Australia in the 1950s


CSIRO achievements


In 1950, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) released the myxomatosis virus into the Murray Valley as part of its ongoing attempt to eliminate rabbits, which had become a pest and a threat to native fauna. The myxomatosis virus was South American in origin and effectively spread with devastating consequences on rabbit populations, killing more than 90 per cent of those it encountered.

In 1953, CSIRO was also responsible for revolutionising the manufacture of woollen products by developing a process that makes woollen fabrics shrink resistant. Also in 1953, the radiophysics division of CSIRO developed the Mills Cross radio telescope, which was capable of taking radio astronomical measurements to within a range of 1 metre.

In April 1955, the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories began mass production of the poliomyelitis vaccine, and in June 1956, all state and territory governments began a free mass vaccination program. Over the next year, only 125 new cases of polio were reported compared to 4,735 over the three previous years.


A snapshot of 1958

  • January
    • The first Opera House lottery is held in NSW to raise money for its construction.

  • February
    • The Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginals (FCAA) is established and later included Torres Strait Islanders.
    • Among its leaders are Faith Bandler and Chicka Dixon, and the poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal (Kath Walker).

  • August
    • Herb Elliott sets a world record in the mile distance race (3:54.5) at Morton Stadium in Dublin, Ireland.

  • September
    • The ANZAC Day Act 1958 receives Royal Assent, making Anzac Day (25 April) a national public holiday in Australia.

  • October
    • Sir Douglas Mawson, Antarctic explorer and geologist, dies at the age of 76.

  • November
    • The first television episode of Bandstand, hosted by Brian Henderson, goes to air on TCN-9.

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