Heath Ledger wins Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight at the Academy Awards. Surgeons at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital separate conjoined Bangladeshi twins, Trishna and Krishna, in a marathon operation, which takes almost 27 hours. Black Saturday Bushfires become Australia’s worst bushfire disaster. Australians band together to raise in excess of $392 million for The Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd formally apologises to Indigenous Australians and the Stolen Generations. The historic apology includes the word “sorry” three times and is televised around the country, shown at outdoor settings in remote indigenous communities and public spaces such as Federation Square.
Internationally acclaimed explorer, conservationist and scientist, Tim Flannery, is named Australian of the Year for his work in raising awareness of climate change.
Melbourne hosts the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Environmentalist and TV star Steve Irwin dies from a stingray wound while filming a documentary in Australia. He is affectionately known as the ‘Crocodile Hunter’ and internationally renowned as a wildlife warrior, and for the catchcry “Crikey”.
Professor Ian Frazer and his team at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane develop a vaccine to prevent and treat cervical cancer, which affects 500,000 women each year. The immunologist is named Australian of the Year in 2006. The Socceroos qualify for 2006 FIFA World Cup for the first time since 1974, by defeating Uruguay in Sydney.
Australian born Mary Donaldson marries Frederick, Crown Prince of Denmark in Copenhagen to become Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark.
Australia hosts the 2003 Rugby World Cup – the fifth Rugby World Cup. Makybe Diva becomes the first racehorse to win the famed Melbourne Cup on three occasions, in 2003, 2004, and 2005. Makybe Diva is inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2006.
Lleyton Hewitt becomes the youngest ever tennis player to be crowned World No. 1.
January 1: The world enters the year 2000 without the predicted chaos from the Y2K computer bug. May 12: The Olympic torch is lit in Greece in preparation for its journey Down Under to the Sydney Olympic Games. June 8: The Olympic torch arrives in Uluru and begins a 100 day journey around Australia. A selection of famous athletes, politicians, and culturally significant people are chosen to carry the torch through various locations around Australia as it makes its way to Sydney for the Opening Ceremony. June 11: The human genome project culminates in a finished draft of the human genetic code (DNA). This discovery is said to be significant in the early detection and treatment of genetically inherited diseases. July 1: The goods and services tax (GST) is introduced across Australia. August 7: New airline carriers Virgin Blue and Impulse Airlines take to the skies, offering Australian consumers discount airfares. September 16: Sydney hosts what is deemed to be the “best ever” Olympic Games, according to Juan Antonio Samaranch. Cathy Freeman lights the Olympic flame declaring the Games open and Australia wins a record 16 gold, 25 silver and 17 bronze medals. Australian volunteers are recognised for their outstanding contribution to the success of the Games. October 14: Sydney hosts the Paralympic Games. October 26: Siamese twins Monique and Taylah Armstrong, born joined at the head, are successfully separated after a 12-hour operation in Brisbane. November 24: Media mogul Kerry Packer is given a second chance at life, after a lifesaving kidney donation from his helicopter pilot Nicholas Ross. December 29: Australia makes cricket history after winning a world record 13 consecutive Test matches. December 30: The Greater Blue Mountains are listed on the World Heritage register in the culmination of a 14-year battle for international recognition of its eucalypt forests and rare plants.. This now means 1 million hectares of the Blue Mountain area commands the same international status as the Great Wall of China, the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, Kakadu and the wilderness of south-west Tasmania.
January 24: Australian actress Cate Blanchett wins the prestigious Golden Globe award for Best Actress in the British film, Elizabeth. March 8: A crowd of 105,000 celebrate the official opening of Stadium Australia, the main venue for the Sydney Olympics in 2000. April 24: One of Australia’s most prominent artists, Arthur Boyd, dies aged 78. Boyd’s legacy includes a vast array of Australian landscapes and figurative pieces, pottery and ceramic works. May 29: A historic agreement between Prime Minister John Howard and Australian Democrat leader, Meg Lees, paves the way for the introduction of the most radical tax reform since Federation. The Goods and Services Tax (GST) sees the abolition of wholesale tax and Australians now pay an additional 10% on all goods. December 2: Australia defeats France to win the Davis Cup in Nice, France. December 8: Pat Farmer, ultra marathon runner, completes a 14,500 km run around Australia to raise awareness for the Centenary of Federation celebration. The run takes 191 days.
