napoleon III prepares to invade England. By early 1860 most suburbs and towns in Australia support a volunteer unit, usually a rifle corps.


Ballarat Reform League

Ballarat Reform League

A meeting of miners is held at Bakery Hill on the Ballarat goldfields, and the Ballarat Reform League is formed with a former British Chartist, JB Humffray, as secretary. George Black (also a Chartist), Peter Lalor, Frederic Vern, Raffaello Carboni and Timothy Hayes are leading members. The aims of the League are similar to those of the Chartists — manhood suffrage, voting by ballot, annual parliaments and payment of members. In addition, they seek the abolition of the licensing system, reforms in the administration of the goldfields, and a revision of laws relating to Crown land.


Eureka Rebellion

Eureka Rebellion

On 3 December a group of miners led by Peter Lalor clash with government troops over the system of mining licences on the Ballarat goldfields in Victoria. The 13 miners brought to trial for high treason are found not guilty by a jury. In the aftermath of the Rebellion, the government introduces a system of annual licensing called the Miner’s Right. It is hailed as a watershed in Australian democracy, replacing the hated monthly licensing system and effectively giving the right to vote to those holding a Miner’s Right. In the following year an eyewitness account of the Rebellion is published by Raffaello Carboni.


1855

Colonial parliaments established

Colonial parliaments established

Between 1855 and 1857, the constitutions of New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania are drawn up by the respective legislative councils and approved by the British Parliament. Bicameral parliaments (based on two legislative chambers) are established.


1856

Responsible government

Responsible government

The Australian colonies become self-governing — all adult (21 years and over) male British subjects are entitled to vote in South Australia from 1856, in Victoria from 1857, New South Wales from 1858, and Tasmania from 1896. This includes Indigenous men, although they are not encouraged to enrol. Queensland and Western Australia introduce responsible government in 1890 but deny Indigenous people the vote.


Van Diemen’s Land becomes Tasmania

Van Diemen’s Land becomes Tasmania

Van Diemen’s Land is renamed ‘Tasmania’ after explorer Abel Tasman. It signifies a departure from British governance, and a new beginning for those opposed to continuing convict transportation.


Secret ballot introduced

Secret ballot introduced

Victoria is the first Australian colony to pass a law adopting the secret ballot, a system already successfully used in France and some American states. It involves people voting at elections by casting their vote on paper and putting it in a ballot box, rather than voting by a public show of hands. Voting by ballot has a long history. It was a key element in the British Chartist Movement of the 1830s along with one person one vote, manhood suffrage, equal representation of electoral districts and annual elections. The secret ballot is used in the Victorian elections for the Legislative Assembly in September–October 1856, and is also adopted by Tasmania and South Australia in the same year. It remains a controversial issue in Britain, with advocates seeing it as a way of promoting democracy while opponents fear it will lead to fraud or, at worst, undermine the need for a man to publicly defend his political choice.


Eight Hour Day

Eight Hour Day

In a world first, Melbourne building tradesmen and contractors successfully negotiate an eight-hour working day. The movement is led by stonemasons who lead a protest march from The University of Melbourne to Parliament House. They argue that eight hours a day is appropriate in the Australian heat, and will give workers time to improve their ‘social and moral condition’.


Start of manhood suffrage

Start of manhood suffrage

South Australia secures the one man one vote principle by abolishing plural voting, which is common practice in the colonies at the time. All of the other colonies follow suit, but in most cases it does not take effect until the 1890s and the first decade of the 1900s.


South Australian Constitution

South Australian Constitution

Adult male (including Indigenous) suffrage, a secret ballot and no property qualification for Members of the House of Assembly are some of the South Australian Constitution’s decrees, making it one of the most democratic in the world at the time.


1858

Australian ballot

Australian ballot

The secret ballot, first used in Victoria’s Legislative Assembly elections and adopted by Tasmania and South Australia in 1856, evolves into the ‘Australian ballot’ by 1858. This innovative version of the secret ballot features the distribution of government-printed official ballot slips by electoral officials, ensuring absolute secrecy of people’s voting preferences and limiting the opportunity for corruption. The Australian ballot is a form of the secret ballot and its features are subsequently adopted by many other countries. It remains an important element of the Australian electoral system today.


Women allowed to divorce

Women allowed to divorce

South Australia is the first colony to pass a law giving women the power to petition for divorce based on the English Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Act 1857. Other states follow suit. These laws continue to favour men however, and wives and children remain unprotected from retribution.


1859

Creation of Queensland

Creation of Queensland

The Moreton Bay district is proclaimed as the new colony of Queensland, with its own representative government and constitution.


1860

Anti-Chinese riots at Lambing Flat

Anti-Chinese riots at Lambing Flat

The worst of a series of riots erupts on the Burrangong goldfields between Chinese and European miners over gold sites and resources. On 30 June at Lambing Flat, a mob of 3000 Europeans drives the Chinese off the goldfield. Two weeks later, miners attack a police camp in retaliation for the police’s handling of the riot, leaving one person dead and many injured.


1861

American Civil War (1861-65)

American Civil War (1861-65)

The civil war begins militarily when the Confederate (southern) forces attack the Federally held Fort Sumter in South Carolina in April 1861. The war is about states' rights and the preservation of the Union. The confederate states secede because they fear that the newly elected President, Abraham Lincoln, will abolish slavery. Lincoln issues an Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. The war ends in 1865 and Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution confirming Lincoln’s action. More than 600,000 soldiers are killed in the war.


Women’s right to vote for local government

Women’s right to vote for local government

For the first time in Australia, South Australian women are granted the right to vote in local government elections under the Municipal Corporations Act 1861 (SA), although this is restricted to those owning property and does not permit them to stand for election. It takes eight attempts and another 30 years before the parliamentary franchise is extended to all adult females in South Australia. This right is extended to women in Western Australia in 1876 (municipal elections) and 1888 (road district councils); New South Wales in 1906 (shire and municipal elections) and 1900 (Sydney City Council); Queensland in 1879 (local authority elections) and 1924 (Brisbane City Council); Tasmania in 1884 (rural municipality elections), 1893 (Hobart City Council) and 1894 (Launceston City Council); and Victoria in 1903 (municipal elections, although women with the requisite property qualifications were permitted to vote before 1903).


1863

Northern Territory annexed to South Australia

Northern Territory annexed to South Australia

Northern Territory administration transfers from New South Wales to South Australia. The Commonwealth government assumes responsibility from 1911 to 1978.


1867

Law for neglected children

Law for neglected children

South Australia is the first colony to de-institutionalise children under government control. The Destitute Persons Relief Act 1866–67 (SA) introduces the concept of ‘boarding out’ for children in asylums, following a proposal by philanthropist Caroline Emily Clark that neglected children should be placed in ‘respectable poor families’ supported by a government subsidy. The Act also introduces industrial and reformatory schools. The boarding out system is a success and is subsequently adopted in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.


1868

Convict transportation to Western Australia ends

Convict transportation to Western Australia ends

The final shipment of convicts disembarks in Western Australia. By the time transportation ends, an estimated 162,000 convicts have been shipped to Australia.


1869

Women’s equal justice campaign begins

Women’s equal justice campaign begins

The first public demand for equal justice for women is reported to be made by feminist Henrietta Augusta Dugdale in a letter to the Melbourne Argus. Her letter was written in response to debate on a Married Women’s Property Bill. Signing the letter ‘ADA’, Dugdale made a plea for the complete revision of marriage law, which was unjust to women.


First Indigenous ‘Protection Acts’

First Indigenous ‘Protection Acts’

In Victoria the first of the Indigenous ‘Protection Acts’ allows the Aboriginal Protection Board to control Indigenous people’s residence, employment, marriage and social life. A similar Board for the Protection of Aborigines is established in New South Wales in 1883, and a NSW Aborigines Protection Act is passed in 1909.


1870

Last British troops withdraw from the colonies

Last British troops withdraw from the colonies

The last contingent of British troops withdraws from Australia. Each individual colony is made responsible for its own defence.


Paid Members of Parliament

Paid Members of Parliament

Victoria becomes the first of the Australian colonies to introduce payment of Members of Parliament. This is one of the reforms sought by supporters of the Chartist Movement, the popular British reform movement of the 1840s that influenced the evolution of democracy in the Australian colonies. Until the Act is passed in 1870, only the ministers and presiding officers of the parliament are paid. Democratic reformers argue that this works against popular representation. Although all men can vote, only wealthy men can afford to sit in parliament. Payments are resisted by the conservative Legislative Council, and are initially introduced for a three-year trial period.


1871

Australian Natives Association

Australian Natives Association

The Australian Natives Association is established as a benefit society giving native-born (white) Australians access to the same forms of sickness and burial benefits available to immigrants. The Association increasingly becomes an advocate for native-born interests such as Federation and, by the early 20th century, the White Australia Policy.


1873

Factory reforms

Factory reforms

The Victorian Supervision of Workrooms and Factories Act 1873 sets out minimum working hours and conditions for women and juveniles. However, there are no provisions for policing these conditions.


1876

Myth of racial extinction

Myth of racial extinction

The Tasmanian Government claims the last Indigenous Tasmanian has died. The concept of ‘full blood’ is used by many settler Australians to ignore all those of Indigenous descent in Tasmania, and feeds into a mythology of racial extinction.


First legal trade unions

First legal trade unions

South Australia is the first place in the British Empire to allow the legal formation and registration of trade unions. It is followed by New South Wales (1881), Victoria (1884), Queensland (1886) and Tasmania (1889).


1879

The Chinese Question in Australia

The Chinese Question in Australia

Lowe Kong Meng, Cheok Hong Cheong and Louis Ah Mouy publish the booklet The Chinese Question in Australia in response to the Seamen’s Strike against the employment of Chinese labour on ships. It begins with ‘In the present grave emergency, we appeal, as natives of China and as citizens of Victoria, to the reason, the justice, the right feeling, and the calm good sense of the British population of Australia, not to sanction an outrage upon the law of nations and not to violate the treaty engagements entered into between the Government of Great Britain and Emporer of China.’


1880

Women admitted to university

Women admitted to university

For the first time, women are admitted to lectures and examinations at an Australian university — The University of Melbourne. Julia Bella Guerin is the first woman to graduate from an Australian university in 1883.


The Bulletin begins publication

The Bulletin begins publication

The Bulletin journal, founded by J F Archibald, combines news, politics and economics, and offers an Australian perspective to an Australian audience. Famous for publishing the work of promising Australian writers such as Henry Lawson, it becomes a radically nationalistic magazine. Its original masthead proclaims ‘Australia for the Australians’ then, in 1908, it adopts the logo ‘Australia for the White Man’. The Bulletin ceases publication in 2007 after 127 years.


1881

European colonisation of Africa escalates

European colonisation of Africa escalates

European powers begin a major carve-up of Africa. Britain occupies Egypt and Sudan (1882), Italy establishes a colony in Eritrea (1882), Germany occupies south-west Africa (1884), Belgium claims possession of the Congo (1885), Germany annexes Tanganyika and Zanzibar (1885), and Britain annexes Zululand (1888) and occupies Uganda (1890).


Taking care of the poor

Taking care of the poor

South Australia passes the Destitute Persons Act 1881, the first legislation for the state relief of poverty in Australia. Many immigrants to Australia have painful memories of the English poor laws and the hated workhouse, and regard the absence of poor laws in Australia as a sign of social progress. During the 1880s several colonies begin to supplement the funds of religious and charitable organisations to relieve poverty.


1882

Woman’s Christian Temperance Union

Woman’s Christian Temperance Union

A branch of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union is established in Sydney, and becomes the first mass organisation of women in Australia. It was founded in the American West in 1874. The organisation fights for a range of social reforms, advocating temperance and actively supporting Australian Federation. It claims 7400 members by 1894, and is a key supporter of women’s suffrage in Australia.


First female trade union

First female trade union

The Tailoresses Association of Melbourne strikes against;sweating whereby women are forced to take piecework at sub-standard or sweated rates. The Association wins its claims and the Victorian Government passes regulations to improve womens working conditions.


1884

Women legally own property

Women legally own property

The Married Women’s Property Act 1883 passed in South Australia gives married women the same legal position regarding property as unmarried women. Married women can, for the first time, acquire and dispose of property. The other colonies follow suit.


First women’s suffrage society

First women’s suffrage society

Henrietta Dugdale, Annie Lowe and several other women establish the Victorian Women’s Suffrage Society to campaign for the female vote. Their model is followed by other colonies.


Taxation and votes for women

Taxation and votes for women

Taxation becomes a platform for women’s suffrage supporters in South Australia. In 1891 a petition is presented in parliament arguing that, as women pay taxes, they should be entitled to parliamentary representation through voting. The Taxation Act is passed in 1884. Throughout the 1880s numerous women’s suffrage Bills are introduced unsuccessfully to the South Australian Parliament. The Constitution Amendment Bill is finally passed in 1895.


1885

Age of consent

Age of consent

The Social Purity Society successfully lobbies for legal reforms aimed at the protection of children from sexual exploitation. Beginning in South Australia, the reforms are based on the British Criminal Law Consolidation Amendment Act 1885 passed after public revelations about juvenile prostitution and the trade in young girls to work in brothels. Congregational minister, Joseph Kirby, and suffragist, Mary Lee, are influential in achieving the reforms, including raising the age of sexual consent for girls from 13 to 16 years and regulating the legal age of young people working in brothels.


First colonial force goes overseas

First colonial force goes overseas

A volunteer NSW infantry contingent fights for Britain in the Sudan. This is the first time that soldiers representing an Australian colony engage in an imperial war.


Australasian Federal Council

Australasian Federal Council

British Parliament establishes the Australasian Federal Council to legislate on issues such as Federation, defence, Pacific relations and quarantine. South Australia withdraws in 1891, while New South Wales and New Zealand never join.


1886

‘Half-castes’ excluded from Aboriginal reserves

‘Half-castes’ excluded from Aboriginal reserves

The Victorian Aborigines Protection Act 1886 seeks to assimilate ‘half-castes’ between the ages of 14 and 34, and those not married to ‘full bloods’, by excluding them from Aboriginal stations and reserves. Section 7 of the Act gives the Aborigines Protection Board regulatory powers in respect of ‘licensing half-castes to reside, supplying them with provisions, apprenticeships and committing to an orphanage or institution half-caste infants, and for the care and oversight in the management and condition of half castes for 7 years from the commencement of the Act’.


1887

First Colonial Conference

First Colonial Conference

The first Colonial Conference, held in London, involves representatives from all British colonies meeting to discuss common concerns. The Australian colonies present a united front on French activity in the New Hebrides and Britain agrees to maintain a presence.


1888

First Australian women’s newspaper

First Australian women’s newspaper

Louisa Lawson, poet, novelist and mother of Henry Lawson, establishes Dawn magazine to promote women’s independence and rights. In the previous year Louisa had bought the ailing Republican journal which she co-edited with her husband Henry under the pseudonym ‘Archie Lawson’. However, Dawn remains a commercial success for 17 years, and is the only Australian newspaper to be printed and published by women.


Chinese immigration restricted

Chinese immigration restricted

All colonial premiers (except Tasmania’s) agree to a common policy further restricting Chinese immigrants. The delegates from Tasmania consider the draft Bill to be unnecessary and illiberal in some of its provisions.


Women’s Suffrage League

Women’s Suffrage League

The Women’s Suffrage League is established in South Australia, spearheading the campaign for women’s right to vote. The League grows out of the work of the Social Purity Society.


1889

Boer War (1889-1902)

Boer War (1889-1902)

The discovery of gold and diamonds in the Boer republics of southern Africa in the 1880s intensifies rivalry with the British. In 1899 the Boers declare war to forestall what they see as an impending conquest. Britain wins the war and all Boers become British subjects in 1902.


Tenterfield Oration by Henry Parkes

Tenterfield Oration by Henry Parkes

The Federation movement gathers momentum when Henry Parkes writes to other colonial premiers and proposes a meeting to develop a federal constitution. In the same year he delivers his Federation speech, urging colonial governments ‘to unite and create a great National Government for all Australia’.


1890

Lobbying by the Working Women’s Trade Union

Lobbying by the Working Women’s Trade Union

In South Australia the Working Women’s Trade Union lobbies for better conditions for women in the clothing industry. It also supports women’s suffrage.


Australasian Federation Conference

Australasian Federation Conference

The landmark Australasian Federation Conference, held in Melbourne, unites the 13 leaders of all colonial and New Zealand governments, who debate the union of the colonies and a national convention to consider a federal constitution.


National maritime strike

National maritime strike

A national maritime strike, the first major strike to cross colonial borders, erupts over the refusal of ship-owners to allow the maritime officers to affiliate with the Melbourne Trades Hall Council. It draws support from seamen, waterside workers, shearers, miners, carters, drivers and other trades. It is followed by a shearers’ strike in Queensland the following year.


Last colony becomes self-governing

Last colony becomes self-governing

Western Australia is the last of the Australian colonies to become self-governing.


1891

Labour Party forms

Labour Party forms

Members of the Labour Party are elected for the first time to the South Australian and NSW colonial parliaments. The formation of the Labour Party precedes Britain and Europe. The Party changes its name to the Australian Labor Party in 1912.


Barcaldine shearers’ strike

Barcaldine shearers’ strike

Shearers at Barcaldine in Queensland go on strike to protest against a demand that they sign a free labour contract intended to reduce trade union influence. Strike leaders are arrested, leading to the formation of Labour Electoral Leagues — the genesis of the Australian Labor Party in Queensland.


First constitutional convention

First constitutional convention

At the Australasian Federation Conference held in Melbourne from 6 to 14 February 1890, leading politicians from the six Australian colonies and New Zealand agree on the concept of ‘an early union under the crown’ and commit themselves to persuading their governments to send delegates to a convention that would ‘consider and report’ on a scheme for a federal constitution. The National Australasian Convention of 1891 meets in Sydney from 2 March to 9 April, but does not debate whether the colonies should federate but how. They are concerned with finding a draft constitution that they can take back to their legislatures for discussion and endorsement. When the Australasian Federal Convention meets in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne in 1897 and early 1898, the delegates modify the draft produced in 1891. The Australian Constitution is subsequently contained in the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Bill, which is endorsed by the voters of each Australian colony at referendums in 1898, 1899 and 1900, passed by the British Parliament and given Royal Assent on 9 July 1900.


Monster Petition

Monster Petition

A group of Victorian women takes to the streets to collect signatures for a Women’s Suffrage Petition that attracts some 30,000 signatures. It demands that ‘Women should Vote on Equal terms with Men', and it is tabled in Parliament in September 1891 with the support of then Premier James Munro. The petition, also known as the Monster Petition because of its enormous length (260 metres long and 200mm wide), is regarded as one of Victoria’s archival treasures.


1892

University Women’s College

University Women’s College

Australia’s first university residential college for women opens at Sydney University, allowing greater freedom for women to leave home and attend university. Women’s College still operates today.


Queensland pioneers the preferential voting system

Queensland pioneers the preferential voting system

Queensland is the first state to introduce preferential voting, a system later adopted by other states and the federal parliament in 1918.


1893

Corowa — the ‘people’s convention’

Corowa — the ‘people’s convention’

A conference at Corowa is hailed as the first significant expression of community support for Federation outside the major cities. It is organised in response to growing resentment of inter-colonial tariffs in the Riverina. It leads to a decision by premiers in 1895 to enact legislation providing for the election of representatives to a federal convention, where they will adopt a Bill for a federal constitution to be put to a referendum held in 1898.


1894

Dreyfus case in France

Dreyfus case in France

Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish captain in the French army, is wrongly convicted of treason and imprisoned on Devil’s Island. Emile Zola, seeing anti-Semitism behind the case, campaigns for Dreyfus' freedom with an open letter to the French Government. Dreyfus is released in September 1899 — proof that a free press and public opinion can bring about change.


South Australia’s arbitration model

South Australia’s arbitration model

The great strikes of the 1890s lead to debate about how the proposed federal parliament might prevent and settle interstate industrial disputes. Charles Kingston, the South Australian Attorney-General, raises the issue in 1891. His industrial arbitration and conciliation legislation of 1894 is the first attempt in Australia to impose arbitration by law as a means of preventing and settling industrial disputes, although the trade unions choose to remain outside its jurisdiction.


