Australia in the 1940s


Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme


In July 1949, the federal government announced plans for the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme, which was a very large engineering project in the Great Dividing Range of New South Wales. The scheme diverted the headwaters of the Snowy River through a series of tunnels and dams to generate electricity for NSW, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory. It also released water for irrigation purposes.

Australia's most sophisticated engineering feat began construction in October 1949 and employed thousands of European immigrants who were resettled in Australia after the Second World War.

Talbingo Dam, part of the Snowy Mountains Scheme


A snapshot of 1948

  • January
    • Employees working under the Federal Award System begin working a 40-hour week.

  • May
    • The Housing Commission in Melbourne holds its first ballot to allocate new homes for families of returned servicemen.

  • June
    • The federal government ends the rationing of meat and clothing.

  • August
    • The federal government's legislation to nationalise private banks is declared invalid by the High Court.

  • October
    • The first Australian Holden motor car comes off the assembly line and becomes a symbol of Australian prosperity.

  • December
    • Dr Herbert Vere Evatt (1894–1965), former minister for external affairs and attorney-general, is elected president of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

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