Australia in the 1950s

Popular media

In June 1953, Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in Westminster Abbey was reproduced in the magazine Australian Women's Weekly, with glossy photographs that produced sales of close to 1 million copies.

In 1954, the first full-length colour feature film, The Queen in Australia, was produced by the federal Department of the Interior. It covered the Queen's inaugural tour of Australia. An estimated 70 per cent of Australia's population turned out to see the Queen on this tour.

In 1954, a documentary about life on the Birdsville Track, The Back of Beyond by John Heyer, won Australia's first ever Grand Prix Award at the Venice Film Festival.

In 1955, the last film by Charles Chauvel, Jedda, was released. It starred two Aboriginal actors, Robert Tudawali and Ngarla Kunoth, and was the first Australian colour film.

In March 1958, the first Australian Top 40 chart of popular music was released by Sydney radio station 2UE. Johnny O'Keefe and the DeeJays were the most popular group with their hit song, 'Wild One'. In 1956 Bill Haley's 'Rock around the Clock' was released and Elvis Presley's 'Heartbreak Hotel'.

In 1959, the series Six o'clock Rock, hosted by rock singer Johnny O'Keefe, was televised on Channel 2 in competition with Bandstand on Channel 9.


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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