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60 Great Australian Inventions

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by Gayle Beveridge-Marien (subscribe)
Gayle Beveridge is a past winner of the Boroondara Literary Awards and her work has appeared in Award Winning Australian Writing. Gayle is passionate about family, writing, photography, and with Victoria’s beautiful Bass Coast which she now calls home.
Published January 6th 2016
Aussies are a Clever Lot
60 Great Australian Inventions
We Aussies are a bright lot, there's no denying it but many of us would be surprised at the list of Australian inventions and how much they impact our everyday lives. Are you thinking about the Hills Hoist, the world's first rotary clothes line? Maybe you remember swinging on one as a child. Then there's Vegemite. Yum, Vegemite and butter squeezed through the holes of a Salada biscuit. But enough reminiscing, here are just 60 of our fantastic Aussie inventions. How many did you know? Can you add to the list?

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Aussie Inventions in Everyday Life (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)


1. Wave Piercing Catamaran: In 1983 Incat of Tasmania built an 8.7m prototype of a wave piercing catamaran called Little Devil. It was the world's first high speed stable catamaran.

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The Bencomo Express an Incat Catamaran Operating int he Canary Islands (Photo by By Sir James (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

2. Full Length Feature Film: The Story of the Kelly Gang, which ran for just over an hour screened at the Athenaeum Hall in 1906 was the world's first feature length film.

3. Wine Casks: The wine cask was invented in 1965 by Thomas Angove. Described in the patent application as 'improved container and pack' for liquids, the 1 gallon polyethelene bladder in a corrugated cardboard box did not have the tap we enjoy today but was cut open and resealed with a peg.

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The Modern Day WIne Cask with Tap (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)

4. Aussie Rules Football: Developed as a winter sport for cricketers an experimental match of Aussie Rules Football was played at Richmond Paddock (Yarra Park) in 1858 and the Melbourne Football Club was formed.

5. Surf Ski: When he was only a 15 year old lad in 1912, inspired by porpoises, Harry McLaren designed the surf ski to ride the waves at Pelican Island near the mouth of the Hastings River.

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Surf Ski Competition at Noosa Beach 1952 (Photo in the Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)


6. Black Box Flight Recorder: David Warren, an aeronautical research scientist, invented the black box flight recorder, which is actually orange, in 1958. David was involved in aircraft crash investigations in the 1950's and saw the need for a recording device.

7. Inflatable Escape Slide: In just one of many QANTAS firsts, in 1965, Jack Grant invented an inflatable escape slide that doubles as a life raft. The lifesaving escape slides are packed in aircraft doors.

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An Inflatable escape Slide Installed in the Door of a QANTAS 747 and the Black Boxes in the Rear of the Aircraft (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)

8. Surf Lifesaving Reel: Bondi Beach isn't just famous for sea and sand. It was there in 1906 that surfer Lester Ormsby demonstrated his invention, a surf lifesaving reel. The reels were used until 1970 when they were replaced by rescue tubes.

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Surf Lifesaving Reel (Photo by Australian War Memorial collection (No restrictions), via Wikimedia Commons)

9. Baby Safety Capsule: Travel became a whole lot safer for babies in 1984 when the baby safety capsule was invented by Colin Nagel and Robert Heath.


10. Ultrasound Scanner: An Ultrasonic Research Group was set up in the late 1950's following concerns about the effect of X-rays on pregnant women. In 1961 David Robinson and George Kossoff built the world's first commercially practical scanner.

11. Cochlear Implant: Often referred to as the bionic ear, the cochlear implant which replaces the work of the damaged inner ear, was invented by Professor Graeme Clark at the University of Melbourne.

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Cochlear Implant (Image by By BruceBlaus.2014 Wikiversity Journal of Medicine (Own work) CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

12. Zinc Cream: Before the suntan lotions we know today there was Zinc Cream, a thick white cream made from zinc oxide that folks, especially cricketers smeared across their noses. The cream was developed in 1940 by the Faulding Pharmaceutical Company.

13. Plastic Spectacle Lenses: In 1960 glasses wearers could thank the Scientific Optical Laboratories in Adelaide for plastic spectacle lenses which are 60% lighter than their glass counterparts.

14. CPAP Masks: CPAP machines, a common treatment for sleep apnoea today were invented by Dr. Colin Sullivan in 1980. By 2014 more than a million people were using in-home CPAP systems.

15 Technegas: Technegas is a radioactively labelled inhalant used in nuclear medicine to detect life threatening pulmonary embolisms. It was invented by Dr. Richard Fawdrey and Dr. Bill Burch in 1985.

16. Multifocal Contact Lenses: Queensland's optical scientist Stephen Newman invented multifocal contact lenses in 1992.

17. Electronic Cardiac Pacemaker: Although the implantable heart pacemaker was not invented until 1960 it was in 1928 that Australian Dr Mark Lidwill with physicist Edgar Booth developed the first portable pacemaker which was used to revive a stillborn infant.

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A Cardiac Pacemaker (Photo by By Steven Fruitsmaak CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

18. Spray on Skin: Professor Fiona Wood, a burns specialist at Royal Perth Hospital, along with scientist Marie stoner invented spray on skin in 1993. They were awarded the Clunies Ross Award for their contribution to medical science.

