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Australian History

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February 8, 1983 – Dust storm hits Melbourne, Australia, turning day to night


The 1983 Melbourne dust storm was a meteorological phenomenon that occurred during the afternoon of 8 February 1983, throughout much of Victoria, Australia and affected the capital, Melbourne. Red soil, dust and sand from Central and Southeastern Australia was swept up in high winds and carried southeast through Victoria. The dust storm was one of the most dramatic consequences of the 1982/83 drought, at … Continue reading

January 31, 1968 – Nauru gained independence from Australia.


Nauru, officially the Republic of Nauru (Nauruan: Repubrikin Naoero) and formerly known as Pleasant Island, is an island country and microstate in Oceania, in the Central Pacific. Its nearest neighbour is Banaba Island in Kiribati, 300 km (190 mi) to the east. It further lies northwest of Tuvalu, 1,300 km (810 mi) northeast of the Solomon Islands, east-northeast of Papua New Guinea, southeast of the Federated States of Micronesia and south of the Marshall Islands. With only a 21 km2 (8.1 sq mi) … Continue reading

January 30, 1950 – Birth of Jack Newton, Australian golfer


Jack Newton OAM (born 30 January 1950) is an Australian former professional golfer. Newton was born in Cessnock, New South Wales. He was one of Australia’s most successful golfers in the 1970s and early 1980s. He turned professional in 1971 and won his first professional tournament – the Dutch Open – in 1972. Newton notched up several victories over the next … Continue reading

January 29, 2015 – Death of Colleen McCullough, Australian neuroscientist, author, and academic


Colleen Margaretta McCullough AO (married name Robinson, previously Ion-Robinson; 1 June 1937 – 29 January 2015) was an Australian author known for her novels, her most well-known being The Thorn Birds and The Ladies of Missalonghi. McCullough was born in 1937 in Wellington, in the Central West region of New South Wales, to James and Laurie McCullough.  Her father was of Irish descent and her mother was a … Continue reading

January 28, 1953 – Death of James Scullin, Australian journalist and politician, 9th Prime Minister of Australia


James Henry Scullin (18 September 1876 – 28 January 1953) was an Australian Labor Party politician and the ninth Prime Minister of Australia. Scullin led Labor to government at the 1929 election. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 transpired just two days after his swearing in, which would herald the beginning of the Great Depression in Australia. Scullin’s administration would soon be overwhelmed by … Continue reading

January 27, 1921 – Maurice Buckley, Australian soldier and winner of the Victoria Cross, dies at 29


Maurice Vincent Buckley, VC, DCM (13 April 1891 – 27 January 1921) was an Australian soldier serving under the pseudonym Gerald Sexton who was awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War. This is the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. Buckley was born at Upper Hawthorn, Melbourne, to Timothy Buckley, brickmaker, and his … Continue reading

January 26, 1808 – Rum Rebellion, the only successful armed takeover of the government in Australia


The Rum Rebellion of 1808 was a coup d’état in the then-British penal colony of New South Wales, staged by the New South Wales Corps in order to depose Governor William Bligh. Australia’s first and only military coup, it is named after early Sydney’s illicit rum trade, over which the Rum Corps, as it became known, … Continue reading

January 25, 1954 – Birth of Kay Cottee, Australian sailor


Kay Cottee AO (born 25 January 1954) is an Australian sailor, who was the first woman to perform a single-handed, non-stop and unassisted circumnavigation of the world. She performed this feat in 1988 in her 37 feet (11 m) yacht Blackmores First Lady, taking 189 days. Born Kay McLaren—the youngest of four daughters—in Sydney on 25 January 1954, Cottee grew up in … Continue reading

January 24, 1968 – The 1st Australian Task Force launches Operation Coburg against the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong


Operation Coburg (24 January − 1 March 1968) was an Australian and New Zealand military action during the Vietnam War. The operation saw heavy fighting between the 1st Australian Task Force (1 ATF) and North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong forces during the wider fighting around Long Binh and Bien Hoa. American and South Vietnamese intelligence reports had indicated that an imminent communist offensive during the Tet … Continue reading

January 23, 1942 – The Battle of Rabaul commences Japan’s invasion of Australia’s Territory of New Guinea


The Battle of Rabaul, also known by the Japanese as Operation R, was fought on the island of New Britain in the Australian Territory of New Guinea, in January and February 1942. It was a strategically significant defeat of Allied forces by Japan in the Pacific campaign of World War II, with the Japanese invasion force quickly overwhelming the small Australian garrison, the majority of which was … Continue reading

January 22, 1943 – Australian and American forces defeat Japanese army and navy units in Battle of Buna–Gona


The Battle of Buna–Gona was part of the New Guinea campaign in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. It followed the conclusion of the Kokoda Track campaign and lasted from 16 November 1942 until 22 January 1943. The battle was fought by Australian and United States forces agasinst the Japanese beachheads at Buna, Sanananda and Gona. From these, the Japanese had launched an … Continue reading

January 21, 1931 – Sir Isaac Isaacs is sworn in as the first Australian-born Governor-General of Australia


Sir Isaac Alfred Isaacs, GCB, GCMG, PC, KC (6 August 1855 – 11 February 1948) was an Australian lawyer, politician, and judge who served as the ninth Governor-General of Australia, in office from 1931 to 1936. He had previously served on the High Court of Australia from 1906 to 1931, including as Chief Justice from 1930. Isaacs was born in Melbourne and grew up in Yackandandah and Beechworth (in country Victoria). He … Continue reading

