Australia in the 1950s

Technological accomplishments

In 1950, the railway systems in Tasmania and Queensland replaced steam engines with diesel locomotives. This conversion was emulated by other states and territories soon after.

In 1951, CSIRO held its first computer conference and buzzed the world's first digital music to an international audience.

In 1951, the Shell Company began to establish a new £5 million oil refinery in Geelong, which the federal government promised would meet one-quarter of Australia's petrol needs.

In September 1951, the first cargo of iron ore was shipped from Yampi Sound in the north-west of Western Australia to Port Kembla in New South Wales.

In 1952 Lang Hancock, mining entrepreneur, discovered the world's largest iron ore deposit in the Pilbara region of northern Western Australia.

In January 1958, two Qantas planes took off from Melbourne Airport to begin the first round-the-world service operating out of Australia. Travelling in opposite directions (one west, the other east) they both arrived in London and returned to Australia within six days.

In July 1959, the first jet aeroplane, a Boeing 707, was acquired by Qantas and arrived in Sydney.

The cockpit of a Boeing 707-123B


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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