Australia in the 1980s

Environment concerns

In 1981, the Cairns and Cormorant Pass sections of the Great Barrier Reef were proclaimed a National Marine Park. At this time, the crown-of-thorns starfish was destroying large areas of the reef, forcing the government to fund numerous measures to destroy the invader. In 1987, the Great Barrier Reef was accorded protection status.

The cane toad pest continued to spread southwards. By 1982, it had reached Coffs Harbour, New South Wales and the Queensland–Northern Territory border.

In a Tasmanian referendum about damming the Franklin River, 44.89 per cent of people voted 'No dams' or informal. In 1982, conservationists blockaded work on the Gordon River Dam. After coming to power, the Hawke federal government passed legislation to make the Franklin River area a World Heritage listed site, blocking construction of the dam. The Tasmanian government appealed the legislation in the High Court, but a narrow four to three majority overturned the appeal.

In 1985, Uluru (Ayres Rock) was handed back to the traditional owners, the Anangu, who then leased it to the National Parks and Wildlife Service for 99 years. In 1989, Katherine Gorge was handed back to its traditional owners, the Jowoyn people, who leased it to the Northern Territory government.

A snapshot of 1988

  • January
    • The first Aboriginal television station, Imparja, began transmission in Alice Springs.
    • Australia's Bicentennial celebrations began and the First Fleet re-enactment vessels arrived at Botany Bay.
    • The new Parliament House on Capital Hill in Canberra was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II.

  • June
    • Kay Cottee became the first woman to sail single-handedly and non-stop around the world.
    • The $2 coin went into circulation replacing the old $2 note.


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