January 20, 1990 – Birth of Ray Thompson, Australian rugby league player


Ray Thompson (born 20 January 1990), also known by the nickname of “Ray-Ray“, is a former Papua New Guinea international rugby league footballer who played as a five-eighth, halfback and hooker. He was an Indigenous All Stars representative and spent his entire professional career with the North Queensland Cowboys in the National Rugby League (NRL). Born in Cairns, Queensland, Thompson is of Indigenous Australian and Papua New Guinean descent. He played his junior football for Centrals … Continue reading

January 19, 1935 – Birth of Johnny O’Keefe, Australian singer-songwriter


John Michael O’Keefe was an Australian rock and roll singer, born in Bondi Junction on January 19, 1935. His career began in the 1950s. Some of his hits include “Wild One” (1958), “Shout!” and “She’s My Baby”. In his twenty-year career, O’Keefe released over fifty singles, 50 EPs and 100 albums. O’Keefe was also a radio and television entertainer and … Continue reading

January 18, 1977 – Australia’s worst rail disaster occurs at Granville, Sydney, killing 83


The Granville rail/train disaster occurred on Tuesday 18 January 1977 at Granville, New South Wales, a western suburb of Sydney, when a crowded commuter train derailed, running into the supports of a road bridge that collapsed onto two of the train’s passenger carriages. The official enquiry found the primary cause of the crash to be poor fastening of … Continue reading

January 17, 1877 – Birth of May Gibbs, English-Australian author and illustrator


Cecilia May Gibbs MBE (17 January 1877 – 27 November 1969) was an Australian children’s author, illustrator, and cartoonist. She is best known for her gumnut babies (also known as “bush babies” or “bush fairies”), and the book Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. Gibbs was born in Sydenham, Kent, in the United Kingdom, to Herbert William Gibbs (1852 – 4 October 1940) … Continue reading

January 16, 1918 – Birth of Clem Jones, 8th Lord Mayor of Brisbane


Clem Jones AO (16 January 1918 – 15 December 2007), a surveyor by profession, was the longest serving Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Queensland, representing the Labor Party from 1961 to 1975. He was Chair of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission from 1975 to 1978. He was a successful businessman and philanthropist. Public life During Jones’ 15 years in office as the head of the Brisbane … Continue reading

January 15, 1842 – Birth of Mary MacKillop, nun and Australia’s first saint


Mary Helen MacKillop RSJ (15 January 1842 – 8 August 1909) was an Australian religious sister who has been declared a saint by the Catholic Church, as St Mary of the Cross. Of Scottish descent, she was born in Melbourne but is best known for her activities in South Australia. Together with the Reverend Julian Tenison-Woods, she founded the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart (the Josephites), … Continue reading

January 14, 1960 – Reserve Bank of Australia established


On January 14, 1960, The Reserve Bank of Australia, the country’s central bank and banknote issuing authority, was established. The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has had this role since 14 January 1960, when the Reserve Bank Act 1959 removed the central banking functions from the Commonwealth Bank. The bank has the responsibility of providing services to the Government of Australia in addition to also providing services … Continue reading

January 13, 1939 – The Black Friday bushfires burn 20,000 square kilometers of land in Australia, claiming the lives of 71 people


The Black Friday bushfires of 13 January 1939, in Victoria, Australia, were part of the devastating 1938–1939 bushfire season in Australia, which saw bushfires burning for the whole summer, and ash falling as far away as New Zealand. It was calculated that three-quarters of the State of Victoria was directly or indirectly affected by the disaster, while other Australian states and the … Continue reading

January 12, 2003 – Death of Maurice Gibb, Manx-Australian singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer


Maurice Ernest Gibb CBE (22 December 1949 – 12 January 2003) was an English musician, singer, songwriter and record producer who achieved fame as a member of the Bee Gees.  Although his elder brother Barry Gibb and fraternal twin brother Robin Gibb were the group’s main lead singers, most of their albums included at least one or two songs featuring Maurice’s lead … Continue reading

January 11, 1986 – The Gateway Bridge, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia is officially opened


The Sir Leo Hielscher Bridges are a side-by-side pair of road bridges on the Gateway Motorway (M1), which skirts the eastern suburbs of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. The western bridge carries traffic to the north and the eastern bridge carries traffic to the south. They are the most eastern crossing of the Brisbane River, the closest to Moreton Bay, crossing at the Quarries Reach, between Eagle … Continue reading

January 10, 1945 – Birth of John Fahey, New Zealand-Australian lawyer and politician, 38th Premier of New South Wales


John Joseph Fahey AC (10 January 1945 – 12 September 2020) was an Australian politician who served as Premier of New South Wales from 1992 to 1995 and as the federal Minister for Finance from 1996 to 2001. He was a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly from 1984 to 1996 and the federal House of Representatives from 1996 to 2001. Fahey also served … Continue reading

January 9, 1903 – Hallam Tennyson, 2nd Baron Tennyson, son of the poet Alfred Tennyson, becomes the second Governor-General of Australia


Hallam Tennyson, 2nd Baron Tennyson, GCMG, PC (11 August 1852 – 2 December 1928) was a British aristocrat who served as the second Governor-General of Australia, in office from 1903 to 1904. He was previously Governor of South Australia from 1899 to 1902. Tennyson was born in Twickenham, Middlesex, and educated at Marlborough College and Trinity College, Cambridge. He was the eldest son of the poet Alfred, … Continue reading

January 8, 1885 – Birth of John Curtin, Australian journalist and politician, 14th Prime Minister of Australia


John Curtin (8 January 1885 – 5 July 1945) was an Australian politician who served as the 14th Prime Minister of Australia from 1941 until his death in 1945. He led the country for the majority of World War II, including all but the last few weeks of the war in the Pacific. He was the leader of the Australian … Continue reading

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