1895

Women’s right to vote

Women’s right to vote

South Australia becomes the first colony in Australia, and one of the first places in the world, to grant women the right to vote. South Australian women also win the right to stand for election to parliament, a world first. The Constitution (Female Suffrage) Act 1895 (SA) is passed by the South Australian parliament in 1894 but the Attorney-General advises Governor Kintore on 21 December 1894 that Royal Assent is required to enact the Bill. Queen Victoria subsequently signs her Assent on 2 February 1895. Other Australian colonies follow suit - Western Australia in 1899, New South Wales in 1902, Tasmania in 1903, Queensland in 1905, and Victoria in 1908. In 1902, after Federation of the colonies, women over the age of 21 years win the right to vote in Australia’s national elections, some 16 years before British women. However, the Commonwealth Franchise Act effectively excludes Indigenous Australian women (and men) until 1962, when the Menzies Liberal-Country Party coalition government grants the right to vote in national elections to all Aboriginal people.


Women vote for the first time

Women vote for the first time

South Australian women go to the polls in 1895, becoming the first women in Australia and amongst the first in the world to cast their vote in parliamentary elections. The Constitution (Female Suffrage) Act 1895 (SA) also grants women the right to stand for parliament, making them the first in the world with this right. South Australian women with property can also vote in the upper house elections, but they cannot stand for election until 1959. Amongst the women who vote in the South Australian elections on 21 March 1895 are 81 of the 102 Indigenous women of the Point McLeay Mission who have registered to vote.


1897

Hare–Clark proportional representation

Hare–Clark proportional representation

Tasmanians are granted proportional representation in the Legislative Assembly seats of Hobart and Launceston, followed by the whole state in 1907. Andrew Inglis Clark, Tasmania’s Attorney General, seeks to reform the colony’s electoral system during the 1890s. Clark was a promoter of the single transferable vote.


First female political candidate

First female political candidate

The first female candidate in Australia is Catherine Helen Spence. She stands for election to the Federal Convention but is unsuccessful, being placed 22nd out of 33 candidates. She is told in advance that, even if she wins, she cannot sit in the House. Her platform includes political reform, including what she calls ‘pure democracy’ achieved through one person one vote. She is the first and strongest advocate for proportional representation.


Federal conciliation and arbitration power

Federal conciliation and arbitration power

Justice HB Higgins proposes a power to make laws with respect to ‘conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State’. The proposal is finally accepted at the 1898 Convention, providing the basis for the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904.


Jandamarra — resistance fighter

Jandamarra — resistance fighter

Jandamarra, a resistance fighter in the Kimberley region of north-western Australia, is shot together with 19 Indigenous former prisoners whom he had freed and who had fought with him.


Queensland law to control Indigenous people

Queensland law to control Indigenous people

The Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897 (Qld) establishes reserves and provides for the appointment of protectors. It permits Europeans to employ Indigenous people but not Chinese. This Act is the model for similarly ‘protective’ and restrictive legislation in Western Australia in 1906, and Northern Territory and South Australia in 1911 — the states and territory with the highest numbers of Indigenous people after Federation.


1898

Constitution referendums

Constitution referendums

The Australian Constitution is endorsed by the voters of each Australian colony at referendums in 1898, 1899 and 1900, passed by the British Parliament and given Royal Assent on 9 July 1900. About 45.4 per cent of electors in four colonies (Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales and South Australia) vote at the 1898 poll, increasing to 60.71 per cent of eligible voters in all six colonies at the 1899 poll. The first draft of the Australian Constitution is usually attributed to Sir Samuel Griffith, although some argue that Griffith rewrote Andrew Inglis Clark’s version.


1899

Australians fight in the Boer War

Australians fight in the Boer War

As part of the British Empire, the Australian colonies offer to send troops to the war in South Africa against the Boers or Afrikaners, settlers of Dutch descent seeking to create a republic in the Transvaal. At least 12,000 Australians serve in contingents raised by the six colonies and, from 1901 by the new Australian Commonwealth. Many more join British or South African colonial units in South Africa. At least 600 Australians die in the war, about half from disease and half in action.


World’s first Labour government

World’s first Labour government

The first Labour government in the world takes office in the colony of Queensland. It is a minority government led by Anderson Dawson, and lasts for just seven days before being defeated by the conservative opposition party led by Robert Philp.


Western Australian Petition to Secede

Western Australian Petition to Secede

As the Western Australian Government wavers over its support for Federation, residents on the goldfields present a petition to the Queen via the Western Australian Governor, arguing the case for their region’s separation from the Western Australian colony. The other colonies use the petition to pressure the Western Australian Government to support Federation.


1900

Australasian Women’s League

Australasian Women’s League

The first conference of the Women’s Progressive Leagues is held in Melbourne. A branch of the United Council for Woman Suffrage, the Leagues aim to secure civil and political rights for women equal to those of men, the general emancipation and advancement of women, and the right for women to enter architectural courses and proposed state agricultural colleges. General reforms include prison and factory legislation, health and the establishment of children’s courts. They run discussion courses on cookery, literature and health, conduct house-to-house canvassing, deputations, petitioning and public meetings, and publish suffrage literature. By the end of 1900, there are 32 societies in the Leagues, with strong connections with the labour movement.


Commonwealth Bill presented in Britain

Commonwealth Bill presented in Britain

On 25 June Edmund Barton communicates to Sir William Lyne that Commonwealth of Australia bill read thrice House of Commons. Cheers. Please inform other governments. The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 is passed by the British Parliament on 5 July and Queen Victoria gives her Royal Assent to the Act on 9 July, proclaiming that the Commonwealth of Australia comprising all six colonies will come into existence on 1 January 1901. The choice of the name ‘Commonwealth of Australia’ isinfluenced by James Bryce’s The American Commonwealth, the ‘bible’ of the founding fathers. However, Queen Victoria is uneasy with the term Commonwealth, mindful of its association with Oliver Cromwell’s republican government established after the English Civil Wars in the 17th century and the execution of her ancestor King Charles I in 1649. A copy of the Act and the pen, inkstand and table used are presented to the delegates. An original copy of the Act, returned to Australia in 1988, is displayed at the National Archives of Australia.


Western Australia votes ‘yes’

Western Australia votes ‘yes’

On 31 July, Western Australia is the last colony to vote yes in a referendum to determine whether it should become part of the Federation.


First Governor-General and Prime Minister

First Governor-General and Prime Minister

On 21 September, Queen Victoria appoints Lord Hopetoun as the Commonwealth of Australia’s first Governor-General. He arrives from England ill with typhoid fever, so the Queen invites the NSW Premier, William Lyne, to form a government. Most politicians refuse to work with Lyne who had opposed Federation, and Hopetoun is forced to appoint Edmund Barton as Australia’s first Prime Minister.


Chinese reformer visits Australia

Chinese reformer visits Australia

Liang Qichao, the most important democrat in Chinese history and a leading journalist and political observer, tours Australia at the invitation of the Protect the Emperor Society established by the Chinese in Sydney. Liang advocates reform of China’s political system and economy along western lines, and his visit arouses considerable interest in Australia. Arriving at the conclusion of the Boxer Uprising in northern China, Liang is seen as a potential national leader for a modernised China.


1901

Federation

Federation

The Federation of Australia is formed from the six separate British self-governing colonies of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia. When the Constitution of Australia comes into force on 1 January, the colonies collectively become states of the Commonwealth of Australia.


Commonwealth of Australia proclaimed

Commonwealth of Australia proclaimed

On 1 January the Commonwealth of Australia is proclaimed in Centennial Park, Sydney. The Proclamation and Letters Patent of the Governor-General, Lord Hopetoun, are read out and the nine members of the interim federal Ministry are sworn in. The Ministry includes Edmund Barton (Prime Minister, Department of External Affairs), Alfred Deakin (Attorney-General’s Department), Sir William Lyne (Department of Home Affairs), Charles Cameron Kingston (Department of Trade and Customs), Sir James Robert Dickson (Department of Defence), Sir John Forrest (Postmaster-General’s Department), Sir George Turner (Department of the Treasury), Sir Neil Elliot Lewis and Richard O’Connor. Edmund Barton is Prime Minister from 1901 to 1903. Sir Robert Randolph Garran is appointed as the first, and briefly, the only Commonwealth public servant on 1 January 1901 as Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department and parliamentary draftsman. Their roles in the first Commonwealth government are commemorated in the names of Canberra’s early suburbs.


Edmund Barton becomes Prime Minister

Edmund Barton becomes Prime Minister

Edmund Barton, leader of the Federation movement, is appointed as Australia’s first Prime Minister for an interim period pending national elections, which he later wins. During Barton’s term, he introduces legislation to establish the High Court of Australia, sets the first national customs duties and excises, and establishes the White Australia Policy. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


A national defence force

A national defence force

The Commonwealth’s Constitutional powers include the power to legislate for national defence. The new Commonwealth government takes control of the former colonial military forces and creates a small regular army and Citizen Military Forces comprised of reservists who cannot be deployed overseas. The first Australian Imperial Force (AIF) is formed in 1914 as the main expeditionary force of the Australian Army during World War I, and the Second Australian Imperial Force (2nd AIF) is formed in 1939 from volunteer units of the Australian Army to fight in World War II. The modern Australian Army is formed in 1947.


Australia’s first federal election

Australia’s first federal election

On 29–30 March, the first federal election is held in Australia. Seventy-five members are elected to the House of Representatives and 36 members to the Senate. The first federal parliament is officially opened on 9 May at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne.


Labor Party federates

Labor Party federates

A meeting of Labor members elected to the first Commonwealth Parliament agrees to form a federal party, which will in time become the Australian Labor Party.


First federal parliament

First federal parliament

On 9 May, the Duke of York (later King George V) opens the first federal parliament in the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne. Federal parliament meets in Melbourne’s Parliament House until Provisional Parliament House is completed in Canberra.


White Australia Policy begins

White Australia Policy begins

Amongst the first laws to be passed by the new federal parliament are the Pacific Islands Labourers Act 1901 to provide for deportation of Pacific Islanders by 1906, and the Immigration Restriction Act 1901. The Immigration Restriction Act introduces a dictation test (similar to tests used in North America and South Africa) to prevent all ‘non-whites’ from entering Australia as immigrants, and effectively formalises colonial immigration policies prior to Federation. These new laws create the legal foundations for the White Australia Policy.


1902

Women get the vote

Women get the vote

The Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 sets out who can vote in elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate, the two Houses of the new Commonwealth Parliament. The Act excludes from enrolling to vote all ‘aboriginal native[s] of Australia Africa Asia or the Islands of the Pacific except New Zealand’ unless covered under Section 41. Because women (other than those excluded on racial grounds) can vote in South Australia (and thus the Northern Territory) and Western Australia, they are eligible under the Australian Constitution. Those in New South Wales, Tasmania, Queensland, and Victoria achieve the right to vote in the Federal election on 16 December 1903 under this Act. These women finally win the right to vote in their own State elections in 1902, 1903, 1905, and 1908 respectively.


First female law graduate

First female law graduate

Ada Emily Evans is the first woman to receive a law degree in Australia (from Sydney University), but she is unable to practise until 1921 after successfully lobbying for the enactment of the Women’s Legal Status Act 1918 (NSW). In 1905 Grata Flos Matilda Greig becomes the first woman admitted to practise law in Australia.


1903

High Court of Australia established

High Court of Australia established

Section 71 of the Constitution establishes the High Court of Australia, but the first Bench appointments come with the passage of the Judiciary Act 1903. Sir Samuel Griffith, Sir Edmund Barton and Richard O’Connor are the first High Court members.


Alfred Deakin becomes Prime Minister

Alfred Deakin becomes Prime Minister

Attorney-General Alfred Deakin is sworn in as Prime Minister when Edmund Barton resigns to take a seat on the first Bench of the High Court. During Deakin’s first term as Prime Minister, parliament passes no legislation. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


Conscientious objection

Conscientious objection

The Defence Act 1903 is passed, providing for a national military force within Australia. All men aged 18 to 60 years are obliged to serve in war unless exempted on religious grounds. Only volunteers can serve overseas. Billy Hughes is a key proponent of compulsory military training but Justice HB Higgins presses for conscientious objection and the Act becomes the first national legislation to grant exemption from military service on the grounds of conscientious belief.


Women vote in federal election

Women vote in federal election

With the passing of The Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 ‘all persons not under twenty-one years of age whether male or female married or unmarried’ are entitled to vote or stand for election in federal elections. The Act excludes Aboriginal women and men unless they are eligible to vote under state law. On 16 December 1903, women vote for the first time in an Australian federal election, and four women nominate for election. Vida Goldstein (Victoria), and Nellie Martel and Mary Ann Moore Bentley (New South Wales) stand for election to the Senate, and Selina Anderson stands for the seat of Dalley (New South Wales) in the House of Representatives. They are the first women nominated for any national Parliament within the British Empire. Although none is elected, the event is described by The Dawn newspaper as ‘the greatest day that ever dawned for woman in Australia’.


1904

Australian Women’s National League

Australian Women’s National League

The Australian Women’s National League — a women’s conservative political organisation — is established in Victoria to support the monarchy and empire, combat socialism, educate women in politics, and safeguard the interests of the home, women and children. It aims to garner the votes of newly enfranchised women for non-Labor political groups espousing free trade and anti-socialist sentiments, with considerable organisational success. At its peak, it is the largest and arguably the most influential women’s organisation in the country. Closely associated with the United Australia Party, the League’s financial and organisational support is a key factor in the formation of the Liberal Party in 1944. The League merges with the Victorian division of the Liberal Party in 1945 and secures equal representation for women within the Party’s organisational structure — a first in Australian political parties.


Russia and Japan at war

Russia and Japan at war

The defeat of Russia by Japan is the first time a European power is defeated by an Asian one. It signals the rise of Japan as a modern industrial power.


Chris Watson becomes Prime Minister

Chris Watson becomes Prime Minister

Labour Party leader John Christian Watson replaces Alfred Deakin as Prime Minister when Deakin’s Protectionist government falls due to Labour’s refusal to support the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. Watson, at 37, is Australia’s youngest prime minister to date. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


First Labor government

First Labor government

John Christian Watson is the first federal Labour (renamed Labor in 1912) Party leader and Labour Prime Minister. His government lasts just four months. Watson is expelled from the Party in 1916 for supporting military conscription.


George Reid becomes Prime Minister

George Reid becomes Prime Minister

George Reid, Leader of the Opposition, becomes Prime Minister after the Watson Labour government falls due to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill (ironically, the same Bill’s defeat months earlier had brought Watson to power). Reid’s government finally passes the legislation. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


Conciliation and Arbitration Court

Conciliation and Arbitration Court

After a controversial passage through federal parliament, the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904 is passed and the Conciliation and Arbitration Court is established. This new system is a uniquely Australian approach to the regulation of industrial relations and social justice.


1905

Alfred Deakin becomes Prime Minister for a second time

Alfred Deakin becomes Prime Minister for a second time

Protectionist leader Alfred Deakin forms a government with Labour support when George Reid resigns after the Governor-General rejects his request for a double dissolution election. Deakin’s second government is productive, establishing the Bureau of Census and Statistics, and the Bureau of Meteorology, increasing the number of High Court judges from three to five, and establishing Australian control over Papua. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


Australia takes control of Papua

Australia takes control of Papua

Australia’s Papua Act 1905 establishes British New Guinea as a territory of Papua and Australia assumes formal administration. On 1 January, 1906, Papua officially becomes an Australian territory.


1906

Australia’s first referendum

Australia’s first referendum

Australia’s first national referendum succeeds, allowing concurrent elections for both Houses. During the 20th century, 19 constitutional referendums are held, containing 44 questions relating to a variety of issues. Only eight are carried.


1907

Living wage — the Harvester Judgement

Living wage — the Harvester Judgement

The Commonwealth Arbitration Court establishes the principle of a living wage - a fair and reasonable wage - to enable a man to support his wife and children in decent comfort. Justice HB Higgins hands down his decision after hearing HV Mackay’s Sunshine Harvester Company request for an exemption from paying excise duty. The ruling entitles unskilled male labourers to receive seven shillings per eight-hour working day. In related determinations, women are awarded around 54 per cent of the male rate. However, this is the first time an industrial tribunal establishes a wage for workers, rather than allow employees and employers to negotiate between themselves. This approach to wages is now known as wage fixing.


1908

Suffragists oppose military service

Suffragists oppose military service

Rose Scott, a leading suffragist, writes to Prime Minister Alfred Deakin opposing compulsory military training and service. In 1914, Vida Goldstein forms the Women’s Political Alliance to oppose military conscription, then joins Cecilia Annie John forming the Women’s Peace Army.


National pension scheme

National pension scheme

The Commonwealth exercises its Constitutional power to introduce the Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Act 1908 — a means-tested flat-rate age and invalid pension scheme for men aged from 65 and (from 1910) for women aged from 60. Aliens, ‘Asiatics’ (except those born in Australia), and certain groups of ‘aboriginal natives’ are ineligible for a pension. A pension is not granted to an inmate of a benevolent asylum or charitable institution. This scheme replaces state aged pension schemes in New South Wales and Victoria (1900) and Queensland (1908).


Great White Fleet

Great White Fleet

The visit of the Great White Fleet of 16 US warships represents a spectacular show of naval strength and alliance. Invited by Prime Minister Alfred Deakin, against the wishes of the British Government, the fleet is welcomed to Australia with a week of celebrations and a public holiday.


Andrew Fisher becomes Prime Minister

Andrew Fisher becomes Prime Minister

Labour Party leader Andrew Fisher becomes Prime Minister when the Deakin government falls after Labour withdraws its support. Fisher’s first government establishes the Canberra region as the site for Australia’s new capital city. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1909

Alfred Deakin becomes Prime Minister for the third time

Alfred Deakin becomes Prime Minister for the third time

Alfred Deakin becomes Prime Minister for the third time after the Fisher Labour government is defeated in the House of Representatives. After losing office to Fisher’s Labour Party in 1908, Deakin had arranged a merger of his followers in May 1909 (some were still known as Protectionists, while others were calling themselves Deakinites) with his former political foes, the Free Traders (now led by Joseph Cook, who had succeeded GH Reid as leader of the group in November 1908). The new grouping is known as the ‘Fusion’, and it represents the beginning of Australia’s two-party system. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


Fusion — the two-party system

Fusion — the two-party system

Alfred Deakin forms a coalition of his Protectionist Liberal Party with the Free Trade Party led by Joseph Cook, known as the Fusion. It brings stability to the federal parliament and ends the fragile political coalitions that saw six changes of government in the first eight years after Federation.


Site chosen for federal capital — Canberra

Site chosen for federal capital — Canberra

In October, the Senate finally agrees to the site of the new national capital. Two years later, the government launches an international design competition and, in 1913, Lady Denman announces the name for the new city will be ‘Canberra’. The choice of the site is the subject of considerable debate. In 1899, however, the premiers of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania propose that the site should be in New South Wales, but at least 100 miles from Sydney. This is finally accepted in a second round of referendums. It is also agreed that, like Washington, DC, the new capital should have a territory with a minimum area of 100 square miles.


Compulsory military service

Compulsory military service

The Defence Act 1909 introduces compulsory military training of males during peacetime. Aboriginal men are excluded. The Act is amended in 1910 to provide for conscientious objection to the bearing of arms, but this exemption does not apply to the universal compulsory military training between 1911 and 1929 for males aged 12 to 26 years. Objectors faced fines and gaol.


1910

High Commission established

High Commission established

The Australian High Commission opens in London with a former prime minister, George Reid, as the first High Commissioner.


Andrew Fisher becomes Prime Minister for the second time

Andrew Fisher becomes Prime Minister for the second time

At the 1910 federal election, Fisher’s Labour Party wins a convincing majority of seats in the House of Representatives and Fisher becomes Prime Minister leading Australia’s first-ever majority government. Labour gains seventeen additional seats to hold a total of forty-three of the seventy-five House of Representative seats, and all eighteen Senate seats up for election to hold a total of twenty-two out of thirty-six seats. In addition to being Australia’s majority government, the election results in Australia’s first Senate majority and the world’s first Labour Party majority government. During Fisher’s second term, the Royal Australian Navy is established, the first Commonwealth bank notes are printed, the size of the High Court Bench is again increased (to seven judges), and the nation’s new capital, Canberra, is formally proclaimed by the Governor-General. The Party changes the spelling of its name to ‘Labor’ in 1912. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1911

Commonwealth Northern Territory Acceptance Act, 1910

Commonwealth Northern Territory Acceptance Act, 1910

The control of the Northern Territory shifts from South Australia to the Commonwealth, and becomes the Northern Territory of Australia.