January 26: Cathy Freeman is named Australian of the Year. June 1: Susie Maroney completes another record swim – this time she swims from Mexico to Cuba in 38 hours and 33 minutes. A Perth man is the recipient of a hand and forearm transplant. The operation is a world first and is performed by an Australian doctor in France. September 20: Australia dominates the 16th Commonwealth Games held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Australia collects a record 198 medals, including 80 gold. October 20: Natalie Imbruglia wins six Aria Awards. The Aria Awards are the Australian Record Industry’s way of providing recognition to talented musicians for their efforts and excellence. Only 20 are awarded each year.
January 9: Two shipwrecked sailors competing in France’s Vendee Globe Challenge are rescued by the Australian Military. Both men survived for four days while exposed to high winds, freezing temperatures and wave swells of 50 feet (15m) before being located by the RAAF plane. March 11: Prime Minister John Howard introduces to Parliament a package of legislative reforms that requires unemployed youth to work for their benefits, aptly named ‘Work-for-the-Dole’. May 14: Susie Maroney becomes the first person to swim unassisted from Cuba to Florida. With favourable currents and weather conditions, Susie completes the swim in just over 24 hours, rather than 45 hours first anticipated. Prior to this amazing feat, there were 50 other unsuccessful attempts. August 4: Cathy Freeman wins the women’s 400 metres in a time of 49.77 seconds. Freeman becomes the first Aboriginal athlete to win a gold medal at a major international track competition. September 3: ‘The Castle’, a film about little Aussie battlers that cost $700,000 to make and was shot in 11 days, records over $10 million at the box office. September 7: Pat Rafter defeats Greg Rusedski to win the US Open. Rafter becomes the first Australian to win a grand slam title since Pat Cash won Wimbledon in 1987. December 9: Ted Matthews, Australia’s last ANZAC, dies aged 101. Ted was one of the few survivors who went ashore in the first landing at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915.
March 10: Melbourne hosts the 1996 Australian Grand Prix. The race is won by Damon Hill with Jacques Villeneuve placing second. June 27: Optus Vision inaugurates nation wide local telephone service. The launching of the Optus Network ends Government owned Telstra Corp’s longstanding monopoly over local phone service in Australia. September 27: The Australian Football League (AFL) celebrates its 100th season.
February 1: 1 and 2 cent coins are withdrawn from circulation. August 29: The Sydney Harbour Tunnel is opened by the NSW Premier, John Fahey. The 4.5 kilometre tunnel costs $560 million.
January 4: Thousands of ancient rock carvings are discovered in the South Australian outback. Carbon dating tests suggest they are somewhere between 36,000 and 45,000 years old, making them the oldest surviving examples of human artistic expression. March 19: Federal Cabinet announces a complete ban on all political advertising on TV and radio. March 26: Australian cinematographer, Dean Semler, wins an Oscar at the Academy Awards for ‘Dances With Wolves’.
December 9: The Australian Wallabies secure the Rugby Grand Slam after convincingly beating Scotland 37 – 12. December 18: South Australian Premier, John Bannon, returns land titles to traditional Aboriginal owners to the lands around Maralinga. In handing over the 76,000 square kilometres of land, Bannon honours a 22 year old promise made by former Premier, Sir Thomas Playford.
February 16: Fires destroy 2,100 homes, 300,000 hectares of land, and kill 71 people in one of Australia’s worst natural catastrophes – the Ash Wednesday Bushfires. March 5: Australians vote in the Labour Government and its leader Bob Hawke. It is the party’s second largest victory ever. May 5: 61 year old potato farmer, Cliff Young, wins the inaugural Sydney to Melbourne marathon in the record-breaking time of 5 days and 15 hours.
