Australia in the 1950s


In July 1950, the ballet Corroboree was performed for the first time by the National Theatre Ballet. The music score was written by John Antill, and was inspired by Antill's visits to Aboriginal communities at La Perouse in Sydney. The choreography was influenced by observations of people from Arnhem Land. Corroboree later became the first full-length ballet representing Indigenous cultural knowledge and movements to be performed to a national audience.

In 1950, Neville Shute's novel A Town like Alice was published in London and became an instant bestseller.

In November 1955, Ray Lawler's play The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll was first performed in Melbourne. Highly successful, it would go on to become the first Australian play to tour overseas.

In December 1955, the character Edna Everage (performed by Barry Humphries) made her first stage appearance at a Christmas revue in Melbourne. Edna welcomed ticket holders to the Melbourne Olympics and appeared on the first television broadcasts in 1956.

In 1956, Australia hosted its first Olympic Games in Melbourne.

In 1957, the Danish architect, Jørn Utzon (1918–2008), won an international competition for the design of the Sydney Opera House.

In 1959, Australia's population reached 10 million.

Sydney Opera House

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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