Documenting Democracy
Australia's Story
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Timeline 1952–2001
1952    Queen Elizabeth II ascends to the throne

United Kingdom tests atomic bomb at Monte Bello Island, off Western Australia
1953    Royal Style and Titles Act 1953 (Cth)
A new Queen is monarch 'Of the United Kingdom, Australia and Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith'

Flags Act 1953 (Cth)
Who made our flag official – Queen Elizabeth II, or her great-grandfather?

United Kingdom tests atomic bomb at Emu Field, north-western South Australia
1954    First Royal Tour of Australia by reigning monarch when Queen Elizabeth II visits Australia

Royal Commission on Espionage after defection of Soviet diplomats Vladimir and Evdokia Petrov

Soviet Union breaks off diplomatic relations with Australia

Base established at Mawson by Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition (ANARE)
1955    Cocos (Keeling) Islands becomes Commonwealth territory
1956    High Court decision in Boilermakers Case replaces Court of Conciliation and Arbitration with Conciliation and Arbitration Commission

British atomic tests begin on Aboriginal lands after a new site chosen at Maralinga in South Australia
1957    National Capital Development Commission Act (Cth)
To complete the capital
1958    Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean transferred to Australian administration

Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines founded (later FCAATSI)
1959    Australian population reaches nine million

Australia signs Antarctic Treaty promoting international cooperation in scientific research
1962    Federal voting rights extended to adult Aboriginal people

Indonesia annexes western New Guinea and names it Irian Jaya
1963    Yirrkala bark petitions 1963 (Cth)
Two traditions of law meet for the first time in Canberra
1964    National Service resumes – young men selected by birthdate lottery

Commonwealth grants to non-government schools introduces 'State aid'
1965    Australia sends troops to Vietnam to support US forces
1966    Aboriginal Lands Trust Act 1966 (SA)
South Australian Aboriginal land in trust

Immigration laws changed to allow entry of non-Europeans – end of the 'White Australia' policy

Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies resigns after record term of sixteen years

Gurindji people protest at Wattie Creek Northern Territory
1967    Referendum to alter Section 51.xxvi and repeal Section 127 of the Australian Constitution successful. This amendment enables the Commonwealth government to make laws for Aboriginal people and to count them in the Census

Plebiscite in northern New South Wales for new State of New England defeated
1968    Twelve-mile fishing limit around Australia, Nauru, Papua and New Guinea established

Commonwealth grants independence to Nauru

Right of appeal to Privy Council from High Court ended
1969    Arbitration Commission handed down decision to progressively implement equal pay for women
1970    Aboriginal Lands Act 1970 (Vic)
The fight for Ramahyuck

Moratorium Day demonstrations against Australia's participation in Vietnam War
1971    Aboriginal people included in the Census for the first time; Australia's population 12.8 million

Senator Neville Bonner first Aboriginal member of any Australian parliament

Gove Land Rights Case decided
1972    Withdrawal of Australian troops from Vietnam

Gough Whitlam Prime Minister in first Labor Party Federal Government for 23 years

Aboriginal people establish 'tent embassy' in Canberra
1973    Seas and Submerged Lands Act 1973 (Cth)
Setting submarine boundaries

Amendment to Nationality and Citizenship Act means Australians are no longer British subjects

Royal Style and Titles Act 1973 (Cth)
A souvenir of the first Royal Tour of the Queen of Australia

Senate (Representation of Territories) Act 1973 (Cth)
Two Senators apiece
1974    The Northern Territory's first fully elected Legislative Assembly meets

Cyclone Tracy devastates Darwin

Australian Capital Territory Representation (House Of Representatives) Act 1974 (Cth)
A second Member for the ACT

A fully elected 18-seat ACT Legislative Assembly established
1975    Australia grants independence to Papua New Guinea

Commonwealth Government introduces Medibank, first national health insurance scheme

Parliament increased from 183 to 189 so the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory have two Senators and one Member each in the House of Representatives

Governor-General Sir John Kerr dismisses Whitlam Government; and appoints Malcolm Fraser Prime Minister

High Court rules that Federal government has sovereign rights over Australia's territorial seas and continental shelf

Race Discrimination Act (Cth)

Gurindji people win title to part of their traditional lands at Wattie Creek Northern Territory
1976    Aboriginal Land Rights Northern Territory Act 1976 (Cth)
From Amoonguna to Yuendumu

Sir Douglas Nicholls becomes first Aboriginal State Governor (South Australia)
1977    Referendum to replace Section 15 and alter Section 72 and Section 128 of the Australian Constitution successful on all three questions
1978    Acts Amendment Constitution Act 1978 (WA)
The people's constitution – Western Australia's referendum power

Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act 1978 (Cth)
Northern citizenship

Local Government Act 1978 (NT)
Community government

ACT voters say ‘No’ to self-government
1979    Australian Federal Police formed, combining the Commonwealth Police, the Australian Capital Territory police, and the Federal Narcotics Bureau
1980    Coastal Waters (State Powers) Act 1980 (Cth)
Adjusting the Federation under the seas

New High Court building in Canberra opened by Queen Elizabeth II
1981    Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Act 1981 (SA)
Pitjantjatjara lands returned
1982    Torres Strait Islanders, led by Eddie Mabo, seek legal recognition of ownership of their traditional lands
1983    High Court upholds Commonwealth authority in Franklin Dam Case

Sex Discrimination Act (Cth) passed

Maralinga Tjatjura Act (Cth) returns to Aboriginal people land resumed in 1953 for atomic weapons testing
1984    Advance Australia Fair becomes national anthem
1985    Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (Land Holding) Act 1985 (Qld)
Queensland's trust – the DOGIT

Aboriginal people gain title to Uluru and Kata Tjuta area; becomes national park
1986    All the States, and Britain, pass Australia Acts to come into operation simultaneously with Commonwealth legislation

Australia Act 1986 (Cth)
Alone at last – old constitutional ties undone

Mary Gaudron QC first woman appointed to the High Court
1988    New Commonwealth Parliament House opened by Queen Elizabeth II

Celebrations held for the Bicentenary of the founding of New South Wales, the first British Colony in Australia

ACT (Self-Government) Act 1988 (Cth)
Creating a new body politic
1989    Self-government established in Australian Capital Territory
1992    Mabo v Queensland No. 2 1992 (Cth)
A glimpse into the longest document shaping the Commonwealth's first century

ACT Supreme Court Transfer Act 1992 (Cth)
Deeming a transfer
1993    Native Title Act (Cth) passed
1994    ACT Proportional Representation (Hare-Clark) Entrenchment Act 1994 (ACT)
Making a solid electoral system
1995    Aboriginal Lands Act 1995 (Tas)
Reconciliation at last?
1996    High Court determines Wik Case

The Governor-General, Sir William Deane, proclaims 3 September as Australian National Flag Day
1998    Constitutional Convention in Canberra recommends Australia become a republic

Australia's population is 18.7 million
1999    'No' vote wins in referendum on Australian Republic; Australia remains a constitutional monarchy
2001    Centenary of Federation

Anglican Archbishop Dr Peter Hollingworth becomes the first minister of religion appointed as Australia’s Governor-General

On 11 September 2001, Terrorist airplanes destroy the World Trade Centre in New York and damage the Pentagon in Washington. The following month US forces in a coalition including Australia launch a 'war on terrorism' with an attack on Afghanistan, targetting Taliban forces and Al-Qaeda terrorist groups.

60,000 BC to 1836  |  1837 to 1899 |  1900 to 1926 |  1927 to 1951 |  1952 to 2001 |  2002 onwards