January 17: Debbie Wardley makes Australian aviation history when she becomes the country’s first female commercial pilot. June 23: Seven years of research culminates in the birth of Australia’s first test tube baby. The birth is witnessed by 18 awe-struck on-lookers, including a camera crew and 2 photographers. August 18: 10 week old baby Azaria Chamberlain goes missing from a campsite near Ayers Rock. The mother of the baby, Lindy Chamberlain, claims she saw a dingo take Azaria from her tent.
December 1: Sir Douglas Nicholls is sworn in as Governor of South Australia making him the first Aboriginal to hold a vice regal position.
September 8: Australian swimming sensation Shane Gould returns from the Munich Olympic Games with 3 gold medals. December 2: The Australian Labour Party is voted into power, after 23 years as the opposition. Campaigning under the slogan, ‘It’s time’, the ALP, lead by Gough Whitlam, obtains a national swing of 3.5%. December 16: A ruling by the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission allows women the right to earn equal pay for doing the same job as men. The decision means 80% of women are given a pay rise; some receive more than $9 extra per week.
May 8: Over 200,000 protesters march through cities around the country to protest against Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War. It is the biggest protest the nation has ever seen. October 15: A section of the West Gate Bridge collapses during construction, sending 2,000 tonnes of steel crashing in the nation’s worst construction disaster.
May 27: 90.8% of people vote ‘yes’ in a referendum which gives the Federal Government power to make laws for Aboriginals living in Australian states, and permits them to be included in Commonwealth Census counts. July 14: Digit post codes are introduced in every Australian suburb to help postal workers sort mail more efficiently. December 18: The Prime Minister, Harold Holt, disappears in heavy surf at Cheviot Beach in Victoria. His body is never recovered, and he is presumed as having drowned.
August 29: Jack Brabham wins the Portuguese Grand Prix to secure his second World Formula One Motor Racing Championship. Driving for the British Cooper Car Company team, Brabham takes out the Dutch, French, Belgian and British Grand Prixs to earn the crown. October 21: Sir Macfarlane Burnet is named joint winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his work on acquired immunological tolerance – work which advances the possibility of organ transplant and replacement.
October 1: Australia Post introduces certified mail. November 5: ABN-2 in Sydney transmits Australia’s first national television service. November 22: The Olympic Games officially opens in Melbourne. Australia finishes the games with 13 gold, 8 silver and 14 bronze medals – placed third in the overall medal count, behind Russia and America.
February 19: The Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions establish a meteorological and research base in the Australian Antarctic. The base is named after Sir Douglas Mawson, the Australian explorer and geologist.
October 4: Britain’s first nuclear bomb explodes in the Monte Bello Islands off the coast of Western Australia. A thick cloud can be seen 10,000 feet high and 1 mile wide over the islands. November 15: The Melbourne ‘Argus’ becomes the first newspaper in the world to publish colour photographs in a daily paper. December 1: A rotary driven lawn mower is introduced by Mervyn Victor Richardson, after refining a prototype built from billycart wheels and a peach tin.
June 22: Housewives no longer require coupons to be able to purchase meat and clothing after Prime Minister Ben Chifley’s surprise announcement that rationing of these items has finally ended. November 30: The first mass-produced Australian automobile comes off the line at General Motors-Holden’s plant at Fishermans Bend. The car has a 6-cylinder engine, with 21.6 horsepower and is priced at 760 pounds (including taxes and registration). December 13: Don Bradman, arguably Australia’s greatest ever batsman, announces his retirement from first class cricket.
January 26: Foundation Day is renamed Australia Day. November 23: The Government implements a plan to greatly increase immigration to Australia. The Minister for Immigration announces to Parliament that free and assisted passage schemes will be available for those migrating from Britain and continental Europe.