Referendum to extend Commonwealth powers

Referendum to extend Commonwealth powers

The Fisher Labour government seeks to extend Commonwealth powers over trade, commerce, laws regarding corporations and monopolies, and labour and employment. This referendum and another in 1919 both fail.


Australian suffragists protest in London

Australian suffragists protest in London

The Australian Prime Minister’s wife Margaret Fisher leads a group of Australian and New Zealand women in a demonstration supporting a Bill to grant British women the vote.


Duntroon Royal Military College

Duntroon Royal Military College

Duntroon Royal Military College is established in Canberra to train professional officers for military duty.


Universal Races Congress

Universal Races Congress

One thousand people assemble at the University of London to counter the work of the eugenics movement, which advocated the study and practice of selective breeding of humans, with the aim of improving the species.


China becomes a republic

China becomes a republic

The Manchu Dynasty is overthrown and China becomes a republic under Sun Yat-sen.


Compulsory electoral enrolment

Compulsory electoral enrolment

The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1911 introduces compulsory electoral enrolment for all Australians who are eligible to vote. Compulsory voting is first advocated by Alfred Deakin shortly after Federation, but voting remains voluntary at the first nine federal elections. Proponents of compulsory voting argue that it teaches citizens the benefits of participation in political and parliamentary representation. Since the introduction of compulsory voting in 1924, the turnout at Australian elections has never fallen below 90 per cent.


Commonwealth Bank of Australia

Commonwealth Bank of Australia

The Commonwealth government introduces a law in 1911 to introduce public banking services in competition with private banks. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia commences operating in Melbourne in 1912. It begins printing Australia’s paper money from 1920 when the Note Issue Department of the Commonwealth Bank is created by an Act, which proclaims that on 14 December the note issue is removed from the Treasury and placed in the hands of the Bank.


1912

Design for the national capital

Design for the national capital

An American architect, Walter Burley Griffin (in collaboration with his wife Marion Mahoney), wins an international competition to design the new national capital, Canberra. While Griffin and his winning design generate prolonged and bitter controversies, the Griffin Plan provides an enduring legacy for the development of Canberra.


Maternity allowance

Maternity allowance

As a result of effective lobbying by women, the Maternity Allowance Act 1912 (Cth) is introduced by Labor Prime Minister Andrew Fisher. It provides for payment of £5 to all white mothers, including unmarried mothers, on the birth of a child. The provision for unmarried mothers causes outrage amongst church groups. The Act excludes mothers of ‘Asiatic’, Indigenous, Papuan or Pacific Islander origin in line with the White Australia Policy. Indigenous women become eligible for the allowance in 1942, except those living a ‘nomadic or primitive’ life.


1913

Joseph Cook becomes Prime Minister

Joseph Cook becomes Prime Minister

At the 1913 election, Joseph Cook’s Commonwealth Liberal Party wins a one-seat majority and Cook replaces Fisher as Prime Minister. World War I breaks out in Europe during Cook’s term in office, and he commits Australian forces to fight for the British Empire. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1914

World War I (1914-18)

World War I (1914-18)

Britain, France and Russia (the Triple Entente) fight against Germany, Turkey and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The United States enters in 1917 on the side of Britain. On 26 April 1915 Italy comes into the war on the side of the Triple Entente. Japan is also allied with the Triple Entente, securing sea lanes in the Pacific and Indian oceans against the Kaiser’s navy. World War I ends with an armistice on 11 November 1918. In 1919, Austria and Germany become republics. The Treaty of Versailles imposes reparations to be paid to the Allies, limits the German armed forces and prohibits their development, and enforces territorial losses against Germany. The Treaty also establishes new international bodies such as the League of Nations and the International Labour Organization.


Andrew Fisher becomes Prime Minister for the third time

Andrew Fisher becomes Prime Minister for the third time

In Australia’s first double dissolution election, Andrew Fisher and the re-christened Australian Labor Party are returned to power, ousting the Cook government. Fisher is Prime Minister during the now-legendary Anzac landing at Gallipoli. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1915

The Anzacs

The Anzacs

On 25 April 1915 members of the Australian Imperial Force land at Gallipoli, together with troops from New Zealand, Britain and France. The landing signals the start of one of Australia’s most commemorated military campaigns, ends with the evacuation of the remaining troops after eight months of battle. Following Gallipoli, Australian servicemen fight with Allied forces in campaigns on the Western Front and in the Middle East.


Australian Women’s Peace Army

Australian Women’s Peace Army

Vida Goldstein and Cecilia Annie John form the Australian Women’s Peace Army in Melbourne to protest against the First World War.


Billy Hughes becomes Prime Minister

Billy Hughes becomes Prime Minister

Prime Minister Andrew Fisher resigns, due largely to his failing health. His deputy, Billy Hughes, replaces him. During Hughes’ term in office, Australia holds two separate referendums on the introduction of conscription, both of which are rejected. Hughes splits from the Australian Labor Party and establishes his own Nationalist Party in 1917. He represents Australia at the 1919 Versailles Peace Conference and establishes the Commonwealth Police Force. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


Wartime censorship

Wartime censorship

As a wartime measure, the government of Billy Hughes introduces Regulation 28A, which gives it the power to force newspaper editors to submit articles to the censor for clearance before publication.


1916

Western Front (1916–18)

Western Front (1916–18)

At the end of the Gallipoli campaign in 1915, the Australian Imperial Force begins to move to France. All five divisions see much action on the Western Front and, as the enormity of Australian casualties become known in Australia, the number of men volunteering for service falls steadily. The federal government comes under sustained pressure from Britain to ensure that its divisions are not depleted. In 1916 it is argued that Australia needs to provide reinforcements of 5500 men per month to maintain its forces overseas at operational level. Prime Minister Hughes decides to ask the people in a referendum if they would agree to a proposal requiring men undergoing compulsory training to serve overseas. The referendum, held on 28 October 1916, is defeated with 1,087,557 in favour and 1,160,033 against.


Compulsory registration of ‘aliens’

Compulsory registration of ‘aliens’

The government introduces compulsory registration of ‘aliens’ during in World War I with the War Precautions (Alien Registration) Regulations 1916, forcing ‘aliens’ to register with customs officials or the local police. The government subsequently introduces an internment policy, requiring those born in countries at war with Australia and classed as ‘enemy aliens’ to be relocated to camps. This is expanded to include people from enemy nations who are naturalised British subjects, Australian-born descendants of migrants from enemy nations and others who are thought to pose a threat to Australia’s security. Australia interns almost 7000 people during World War I, of whom about 4500 are enemy aliens and British nationals of German ancestry already resident in Australia.


Conscription debate

Conscription debate

As the Australian public learns of the enormity of Australian casualties on the Western Front, the number of men volunteering for service falls and Prime Minister W M Hughes puts the question of military conscription to the public. Australians are divided over the issue of compulsory conscription for overseas service, with conservative political parties, the media and most church leaders supporting conscription, while trade unions and many women’s groups oppose it. The referendum of 28 October asks ‘Are you in favour of the Government having, in this grave emergency, the same compulsory powers over citizens in regard to requiring their military service, for the term of this War, outside the Commonwealth, as it now has in regard to military service within the Commonwealth?’. The referendum is defeated with 1,087,557 in favour and 1,160,033 against. A second referendum in 1917 also fails and the issue divides the nation politically, socially and along religious lines.


Nationalist Party forms

Nationalist Party forms

Billy Hughes and fellow members of the Labor Party who supported conscription are expelled from the Labor Party caucus. Hughes forms a new party, the National Labor Party, which a short time later, merges with the opposition Liberals to form the new Nationalist Party. This new party subsequently wins a majority of seats in its own right at the 1917 election and Hughes continues as Prime Minister.


1917

Russian Revolution

Russian Revolution

The Russian Revolution in February overthrows Tsar Nicholas II and establishes a provisional government and a Soviet at Petrograd, representing workers and soldiers, where most of the action had taken place. The revolutionary government chose to remain in the war. A second revolution in October brings Lenin and the Bolsheviks (communists) to power, overturns the interim provisional government and establishes the Soviet Union. The revolutionary government withdraws from the war.


The Great Strike

The Great Strike

The largest industrial dispute ever experienced in Australia begins at the Eveleigh Railway Workshops in Sydney when managers introduce a new system of recording how long it takes workers to do different jobs. It involves timing tasks with a stop watch, and the workers strike fearing that the new system will turn them into slaves of the clock. Initially 5,780 worker strike, but the industrial action spreads to other unions and industrial centres in NSW, and is supported by workers in Victoria and Queensland. Despite large protest marches demanding government intervention in the crisis, the Eveleigh railway workers end their strike and return to work under the new card system. This is later abolished in 1932 by Premier Jack Lang. Amongst the strikers are J B Chifley, a train driver who becomes Prime Minister in 1945, Eddie Ward, elected to federal parliament in the early 1930s, and J J Cahill who becomes a Minister in the NSW Labor Government in the 1940s and Premier in the 1950s.


Commonwealth Police Force

Commonwealth Police Force

Prime Minister Billy Hughes establishes Australia’s first Commonwealth Police Force comprising, at its peak, 50 plain-clothed police based mainly in Queensland. Hughes takes action following increasing tension over a range of issues, including conscription, with the anti-conscription Queensland Premier. Hughes is reputedly enraged by the lack of response by the Queensland police when he is hit by an egg during a public rally over conscription. The new force has full police powers for federal offences, but its main task is to report on subversive activities of those opposed to the war and the Commonwealth government. It is disbanded in 1919 when the threat of subversion is deemed to be not as serious as first thought.


1918

Law to control Indigenous people

Law to control Indigenous people

The Aboriginal Ordinance No 9 of 1918 (Cth) is the first Commonwealth law for the governance of Indigenous people. It applies to Indigenous people in the Northern Territory, which was separated from South Australia in 1911 and transferred to Commonwealth control. Prior to this, South Australia had made no legislative provisions for Indigenous people in the Northern Territory until 1910, in preparation for separation. The new Ordinance imposes restrictions on drinking alcohol, possessing guns, having relationships with non-Indigenous people or mining Aboriginal reserve land, and remains in force until 1957.


Armistice and Treaty of Versailles (1918–19)

Armistice and Treaty of Versailles (1918–19)

The armistice to end World War I is signed on 11 November, and the Treaty of Versailles is concluded in June 1919. The Treaty of Versailles creates the Covenant of the League of Nations, and is signed by Prime Minister William Hughes and Minister for the Navy, Joseph Cook. This is the first political treaty signed by Australian officials, and the first negotiated with direct participation by Australian Government delegates after Hughes insisted on Australia’s right to attend the Peace Conference in its own right rather than be represented by Britain. He also persuades leaders from New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and the United Kingdom to oppose Japan’s bid for a racial equality clause to be inserted in the Covenant of the League of Nations.


Industrial unrest during World War I

Industrial unrest during World War I

As World War I draws to an end, seamen striking for better wages and conditions interrupt Australia’s fuel and coal supplies and, in December, several hundred Australian Workers Union members protest in Darwin’s Liberty Square to demand the Northern Territory Administrator be removed for maladministration. This incident is known as the Darwin Rebellion.


1919

James Joyce’s Ulysses is banned

James Joyce’s Ulysses is banned

James Joyce’s book Ulysses reflects changing trends in censorship. It is banned in 1919, unbanned in 1937 and re-banned in 1941. Despite protests in parliament in 1967, the Minister for Customs refuses to over-rule the Censorship Board’s ban on the film Ulysses, which the it rules as obscene and indecent.


Preferential voting introduced

Preferential voting introduced

Departing from the first past the post voting system, the federal parliament introduces a preferential voting system in the 1919 general election following the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. Sometimes described as the alternate vote, preferential voting is a uniquely Australian system of voting. Based on the principle that the winner should have more than 50 per cent support, it allows voters to number the candidates in order of preference. This system is used in the House of Representatives and the lower house of every Australian state parliament, except the ACT and Tasmania, which use the Hare Clark system of voting.


1920

League of Nations

League of Nations

Australia is among 32 signatories of the Treaty of Versailles, and a founding member of the League of Nations established by the Treaty. The League is officially inaugurated on 10 January 1920, when the Treaty of Versailles comes into force.


League of Nations founded

League of Nations founded

The League of Nations is the world’s first attempt to form a genuinely international cooperative organisation. Sixty-two countries are at some point members. An important objective of the League is to ensure that there would not be another world war, and to offer collective security to any member-state attacked. By the late 1930s the League becomes ineffectual.


Engineers’ Case

Engineers’ Case

In a landmark case, the High Court’s ruling on the Engineers’ Case gives the federal government the power to determine the pay and conditions of people employed in the engineering industry across Australia, and determined that the Commonwealth’s Conciliation and Arbitration Court decisions are binding on state governments.


Engineers’ Case defines Commonwealth powers

Engineers’ Case defines Commonwealth powers

In a landmark decision that sees a shift in federal power towards the Commonwealth, the High Court rules that the Commonwealth can use its powers under Section 51(xxxv) of the Constitution to authorise an industrial award for engineers employed by the state public service. The case overturns an earlier interpretation that neither the Commonwealth nor state governments can interfere in each others’ powers, and implies that it is possible for the Commonwealth to use the full scope of any of its powers under Section 51 to make laws to bind states.


Communist Party of Australia forms

Communist Party of Australia forms

A group of socialists inspired by the 1917 Russian Revolution establishes the Communist Party of Australia. The Party exerts some influence over the trade union movement in New South Wales in the mid-1920s, and achieves its greatest political strength in the 1940s, even facing an attempted ban on its activities by the Menzies government in 1951. The Party is influential in some areas of Australian political and cultural life, but never poses a serious challenge to the main political parties. Former members of the Communist Party of Australia establish the Socialist Party of Australia in 1971, and the name is changed to the Communist Party of Australia at its 8th National Congress in October 1996. Its stated aim is the socialist reconstruction of Australian society.


1921

Australian Federation of Women Voters

Australian Federation of Women Voters

The British Dominions Women Citizens’ Union joins with women’s societies in Australia to form the Australian Federation of Women’s Societies for Equal Citizenship (later the Australian Federation of Women Voters). Founded by Bessie Rischbieth, it aims to achieve ‘equality of opportunity, status, responsibility and reward between men and women’. From 1922, each Australian delegation to the League of Nations General Assembly includes women as a result of the Federation’s lobbying. The Federation affiliates with the British Commonwealth League and the International Alliance of Women, and survives until at least 1974.


First woman in an Australian parliament

First woman in an Australian parliament

Edith Cowan is elected to the Western Australian state parliament, becoming Australia’s first female parliamentarian.


Socialisation objective

Socialisation objective

The socialisation objective — the principle of increased government ownership of industry, production, distribution and exchange — is accepted by the Australian Labor Party federal conference in Brisbane. The Party’s first pledge established in 1905 had emphasised that it would maintain the racial purity of the nation and the commitment to the White Australia Policy. The new objective, introduced by James Scullin in 1921, focuses on the socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange, and becomes the Labor Party’s central policy platform. All members are required to pledge to actively support it to eliminate exploitation and other anti-social features.


1922

Country Party forms federally

Country Party forms federally

The Country Party is first formed in Western Australia in 1913, having emerged from various farmer and settler leagues. It becomes a national political party in 1920, largely sponsored by state farm organisations fighting for a better deal for the ‘man on the land’. The Party is represented in federal parliament from 1922. Its leader, Earle Page, becomes Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister in the first federal coalition government in 1923, establishing a tradition when the coalition is in government. The Country Party changes its name to the National Country Party of Australia in 1975, then to the National Party of Australia in 1982 as part of a strategy to extend its national representation to urban electorates. Three of the Party’s leaders — Earle Page, Arthur Fadden and John McEwen — briefly serve as Prime Minister on occasions when the leadership of the major coalition party is in transition.


Queensland abolishes its upper house

Queensland abolishes its upper house

Queensland departs from the bicameral system of parliament by abolishing its Legislative Council, leaving a single-chamber parliament. The other states retain two houses.


Assisted British immigration

Assisted British immigration

The federal government takes control of all immigration and, under the Empire Settlement Scheme, Australia accepts large numbers of British immigrants seeking new opportunities. Up to the 1929 Great Depression, more than 200,000 assisted British settlers come to Australia.


1923

Stanley Melbourne Bruce becomes Prime Minister

Stanley Melbourne Bruce becomes Prime Minister

Following the 1922 election, Country Party leader Earle Page, whose party holds the balance of power in the House of Representatives, refuses to form a coalition with the Nationalists unless Billy Hughes resigns as Prime Minister. Hughes eventually does so and the party elects 40-year-old Treasurer Stanley Bruce as the new Prime Minister, governing in coalition with Page. The Bruce–Page government formalises Cabinet as a decision-making body and is the first government to sit at what is now Old Parliament House, on 9 May 1927, when the federal government formally moves to Canberra. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1924

First Cabinet meeting in Canberra

First Cabinet meeting in Canberra

Prime Minister Stanley Bruce holds the first federal Cabinet meeting in the national capital, at Yarralumla House. In 1931, at the depth of the Great Depression, Cabinet begins meeting in the federal parliament building (now Old Parliament House). The location of Cabinet within the parliament signifies the growing power of the Executive branch of government over the elected parliament during the 20th century.


Australian Aborigines Progressive Association

Australian Aborigines Progressive Association

The Australian Aborigines Progressive Association, led by Fred Maynard, operates in Sydney from 1924 to 1927 when it is disbanded due to police harassment.


Compulsory voting introduced

Compulsory voting introduced

The 1924 federal election is the first in which voting is compulsory. Those eligible to vote are required by law to be enrolled on the Electoral Roll and to vote in federal elections.


1926

Balfour Declaration

Balfour Declaration

The Balfour Declaration (Imperial Conference) represents an important step in Australia’s path to independent nationhood. It declares the United Kingdom and its dominions equal in status in all matters of internal and external affairs. This replaces the principle of a hierarchical relationship with one of ‘autonomous communities within the British empire, equal in status…and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations’. It affirms the international recognition of the free and equal status of the dominion members of the League of Nations within the British Commonwealth. The law enacting these principles is the Statute of Westminster in 1931, adopted by Australia in 1942.


1927

Australian Council of Trade Unions

Australian Council of Trade Unions

The Australian Council of Trade Unions is formed at a meeting of trade union delegates in the Victorian Trades Hall. The aim is to lift the living standards and working conditions for working people. It plays a central coordinating role in many of Australia’s industrial campaigns, representing unions in wage cases before the Commonwealth’s Conciliation and Arbitration Court, advocating equality for women, arguing for safer working environments and better employment conditions, and seeking to ensure fairness and justice for workers in government policy.


Journalists in federal parliament

Journalists in federal parliament

The new federal Parliament House in Canberra is one of the first parliamentary buildings in the world to provide specially built accommodation for journalists within the legislative chamber, indicating the increasing importance of the media to parliament and in everyday life.


A parliament house for Canberra

A parliament house for Canberra

The Provisional Parliament House is opened by the Duke of York in Canberra on 9 May, with 36 Senators (six per state) and 76 Members of the House of Representatives. The building is opened one year after the Balfour Declaration, which decrees that Australia is an autonomous community within the British Empire, ‘equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.


1928

Battle at Coniston

Battle at Coniston

In one of the last frontier battles between Indigenous and settler Australians, a group of Aboriginal people are killed by pastoralists at Coniston in central Australia. The ambush is allegedly conducted in response to the spearing death of a white dingo hunter, Frederick Brooks, by Walmulla men after Brooks slept with their wives. A court of inquiry rules that the shootings are justified. In the 1980s, survivors of the massacre testify that at least 100 Aborigines died in the conflict, including many women and children.


