Warning: This resource may contain references to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may have passed away.

Australia in the 2000s

The Black Saturday bushfires

The Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria were the result of extreme temperatures and weather conditions on 7 February 2009. The eighth-deadliest bushfire ever recorded spread across inaccessible forest, killing 173 people and injuring 414. Over 2,000 houses were destroyed and more than 500 people displaced. About 430,000 hectares was affected by the fire.

In early 2009, south-eastern Australia experienced an extreme heat wave that exacerbated a ten-year drought. Several places in Victoria recorded their hottest day since 1859 and Melbourne's 46.6 degrees Celsius was the hottest temperature ever recorded in an Australian capital city. The bushfires were caused by lightning, fallen power lines, arson, cigarette butts and sparks from power tools and other machinery.

Several large firestorms devastated the Kinglake and Marysville areas. In the early evening, a cool change arrived in the state. Winds swung and blew at 120 km/h from the south-west. This caused long flanks of fire to turn north-east and become extensive fire fronts, which took days to finally extinguish.

A house at Yarra Glen destroyed by the 2009 bushfires

A snapshot of 2008

  • January
    • The United Nations General Assembly chose 2008 to be the United Nations International Year of Planet Earth.

  • February
    • An official apology by the new prime minister, Kevin Rudd, to the Stolen Generations was made the first order of business of the new federal parliament.

  • June
    • Australia ended its combat operations in Iraq, withdrawing approximately 550 troops from the region.

  • July
    • World Youth Day (WYD), the largest youth event in the world, attracted 223,000 pilgrims to the event held in Sydney.

  • September
    • The Global Financial Crisis began having a serious effect on the Australian economy.
    • Quentin Bryce was sworn in as the first female governor-general of Australia.


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