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

Australia in the 1930s


In 1932, 16-year-old Clare Dennis won three gold medals in swimming for Australia at the Los Angeles Olympic Games.

On 5 April 1932, Phar Lap, winner of the 1930 Melbourne Cup, died in the USA after winning the Agua Caliente Handicap in Mexico. Many Australians at the time believed that the horse had been poisoned.

That summer Douglas Jardine captained the touring English cricket team and won back the Ashes in controversial circumstances. He employed 'bodyline' bowling tactics in an attempt to curb the effect of Don Bradman, Australia's greatest batsman.

In 1934, the first Australian women's cricket match against England took place.

The 1938 Melbourne Cup was won by Catalogue, who was trained by Mrs Allan McDonald. At the time women were not allowed to compete and as such her husband's name was officially recorded as the winning trainer. She also won the Caulfield Cup, and therefore won the Cups Double.

Phar Lap winning the Melbourne Cup from Second Wind and Shadow King on 5 November 1930

A snapshot of 1938

  • January
    • The first national conference of Indigenous Australians was held at the Australian Hall, Sydney, to mark a 'Day of Mourning' and protest during the 150th Australia Day anniversary of colonial settlement. The conference was initiated by William Cooper, founder of the Australian Aborigines League (AAL), and The Aborigines Progressive Association (APA), led by William Ferguson, and Jack Patten. Participants called for Aboriginal land and citizenship rights.

  • March
    • Xavier Herbert won the Commonwealth sesquicentennial (150 years) literary prize for his novel Capricornia.
    • Daisy Bates (1863-1951), a social worker in Aboriginal communities and an anthropologist, published her book The Passing of the Aborigines.
    • Many of Bates's views and stories were sensationalist and incorrect, and many Aboriginal people indicated ambivalence about her and her work.

  • July
    • All exports of iron ore from Australia to Japan were suspended as Japan was seen as militaristic.

  • December
    • The federal government announced that refugees from (Nazi) Germany were to be relocated in Australia.
    • A direct radio–telephone link was set up between Canberra and Washington as a sign of closer US–Australian government cooperation.
    • Albert Namatjira, an Indigenous artist, held his first exhibition of paintings in Melbourne. All 41 pieces sold within three days of the opening.


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