1929

Censorship and the ‘talkies’

Censorship and the ‘talkies’

The federal government decides that silent and sound versions of film are to be treated as separate items for censorship purposes. The Censorship Board regrets the advent of sound, stating that the ‘soul of the film was its eloquent and vital silence and the old mystery and beauty are giving way more and more to the depiction of the sordid and vulgar with tiresome emphasis on incidents drawn from stage life’.


James Scullin becomes Prime Minister

James Scullin becomes Prime Minister

At the 1929 federal election, the Bruce government is heavily defeated by Labor, led by James Scullin. Bruce loses his own parliamentary seat, the first prime minister to do so. During Scullin’s term as Prime Minister, the Wall Street Crash begins the Great Depression and Sir Isaac Isaacs is appointed Governor-General, the first Australian to hold the position. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


Wall Street crash — the Great Depression begins

Wall Street crash — the Great Depression begins

In October, the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street suddenly collapses. By the early 1930s, the value of stock is about 80 per cent less than its 1920s level. Investment halts, as does the purchase of new stock and demand for goods. The banking system collapses, as many have invested depositors' money in the stock market. Angry depositors lose their savings while banks try to collect on loans. Economic depression sets in, affecting the world, with stagnation, high unemployment and people evicted from their homes.


United Associations of Women

United Associations of Women

The United Associations of Women is one of the most radical feminist groups of the mid twentieth century. It is formed in Sydney by women advocating a more stronger political voice for women. Jessie Street, increasingly frustrated with the conservatism of groups like the National Council of Women and the Feminist Club, initiates a series of meetings that result in the establishment of the United Associations. The UA is active throughout the 1930s and 40s, and plays a major role in organising the Australian Women’s Charter Conference in 1943 attended by over 90 women’s organisations in Australia.


1931

Australia’s first native-born Governor-General

Australia’s first native-born Governor-General

Sir Isaac Isaacs is appointed Australia’s first native-born Governor-General, despite King George V’s opposition to a ‘local’ appointment. A former Member of Parliament for Bogong in the Victorian Legislative Assembly and a High Court Judge, Isaacs serves as Australia’s ninth Governor-General until 1936.


Premiers’ Plan addresses the Great Depression

Premiers’ Plan addresses the Great Depression

Responding to the economic crisis, Commonwealth and state premiers produce the Premiers’ Plan — cutting government expenditure by 20 per cent, reducing bank interest and increasing taxation.


1932

Joe Lyons becomes Prime Minister

Joe Lyons becomes Prime Minister

The Scullin Labor government is defeated after a single term at the 1931 election. Former Tasmanian Premier Joe Lyons had resigned from the government earlier that year and with the Nationalists formed a new party — the United Australia Party — and won the federal election. Lyons becomes Prime Minister and establishes the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and reduces government spending in an attempt to bolster recovery from the Depression. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


NSW Premier dismissed

NSW Premier dismissed

To fight the economic depression, NSW Premier Jack Lang defies the federal government by refusing to pay interest on foreign loans in favour of domestic dole support, and instructing government departments not to pay debts to the federal Treasury. In an unprecedented move, Lang and his Cabinet are dismissed by the NSW Governor Sir Philip Game for defying the Commonwealth government’s financial agreements legislation.


Public broadcasting commences

Public broadcasting commences

The Australian Broadcasting Commission, established in 1929, goes to air on 1 July. It begins with 12 stations broadcasting music, sport and information programs for about 11 hours each day.


1933

Birth control

Birth control

The first birth control clinic in Australia is set up in Sydney by the Racial Hygiene Association. In 1960 the Racial Hygiene Association becomes the Family Planning Association.


Adolf Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany

Adolf Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany

In January, Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany in a coalition government and forms a cabinet. The Nazis have one-third of the seats in the Reichstag (Parliament). In February, the Reichstag is set alight and communists are wrongly blamed. Communist members of parliament and some social democrats are arrested. A general election is held. The Nazis still do not secure a majority of seats but in March secure the support of the Catholic Centre Party for the passage of an Enabling Act, which grants legislative power to Hitler’s Cabinet for four years. The Communist Party is banned and other parties dissolve themselves. The Nazi Party is the only political party permitted.


Australia claims Antarctic territory

Australia claims Antarctic territory

Douglas Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition is the first of a series of polar expeditions seeking a share of whaling and mineral wealth in Antarctica. It culminates in Australia claiming possession of Antarctic territory in 1933.


Western Australia votes to secede

Western Australia votes to secede

Western Australian business, political and community leaders are critical of their treatment due to their distance from the east coast. They vote in a referendum to secede from the Commonwealth, but the British House of Commons rejects the Secession Act 1934 (WA).


Wealth redistribution among states

Wealth redistribution among states

Following complaints from South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania that they are suffering as a result of Federation, the federal government passes the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act 1933, redistributing revenue from wealthier to poorer states via the new Commonwealth Grants Commission.


1934

First Indigenous High Court case

First Indigenous High Court case

Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda, a Yolngu elder and Arnhem Land leader, is charged with the murder of policeman Albert McColl. Dhakiyarr is sentenced to death, but his case draws national and international attention. He appeals to the High Court, which overturns the sentence, affirming the right of Indigenous people to a fair trial in Australian courts.


1935

Australian Council for Civil Liberties

Australian Council for Civil Liberties

A group of prominent citizens, lawyers and writers, including Brian Fitzpatrick, Herbert Burton, Max Meldrum, Sir John Barry and Sir Eugene Gorman, form the Australian Council for Civil Liberties. The Council is formed initially to lobby against censorship restrictions. It publishes booklets to promote its cause, including Yvonne Nicholls’ Not Slaves, Not Citizens in 1952. Branches of the Council are established in every state.


1936

Australia First Movement

Australia First Movement

The formation of the Australia First Movement is fuelled by strong anti-British sentiment and the severity of the Great Depression. Its key figures, including William John Miles, Adela Pankhurst and Percey Reginald Stephensen, advocate Australian patriotic sentiment. Their views are promoted in The Publicist, a monthly newsletter published from 1936. The Movement is considered to have sympathies with Germany, Italy and Japan. Its activities are perceived as increasingly threatening to Australia’s national security and, in March 1942, its leaders are secretly interned amid fears of a Japanese invasion of Australia.


Spanish Civil War (1936-39)

Spanish Civil War (1936-39)

Forces of the Fascist General, Francisco Franco, are victorious in the overthrow of the Republican government in the Spanish Civil War. The war began when Army generals attempt a coup against the elected government.


1937

Indigenous assimilation policy

Indigenous assimilation policy

A conference of state and federal officials decides that ‘part Aborigines’ are to be assimilated into white society, while those not living a tribal life are to be educated. All others are to stay on reserves.


Sex discrimination in Australian law

Sex discrimination in Australian law

The Australian Federation of Women Voters compiles a memorandum on the status of women, showing sex discrimination is endemic in Australian law. The memorandum is an annex to the report prepared by the government on the same subject and is forwarded to the Secretariat of the League of Nations.


Petition for Indigenous representation rejected

Petition for Indigenous representation rejected

In 1935, as secretary of the Australian Aborigines’ Advancement League in Victoria, William Cooper circulates a petition seeking direct representation in parliament, enfranchisement and land rights. His petition is unsuccessful but, by 1937, he has collected 1814 signatures from Indigenous people from all over Australia. The federal government declines to forward his petition to King George VI, or to seek the constitutional amendment necessary to legislate for Indigenous people or form an Aboriginal constituency.


Aborigines Progressive Association

Aborigines Progressive Association

Inspired by William Cooper’s Australian Aborigines' Advancement League formed in Victoria in 1932, William Ferguson organises the inaugural meeting of the NSW branch of the Aborigines Progressive Association in Sydney in 1937. The Association operates until 1944. The three aims of the Association are full citizenship rights for Indigenous people, Aboriginal representation in parliament, and the abolition of the NSW Aborigines Protection Board. From March 1938, the The Australian Abo Call: The Voice of the Aborigines is published as the official journal of the Aborigines Progressive Association.


1938

Australia’s 150th anniversary and Indigenous Day of Mourning and Protest

Australia’s 150th anniversary and Indigenous Day of Mourning and Protest

On 26 January, as Australia celebrates the 150th anniversary of the landing of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove, Indigenous Australians attend a Day of Mourning and Protest in Sydney. The mourners wait for the sesquicentenary procession to pass, then march in silent protest from the Sydney Town Hall to an Australian Aborigines Conference at the Australian Hall. The Australian Aborigines’ League and Aborigines Progressive Association of New South Wales use the meeting to speak out about the denial of civil rights for Indigenous Australians. The protest is the culmination of years of campaigning by Aboriginal leaders including William Ferguson, William Cooper and John Patten. Patten and Ferguson circulate a pamphlet, Aborigines Claim Citizen Rights.


Indigenous parliamentary representation refused

Indigenous parliamentary representation refused

The Commonwealth government refuses to send to the King a petition signed by Aboriginal people from all over Australia requesting an Aboriginal Member in the House of Representatives.


Pig-Iron Bob

Pig-Iron Bob

As tensions rise over Japan’s invasion of Manchuria, Port Kembla waterside workers refuse to load a cargo of pig-iron destined for Japanese munitions factories. The Commonwealth government intervenes to contest the right of a trade union to determine national foreign policy. The Attorney-General, Robert Menzies, earns the nickname ‘Pig-Iron Bob’ for his role in the dispute.


Lilian Fowler — a pioneer

Lilian Fowler — a pioneer

Lilian Fowler is the first female alderman and mayor, and one of the first female NSW Members of Parliament and Justices of the Peace. She works for women and the underprivileged, including lobbying for widows’ pensions and child endowment. A year earlier, in 1937, Ivy Weber became the first woman to be elected in a Victorian general election, and the second woman to join the Victorian Parliament as the Independent Member for Nunawading.


1939

Earle Page becomes Prime Minister

Earle Page becomes Prime Minister

Prime Minister Joe Lyons becomes the first Australian prime minister to die in office. The government’s second-ranked member, Country Party leader Earle Page, becomes Prime Minister for 19 days while the United Australia Party elects a new leader. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


Department of Social Services

Department of Social Services

The Department of Social Services is established in 1939, but does not function as a separate department until 1941. It assumes responsibility for national social services from the Treasury.


Robert Menzies becomes Prime Minister

Robert Menzies becomes Prime Minister

The United Australia Party elects former Attorney-General Robert Menzies as its new leader and Prime Minister. Menzies is Prime Minister when World War II begins and announces that Australia is at war with Germany. He represents Australia in the British War Cabinet and leads Australia during the early part of the war. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


World War II (1939-45)

World War II (1939-45)

World War II is a global military conflict that involves a majority of the world’s nations, including all of the great powers, organised into two opposing alliances: the Allies and the Axis. The war involves the mobilisation of over 100 million military personnel, making it the most widespread war in history. In a state of ‘total war’, the major participants place their complete economic, industrial and scientific capabilities at the service of the war effort, erasing the distinction between civilian and military resources. Over 70 million people, the majority of them civilians, are killed, making it the deadliest conflict in human history.


Refugees flee German occupation

Refugees flee German occupation

The Australian Government announces that it will accept 15,000 Jewish refugees over a three-year period. Each immigrant is required to have ‘landing money’ and be nominated by someone in Australia. Approximately one-third of the number actually land in Australia because of the outbreak of World War II.


1940

Australia’s first diplomatic posts

Australia’s first diplomatic posts

Australia’s first diplomatic posts are set up in Washington, DC, Tokyo and Ottawa.


1941

Equal pay principle

Equal pay principle

The Australian Council of Trade Unions adopts the principle of equal pay for equal work, following the formation of the Council of Action on Equal Pay by Muriel Heagney and other trade unionists in 1938. Thirty years later, the Arbitration Commission adopts the principle, broadening it to equal pay for work of equal value but, despite these reforms, women continue to be disadvantaged in average earnings.


Child endowment

Child endowment

The Child Endowment Act 1941 provides for an allowance to mothers for each child under 16 years.


National child endowment scheme

National child endowment scheme

The Child Endowment Act 1941 creates a Commonwealth Child Endowment Scheme following the first child endowment scheme introduced in NSW in 1927. The federal scheme provides an allowance to be paid to families for each child (after the first) under 16 years in families and each child under 16 years in approved non-government institutions. It is subsequently expanded and renamed family allowance.


Arthur Fadden becomes Prime Minister

Arthur Fadden becomes Prime Minister

Robert Menzies, his government having become unstable, resigns as Prime Minister. A joint meeting of the United Australia and Country parties chooses, Country party leader, Arthur Fadden, as Menzies’ successor as Prime Minister. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


John Curtin becomes Prime Minister

John Curtin becomes Prime Minister

The Fadden government falls when two Independent Members of Parliament vote with the Labor opposition. Opposition Leader John Curtin is sworn in as Prime Minister. During Curtin’s term of office, Australia declares war on Japan following the Japanese bombing of the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbour. Darwin is attacked by Japanese bombers, and Curtin engages in a fierce cable war with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill over the use of Australian forces in the Pacific. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1942

Government powers extended

Government powers extended

In November, Prime Minister John Curtin argues at a special Federal Conference of the Labor Party that it is necessary for the war effort to extend government powers to compel service in the south-west Pacific comprising Australia, New Guinea, the Philippines and the Netherlands East Indies. During World War I, Curtin had argued passionately against compulsory enrolment for overseas military service. Amidst bitter debate within the Labor Party, the War Cabinet approves a Bill to empower the Australian Government to send conscripts out of Australian territory to a defined south-west Pacific war zone. The Bill becomes the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Act 1943 (Cth). It obliges soldiers in the Citizen Military Forces to serve in Australia, all of the island of New Guinea and the adjacent islands. This is called the South-West Pacific Zone.


Curtin’s cable war

Curtin’s cable war

In an extraordinary exchange of cablegrams, Prime Minister John Curtin defies British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US President Franklin Roosevelt and orders Australia’s 7th Division home rather than to Burma. In March, Rangoon falls to Japanese forces and Allied troops are interned as prisoners of war, with many forced to work on the notorious Burma railway.


Battle for Australia

Battle for Australia

The outbreak of war with Japan on 8 December 1941 provokes panic amongst the Australian public. When Singapore falls to Japanese forces on 15 February 1942, the Prime Minister John Curtin announces that this is the start of the ‘Battle for Australia’ and military chiefs of staff recommend all Australia’s forces be redeployed from the Middle East to Australia. On 19 February 1942 Japanese forces conduct air raids on Darwin. This is the first direct attack on Australia by an external enemy since British colonisation. Two weeks later, on 3 March, Japanese fighters hit Broome killing 70 people and destroying 24 aircraft. Air raids are also conducted on Wyndham, Derby, Horn Island, and Townsville, ships are sunk of Australia’s east coast, and submarine attacks are made on Newcastle and Sydney.


Widows' pension

Widows' pension

The government introduces the Widows Pensions Act 1942 and the Widows Pensions Act 1943 when it acknowledges that many widows are forced to work to provide for their children.


Broadcasting powers regulated

Broadcasting powers regulated

The Australian Broadcasting Act gives the Australian Broadcasting Commission power to decide when, and in what circumstances, political speeches should be broadcast. Directions from the Minister to broadcast, or refrain from broadcasting, any matter now has to be made in writing. That power remains in force until 1992, and is used only once in 1963 when the Postmaster-General, on the advice of the Prime Minister, directs the ABC not to broadcast an interview with the former Prime Minister of France, Georges Bidault.


Women’s Employment Board

Women’s Employment Board

The Women’s Employment Act 1942 (Cth) gives the Women’s Employment Board, created earlier that year, legal authority to make decisions regarding the employment of women.


Statute of Westminster

Statute of Westminster

Most political and legal ties between Australia and Britain are severed with the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942 (Cth), adopted 10 years after Britain formally recognised the independence of the dominions within the British Commonwealth. In accepting the provisions of the Statute in 1942, Australia ratifies the free and equal status of its government in relation to the government of Britain and is no longer required to reserve certain Bills for the assent of the sovereign. Nine Bills reserved since Federation, mostly related to shipping and navigation, finally receive the Royal Assent.


1943

First women in federal parliament

First women in federal parliament

Dorothy Tangney (Australian Labor Party, later Dame Dorothy) and Dame Enid Lyons (United Australia Party and later Liberal Party) become the first women to be elected to federal parliament, in the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively. In 1949 Enid Lyons becomes the first woman to hold a rank in the federal Cabinet.


1944

Liberal Party of Australia forms

Liberal Party of Australia forms

Opposition leader Robert Menzies announces in Parliament that the United Australia Party and non-Labor organisations, including the Australian Women’s National League, have merged to create the Liberal Party of Australia, with himself as its first leader.


Unemployment benefits

Unemployment benefits

The Commonwealth Parliament passes the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act 1944. However, Indigenous Australians, however, are disqualified from benefits unless the Department is satisfied that by reason of their ‘character, standard of intelligence and development’ they receive the benefit. The provision disqualifying ‘aboriginal natives of Australia’ is repealed in 1960 but those deemed ‘nomadic or primitive’ remain ineligible until 1966.


1945

Post-war employment and housing

Post-war employment and housing

The Chifley government tables the White Paper on Full Employment in Australia in federal parliament, reflecting the growing influence of Keynesian theory and defining economic policy in Australia for the next 30 years. For the first time, the Australian Government accepts an obligation to guarantee full employment and to intervene as necessary to implement that guarantee. The Chifley government also introduces the first Commonwealth–State Housing Agreement after the Commonwealth Housing Commission estimates a housing shortage of 300,000 dwellings and advises the Commonwealth to take an active role in providing funds for the construction of public housing. Subsequent governments see the value of controlling the demand for housing as a means of controlling employment.


Parliamentary broadcasting

Parliamentary broadcasting

The Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) broadcasts the proceedings of federal parliament for the first time, with Acting Prime Minister Ben Chifley’s announcement of the end of World War II in Europe. Regular broadcasts of parliament begin on ABC Radio the following year.


Frank Forde becomes Prime Minister

Frank Forde becomes Prime Minister

John Curtin dies in office, six weeks before the end of the war in the Pacific. Labor’s deputy leader, Frank Forde, replaces him as Prime Minister for just eight days while the Labor Party elects a new leader. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


Populate or perish

Populate or perish

In 1945, as Australia embarks on an ambitious post-war reconstruction program, the federal government establishes the Department of Immigration and introduces a migration scheme aimed at increasing Australia’s population by 1 per cent per annum. In 1947, permanent residency is granted to non-European immigrants seeking entry for business reasons and to those who have lived in Australia continuously for 15 years.


Ben Chifley becomes Prime Minister

Ben Chifley becomes Prime Minister

Joseph Benedict ‘Ben’ Chifley is elected by the Labor Caucus to formally succeed John Curtin, replacing Frank Forde as Prime Minister. The Chifley government establishes the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme, presides over increased migration, and establishes the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO), The Australian National University and the Commonwealth Bank. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


World War II ends

World War II ends

By the end of World War II, 540,000 Australians have enlisted compared with 417,000 in World War I, but fewer die in action — 33,826, compared with nearly 60,000.


Australia joins the United Nations

Australia joins the United Nations

Australia sends a delegation (including feminist activist Jessie Street) led by HV ‘Doc’ Evatt to the San Francisco conference, which opens on 25 April, to establish the United Nations. Australia is one of the 51 founding members, and plays a key role in the conception of its UN Charter, which is signed on 26 June 1945. Evatt is subsequently appointed to chair the General Assembly in 1948 at which the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights is adopted. The United Nations aims to promote and encourage ‘respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion’, and becomes a powerful force in the pursuit of international peace and security.


1946

First UN General Assembly

First UN General Assembly

On 10 January, the first UN General Assembly meets in Central Hall, London, with 51 countries represented. The Charter creating the organisation was drawn up the previous year by 50 countries meeting in San Francisco.


Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech signals the Cold War

Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech signals the Cold War

Winston Churchill delivers ‘Iron Curtain’ speech at Fulton, Missouri, ushering in the period of Cold War. Communist parties are in power in several east European countries and are popular in France and Italy. Russia blockades Berlin in 1948.


