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

Australia in the 1930s


On 30 April 1930, Australia and Britain were linked by a radio telephone service for the first time. Ramsay MacDonald, Britain's prime minister, made the first phone call to Australia's prime minister, James Scullin. In the same year, a telephone trunk line was established between Adelaide and Perth.

On 1 July 1932, the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) was established by the federal government to transmit radio programs nationwide. It was funded by broadcasting licence fees rather than advertising.

The ABC established 12 stations across Australia with a combined staff of 256. By the end of 1936 it had permanent symphony orchestras in all six state capitals, which entertained listeners with annual concerts.

Australian Broadcasting Commission building in Perth, 1937

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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