Australia in the 1960s


The mining boom


In the 1960s, Broken Hill Proprietary Company (BHP) in partnership with Esso Standard Oil found large quantities of natural gas and oil in Bass Strait. It soon supplied 70 per cent of Australia's petroleum. Around the same time, it began mining iron ore, manganese and coal for export. Colloquially, it was termed 'the big Australian' and found international recognition.

In 1963, Aboriginal people at Yirrkala in the Northern Territory sent a petition on bark to the federal parliament protesting about mining corporation Nabalco's plans to mine bauxite on their sacred land.

In April 1964, the Moonie–Brisbane oil pipeline was opened, and Australia's first commercial oilfield came into production.

In July 1964, Western Australian Petroleum struck oil and gas on Barrow Island, northwest of Exmouth. The field was brought into production in 1967.

In September 1964, the Australian Worker's Union and lobbyist Pat Mackie led an industrial dispute against Mt Isa Mines after a disagreement on how the wealth of the field should be shared. As a result of this eight-month dispute, the mine temporarily closed and the Queensland government declared a state of emergency in the region.

In January 1966, nickel ore deposits were discovered at Kambalda, WA, by Western Mining Corporation. Shortly afterwards, the corporation began construction of an extraction plant for processing the ore.

In March 1969, natural gas was first piped from Moonie to Brisbane, the first city in Australia to receive a supply of natural gas.


A snapshot of 1968

  • January
    • Senator John Gorton becomes prime minister after the disappearance of Harold Holt, presumed drowned off Portsea, Victoria.
    • The Tet Offensive is launched during the Vietnam War. North Vietnamese troops attempt to take significant South Vietnamese strongholds in the one offensive action.

  • February
    • The Draft Resistance Movement is formed. They declare that the group not only opposes conscription, but intends to destroy it.
    • WC Wentworth is appointed the first minister for Aboriginal Affairs, although he has no department under his control.

  • May
    • A mineral investment boom begins on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX).
    • The Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi visits Australia.

  • December
    • The breathalyser test for drink-driving is introduced in NSW.

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