Pilbara Strike

Pilbara Strike

From the 1890s it was common for Aboriginal workers to be paid in rations of food and clothing. During the 1920s some workers began to receive minimal wages and, by 1936, pastoralists were required by law to provide shelter and meet the medical needs of their workers. However, this law was never enforced and Aboriginal stockmen continued to live in sub-standard conditions and receive wages well below those paid to white stockmen. In 1942, a secret Aboriginal law meeting was held to discuss a strike proposal involving 200 law men from 23 Aboriginal groups. After six weeks a consensus was reached to begin a strike on 1 May, the international day of workers' struggles. It was also the beginning of the shearing season, and the strike would put maximum pressure on the pastoralists. However, the strike was postponed until after the end of World War II when its effectiveness would be enhanced by strong demand for commodities and a shortage of labour. This meant that pastoralists’ wealth was now predicated more than ever on the exploitation of Aboriginal labourers.

The strike was organised and effective. Strike camps were established at Twelve Mile near Port Hedland and Moolyella. Initially, cottage industries were established processing kangaroo skin, goat skin, pearl shell and alluvial tin and later developed into commercial activities including pastoralism and tin mining. This economic activity, which the authorities attempted to disrupt, enabled the strikers not only to financially support their extended campaign, but to foster a sense of economic independence. The camps were substantial in size: the Moolyella site employed 400 Indigenous workers in the cooperative, and the Twelve Mile camp housing so many protestors that it was necessary to open a school there. The striking workers received substantive support from trade unions and political activists. Don McLeod, a member of the Communist Party of Australia, assisted with the campaign, whilst the Seamen’s Union, Fremantle Docks, Rivers and Harbours Union and the Waterfront Workers Federation imposed a ‘black ban’ on wool from the Pilbara region. By August 1949 agreements for improved conditions and pay were negotiated with the Mount Edgar and Limestone stations and the strike was effectively ended. Even then, however, many Aboriginal workers refused to work again for white station owners.


1947

Limited admittance of non-Europeans

Limited admittance of non-Europeans

Permanent residency is granted to non-European immigrants for business reasons and to those who have lived in Australia continuously for 15 years, representing the first challenge to the White Australia Policy.


UN Commission on the Status of Women

UN Commission on the Status of Women

Jessie Street is appointed as Vice-Chair of the newly established United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, which is charged with reporting on issues relating to the political, economic, civil, social and educational rights of women.


Senate Opposition Whip

Senate Opposition Whip

Dame Florence Cardell-Oliver is the first female Cabinet Minister in an Australian parliament (Western Australia), while Senator Annabelle Rankin (Liberal Party) becomes the Opposition Whip in the Senate. Two years later, Dame Enid Lyons becomes the first woman to hold a rank in the federal Cabinet.


Registering ‘aliens’

Registering ‘aliens’

The Commonwealth Parliament passes the Aliens Act 1947, making it compulsory for all ‘aliens’, or non-British residents 16 years or older, to register with local authorities and to notify them of any change of name, address or occupation.


Displaced persons resettled

Displaced persons resettled

Australia signs an agreement with the International Refugees Organization to settle 12,000 displaced persons per year. The scheme is dismantled in 1952.


India becomes independent from British rule

India becomes independent from British rule

India, the one-time jewel in the crown of the British Empire, becomes independent on 15 August, with Jawaharlal Nehru the first Prime Minister. A republic is promulgated on 26 January 1950.


1948

40-hour week

40-hour week

A Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration ruling establishes the 40-hour working week, to take effect from 1 January 1948.


Expansion of the Senate

Expansion of the Senate

The Representation Act 1948 (Cth) increases the size of the House of Representatives from 75 to 122 seats, including one seat for the ACT, which is previously unrepresented. The Act also expands the Senate from six senators from each state to 10. This representation ratio is now closer to the proportion at Federation.


Malayan Emergency

Malayan Emergency

Lasting 13 years, the Malayan Emergency was the longest continuous military commitment in Australia’s history. The Emergency is declared on 18 June 1948, after three estate managers are murdered in northern Malaya by guerrillas of the Malayan Communist Party, an outgrowth of the anti-Japanese guerrilla movement that had emerged during World War II. Australian forces form part of the Far East Strategic Reserve established in 1955 to deter external communist aggression in South-East Asia. Thirty-nine Australian servicemen are killed in Malaya.


Australia signs UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Australia signs UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights

At its third session, the UN General Assembly adopts the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Its President, Australia’s Foreign Minister and Attorney-General, HV ‘Doc’ Evatt, predicts that ‘millions of people, men, women and children all over the world would turn to it for help, guidance and inspiration’. Australia, together with the United Kingdom, subsequently leads the way in advocating the adoption of the International Covenants on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and Civil and Political Rights in 1966 (in force from 1976).


Australian citizenship introduced

Australian citizenship introduced

The Australian Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948, proclaimed on 26 January 1949, recognises that Australians are now citizens of their own country as well as British subjects. Unlike previous laws, the new Act implicitly includes Aboriginal people by including the category ‘natural-born’. It still refers to non-British subjects as ‘aliens’ (except Irish citizens and ‘protected persons’). The concept of ‘British subject’ is removed in 1973.


1949

Seeking equal pay

Seeking equal pay

The Basic Wage Inquiry hears equal pay submissions from women’s organisations, but the female basic wage is set at 75 per cent of the male wage. The basic wage is replaced by the total wage in 1967.


A national security agency

A national security agency

Following revelations after World War II of sensitive British and Australian Government data being transmitted through Soviet diplomatic channels and the subsequent discovery of a spy ring operating from the Soviet Embassy in Canberra, allied western governments express dissatisfaction with the state of security in Australia. On 16 March, Prime Minister Ben Chifley issues a Directive for the Establishment and Maintenance of a Security Service, appointing South Australian Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey Reed as the first Director-General of Security. In August, Justice Reed advises the Prime Minister that he has decided to name the service the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO). The new service is modelled on the Security Service of the United Kingdom and an MI5 liaison team is attached to the fledgling ASIO during the early 1950s.


National security service

National security service

The Chifley government establishes the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) to provide the federal government with security intelligence about activities that might harm Australia. It is formed at a time of increasing anxiety over Soviet espionage activities, sparked by the defection in Canada of Igor Gouzenko in 1946. ASIO is subject to two royal commissions in 1974–77 and 1983–84, which focus on the organisation’s accountability and the tension between maintaining civil liberties while protecting Australia’s national security.


Indigenous ex-servicemen granted voting rights

Indigenous ex-servicemen granted voting rights

The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1949 extends the franchise to Indigenous ex-servicemen.


General coal strike

General coal strike

A general coal strike erupts when combined mining unions walk off the job in their campaign for a 35-hour working week and improved conditions. The strike involves 23,000 coal miners and lasts for seven weeks. In the face of severe coal shortages, the Chifley Labor government orders troops to take over the mining operations. While Chifley seeks to demonstrate his government’s anti-communist resolve, his tactic contributes to the defeat of his government at the federal election held in December 1949. This is the first time that Australian military forces have been used during peacetime to break a trade union strike, and the strategy sets a precedent for federal government intervention in future strikes.


People’s Republic of China proclaimed

People’s Republic of China proclaimed

A communist-led revolution in China is victorious over the forces of the nationalist Kuomintang who flee to Taiwan. The People’s Republic of China is proclaimed by Mao Zedong on 1 October.


Proportional representation in the Senate

Proportional representation in the Senate

Proportional representation is introduced in the 1949 Senate elections via the Electoral Act 1948 (Cth). It ensures that seats are awarded in proportion to each political party’s share of the vote. Previous ‘first past the post’ and group preference systems had meant all Senate seats in a state could potentially be held by the same party. Proportional representation was proposed at Federation, but rejected by the Senate on the basis that it would undermine strong party government. Advocates of proportional representation, however, saw it as a way of promoting wider community representation.


Robert Menzies becomes Prime Minister for the second time

Robert Menzies becomes Prime Minister for the second time

The newly formed Liberal Party of Australia wins a substantial victory in the 1949 federal election and its leader, Robert Menzies, replaces Ben Chifley as Prime Minister. The ‘Menzies era’ begins, and Menzies will serve a record term as Prime Minister. During his long period in office, television begins operating in Australia, Melbourne hosts the 1956 Olympic Games, Australia participates in the Korean War, the government attempts and ultimately fails to ban the Communist Party, the Department of Trade is created and Canberra rapidly develops as the national capital. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1950

Non-European immigration begins

Non-European immigration begins

Immigration Minister Harold Holt makes a historic decision to allow 800 non-European war refugees to remain in Australia. Australia progressively enters into assisted migration schemes with various countries, including the Netherlands and Italy (1951), West Germany, Austria, Belgium, Greece and Spain (1952), and the United States, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland (1954).


Korean War (1950-53)

Korean War (1950-53)

Towards the end of World War II, US and Soviet forces occupy the Korean peninsula, having liberated it from Japan. The two powers divide responsibility for Korea between themselves at the 38th parallel. A Soviet-supported communist regime emerges in the north and a US-backed one in the south. Both regimes seek reunification — but under their respective governments. On 25 June, the North Korean army pushes south. The United States sends in support to the south and the United Nations enlists 21 nations against the north. When the UN force enters the north, the Chinese move in with several army divisions. More than 1.5 million people die in various battles. A peace agreement is reached on 27 July 1953.


Union of Australian Women

Union of Australian Women

The Union of Australian Women is established at a conference in Sydney and becomes a national body in 1956. Its goals include improving the status of women and children, disarmament and a halt to nuclear testing and mining, equal distribution of wealth, increased welfare services, equal pay for women, equality for Indigenous Australians, abortion law reform, and opposition to the White Australia Policy. Foundation members include supporters of the Communist Party and Australian Labor Party, Christian activists, and members of the New Housewives’ Association.


Colombo Plan

Colombo Plan

The first students arrive in Australia under the Colombo Plan, a scheme established by Commonwealth nations to provide aid to improve economic and social conditions in developing countries in South and South-East Asia. The Plan is considered an important means of improving stability in the region, and thereby enhancing Australia’s national security.


1951

ANZUS Treaty

ANZUS Treaty

Australia, New Zealand and the United States sign a defence security pact for the Pacific area. It offers Australia and New Zealand protection against a possible threat of Soviet or Chinese aggression and the United States gains support against communism in the Pacific region.


Australian Communist Party ban fails

Australian Communist Party ban fails

The Australian people reject, by a narrow margin, a proposal to give the Commonwealth Parliament the power to make laws regarding communism. The referendum resulted from a High Court ruling that a Bill introduced by the Menzies government in 1950 to dissolve the Communist Party was constitutionally invalid.


1952

Refugees and Japanese war brides accepted

Refugees and Japanese war brides accepted

The first Japanese war bride, Mrs Cherry Parker, arrives in Australia in June. By the time the Australian presence in Japan ends in November 1956, about 650 women have migrated to Australia as wives and fiancées of Australian soldiers, having previously been refused entry.


Australia signs the Southeast Asia Collective Defence Treaty

Australia signs the Southeast Asia Collective Defence Treaty

Australia, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United states sign the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty (SEATO) at Manila. The Treaty is a response to the spread of communism in Southeast Asia, and it strengthens Australian military ties with the United States. It is dissolved in 1977.


1953

Government and commercial television

Government and commercial television

The Television Act 1953 provides for both government and commercial stations.


1954

United Nations Convention on refugees

United Nations Convention on refugees

Australia is one of the first countries to sign the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees adopted by the United Nations in 1951. The Convention aims to establish international protocols for nations receiving refugees, following the massive dislocation of people in Europe during World War II. Between 1945 and 1975, over 350,000 refugees and displaced people are accepted by Australia.


Queen Elizabeth II’s Royal Tour

Queen Elizabeth II’s Royal Tour

Queen Elizabeth II is made monarch ‘of the UK, Australia and her other realms and territories’ by virtue of the Royal Style and Titles Act 1953 (Cth), and her visit is the first by a reigning monarch to Australia.


Australia’s post-war expansion

Australia’s post-war expansion

The first Australian base in Antarctica — Mawson — is established in the Australian Antarctic Territory. Australia would also add the Cocos (Keeling) Islands to its territory in 1955 and the Christmas Islands in 1958.


Royal Commission on Espionage (Petrov Affair)

Royal Commission on Espionage (Petrov Affair)

Prime Minister Robert Menzies announces to parliament the defection of Soviet Embassy official Vladimir Petrov and his wife Evdokia, on the eve of the 1954 federal election. The defection, together with the subsequent Royal Commission into Espionage, become known as the Petrov Affair. It adds to existing tensions within the Labor Party over the issue of communism, tensions that ultimately result in a split in the Party and the formation of the anti-communist Democratic Labor Party.


1956

Boilermakers’ Case

Boilermakers’ Case

The High Court decides that it is unconstitutional for the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to be vested with both arbitral and judicial powers because of the acceptance in the Constitution of the separation of legislative and judicial powers. It upholds the principle of responsible government and interprets the Constitution in the light of that principle.


Non-European immigration relaxed

Non-European immigration relaxed

Australia modifies conditions for easier entry and stay for migrants of non-European descent. In the same year, 14,000 refugees arrive from Hungary after an uprising. Conditions of entry for people of mixed descent are further relaxed in 1964.


Suez crisis

Suez crisis

In July, Egyptian President Gamal Nasser nationalises the Suez Canal — the main carriageway for the supply of oil to England and France. In October, Israel invades Egypt and on 5-6 November, French and British troops invade Port Said and take control of the Canal. The first UN peacekeeping force is sent in to keep peace until a political resolution is reached.


1957

‘Bring out a Briton’

‘Bring out a Briton’

This campaign is launched to encourage more British migration, and the community is encouraged to take responsibility for sponsoring particular British families and to assist them to settle.


Equal pay petition

Equal pay petition

A petition calling for equal pay with 62,000 signatures is presented to the federal government by a deputation of Australian Council of Trade Unions. New South Wales introduces equal pay for teachers in 1958. However, the equal pay for equal work principle is not accepted by the Arbitration Commission until 1969, and broadened in 1972 to equal pay for work of equal value.


Ghana becomes independent

Ghana becomes independent

Ghana, led by Kwame Nkrumah, becomes the first sub-Saharan country in colonial Africa to become independent.


National capital expands

National capital expands

The National Capital Development Commission Act 1957 ushers in a new phase of expansion and development in Canberra. Prime Minister Robert Menzies initiates a review of Walter Burley Griffin’s plan for the nation’s capital, and the new National Capital Development Commission oversees a program of construction to accommodate a growing federal public service.


1958

Acts Interpretation Act 1958

Acts Interpretation Act 1958

The Acts Interpretation Act 1958 states that words referring to the masculine gender are deemed to include females unless otherwise stated.


Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines

Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines

A federal conference of Aboriginal organisations held in Adelaide establishes the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines (later the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders). It campaigns vigorously for the recognition and rights of Indigenous people in Australia. It rejects the assimilation policies of the federal government, and seeks the integration of Indigenous people while allowing them to maintain their own culture and priorities in the fight for recognition.


Dictation Test abolished

Dictation Test abolished

The Revised Migration Act 1958 introduces a simpler system of entry permits and abolishes the controversial Dictation Test introduced at Federation in 1901.


Abortion illegal in Victoria

Abortion illegal in Victoria

The Victorian Crimes Act 1958 reasserts that abortion is a criminal offence for both the woman and her doctor, and all those assisting in the procedure. It reflects the law at Federation in 1901, when abortion was governed by the British Offences Against the Person Act 1861. Abortion continues to be an offence for the remainder of the 20th century, despite a 1969 ruling by Justice Menhennitt that medical practitioners may lawfully perform abortions in some circumstances. In 2008 the Victorian Government requests the Law Reform Commission to report on models for decriminalising abortion in Victoria.


1959

First televised broadcast of federal parliament

First televised broadcast of federal parliament

Federal parliament is televised by the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the first time on 17 February at the official opening of the 23rd Australian Commonwealth Parliament in Canberra.


Divorce laws

Divorce laws

The Matrimonial Causes Act 1959, introduced by Attorney-General Garfield Barwick, outlines 14 grounds for divorce including adultery, desertion, cruelty, habitual drunkenness, imprisonment and insanity. A spouse must prove marital fault and private detectives are often employed to gather evidence to prove fault. This means divorce is more accessible to wealthy couples, but only then after three years of marriage without leave of the court. The laws are designed to protect the institution of marriage while providing a way out for spouses suffering ‘harsh and oppressive’ circumstances (in the court’s view). Marriage is a Commonwealth power under Section 51(xxi) of the Australian Constitution, but states and territories administer marriage law (excluding divorce) until the introduction of the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth). In 1975, Senator Lionel Murphy introduces his Family Law Bill into the Senate as a replacement for the Matrimonial Causes Act 1959, paving the way for no-fault divorce.


1960

Reserve Bank of Australia

Reserve Bank of Australia

The Reserve Bank of Australia replaces the central banking functions of the Commonwealth Bank, which continues its other banking services.


Restrictions lifted on social welfare

Restrictions lifted on social welfare

The Social Services Act is amended to remove restrictions on social welfare benefits for Indigenous Australians, and makes old-age pensions and maternity benefits available to most people except those deemed ‘nomadic’ or ‘primitive’. While broadening eligibility, however, the amended laws provide for allowances to be managed by third parties on behalf of Indigenous people. In some cases, allowances are redirected into trust accounts administered by state Aboriginal welfare authorities.


1961

Berlin Wall constructed

Berlin Wall constructed

Construction of the Berlin Wall commences on 13 August as an attempt by the communist government of East Germany to halt the flow of thousands of residents defecting to West Germany each week. The Wall comes down in late 1989 and Germany is reunited in 1990.


1962

Voting rights for Indigenous Australians

Voting rights for Indigenous Australians

The Commonwealth Electoral Act is amended to entitle all Indigenous Australians to enrol to vote at federal elections and referendums, although enrolment and voting is not compulsory. In Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, the voting registration of Indigenous people is not enforced.


1963

Women in bars

Women in bars

Women demonstrate against segregated bars in pubs during the 1960s.


Yirrkala Bark Petitions

Yirrkala Bark Petitions

The Yirrkala Bark Petitions, although unsuccessful in achieving land rights for the Yolngu people in east Arnhem Land, are the first documents to bridge Commonwealth law and the Indigenous laws of the land.


US President Kennedy assassinated

US President Kennedy assassinated

The United States' 35th President, John F Kennedy, is assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on 22 November. A Democrat, he was elected President on 20 January 1961. The world is shocked that the elected head of a democracy could be killed by a gunman.


1964

Federal funding for schools

Federal funding for schools

The Commonwealth States Grants (Science Laboratories and Technical Training) Act 1964 allows the Menzies government to directly fund state and private schools.


Conscription for the Vietnam War

Conscription for the Vietnam War

As the Vietnam War escalates, the Menzies government introduces a compulsory military training scheme for Australian men born on dates chosen in a ballot system, dubbed ‘a lottery of death’ by Labor opposition leader Arthur Calwell. The National Service Act 1964 enables the federal government to conscript men for a two-year term and for a further three years in the Army Reserve, with exemptions granted on fitness and educational grounds. The first conscripts are sent to Vietnam in 1965, and two ballots are held each year until 1972. Those opposed to war, or to service in Vietnam, mount a bitter and prolonged anti-conscription campaign that divides public opinion. The National Service scheme is wound up in 1974.


1965

Lady Chattlerley’s Lover

Lady Chattlerley’s Lover

An account of the 1961 obscenity trial for DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover is banned. The novel, first published in Italy in 1928, is one of a number of books banned from circulation in Australia because of its sexually explicit themes. The bans reflect literary and artistic censorship policies in the post-war era, and highlight the role of the Commonwealth and state governments in controlling the flow of sexually and politically controversial material into Australia. Such bans begin to decline by the late 1960s as federal and state governments introduce more liberal policies, although censorship remains a controversial issue.


Freedom ride

Freedom ride

A group of about 30 Sydney University students (including two Aboriginal people) travel 2,300 kilometres over two weeks by bus through northern NSW towns. The freedom ride, as it becomes known, aims to expose discriminatory behaviour against children at swimming pools and against adults in hotels and cafes. It is led by Charles Perkins and Jim Spigelman with help from Ted Noffs and Bill Ford, and the resulting film footage adds to mounting pressure on the federal government to hold a referendum on Indigenous rights.