19. Anti-flu Medication: In 1918-1919 an influenza pandemic killed between 20 and 40 million people. In 1996 Monash University and the CSIRO developed Relenza, the first drug to effectively combat the flu.

20. Cervical Cancer Vaccine: In 2006 Professor Ian Frazer developed the first vaccine to prevent a cancer. The vaccine marketed as Gardasil and Cervarix, prevents cervical cancer.

Sports and Cars

21. Ute: The ubiquitous ute was designed in 1934 by Lewis Bandt at Ford in Geelong, the ideal vehicle for the farmer or tradesman.

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1934 Ford Coupe Utility at the National Motor Museum in Birdwood (Photo by By GTHO (Own work) Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

22. Racecam: Network Seven engineer Geoff Healey developed Racecam in 1979. The car mounted camera had its debut at the Bathurst 1000.

23. Polocrosse: Aussie Rules Football isn't the only sport invented in Australia. In 1938, Mr and Mrs Hirst combined the sports of polo and lacrosse to create polocrosse.

24. Super Sopper: Gordon Withnall invented the Super Sopper, a giant sponge for removing excess water from sporting grounds, after his golf ball landed in a puddle on the course in 1974.

25. Winged Keel: There could be no more infamous an invention than Ben Lexcen's winged keel which debuted on the yacht Australia II in the 1983 race for the America's Cup and was kept secret until America's 132 year hold on the cup was broken.

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Australia II winged keel at the WA Maritime Museum (Photo by By kenhodge13 CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

26. Variable Rack and Pinion Steering: Steering our cars became safer and more precise in 1971 when Arthur Bishop invented the variable ratio rack and pinion steering system.

27. Orbital Engine: Ralph Sarich invented the orbital engine. in 1972 and won inventor of the year on the ABC TV's New Inventors. Unable to provide any real competition to the internal combustion engine, the orbital engine found its place as a smaller, cheaper more efficient two-stroke engine.


28. Vegemite: Vegemite first appeared on Australian grocery shelves in 1923. It was invented by Dr. Cyril P Callister, a leading food technologist of the time, as an Aussie alternative to Marmite.

29. Coolgardie Safe: nvented in Coolgardie on the Western Australian Goldfields in the 1890's by Arthur McCormick, the Coolgardie Safe is a wooden or wire mesh box draped in damp hessian. Food is preserved by keeping it cool using water evaporation.

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A Coolgardie safe missing its hessian cover at Historic House Museum in Charleville (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)

30. Refridgerator: In 1855, James Harrison, founder of the Geelong Advertiser newspaper (1840), was granted a patent for an ether vapour-compression refrigeration system. James won a medal in 1873 for proving he could keep meat frozen and edible for months.

31. Hills Hoist: Motor mechanic, Lance Hill, invented the Hills Hoist in 1945 is South Australia. The now iconic rotary clothes line is listed as a National Treasure by the National Library of Australia and featured in the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000.

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The Modern Day Backyard Hills Hoist (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)

32. Staysharp Knife: Wiltshire Cutlery in Melbourne, in response to an American survey showing 80% of people did not know how to sharpen a knife, set their engineer Dennis Jackson to work and the self-sharpening Staysharp Knife was designed and test marketed in Perth in 1969.

33. Power Board: The power board was invented in 1972 by Kambrook. Despite its success it was a sad story for Kambrook who neglected to patent their invention, potentially missing out on millions of dollars in royalties.

34. Splayd: A Splayd, the all-purpose piece of cutlery that combines a spoon, fork and knife in one was invented in Sydney by William McArthur in the 1940's.

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Splayds, a Combination Spoon, Fork and Knife (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)

35. Dual Flush Toilet: What would a dinky di Aussie article be without the mention of a dunny? The water saving dual flush toilet was invented by Caroma in 1981.

36. Victa Lawn Mower: How happy must the Aussie bloke have been when he could retire his push mower to the back of the shed and stroll around his lawns behind the roar of a Victa Lawn Mower. Invented by Mervyn Victor Richardson in 1952, more than 8 million Victa mowers have been sold around the world by 2011.

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An early Victa mower. (Photo by By NJM2010 (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

37. Efficient Solar Hot Water: Solar power is a hot topic these days so you may be surprised to learn it was in 1953 that Roger Morse working with the CSIRO invented a solar hot water system that was 20% more efficient than those currently in use.

Business and Technology

38. Polymer Bank Notes: Another CSIRO triumph was the invention in 1988 of the polymer (plastic) bank note which made our currency hard to counterfeit and prolonged its useful life, so saving money in the production of money.

39. Wi-Fi: The true breakthrough for Wi-Fi was the development in 1992 of the wireless LAN (Local area Network) by a CSIRO team of radio astronomers.

40. Notebook – the Paper Pad not the Computer: In 1902 J.A. Bircall, a Launceston stationer invented the humble cardboard backed, top glued notepad. Birchalls, recognised as Australia's oldest bookshop, having opened for business in November of 1844 still exists today.

