Australia in the 1980s


Summary of the decade

After the social revolution of the 1970s, the 1980s witnessed an economic revolution that proved to be equally far-reaching. There was a growing political awareness of issues affecting the environment, and support for the Indigenous rights movement.

Vietnamese immigrants began to change the demography in Australia and the effects were felt throughout society and influenced public policy.

In April 1984, Advance Australia Fair was proclaimed as Australia's national anthem and green and gold became Australia's official national colours.

In 1986, Halley's comet was visible in the night sky for the first time since 1910.

In 1983, the Ben Lexcen-designed racing yacht with a winged keel, Australia II, was the first non-US contender to win the America's Cup. During this competition, the unofficial mascot was the green-and-gold clad boxing kangaroo.

In December 1985, the Australia Act 1986 (Cth) in federal parliament removed the right of Australians to appeal to the Privy Council, eliminating Australia's last remaining direct constitutional ties to Britain.

In 1987, the New York Stock Exchange crashed and the Australian economy went into recession, causing unemployment to rise significantly. The treasurer at the time, Paul Keating, told the Australian people that it was a recession Australia 'had to have'. He had previously described the Australian economy as a 'banana republic'.

In 1987, Sally Morgan's My Place was published and considered a breakthrough memoir for bringing Indigenous experiences to a wider audience.

A snapshot of 1988

  • January
    • The first Aboriginal television station, Imparja, began transmission in Alice Springs.
    • Australia's Bicentennial celebrations began and the First Fleet re-enactment vessels arrived at Botany Bay.
    • The new Parliament House on Capital Hill in Canberra was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II.

  • June
    • Kay Cottee became the first woman to sail single-handedly and non-stop around the world.
    • The $2 coin went into circulation replacing the old $2 note.


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