Vietnam War (1965-72)

Vietnam War (1965-72)

On 29 April 1965 Prime Minister Robert Menzies announces to a nearly empty House of Representatives that Australia will increase its commitment to the growing war in Vietnam with the addition of a battalion of ground troops, in addition to the advisers already in the country. The commitment is well received by the public, although opposition begins to grow once the first national servicemen are included for Vietnam service in 1965.

Between 1965 and 1968 Australia’s military commitment in Vietnam grows to three army battalions, navy and air force contingents, and an extensive support network. By the time most Australian troops are withdrawn at the end of 1972, nearly 60,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen have served. Of those, 521 are killed (including 200 national servicemen), and over 3000 wounded. The war divides Australian society and creates some of the largest anti-war protests the country has ever seen.

In the aftermath of the war, Australian veterans deal with health and psychological problems that last for several decades, with many fighting a battle for compensation due to possible exposure to herbicides in Vietnam.

In Vietnam, approximately two million soldiers and civilians from both the North and South are killed, before the south falls to the communist north on 30 April 1975 and the conflict ends.


Save Our Sons

Save Our Sons

The Save Our Sons group forms in protest against the sending of national servicemen to the Vietnam War. Initially established in Sydney, the movement gains supporters across Australia and comprises mostly non-working women whose sons are old enough to be called up for National Service. The protesters, while generally limited to vigils and circulating petitions and pamphlets, are called communists and criticised as neglectful mothers and wives. Over 10 years, however, they emerge as effective critics of conscription, and many women find their own political voice for the first time.


1966

Harold Holt becomes Prime Minister

Harold Holt becomes Prime Minister

Robert Menzies retires after 16 years in power and the Liberal Party selects Treasurer Harold Holt as its leader and Prime Minister. The Holt government increases Australian troop numbers in the Vietnam War, introduces decimal currency, and supports a referendum granting Indigenous Australians the right to be counted in the census and for the government to legislate on Indigenous affairs. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


Cultural revolution in China (1966-early 1970s)

Cultural revolution in China (1966-early 1970s)

The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution is launched by Mao Zedong, the Chairman of the Communist Party of China, in May 1966 to mobilise the mass of people, especially young people, against bourgeois liberal elements in the Communist Party and government. Mao regards the cultural revolution as having ended in 1969, when he sought to reign in extremists, but many historians see it as continuing into the early 1970s.


White Australia Policy — beginning of the end

White Australia Policy — beginning of the end

Hubert Opperman, Minister for Immigration in the Holt government, effectively spells out the end of the White Australia Policy by announcing that applications from prospective settlers will be considered on their suitability as settlers, their ability to integrate readily and whether they have qualifications useful to Australia. Opperman downplays the effects of the changes, reassuring Australians that the government’s ‘primary aim in immigration is a generally integrated and predominantly homogeneous population’. However, the changes effectively end the White Australia Policy. By 1975, when the Racial Discrimination Act is adopted, the practice of discriminating against non-European migrants is completely abolished.


Wave Hill strike

Wave Hill strike

Gurindji stockmen go on strike at Wave Hill Station, Northern Territory. They protest against poor wages and conditions, and demand land rights. The Whitlam government negotiates with pastoral leaseholders to give the Gurindji back a portion of their land. On 16 August 1975, Prime Minister Whitlam visits Wattie Creek in the Northern Territory to hand back freehold title to the Gurindji lands to elder Vincent Lingiari.


‘Marriage bar’ removed from the Public Service

‘Marriage bar’ removed from the Public Service

Removal of the ‘marriage bar’ from the Commonwealth Public Service Act allows women to keep their jobs once they marry. The ‘marriage bar’ was never applied to men.


1967

Total wage introduced

Total wage introduced

The concept of a total wage formally combines the basic wage and margins. Wage decisions are based on inflation, productivity and capacity.


More secession movements

More secession movements

A referendum in northern New South Wales seeks to establish a break-away state of New England but is defeated by strong opposition in the Hunter region. This is a revival of agitation by the New England New State Movement in 1961 when it launches Operation Seventh State. The North Queensland Secessionist Movement, also revived in this period, receives additional impetus from a representative popular convention held at Mareeba in 1955 when a New State for North Queensland is officially launched. Agitation for a new state persists into the 1970s.


’67 Referendum

’67 Referendum

The ‘67 Referendum poses two questions: the first seeks to alter the balance of numbers in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The second question asks whether two references in the Australian Constitution which discriminate against Aboriginal people should be removed. This question receives an unprecedented 90 per cent ‘yes’ vote, giving the parliament the power to count Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the federal Census and to make special laws for Aboriginal Australians. It is a landmark referendum in the history of Indigenous affairs, and marks the success of a ten year campaign launched in 1957 at the Sydney Town Hall. The Huge Town Hall meeting was organised by Aboriginal activists including Jessie Street, Faith Bandler, Gordon Bryant and Pearl Gibbs.


John McEwen becomes Prime Minister

John McEwen becomes Prime Minister

Prime Minister Harold Holt disappears while swimming at Portsea, Victoria. Although his body is never found, he is presumed dead and Country Party leader, John McEwen, is appointed caretaker Prime Minister while the Liberal Party chooses a new leader. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1968

Youth revolt around the western world

Youth revolt around the western world

In 1968 many countries are disturbed by rebellions. The causes range from opposition to the Vietnam War and the civil rights campaign in the United States to the popular uprising against the Soviet-backed communist government in Czechoslovakia. The protesters are mainly young people and universities are often the scene of the action. Student protests and a general strike in France nearly bring down the government of Charles de Gaule in May.


United Council of Aboriginal Women

United Council of Aboriginal Women

A group of 120 women arrive in Canberra for the first United Council of Aboriginal Women meeting, and play a vital role in marshalling support for the establishment of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy on the lawns opposite (Old) Parliament House.


John Gorton becomes Prime Minister

John Gorton becomes Prime Minister

The Liberal Party chooses its leader in the Senate, John Gorton, to formally succeed Harold Holt as Prime Minister and he replaces John McEwen. Although he is elected to the Lower House shortly afterwards, Gorton is the first Senator to become Prime Minister. The Gorton government increases funding to the arts through the Australia Council and begins Australian withdrawal from the Vietnam War. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


Martin Luther King Jr assassinated

Martin Luther King Jr assassinated

A leader of the US civil rights movement against racial segregation and discrimination, Martin Luther King Jr is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on 4 April. His famous speech — ‘I have a dream’ — is delivered at a rally of more than 200,000 people in Washington, DC, in August 1963. His birthday, 15 January, has been a national holiday in the United States since 1983.


Copyright introduced

Copyright introduced

The Copyright Act 1968 gives individuals the right to protect their moral and economic interests arising from their work, including works of art and literature, which cannot be used or copied without the owner/creator’s permission.


1969

Equal pay campaign

Equal pay campaign

On 21 October Zelda D’Aprano chains herself to the Commonwealth Building in Melbourne after attending the Equal Pay Case in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. She was frustrated by the way women were excluded from the arguments while their pay case was being debated, like ‘cows at the sale yards, while all the men out the front presented arguments as to how much we were worth’. Her actions raise public awareness of the Equal Pay Case, and the Commission finally recognises equal pay for work of equal value in 1972, to be fully implemented by 1975.


Equal pay for women

Equal pay for women

In November, the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission introduces the concept of ‘equal pay for equal work’ to be implemented by January 1972. The decision means that, where women do equal work alongside men, they should receive equal pay. However, the ninth principle in the decision indicates that equal pay is not applicable where the work in question is essentially or usually performed by females but is work in which male employees may also be employed. The limitations of the decision are illustrated by its application to female classifications in the Meat Industry Interim Award. By 1972, it is estimated that only 18 per cent of female employees have benefited from the decision because women and men mostly work under different awards.


1970

Censorship laws challenged

Censorship laws challenged

For the first time, a private citizen, Mr Dennis Altman, successfully challenges a ministerial decision to ban a book. The American novel Totem Pole by Sandord Friedman tells of a man’s gradual acceptance of his homosexuality.


Childcare forum

Childcare forum

The first trade union-sponsored community consultation on childcare seeks government-sponsored childcare outside kindergartens. The federal Childcare Act in passed in 1972.


Vietnam War divides a nation

Vietnam War divides a nation

During the first Vietnam Moratorium, thousands of Australians gather in all state capitals and country towns and cities to protest against Australia’s ongoing involvement in the Vietnam War. The issue has divided the country since the commitment of combat troops in 1965, with many people objecting to conscripts being sent to fight. Two further Moratorium marches take place in 1970 and 1971, and they are some of the largest protests the country has ever seen. The protests begin to diminish once Australia starts to withdraw its troops from Vietnam from 1970 onwards, and by the end of 1972 the war is no longer a major issue.


Campaign against Moral Persecution

Campaign against Moral Persecution

The Campaign against Moral Persecution (CAMP) forms to oppose discrimination against homosexual people, and organises the first demonstrations in Sydney in 1971.


1971

Bank loans for women

Bank loans for women

The Bank of New South Wales is the first bank in Australia to grant loans to women without a male guarantor.


William McMahon becomes Prime Minister

William McMahon becomes Prime Minister

Faced with a vote of no confidence in the party room that results in a 33–33 tie, John Gorton steps down as Prime Minister, and the Minister External Affairs William McMahon is elected to succeed him. The McMahon government further accelerates Australian withdrawal from Vietnam, grants self-government to Papua New Guinea and is the first to appoint a Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


First Indigenous person in federal Parliament

First Indigenous person in federal Parliament

Neville Bonner becomes the first Indigenous person in federal parliament when he is chosen to fill a vacancy in the Senate caused by the resignation of a Liberal Senator for Queensland. He is subsequently returned at 1972, 1974, 1975 and 1980 elections.


1972

The Female Eunuch

The Female Eunuch

Australian feminist, Germaine Greer, tours Australia to promote her book on women’s liberation, The Female Eunuch, published in 1970. The book is heralded as a landmark text in the international feminist movement and Greer becomes a household name, her ideas attracting both adulation and criticism. Her other books include Sex and Destiny: The Politics of Human Fertility (1984), The Change: Women, Ageing and the Menopause (1991) and Shakespeare’s Wife (2007).


Gay Liberation

Gay Liberation

The Gay Liberation political activist group is launched in Sydney.


Aboriginal Tent Embassy opens

Aboriginal Tent Embassy opens

On Australia Day, 26 January, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy is established on the lawns in front of (Old) Parliament House. Protesters draw attention to the issue of Indigenous land rights and, over the following decades, the Embassy grows to be a symbolic centre of all protest for Indigenous groups. It is the best-known site in Australia associated with ongoing political struggle for Indigenous people.


Women’s Electoral Lobby forms

Women’s Electoral Lobby forms

Formed as a national women’s political lobby group, the Women’s Electoral Lobby aims to achieve legislative changes to ensure equality for women and to educate public opinion on a wide range of issues affecting women. Through regular conferences and lobbying, the Women’s Electoral Lobby succeeds in raising public awareness of women’s issues in Australia.


International Women’s Day demonstration

International Women’s Day demonstration

The first of a new wave of feminist protests begins with the International Women’s Day demonstration and march on 11 March, organised by the International Women’s Day Committee, Women’s Action Committee, Union of Australian Women and other organisations. The federal government begins funding the celebrations in 1975.


Equal pay for equal work

Equal pay for equal work

A test case in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission broadens the 1969 decision to introduce ‘equal pay for equal work’ to the concept of ‘equal pay for work of equal value’. This means that different jobs of the same worth warrant the same minimum wage. However, the decision retains the concept of the family wage, and wage setting continues to be underpinned by the notion of the male breadwinner and dependant female. The struggle for equal pay across all industries continues in the face of unequal employment opportunities and discriminatory practices, and the Council of Action for Equal Pay is reactivated in 1985 to draw attention to the ineffectiveness of the reforms.


Gough Whitlam becomes Prime Minister

Gough Whitlam becomes Prime Minister

The Australian Labor Party wins the 1972 general election and its leader, Gough Whitlam, replaces William McMahon as Prime Minister. The Whitlam government embarks on a program of reform. It establishes the Family Court and Medibank, abolishes university tuition fees, replaces the Imperial Honours system with the Order of Australia, establishes diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China and introduces the first federal legislation on the environment and human rights. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


New federalism

New federalism

In a move labelled ‘new federalism’, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s Labor government seeks to establish Commonwealth authorities to formulate national priorities in policy areas under state control since Federation. New federalism refers to this attempt to shift the balance of policy-making and financial responsibilities towards the federal government.


1973

Women’s adviser to the Prime Minister

Women’s adviser to the Prime Minister

Elizabeth Reid is the first Women’s Adviser to the Prime Minister — the first such position in the world.


Last troops arrive from Vietnam

Last troops arrive from Vietnam

Following a high-profile and sometimes violent public campaign against Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War, the last Australian troops are brought home by a proclamation by the Governor-General, officially ending Australia’s role in the conflict. Almost 60,000 Australian troops served in rotation in South Vietnam over a 10-and-a-half year period, and nearly half of the 521 killed were conscripts. The National Service Act 1964 is amended later in 1973 to remove compulsory military training and National Service.


Voting age lowered

Voting age lowered

The voting age for federal elections is lowered from 21 to 18 years.


Paid maternity leave

Paid maternity leave

The Maternity Leave (Australian Government Employees) Act 1973 (Cth) establishes paid maternity leave for all women employed in the Commonwealth Public Service. In 1978 the ACTU argues for maternity leave to be available in the private sector. A successful maternity leave test case in 1989 finally makes maternity leave a standard award provision, although the argument for paid maternity leave in the private sector continues to the present day.


Australian citizenship

Australian citizenship

With the passing of the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948, Australians were finally citizens of their own country, although they remained British subjects as in other Commonwealth countries. With an amendment in 1973, however, the concept of ‘British subject’ is removed from the Act and British nationals in Australia lose their privileges, including the right to vote in Australian elections.


Human Rights Bill

Human Rights Bill

After the success of the 1967 referendum, Senator Lionel Murphy, Attorney-General in the Whitlam Labor government, introduces the Human Rights Bill 1973 (Cth) into the federal parliament. The Bill seeks to implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966 in Australia on the basis that the Australian Constitution provides scant protection of rights. The Bill is strongly opposed and never enacted, although Murphy is subsequently appointed to the High Court where he broadly interprets the express rights in the Constitution and holds that a number of other rights can be implied.


1974

Equal minimum wage

Equal minimum wage

In the 1974 National Wage Case before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, the Australian Council of Trade Unions succeeds in extending the male minimum wage to women. The Case establishes the principle that men and women performing the same duties should receive the same minimum wage. It redefines the principle of equal pay for equal work, established in 1969, that had specifically excluded female work. However, women in predominantly female occupations continue to be disadvantaged, in many cases receiving 50 to 75 per cent of the male minimum wage.


Joint sitting of parliament televised

Joint sitting of parliament televised

A historic joint sitting of parliament is held shortly after the double dissolution election of 18 May, and becomes the first parliamentary debate to be televised in Australia.


Country Liberal Party forms

Country Liberal Party forms

The Country Liberal Party is formed as a non-Labor party specifically committed to serving the interests of the Northern Territory. It claims to be the smallest political party to have formed a government in Australia and has parliamentary representation at both the federal and territory government levels.


Territorial representation established

Territorial representation established

The Senate (Representation of Territories) Act 1973 (Cth) provides for each of the territories to be represented by two Senators.


1975

Racial Discrimination Act passed

Racial Discrimination Act passed

The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 makes racial discrimination illegal. It aims to ensure everyone is treated equally, regardless of race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin. By the end of the 20th century more than 10,500 complaints are received, including 3500 from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and 4000 from people from non-English speaking backgrounds.


No fault divorce

No fault divorce

The Family Law Act 1975 introduces a no-fault system for divorce and women’s traditional work in the home is recognised in the division of assets provisions.


National health care system

National health care system

Medicare is introduced to address dissatisfaction with the existing voluntary health insurance scheme. Medicare is a Commonwealth-funded health insurance scheme that provides free or subsidised health care services to Australians. It provides free hospital services for patients in public hospitals through the Australian health care agreements with the states, subsidises private patients for hospital services (75 per cent of the schedule fee) and provides benefits for out-of-hospital medical services such as consultations with general practitioners or specialists (85 per cent of the schedule fee). The scheme commences on 1 July, following a joint sitting of parliament on 7 August 1974.


Working Women’s Centre

Working Women’s Centre

The first Working Women’s Centre is opened in Melbourne in September, and is instrumental in formulating the Working Women’s Charter.


Papua New Guinea independence

Papua New Guinea independence

Papua New Guinea is proclaimed independent from Australia.


Homosexuality decriminalised

Homosexuality decriminalised

South Australia is the first jurisdiction in Australia to decriminalise some homosexual acts between consenting adults in private. Similar reforms are introduced in the ACT (1976), Victoria (1980), Northern Territory (1983), New South Wales (1984) and Western Australia (1989). The Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists eliminates homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1974 and the Australian Medical Association does the same in 1984.


Civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights

Civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights

Australia ratifies the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and in 1980, the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Australia plays a key role, along with the United Kingdom, in arguing for such covenants that would bind nations that adopt it with the force of international law. Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recognises the ‘right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health’. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights provides the principal framework for the universal right to health. As a state party to this Covenant, Australia is obliged to submit five-yearly reports to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on how these and other rights are being implemented.


First female Cabinet Minister

First female Cabinet Minister

Senator Margaret Guilfoyle is the first woman to be appointed to a Cabinet portfolio following her appointment as Minister for Education in the first Fraser government in 1975 and subsequently as Minister for Social Security. In 1979 she is appointed to the Order of the British Empire (Dame Commander) for her services to public and parliamentary life, and in 1980 she is appointed Finance Minister — the first female Member of Parliament in Australia to hold a major economic portfolio.


Malcolm Fraser becomes Prime Minister

Malcolm Fraser becomes Prime Minister

In a controversial sequence of events, the government of Gough Whitlam is dismissed from office by Governor-General Sir John Kerr when the Liberal–Country Party opposition rejects supply bills in the Senate. The Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Fraser, is appointed as caretaker Prime Minister pending a double dissolution election, which he wins. The Fraser government introduces the development of Australia’s uranium industry, grants self-government to the Northern Territory, creates the office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman, establishes the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), supports independence movements in Africa, and opposes apartheid in South Africa. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


The Dismissal

The Dismissal

In the greatest constitutional crisis in Australia’s history, the opposition parties in the Senate block supply for 27 days in an attempt to force Prime Minister Gough Whitlam to call an election for the House of Representatives. He refuses, and the resulting crisis becomes a bitter contest for political power. Chief Justice, Sir Garfield Barwick, accepts the opposition argument and the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, acts on his advice by dismissing the Prime Minister. He commissions Malcolm Fraser as caretaker Prime Minister on the assurance that Fraser will call a general election. He grants Fraser a double dissolution of both Houses, and Fraser’s Liberal–National Party Coalition wins a landslide victory at the general election held in December. This issue remains contentious in Australia. The question remains as to whether the exercise of the Governor-General’s reserve powers under the Constitution are compatible with Australia’s system of parliamentary democracy.


Sex discrimination laws

Sex discrimination laws

The first sex discrimination law in Australia is passed in South Australia. The federal law is passed in 1984, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex, marital status, pregnancy or potential pregnancy, and a range of areas of public life.


1976

Female firsts in the judiciary

Female firsts in the judiciary

Pat O’Shane is admitted to the Bar, becoming Australia’s first female Aboriginal barrister. Later that year, Justice Elizabeth Evatt is the first woman to be appointed as Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia.


Indigenous land claims allowed

Indigenous land claims allowed

The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth) is the first Australian law that allows Indigenous title of land if claimants can provide evidence of their traditional and historical association with an area. It is the culmination of many years of struggle for formal recognition of land rights in the Northern Territory, which includes a symbolic bark petition sent by the Yolngu in 1963, a strike by Gurindji stockmen for decent wages and control over their land in 1966, and the Woodward Aboriginal Land Rights Commission in 1973–74. This recognition applies only to the Northern Territory and ACT, but contributes to a wider understanding of traditional relationships to land.