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The Humble Notepad Invented in Tasmania in 1902. (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)

41. Product Activation: Those incredibly long alpha numeric codes you input to activate your latest software purchase are the work of Ric Richardson who invented product activation in 1992.

42. Anti-Hacking Software Kernel: In 2011 an operating system kernel that could distinguish between trusted and untrusted software was developed by NICTA to prevent hackers from accessing computer systems.

43. Qantum Bit: A team of Australian scientists developed the world's first quantum bit or qubit in 2012. A qubit can exist in both the 0 and 1 binary states at once. One of the team members Andrew Zurack announced in October of 2015 that scientists have developed a logic gate, moving one step closer to a reality with quantum computers.

44. Google Maps: In 2003 Lars and Jens Rasmussen through their Sydney company, Where 2 Technologies developed software that was acquired by Google to become Google Maps.

Industry and Aeronautics

45. Froth Flotation: Froth flotation, developed in 1903 by Charles Potter and Guillame Delprat working for mining company BHP has been credited with being the most important operation for the recovery and upgrading of sulphide ores.

46. Scramjet: The first successful test flight of a scramjet was carried out at the Woomera rocket range in 2002 by the University of Queensland's Hyshot research project team. The team were testing the possibility of supersonic combustion.

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Terrier Terrie Oriole - HiFire-2 Scramjet Experiment in the USA (Photo by By U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

47. Humespun Pipe Making Process: Pipe manufacture was revolutionised in 1910 when Walter Hume devised a way of using centrifugal force to evenly distribute concrete onto wire reinforcing which squeezed out the water making high strength, dense, waterproof and lightweight pipes.

48. The Kangaroo Crane: The Kangaroo or self-constructing tower crane was invented in the 1960's. A frame lifts the tower hydraulically, it jumps up, so another section can be inserted in. Kangaroo cranes were used to build the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

49. Robotic Visual Horizon: What has a bee's brain got to do with unmanned aircraft? In 2010, by imitating the way a honey bee sees, Queensland scientists developed a robotic visual horizon that enables an autopilot to guide an aircraft through complex aerobatic manoeuvres.

50. Electric Drill: Can you guess when the electric drill was invented? I'll bet you weren't thinking 1889, but that is when Arthur Arnot of the Union Electric Company of Melbourne patented the world's first electric drill which he designed to drill rock and dig for coal.


51. Stump Jump Plough: The damage a stump can do to the undercarriage of a ute is no secret so imagine its effect on a plough. The problem was solved in 1876 when Richard and Clarence Bowyer Smith invented the stump jump plough.

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A Memorial to the Invention of the Stump Jump Plough (Photo by By Mattinbgn (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

52. Dethridge Irrigation Wheel: The Dethridge Wheel which measures flow from irrigation supply channels into farm channels was invented in 1910 by the then Commissioner of the Victorian State Rivers and Water Supply Commission, John Dethridge.

53. Self-propelled Rotary Hoe: The self-propelled rotary hoe pulls itself forward while it hoes the ground. It sounds robotic but it was invented back in 1912 by 16 year old Cliff Howard. Called rotavators, these are still used today.

54. Mechanical Shearing Clippers: In a time when up to 50,000 sheep might be sheared on one station many a shearer must have sighed in relief in 1877 when Frederick Wolseley invented mechanical shearing clippers.

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Mechanical Shearing Clippers were Patented in 1877 (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)

55. Grain Stripper: The grain stripper, invented by John Ridley in 1843, is a harvester that stripped grain from their stalks, threshed them to separate the grain from the ears.

56. Buffalo Fly Trap: Buffalo are a blood-sucking parasite that plague cattle. In 1991 the CSIRO developed the buffalo fly trap to combat the problem. Cows walk through a brush lined tented tunnel, the flies are brushed off, become trapped, are dried out by the heat and fall to the ground where they are eaten by ants.

Defence and Policing

57. Polilight Forensic Lamp: The Polilight is a forensic tool invented by Ron Warrender and Milutin Stoilovic at the Australian National University in 1989. It shows fingerprints up against a background.

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The Polilight Shows up Fingerprints Against a Background Surface (Photo by By Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony (USAF) Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

58. Tank – The War Vehicle not the Water Container: The tank was invented in 1912 by Australian engineer Lance de Mole and although it received little interest on first submissions but was put into use during the First World War.

59. Jindalee Radar System: SIRO scientists developed the Jindalee Radar System in 1995 to detect stealth aircraft through monitoring sea and air movements.

60. Blast Glass: Blast Glass is the superman of bullet proof glass. Invented by Peter Stephinson in 2003, the glass, built to withstand an explosion was successfully tested in Woomera against a 5 tonne bomb.
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Your Comment
Ingenious article Gayle!
by Jenny Pickett (score: 3|1753) 2718 days ago
Fascinating list of achievements. Did Austrailia actually invent/discover yeast extract or is it just the Vegemite brand that you invented?
by Bastion Harrison (score: 4|12643) 2718 days ago
Fantastic article! I have shared it on my Facebook :)
by Joy (score: 3|1945) 2714 days ago
Wow ... what a list!