Queen Elizabeth II became queen on 6 February 1952—70 years ago. Her death marks the end of an era, especially for a great number of Australians who have known no other monarch. A lot has happened since she became the Queen and a lot has changed since her first visit Down Under in 1954.
This is by no means a complete history of Australia of the past 70 years, but we think they’re some pretty important and momentous occasions. If you think we’ve missed an important date or event, let us know.
Queen Elizabeth II visits Australia for the first time.
By population standards, Australia was a much smaller country in 1954 than it is today. According to the 1964 Census, our population was just 8,986,530. However, as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese noted, “some 7 million Australians — or 70 per cent of our population at the time — turned out to catch a glimpse of the young Queen passing by.”
It “was the biggest single event ever organised in Australia and it remains a defining moment in our nation’s history”.
Australia’s population is expected to reach 27.10 Million by the end of 2022.
The 16th Summer Olympics is held in Melbourne from 22 November – 8 December.
Television also reached Australia just a couple of months before this.
Commonwealth Electoral Act.
Provided all Indigenous Australians the right to enrol and vote at federal elections.
February – Australia converts to a decimal currency and the Australian dollar enters circulation.
March – the White Australia Policy ends and changes to our immigration policy meant that people wanting to enter Australia were selected based on what they offered the country rather than their race or nationality. However, the policy wasn’t completely eliminated until 1975.
January – Aboriginal Tent Embassy was first set up on 26 January protesting the McMahon government’s approach to Indigenous land rights.
The National Gallery of Australia purchases Jackson Pollock’s ‘Blue Poles’ for $1.3 million dollars—the most ever paid for an American painting at the time.
Australia stops singing (for a couple of years) God Save The Queen and begins to sing Advance Australia Fair. It wasn’t until 1984, though, that Advance Australia Fair became the Australian National Anthem. In 2021, the words of the second line of the Australian National Anthem were amended from ‘For we are young and free’ to ‘For we are one and free’.
December – Australian women are granted equal pay for equal work.
June – First gay Mardi Gras march is held
February – Medicare is established and basic health care is afforded to all Australians.
The Australia Act – The UK government can no longer pass law for Australia and the High Court of Australia is the final court of appeal in the country.
Mabo Decision – the High Court rules that indigenous native title does exist and renders the concept of terra nullius as legal fiction.
January – The CSIRO patents technology that enables the development of stable wi-fi, allowing for large quantities of data to be transmitted.
April – The Port Arthur Massacre, where 35 people were killed, lead to the tightening of Australia’s gun control laws.
January – A Motion of Reconciliation was passed by both houses of federal parliament which recognised and regretted the past mistreatment of Indigenous Australians. It wouldn’t be until 2008 that a formal apology would be given.
November – A referendum on changing to a republic fails, with 55% voting to retain the status quo.
January – One of the biggest demonstrations of public support took place in January with The Bridge Walk for Reconciliation and other events around the country. These called for meaningful reconciliation between Australia’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
September – The 27th Summer Olympic Games are held in Sydney.
The Federation of Australia celebrates its centenary.
Steve Irwin dies.
Australia’s first female governor-general, Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC, swore in the 27th and first female prime minister, Ms Julia Gillard. This is the first time that two women have held the two highest positions in the nation.
The Bureau of Meteorology adds a new colour to take its temperature scale up to 54°C.
The High Court recognises same-sex marriage.
After 30 years of trying, the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape becomes the first site in Australia to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List purely for its Aboriginal cultural significance.
That thing that took over the world happened.