1977

Australian Democrats forms

Australian Democrats forms

Former Liberal minister Don Chipp resigns from the Liberal Party and the House of Representatives, expressing disillusionment at both major parties. The resignation is the first step towards the foundation of a new political party — the Australian Democrats, a political party espousing a centrist or social liberal ideology alternative for Australians, without vested interests in any particular economic sectors. It forms following a merger of the Australia Party and the New Liberal Movement, after principals of these minor parties secure the commitment of Chipp as a high-profile leader. The party’s 30-year representation in Australia parliament ends on 30 June 2008 after the loss of its four remaining Senate seats, two of the Senators having retired from politics and the other two having been defeated at the 2007 election.


Office of the Status of Women

Office of the Status of Women

The Women’s Affairs Branch in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet becomes the Office of Women’s Affairs and is moved to the newly created Department of Home Affairs. In 1983 it is renamed the Office of the Status of Women.


1978

Gay rights protest

Gay rights protest

The largest gay rights march in Australia is held in Sydney to commemorate the US Stonewall riots in 1969. The march becomes an annual event and is eventually known as the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.


1979

Islamic revolution in Iran

Islamic revolution in Iran

The oppressive rule of Shah Pahlavi in Iran is overthrown and an Islamic Republic proclaimed on 1 April, following a national referendum. The revolution began the previous year with widespread demonstrations. In December 1979, a new Iranian constitution based on sharia (Islamic religious law) is also approved by a great majority in a referendum. Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini becomes Supreme Leader of a theocracy in which a Council of Guardians can reject candidates for election to the Majlis (Parliament) and any legislation they deem to be un-Islamic. The Iranian revolution makes Islamic fundamentalism a force to be reckoned with worldwide, especially after the taking of hostages at the US Embassy on 4 November.


Margaret Thatcher becomes UK Prime Minister

Margaret Thatcher becomes UK Prime Minister

Margaret Thatcher is elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. She is the first woman to become a prime minister in Europe.


1980

Solidarity Movement in Poland

Solidarity Movement in Poland

Poland’s Solidarity Movement is founded on 22 September, with Gdansk shipyard worker, Lech Walesa, its Chairman. Solidarity seeks to coordinate the various workers' protests, against such things as rising food prices, around the country. Within a year, it has 10 million members and is banned by the Polish communist government. The movement, however, cannot be stopped and in June 1989, candidates endorsed by Solidarity sweep the parliamentary elections. In December, Walesa becomes President of Poland.


1981

First female president of a political party

First female president of a political party

Shirley McKerrow of the National Party of Australia is the first female president of an Australian political party.


Land rights for the Pitjantjatjara people

Land rights for the Pitjantjatjara people

A 1979 Parliamentary Committee supports the Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Act 1981. It gives rights to the Pitjantjatjara people over their traditional land, which crosses three states. South Australia passes a Bill granting these land rights.


Federal human rights laws

Federal human rights laws

The federal Human Rights Commission Act 1981 comes into force, based on the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.


1982

Freedom of information laws

Freedom of information laws

The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) creates a legally enforceable right of public access to documents in the possession of Commonwealth ministers and agencies. The new law aims to increase transparency in government decision-making and to improve the accountability of government for administrative decision-making.


Anti-discrimination law against homosexuals

Anti-discrimination law against homosexuals

New South Wales is the first state to pass laws prohibiting discrimination against homosexual people.


1983

Bob Hawke becomes Prime Minister

Bob Hawke becomes Prime Minister

The Australian Labor Party led by Bob Hawke decisively wins the 1983 election and Hawke replaces Malcolm Fraser as Prime Minister. The Hawke government produces a Wages Accord with the trade unions, intervenes to prevent the damming of Tasmania’s Franklin River, deregulates major industries, privatises the Commonwealth Bank, establishes the Medicare health scheme, re-introduces university fees through the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) and establishes the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC). For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


Wages Accord

Wages Accord

The federal Labor government and the Australian Council of Trade Unions agree on a system of centralised wage fixing using the Industrial Relations Commission to determine wage increases. Originating in the Economic Summit, the return to centralised wage fixing based on indexation is initially agreed to by employer groups, but they decline to be a party to the Accord. The Accord is dismantled by the incoming Liberal government in 1996 when wages are determined by enterprise bargaining rather than arbitration.


1984

Sex discrimination

Sex discrimination

The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) provides a legal avenue for addressing discriminatory practices based on gender and sexuality.


Gay Rights Lobby

Gay Rights Lobby

The NSW Parliament legislates to decriminalise homosexuality between consenting adults. The Gay Rights Lobby, formed in 1981, officially disbands after the historic Act. In the same year, three openly gay men are elected to the Sydney City Council.


1985

Uluru and Kata Juta

Uluru and Kata Juta

Uluru and Kata Juta are returned to the care of the traditional Indigenous owners and custodians.


1986

Abolition of appeal to the Privy Council

Abolition of appeal to the Privy Council

With the passing of the Australia Act 1986 (Cth) and Australia Act 1986 (UK), Australian courts, other than the High Court, no longer have to take appeals to the Privy Council, although it remains theoretically possible for some appeals to be taken under Section 74 of the Constitution. Britain can no longer legislate for any part of Australia, and the states can now legislate to repeal or amend any UK legislation extending to them.


First female Speaker

First female Speaker

On 11 February, Joan Child becomes the first woman to be elected as Speaker of the House of Representatives in the federal parliament. She is unanimously nominated by the Australian Labor Party, and her appointment is not opposed by the Liberal opposition. Child is liked and respected by Members from both sides of the Chamber. She resigns as Speaker in 1989.


Right of appeal to Privy Council ends

Right of appeal to Privy Council ends

Australia adopts the Australia Act 1986 that provides for the High Court in Australia, rather than the Privy Council in the United Kingdom, to become the final court of appeal for Australian legal cases.


First female political party leader

First female political party leader

Janine Haines from South Australia becomes the first female federal parliamentary leader of an Australian political party after being chosen by Australian Democrats members as Senate leader on the retirement of inaugural leader Don Chipp. She was previously the first member of the Australian Democrats to enter the federal parliament after the party’s formation in 1977, and she plays a key role in transforming the Australian Democrats into a party that eventually holds the balance of power in the Senate.


Affirmative action in employment

Affirmative action in employment

The Commonwealth Affirmative Action (Equal Employment Opportunity for Women) Act 1986seeks to eliminate discrimination against women in employment and encourage consultation with employers to promote equal opportunity.


Human rights and equal opportunity law

Human rights and equal opportunity law

The Commonwealth Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986 deals with breaches of human rights as defined in Australia’s international treaties, as well as complaints about equal opportunity on the grounds of race, colour, religion, sex, political opinion, national extradition, social origin, age, medical record, criminal record, sexual preference, trade union activity, marital status, nationality, disability and impairment.


Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986 is enacted. The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission is established and replaces the existing Human Rights Commission.


1987

Soviet Union campaign for openness and reconstruction

Soviet Union campaign for openness and reconstruction

Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, campaigns for glasnost (openness) and perestroika (reconstruction) in the Soviet Union. In 1988, Gorbachev becomes president of the USSR.


Protection against domestic violence

Protection against domestic violence

The Crimes (Family Violence) Act 1987 provides for restraining orders to be taken out against offenders in cases of domestic violence and child abuse. This follows the Crimes (Amendment) Act 1985 that gives legal protection to women from rape in marriage.


1988

Survival Day

Survival Day

As Australia celebrates its bicentennial, 40,000 Aboriginal people (including some from the Northern Territory) and their supporters march from Redfern Park to a public rally at Hyde Park, then on to Sydney Harbour to mark the 200-year anniversary of invasion. From this march grows the concept of Invasion Day and Survival Day, marked by events such as the Survival Day concert first held in Sydney in 1992. This annual event celebrates the survival and continuing presence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their cultures, despite successive government policies to destroy or assimilate them since colonisation.


Australian Parliament House opens

Australian Parliament House opens

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II opens the new Australian Parliament House on 9 May, as Australia commemorates 200 years since the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove. The new Parliament House is designed by Romaldo Giurgola of Mitchell/Giurgola & Thorp Architects. It replaces Provisional Parliament House, which had become over-crowded during the 1960s and 1970s. The new building is the result of an international design competition announced in 1979, attracting 329 entries from 28 countries.


Referendum on rights

Referendum on rights

Following two unsuccessful attempts to enact a bill of rights, the Hawke government establishes a Constitutional Commission in 1985. Before the Commission completes its report, the Hawke government calls a referendum putting four proposals for constitutional change to the Australian people. These include four-year maximum terms for the federal parliament, recognition of local government, guarantee of the right to vote and ‘one vote one value’, and a guarantee of basic freedoms by extending the operation of existing guarantees in the Constitution. All four proposals are defeated nationally. Some critics argue that the best defence of civil liberties lies in the common law rather than in a specific legal instrument.


1989

Tiananmen Square protest in China

Tiananmen Square protest in China

Students and intellectuals seeking to mourn the death of a pro-democracy Communist Party official gather in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, on 14 April. They carry a statue, the Goddess of Democracy, and sing The Internationale, the anthem (in French) of international socialism and one of the most widely recognised songs in the world. About 100,000 voices demand democratic reform. They remain in the Square for seven weeks until troops and tanks disperse them on 4 June. Hundreds, possibly thousands, are killed.


First woman state or territory leader

First woman state or territory leader

Rosemary Follett becomes the first woman to lead an Australian state or territory government and the Australian Capital Territory’s first chief minister. The election is notable for having a ballot paper almost one-metre wide that lists 117 candidates for the 17 seats. Rosemary Follett subsequently serves as the ACT Discrimination Commissioner from 1996 until 2004. Other states and territories to elect women leaders include Carmen Lawrence (WA), Joan Kirner (Victoria), Kate Carnell (ACT), Clare Martin (NT), Anna Bligh (Queensland) and Kristina Keaneally (New South Wales).


Berlin Wall demolished

Berlin Wall demolished

Huge demonstrations for democratic reform take place in East Germany in October. President Erich Honecker resigns and the communist government faces collapse. Check-points at the Berlin Wall are opened on 9 November and thousands gather to celebrate — and to demolish the structure. In 1987, US President Ronald Reagan had visited Berlin and called on Soviet leader Gorbachev to ‘tear down this wall’. Now, the people were doing it themselves.


1990

First female premier

First female premier

Carmen Lawrence becomes Australia’s first woman State Premier on 12 February 1990 after being chosen by the state Labor Party in Western Australia as its new leader following Premier Peter Dowding’s resignation. She subsequently enters Federal politics on 12 March 1994, as the Member for Fremantle, and is appointed Minister for Human Services and Health and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women on 25 March 1994 until 11 March 1996. On 23 November 2001, Lawrence is appointed Shadow Minister for Reconciliation, Aborginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, the Arts, and the Status of Women.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission is established by legislation to give Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders the right to elect representatives who will have power to make decisions and policies about matters affecting their lives.


First woman Premier for Victoria

First woman Premier for Victoria

Joan Kirner is elected the first woman Premier for the State of Victoria. She holds the position for two years. Kirner had entered the Victorian Parliament in 1982 as an MLC (ALP) for the Province of Melbourne West. Between 1985 and 1988 she was Minister for Conservation, Forests and Lands. In 1988 she moved to the Lower House as the member for Williamstown and was appointed Minister for Education (1988-1990) and Minister for Ethnic Affairs (1990-1991). She served as Deputy Premier from 1989-1990. In October 1992 Kirner faces an election which the opinion polls indicate she has no chance of winning. She remains personally more popular than the Opposition Leader, Jeff Kennett, but the electorate accepts Kennett’s campaign theme that Labor is responsible for Victoria’s financial woes, and the Liberals win a huge majority. Kirner stays on as Opposition Leader for a short period, then resigns and retires from Parliament in 1994.


Parliamentary proceedings televised

Parliamentary proceedings televised

Despite the advent of television in 1956, permission to televise proceedings of both parliamentary houses is not given until 1990. Broadcasting in the Senate begins immediately and in the House of Representatives in 1991. Senate Committee Hearings are also televised, enabling the public to see their representatives at work.


1991

Australian Republican Movement

Australian Republican Movement

The Australian Republican Movement is launched at The Rocks in Sydney. The movement gains momentum through a media campaign by influential individuals including author Thomas Keneally and former NSW Premier Neville Wran. It is successful in bringing the issue of whether Australia should change from a constitutional monarchy to a republican form of government into mainstream politics. The Australian Republican Movement promotes the bipartisan republic model, which would result in a president elected by the parliament of Australia with the powers currently held by the Queen and the Governor-General.


Civil war in Yugoslavia (1991-94)

Civil war in Yugoslavia (1991-94)

Civil war breaks out in Yugoslavia after Croatia and Slovenia declare their independence. In 1992, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia ceases to exist. In February, the United Nations decides to send a peacekeeping force. Conflict intensifies after Muslim Bosnians and Bosnian Croats vote for independence, and are attacked by Serbs. Ceasefire negotiations begin in Geneva in June 1994.


Children’s rights protected

Children’s rights protected

Australia ratifies the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the United Nations in 1989.


Paul Keating becomes Prime Minister

Paul Keating becomes Prime Minister

Former Treasurer Paul Keating successfully challenges Bob Hawke for leadership of the Labor Party and replaces Hawke as Prime Minister. The Keating government floats the Australian dollar, is a driving force behind the creation of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, establishes the Republic Advisory Committee to examine options to make Australia a republic, and reacts to the High Court’s 1992 Mabo Decision by enacting Australia’s first native title legislation. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


1992

European Union

European Union

The Treaty on European Union (better known as the Maastricht Treaty) is signed in the Netherlands on 7 February by members of the European Community. The euro, the currency of the majority of the 27 EU member states, is introduced to world financial markets in 1999.


Mabo Case recognises Native Title

Mabo Case recognises Native Title

In a landmark decision, the High Court determines that native land title was not extinguished by British occupation, overturning the assumption of terra nullius — that the land had previously belonged to nobody and could only be acquired through distribution by the Crown. The High Court ruling recognises the Meriam people’s common law rights to native title, based largely on the Mer Islanders’ ability to demonstrate continuous cultural ties with their land. The judges extend the principles to mainland Indigenous people, and pave the way for the Native Title Act 1993 and the Wik Decision in 1996 that indicates native title can co-exist with other land rights. The Case is commonly referred to as the Mabo Case after Eddie Mabo, who led the legal action on behalf of the Meriam people all the way to the High Court.


Australian Greens party goes national

Australian Greens party goes national

State-based Greens parties unite into a national Greens party. It supports wide ecological and social justice goals, with both a national and global focus. The Greens have significant success in Tasmania, where they occasionally hold the balance of power.


Protection for people with disabilities

Protection for people with disabilities

The federal Disability Discrimination Act 1992 provides protection for everyone in Australia against discrimination on the basis of disability.


Social Justice Commissioner

Social Justice Commissioner

The Office of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner is created in December to monitor the human rights of Indigenous Australians.


1993

Peacekeeping troops to Somalia

Peacekeeping troops to Somalia

Australia sends 1000 troops to join UN peacekeeping forces in Somalia, the largest deployment since the Vietnam War.


Film censorship to protect children

Film censorship to protect children

A new classification — Mature Accompanied (MA) — is added to film classifications that divide movies into age and taste groupings. MA bans children under 15 from viewing films unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.


Native Title Act 1993

Native Title Act 1993

Following recognition of the legal concept of native title by the High Court in the Mabo Case in 1992, the Keating government enacts the Native Title Act 1993. The Act attempts to clarify the legal position of landholders and the processes that must be followed for native title to be claimed, protected and recognised through the courts.


1994

Apartheid dismantled — first multiracial elections in South Africa

Apartheid dismantled — first multiracial elections in South Africa

President FW De Klerk lifts restrictions on the African National Congress and announces amnesty for political prisoners. Nelson Mandela is freed on 11 February. The government announces in June 1991 its intention to dismantle apartheid, which had been introduced in 1949. Nelson Mandela is elected South Africa’s first black President on 26 April 1994, after the African National Congress wins the country’s first multiracial elections.


Same-sex relationships recognised

Same-sex relationships recognised

The ACT, through its Domestic Relationships Act 1994, is the first jurisdiction to give same-sex relationships the same legal standing as heterosexual de facto relationships.


Main Committee established

Main Committee established

The House of Representatives creates an auxiliary chamber called the Main Committee to allow an increasing number of Bills to be debated concurrently and to speed up the passage of non-contentious Bills through the Lower House.


Sexual conduct laws

Sexual conduct laws

The federal government passes the Human Rights (Sexual Conduct) Act 1994, legalising sexual activity between consenting adults in private throughout Australia. The UN Human Rights Commission rules that Tasmanian laws prohibiting homosexual sex is in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.


1995

Second woman leader in Australian Capital Territory

Second woman leader in Australian Capital Territory

After winning the largest number (a plurality) of seats in the 1995 ACT election, the Liberal Party forms a minority government with Kate Carnell as Chief Minister. The government is re-elected in the 1998 election. Carnell was previously Leader of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Liberal Party from 1993 to 2000. She subsequently receives the Liberal Party’s Distinguished Service Award in 2002.


Euthanasia laws

Euthanasia laws

The Northern Territory Parliament passes a law making voluntary euthanasia legal. It allows physicians to prescribe and administer lethal substances to terminally ill patients who formally request assistance in ending their lives. The passage of the Bill — one of the first of its kind in the world — provokes a furore in Australia and across the world. It receives support from ‘death with dignity’ groups and widespread condemnation from euthanasia opponents, who see it as opening the way to involuntary homicide. The federal parliament subsequently passes the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997, withdrawing the Northern Territory Parliament’s powers to pass laws that purport to legalise euthanasia.


Racial Hatred Act 1995

Racial Hatred Act 1995

A law against offensive behaviour based on racial hatred is added to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. This law is called the Racial Hatred Act 1995.


1996

John Howard becomes Prime Minister

John Howard becomes Prime Minister

The Liberal–National coalition defeats the Labor government of Paul Keating at the federal election and its leader John Howard becomes Prime Minister. The Howard government introduces strong gun control legislation following the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, gradually privatises Telstra, institutes significant industrial relations reforms including Australian Workplace Agreements, commits Australian forces to Afghanistan and Iraq, and introduces a federal goods and services tax (GST). For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.


Wik Case

Wik Case

In Wik Peoples v. State of Queensland, the High Court rules that native title is not necessarily extinguished by pastoral leases.


1997

One Nation Party forms

One Nation Party forms

Pauline Hanson forms the One Nation Party in Queensland, promoting ‘traditional’ Australian values and government support for small business and the rural sector. It favours restricted immigration and limitations on ‘discriminatory and divisive policies’ on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and multicultural affairs.


Australian Reconciliation Conference

Australian Reconciliation Conference

Almost 1800 people attend the Australian Reconciliation Conference to discuss Indigenous issues. Although the conference is overshadowed by a controversial address by Prime Minister John Howard, it focuses on the aims of the official movement towards national reconciliation started in 1991 with the establishment of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. The Council’s key goals include educating Australians about Indigenous issues, improving economic and living standards for Indigenous people, and acknowledging the unfair and often inhumane treatment of Indigenous Australians throughout history.


1998

Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement

Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement

Agreement is reached in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on 10 April (Good Friday), to devolve government and establish a Northern Ireland Assembly to be elected by proportional representation. The decommissioning of paramilitary weapons is part of the deal. In 2005, the Provisional Irish Republican Army completes the decommissioning of its weapons.


First national Sorry Day

First national Sorry Day

Following the release in 1997 of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s landmark report on the forcible separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, the first national Sorry Day march is held on 26 May. Conducted annually, Sorry Day offers the Australian community a chance to assemble and acknowledge the pain and impact, and culminates in the national Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples by the federal parliament on 13 February 2008.


Bringing Them Home report

Bringing Them Home report

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission releases its landmark report, Bringing Them Home: National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families. The inquiry, established by the federal Attorney-General in 1995, documents the stories of many people and communities devastated by government policies and laws that allowed Indigenous children to be taken from their families.

The report estimates that between one in three and one in 10 Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families between 1910 and 1970. It makes wide-ranging recommendations, including the need to provide counselling and health services, family tracing and reunion services, and other means to support Indigenous families and children. The report also calls for the establishment of a Sorry Day and a national apology to those affected by separation. In 2008 Prime Minister Kevin Rudd tables a historic apology to Australia’s Indigenous people in the federal parliament.