January 1: Daylight savings is introduced as a wartime economy measure. February 19: More than 70 Japanese aircraft launch an air raid on Darwin wiping out buildings, port facilities, stores, and killing 240 people. August 31: Sugar is added to the wartime rations list. Each Australian citizen is limited to 2 pounds of sugar per fortnight, with special arrangements made for housewives preserving jam.
January 13: Victoria is devastated by bushfires, leaving 70 people dead and hundreds seriously injured. Long droughts, a heat wave and strong winds are blamed for the disaster known as Black Friday. September 4: Prime Minister Robert Menzies announces at 9.15pm that Australia is at war. He states, “It is my melancholy duty to inform you officially that, in consequence of a persistence by Germany in her invasion of Poland, Great Britain has declared war upon her, and that, as a result, Australia is also at war.” October 20: Conscription is introduced for all single men who turn 21 in the year ending July 1, 1940. Conscripted men are called up for 3 months of training to ensure numbers in the country’s Armed Forces are acceptable.
July 23: Dr. Cecil Madigan, a lecturer in geology at Adelaide University, returns from an expedition in north-eastern Australia with the news of a giant meteorite crater discovery. He reports it to be as big as the famous Henbury crater – the largest known crater in Australia. Dr. Madigan also reports a number of meteorites, some weighing as much as 3 tonnes. November 19: Hubert Opperman rides his bicycle across Australia in 13 days, 10 hours and 11 minutes shattering Bill Read’s record by more than 5 days.
March 25: Prime Minister Joseph Lyons opens the new telephone and telegraph cable link from mainland Australia to Tasmania. August 22: The ACTU declares a two minute national strike to secure a 40 hour working week, after earlier attempts at negotiating failed. September 8: The last Tasmanian Tiger in captivity dies at the Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart. In 1888, the Government introduced a bounty to help reduce the amount of sheep being killed by Tasmanian Tigers (1 pound for an adult and 10 shillings for a pup). Up until 1912, the Government paid out 2,148 bounties.
February 7: The Minister for Local Government introduces new bathing costume regulations; “the costume shall have legs at least three inches long, it shall completely cover the chest and the front of the body from the armpits to the waist. Below the waist, the trunk must cover front, back and sides.” October 4: Luna Park opens in Sydney. The construction, on 5 acres, takes 800 employees 3 months to complete and uses 60,000 bags of cement and 1,000,000 yards of timber. Luna Park features the Big Dipper, the River Caves and Penny Arcade slot machines.
February 23: One of Australia’s finest opera singers, Dame Nellie Melba, passes away. March 22: The Australian National Airways airliner, the ‘Southern Cloud’, disappears on a flight from Sydney to Melbourne. It was last heard 5 miles north of Wangaratta.
February 25: Bert Hinkler touches down in Darwin, becoming the first person to fly solo from the United Kingdom to Australia. Hinkler makes the trip in 16 days, almost halving the previous record of 28 days set by Ross and Keith Smith. December 31: ‘The Jazz Singer’ starring Al Jolson is the first motion picture with sound screened in Australia, at Sydney’s Lyceum Theatre.
September 3: The first issue of the ‘Canberra Times’ is published.
April 28: Construction starts on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The bridge was first suggested in 1815 and after being brought before Parliament four times is finally approved. October 11: A new telephone line opens, making it possible to speak from Sydney to Brisbane for the first time. The line is 651 miles long and uses 218 tonnes of copper wire, costing 26,000 pounds. November 24: Radio station 2SB broadcast the first Australian wireless program. The program features classical and popular music, stock exchange and market reports, news items, a weather report, a women’s fashion segment and bedtime stories for children.
January 6: Sydney’s ‘Daily Mail’ is first published. September 2: Writer Henry Lawson dies, aged 55. He is given a state funeral and the Prime Minister W.M. Hughes says, “The nation has lost one of its foremost poets and short story writers; a man of imagination, perception and literary genius.” November 2: Qantas establishes its first regular passenger air service between Charleville and Cloncurry.