First UN genocide conviction in Rwanda

First UN genocide conviction in Rwanda

In September, for the first time the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide is enforced when it is applied against Jean-Paul Akayesu, a former mayor of a small town in Rwanda. Akayesu is found guilty of nine counts of genocide and, on 2 October, is sentenced to life imprisonment.


1999

No to an Australian republic

No to an Australian republic

Following a constitutional convention in February 1998 at which members resolve in favour of Australia becoming a republic, the Howard government invites the people of Australia to vote at a referendum. The first question asks Australians whether they approve of altering the Constitution to establish the Commonwealth of Australia as a republic with the Queen and Governor-General being replaced by a president appointed by a two-thirds majority of the members of the Commonwealth Parliament. The second question seeks approval to change the Constitution by inserting a preamble. About 55 per cent of Australian voters vote no, and Australia remains a constitutional monarchy.


Internet censorship

Internet censorship

The federal government legislates to control access to explicit material on the internet with the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Online Services) Bill 1999.


Parliament goes live

Parliament goes live

Live video broadcasts of federal parliamentary proceedings commence via the internet. The Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings, responsible for arranging parliamentary broadcasting, aims to help people to understand and become involved in the workings of the House of Representatives and its committees. Hansard is also made available on the internet via the Australian Parliament House website.


2001

Centenary of Federation

Centenary of Federation

Australians celebrate the first 100 years of Federation with a year of events and activities. The celebrations aim to broaden community awareness of Australia’s history and acknowledge the achievement of forming the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. It also aims to generate debate about contemporary and future issues facing Australia.


Anti-globalisation demonstrations at G8 Summit

Anti-globalisation demonstrations at G8 Summit

In July, anti-globalisation demonstrators protest against the G8 summit in Genoa, Italy. It is one of the bloodiest protests in western Europe’s post-war era.


First woman leader in Northern Territory

First woman leader in Northern Territory

Clare Martin is popularly elected as the first female Chief Minister of the Northern Territory in 2001. She is elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory (ALP) at a by-election for the seat of Fannie Bay in 1995. This seat was formerly held by the Chief Minister Marshall Perron, member of the Country Liberal Party. She is re-elected in 1997, assuming the leadership of the Northern Territory Australian Labor Party in 1999 and winning the 2001 election. In addition to her role as Chief Minister, she holds the ministerial portfolios of Treasurer, Arts and Museums, Young Territorians, Women’s Policy, Senior Territorians, Communications, Science and Advanced Technology. She wins the 2005 election with an increased majority, but resigns from Parliament in November 2007.


9/11 - terrorist attacks in the US

9/11 - terrorist attacks in the US

On 11 September, the World Trade Center towers in New York, known as the Twin Towers, are destroyed by terrorists in two hijacked planes. The Pentagon is also attacked by a third hijacked plane while, terrorists on a fourth, Flight 93, are overpowered by passengers before the plane crashes. Al-Qaeda claims responsibility for the terror attack and US President George W Bush declares ‘war on terror’.


September 11 attacks

September 11 attacks

On 11 September, attacks by terrorists in New York City, Washington, DC and Shanksville in the United States kill 2993 people. The attacks signal the beginning of the United States’ War on Terror, and Australia is at the forefront of the struggle, joining with the United States and its allies to contribute forces to the invasion of Afghanistan and later Iraq.


US-led coalition invades Afghanistan to remove Taliban

US-led coalition invades Afghanistan to remove Taliban

On 7 October, US and British forces attack the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Taliban retreat from Kabul on 12 November in the face of an advance by the Afghan Northern Alliance. Hamid Karzai is sworn in as head of an interim government in Afghanistan. A US-led coalition invades Afghanistan to oust the Taliban on 1 March 2002. The Taliban are defeated and removed from power on 19 March. On 11 August 2003, NATO takes command of the peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan — NATO’s first major role outside Europe.


David Hicks prosecuted on terrorism charges

David Hicks prosecuted on terrorism charges

David Hicks, an Australian who has undertaken combat training in Al-Qaeda-linked camps and served with the ruling Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001, is detained by the US Government in Guantanamo Bay until 2007, when he becomes the first person to be tried and convicted under the US Military Commissions Act of 2006. Hicks’ treatment under the newly created legal system draws widespread criticism and political controversy.


2002

Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste is the first new sovereign state of the 21st century, becoming independent on 20 May.


Australians killed in Bali bombings

Australians killed in Bali bombings

The Bali bombings on 12 October is one of the most horrific acts of terrorism that has come close to Australian shores. A total of 202 people (88 Australians) are killed in the tragedy, which takes place in the town of Kuta on the Indonesian island of Bali. A further 209 people are injured. A number of Indonesians are sentenced to death for their parts in the bombings and in October 2002 Abu Bakar Bashir, a leader of the Jemaah Islamiah organisation often accused of being behind the attacks, is charged over his alleged role in the bombing. In March 2005, Bashir was found guilty of conspiracy over the attacks. The Bali bombings 2002 are sometimes called ‘Australia’s September 11’ because of the large number of Australians killed in the attack.


2003

International protests over US invasion of Iraq

International protests over US invasion of Iraq

Between 3 January and 12 April 2003, an estimated 36 million people around the world protest against the US-led invasion of Iraq.


Charter of a Free Press

Charter of a Free Press

The Australian Press Council, a leading advocate for the freedom and the responsibility of the press in Australia, adopts a Charter of a Free Press in the absence of any laws that guarantee press freedom and free speech. The only ‘guarantee’ of free speech arises from an implication found in the Australian Constitution, but the Charter recognises Australia’s endorsement of Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating the right to the free flow of information to enable news and opinion of public interest to be freely available to citizens.


2004

Age is no barrier

Age is no barrier

The Australian Government passes the Age Discrimination Act 2004 to eliminate discrimination on the grounds of age and to ensure equal rights before the law.


2005

GetUp

GetUp

GetUp, an independent, grass-roots community advocacy organisation, is founded by Jeremy Heimans and David Madden, Australian graduates of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Its success demonstrates the increasing power of ‘e-democracy’. In its first three years, GetUp attracts over 300,000 members and its campaigns include bringing David Hicks to Australia from US detention, changing the laws on media ownership, achieving equal rights for same-sex couples, and supporting the Parliamentary Apology to the Stolen Generations. They subsequently establish Avaaz.org, a global online political community inspired by the success of GetUp and the US group MoveOn.org.


Iraq’s first competitive multi-party elections

Iraq’s first competitive multi-party elections

On 15 October, following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime, Iraqis vote in a referendum for a new constitution, and go to their first competitive multi-party elections on 15 December.


2007

NT National Emergency Response

NT National Emergency Response

The Northern Territory National Emergency Response, known as ‘the intervention’, is a controversial package of changes to welfare provision, law enforcement, land tenure and other measures, introduced by the federal government to address claims of child sexual abuse and neglect in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities.


Citizenship test introduced

Citizenship test introduced

The federal government introduces a test for people applying for Australian citizenship by naturalisation. The aim is to test an applicant’s knowledge of the English language and comprehension of Australian moral principles, history, and national and Indigenous symbols. The exam is available in English only, and applicants need to score 60 per cent or more to pass, including three compulsory questions about rights and responsibilities. In 2008 the government announces a review of the test, as almost a quarter of all applicants have failed it.


Kevin Rudd becomes Prime Minister

Kevin Rudd becomes Prime Minister

The Australian Labor Party, led by Kevin Rudd, wins the 2007 federal election and Rudd replaces John Howard as Prime Minister. The Rudd government ratifies the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, hosts the 2020 Summit on Australia’s future, repeals much of the Howard government’s WorkChoices legislation, and issues a national apology to the indigenous Stolen Generations. Rudd’s first term as prime minister and leader of the Australian Labor Party ends on 24 June 2010 following a leadership challenge from his deputy, Julia Gillard. He is subsequently appointed as Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Gillard government after the election of 21 August which returns a minority Labor government with the support of Independent and Greens members, producing Australia’s first hung parliament since 1940.

On 26 June 2013 the Australian Labor Party holds a ballot in which Kevin Rudd defeats Julia Gillard by 57 votes to 45 to again become the leader of the Australian Labor Party. Mr Rudd is sworn in as Prime Minister for the second time by the Governor-General on 27 June.

On 7 September 2013 Kevin Rudd is defeated as Prime Minister by the Liberal/National coalition, led by Tony Abbott, at the federal election. He retains his seat of Griffith, but stands down from the leadership of the Australian Labor Party.


First female Deputy Prime Minister

First female Deputy Prime Minister

Following the federal election on 24 November, Julia Gillard is sworn in as Australia’s first female Deputy Prime Minister. She also holds the portfolios of Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, and Minister for Social Inclusion.


Pakistan’s former Prime Minister assassinated

Pakistan’s former Prime Minister assassinated

Benazir Bhutto is assassinated in Pakistan on 27 December. She was Prime Minister in 1988-90 and 1993-96, and was the first female head of government to be democratically elected in an Islamic state. Her People’s Party wins the election in February 2008. In September 2008, her husband Asif Ali Zardari is elected President of Pakistan.


2008

Formal apology to Indigenous peoples

Formal apology to Indigenous peoples

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd tables a historic motion in parliament apologising to Australia’s Indigenous people, particularly the Stolen Generations, for laws and policies that ‘inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss’.


Zimbabweans go to the polls

Zimbabweans go to the polls

On 29 March, Zimbabweans go to the polls. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change wins a majority of seats but President Robert Mugabe refuses to concede. Police intimidate and murder Movement for Democratic Change activists. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and Mugabe agree to a government of national unity. In September, Tsvangirai becomes Prime Minister and Mugabe remains President.


Nepal votes for a democratic republic

Nepal votes for a democratic republic

The Nepalese Constituent election on 10 April is the first since 1999. The Nepal Communist Party wins 220 of the 601 seats in the new Constituent Assembly. In its first meeting on 28 May 2008, the Constituent Assembly declares Nepal a republic and formally abolishes the monarchy.


UN Convention on Disabilities and Indigenous Peoples

UN Convention on Disabilities and Indigenous Peoples

Australia ratifies the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (July 2008), and formally supports the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.


Rise of the Australian Greens

Rise of the Australian Greens

Shane Rattenbury becomes Speaker of the ACT Legislative Assembly, making him the first Speaker in any parliament in the world representing a Green political party. He is a member of the multi-member unicameral Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly representing the electorate of Molonglo for the ACT Greens since 2008. On 21 April 2010 Nick McKim, leader of the Tasmanian Greens, is appointed as a minister in the Bartlett Labor government following his party winning the balance of power at the election a month earlier. By 2010 the Australian Greens become Australia’s largest third party since the Australian Democrats, measured by voting support.


First African American President of the United States

First African American President of the United States

On 4 November, Barack Obama is elected President of the United States. He is the first African American to be elected president and the first black person to be elected head of government of any predominantly white nation. He is inaugurated on 20 January 2009 as the 44th President of the United States.


International financial crisis

International financial crisis

On 15 November, the ‘Group of 20’ world industrial powers meet in Washington, DC to discuss the international financial crisis.


2009

Australia’s first Citizens’ Parliament

Australia’s first Citizens’ Parliament

Australia’s first Citizens’ Parliament is held at Old Parliament House. One hundred and fifty people, randomly selected from across Australia, spend four days discussing and deliberating on Australian democracy and how it could be improved.


First elected female premier

First elected female premier

Anna Maria Bligh wins the Queensland state general election, becoming the first popularly elected female Premier of an Australia state. She is sworn in on 13 September 2007 following the resignation of Peter Beattie. Bligh had been appointed Deputy Premier of Queensland in July 2005 - the same month she celebrated 10 years as Member for South Brisbane. As Deputy Premier she was also Treasurer and Minister for Infrastructure. She was formerly Minister for Finance, State Development, Trade and Innovation. Prior to that she was Queensland’s first female Education Minister spending almost 5 years overseeing the most significant reforms to the State’s education system.


UN Convention on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

UN Convention on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The Australian Government formally endorses the UN Convention on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted by the UN General Assembly during its 62nd session at the UN Headquarters in New York City on 13 September 2007. The United States describes it as setting lsquo;an important standard for the treatment of indigenous peoples that will undoubtedly be a significant tool towards eliminating human rights violations against the planetrsquo;s 370 million indigenous people and assisting them in combating discrimination and marginalisationrsquo;.


First woman Premier for New South Wales

First woman Premier for New South Wales

On 3 December 2009 the Australian Labor Party caucus elects Kristina Keneally to replace Nathan Rees as leader of the parliamentary party. On 4 December, Keneally is sworn in as the first female premier of New South Wales by the Governor of New South Wales, Marie Bashir. She leads the first two-woman executive (Premier and Deputy Premier) in Australian history. Active in student, religious and union affairs since 1990, Kristina Keneally is the first American born member of the N.S.W. Parliament. In 2003 she was an ALP candidate elected to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly seat of Heffron. After being re-elected in 2007, she became the Minister for Ageing and Disability Services and was subsequently appointed Minister for Planning by incoming Premier Nathan Rees in September 2008. She also held the position of the NSW Government’s Spokesperson for World Youth Day 2008.


2010

National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples

National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples

Following the 2005 abolition of ATSIC (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission), Australia’s Indigenous people are given a new national voice with the establishment of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples. The inaugural Board, led by co-chairs Sam Jeffries and Kerry Arabena, transitioned to the first fully elected board in July 2011. Although government funds established the body, the Congress operates as a member-driven private company independent from the Commonwealth and States. Membership is open to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders over 18 years and it advocates for First Nation peoples and issues through strong unified positions on government policy and in the national political arena.


First female Prime Minister

First female Prime Minister

Julia Gillard becomes Australia’s 27th prime minister, and the first female to hold the office, after she is elected in a ballot for the leadership of the Australian Labor Party. She replaces Kevin Rudd following his resignation. Rudd does not stand as a candidate, and Gillard is elected unopposed. She is sworn in on the same day by Australia’s first female Governor-General, Quentin Bryce. Gillard, a Welsh-born migrant, is the first Australian prime minister to be born overseas since Billy Hughes. She retains her position after the federal election of 21 August 2010 by forming a minority Labor government with the support of Independent and Greens members, producing Australia’s first hung parliament since 1940. On 26 June 2013 the Australian Labor Party held a ballot in which Kevin Rudd defeated Julia Gillard by 57 votes to 45 to become the new leader of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party. Mr Rudd was sworn in as Prime Minister for the second time by the Governor-General on 27 June. Julia Gillard honoured her commitment, made before the leadership ballot, to leave parliament by announcing that she would not contest the next election.


GetUp! wins High Court cases

GetUp! wins High Court cases

The progressive grassroots movement GetUp! wins a landmark High Court case, arguing that a law introduced by the Howard government in 2007, which reduced the deadline for electoral enrolment to the day of the issue of writs, was unconstitutional. The High Court agrees and allows 100,000 new enrolments to proceed for the upcoming federal election. The following week, the High Court also allows electoral enrolment via the internet for the first time, following a GetUp! campaign to enrol young voters online.


First hung parliament in 70 years

First hung parliament in 70 years

Australia’s 43rd federal general election results in the first hung federal Parliament in 70 years. Neither the governing Australian Labor Party, led by Julia Gillard, nor the opposition Liberal-National Coalition, led by Tony Abbott, win a majority of seats. The balance of power is held by a number of independents. The election also sees the Australian Greens win a record nine Senate seats and elect Adam Bandt to the House of Representatives Division of Melbourne, the second Greens MP in federal Parliament and the first to win his seat at a general election in a three-way contest. Ken Wyatt is elected to the West Australian Division of Hasluck and becomes the first Indigenous member of the Lower House. The Queensland seat of Longman elects Wyatt Roy who, at the age of 20, becomes the youngest person ever elected to an Australian Parliament. After the election, Gillard gains the support of three Independents and the Greens and is able to form a minority Labor government.


2011

The Arab Spring

The Arab Spring

The 2010–2011 Middle East and North Africa protests, commonly referred to as the Arab Spring, are a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests that have been taking place in the Middle East and North Africa since 18 December 2010. They are a protest against autocracy, authoritarian rule and corruption and they began in Tunisia in December 2010 with the self-immolation of a university-educated but unemployed street vendor, Mohamed Bouazzi. The resulting protests ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on 14 January 2011, ending 23 years in power. Soon after, Egypt, the central Arab country with 80 million people, rose up against the dictatorial regime of Hosni Mubarak, forcing his resignation on 11 February and winning the promise of free and fair elections to be held in September 2011. In both cases, the military sided with the people. Popular resistance also broke out in Libya, Yemen, Jordan, Algeria, Syria, Bahrain and Oman. The Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddhafi, opted for massacre as a response and the Libyan people relied heavily on international military support, in the form of a No-Fly Zone, to try and prevent the regime from further attacking democratic forces. The toppling of autocracies is the first step in establishing democracies in which the people can vote their preferred government in or out of office.


Landslide state victories for the Coalition

Landslide state victories for the Coalition

The Liberal/National Party coalition led by Barry O’Farrell wins a landslide victory in the New South Wales state election, winning 69 seats out of 93 and reducing Australian Labor Party seats to just 20. A year later, on 24 March 2012, Campbell Newman leads the Liberal National Party to the biggest majority in the history of Queensland elections, winning 78 seats out of 89 and reducing Labor to just seven. Campbell Newman is elected to the Queensland parliament at the same time, becoming the first person since Edmund Barton to be elected to lead an Australian government while not serving in the parliament.


Overthrow of Muammar al-Gaddafi in Libya

Overthrow of Muammar al-Gaddafi in Libya

After a civil war lasting eight months, Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi is captured and killed by rebels of the National Transitional Council, which had already taken the capital Tripoli two months before. Gaddafi’s death formally ends his 41-year regime in Libya and clears the way for the country’s transition to democracy. A general election held on 7 July 2012 saw the centrist National Forces Alliance win a commanding share of seats in the new government.


Putting a price on carbon

Putting a price on carbon

The Gillard Labor government’s Clean Energy Bill passes through the Commonwealth Parliament, establishing a price on carbon as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The legislation is highly controversial and is opposed by the Coalition as well as many sectors of industry and business. The new carbon tax comes into effect on 1 July 2012.


2012

Aung San Suu Kyi is elected to the Burmese parliament

Aung San Suu Kyi is elected to the Burmese parliament

After having spent most of the previous two decades under house arrest by the military government of Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of Burmese independence fighter Aung San, is elected to the Burmese Parliament as a member of the National League for Democracy. Imprisoned in 1990 after the Burmese military invalidated her landslide election win, Aung San Suu Kyi became a symbol of the struggle for democracy in one of the world’s most authoritarian states. Periodically released only to be detained again, Suu Kyi was released permanently on 13 November 2010. Since her release and the 2012 election she has travelled overseas and on 16 June 2012 in Oslo received the Nobel Peace Prize that she was awarded in 1991.


Egyptians vote in first democratic presidential election

Egyptians vote in first democratic presidential election

The people of Egypt begin voting to elect a new President to replace Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled for thirty years before his overthrow in the Arab Spring of 2011. It is only the second time in Egypt’s history that a presidential candidate has been opposed and the first since the overthrow of Mubarak. On 24 June Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood is declared Egypt’s President-Elect. He will be the country’s first Muslim President.


2013

Tony Abbott becomes Prime Minister

Tony Abbott becomes Prime Minister

The Liberal/National Party coalition wins the 2013 federal election and Tony Abbott replaces Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister. Tony Abbott was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1994, having previously been a journalist and later Press Secretary to Liberal leader John Hewson. In 1996 he became Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs, and in 1998 was made Minister for Employment Services and presided over the development of Job Network. He entered Cabinet in 2001 as Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business, at the same time becoming Leader of the House. In 2003 he became Minister for Health, and in that role introduced the Medicare Safety Net and the capping of annual out-of-pocket medical expenses for Medicare cardholders. Upon the Coalition’s defeat in 2007 he became Shadow Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, resigning in 2009 in protest over Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull’s support for the Rudd government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. He challenged Turnbull for party leadership and won, and led the Coalition to a narrow defeat in 2010.