Australian Inventions

I stumbled across a discussion today that basically accused Australia of having contributed little of significance to the world. It made me angry – angry that so much people take for granted every day was either invented or significantly contributed to in Australia or by Australians. So, I figured I’d start compiling a list. This list is in no way comprehensive, there’s plenty more where this came from.


  • Bionic (Cochlear) Implant
    Developed by Professor Graeme Clark in the late 1960s at the University of Melbourne Department of Otolaryngology. The prototype multiple-electrode Bionic Ear was implanted in the first adult at The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital by Graeme Clark and colleagues in 1978, The first device for clinical trial world-wide was implanted at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in 1982 and in 1985 the team implanted the first child with a multiple-electrode Bionic Ear. The Australian Bionic Ear has now been implanted in more than 50,000 people in more than 120 countries.
  • Penicillin
    First discovered by Sir Alexander Fleming the Scottish biologist, it was Australian Howard Florey who developed it into a form that could be used to treat infections during WWII and still in use today.
  • Begg Orthodontic Technique (Dental Braces)
    In the 1940s Percy Raymond Begg, an Adelaide orthodontist, began developing a completely new approach to moving teeth. Previous systems relied on complex contraptions including headgear that used “large mechanical forces” on the teeth. Begg’s new system used gentle forces in a more effective way. He used stainless steel wire and worked with Victorian metallurgist, Arthur Wilcock, to develop the best kind of wire for the technique.
  • Electronic Pacemaker
    Was first used at the Sydney Women’s Hospital in 1926 to revive an infant.
  • CPAP Machine
    The Continuous Positive Airways Pressure machine which delivers presurised air through a mask worn on the face while sleeping was invented by Australian Doctor Colin Sullivan in 1981 to treat Sleep Apnea, a potentially deadly medical condition that causes people to stop breathing in their sleep. CPAP is now used by millions worldwide in the treatment of Sleep Apnea.
  • Disposable syringe
    Developed in Adelaide in 1949 by Australian immigrant
    Charles Rothauser. In 1951 Rothauser produced the first syringes made of molded polypropylene, a plastic that can be heat-sterilised.
  • Microsurgery
    The Microsearch Foundation opened in 1973 in Sydney leads the world in microsurgery and has performed many pioneering operations. World firsts include; the first successful re-attachment of an amputated finger in 1968 and the development of reliable methods to restore fertility to men and women who have blockages (natural or as the result of surgery) in the tiny tubes of their reproductive systems. They were also involved in the world’s first hand transplant.
  • IVF Embryo Freezing
    While IVF itself was developed in England in the 1970s, it was a team led by Dr Carl Wood at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne that perfected the equipment and procedures for IVF ‘freeze-thaw’ in 1983.
  • Plastic Spectacle Lenses (bifocal, progressive, scratch resistant)
    In the 1950s, Sola Optical, based in Adelaide, discovered ways of casting a new thermosetting plastic resin called CR39 into an accurate shape and then how to cure the plastic to make it resistant to scratches and then went on to create the first bifocal, trifocal and progressive lenses.
  • Spray on Skin
    Spray on Skin used for burn victims was developed by Doctor Fiona Wood and has been used to great effect since the 2002 Bali terrorist bombings. Spray on Skin improves the speed of healing in severe burn victims.
  • Latex Gloves
    The first disposable medical gloves were manufactured in 1964 by the company Ansel.
  • Aspirin
    Aspro – a form of Asprin used for pain relief.


  • Black Box Flight Data Recorder
    Every commercial aircraft in the world has one installed. Australian chemist Dave Warren was helping investigate a series of Comet Jet airline crashes in 1953 when he realised the value of being able to hear cockpit conversation that took place before the crash. In 1956 Warren designed the prototype for the flight recorder.
  • Inflatable Aircraft Escape Slide
    Invented in 1965 by QANTAS employee Jack Grant and used by most major airlines worldwide.
  • Ute (Utility Vehicle,”truck”)
    In 1932 an Australian farmer wrote to Ford Australia and asked them to develop a 2-in-1 car that he could drive to church on Sunday and drive the pigs to market on Monday. Ford gave Lewis Bandt the task of coming up with the design and in 1934 both Ford and General Motors released their versions of the Utility Vehicle, a truck with a luxurious interior.
  • Baby safety capsule (safety restraint)
    Invented in 1984 and used since then to protect the lives of millions of infants. Baby safety capsules are less frequently used in other countries around the world due to lack of
    compulsory restraint laws.
  • The Tank
    Invented by South Australian named Lance de Mole in 1912 but ignored by the British War Office while they were making their own inferior version – interesting story
  • Car Radio
    In 1924 the first car radio was fitted to an Australian car built by Kellys Motors in New South Wales.

Technology & Entertainment

  • First Feature Length Film
    Based on length, the first feature film was the 70-minute film “The Story of the Kelly Gang” in 1906.
  • Eddie special effects software
    Software developed in 1991 to
    enable image dissolves, overlays, resizing, and morphing. Before Eddie, film and video animators relied on multiple programs to create the special effects they needed, a time consuming and expensive process. Eddie was used by Animal Logic in the production of the film The Matrix.
  • SmartModem
    Australian Chris Howells with two technicians made a device to interface Apple computers to an IBM Mainframe . Howells went on to create the first Macintosh modem and established the company Netcomm designing faster, smaller modems. The first SmartModem was developed in 1985.
  • Race Cam
    Invented in 1979 by Geoff Healey in Sydney, the small lightweight camera is used in sporting broadcasts to provide a different view during events like motor racing.

Household Items

  • Notebook/Notepad
    In 1902 it was Australian, J.A. Birchall who took a piece of cardboard and some glue and created the first notepad, up until that time paper had only been sold in single sheets.
  • Wine Cask
    It’s first form was developed in the mid 1960s by South Australian family winery, Angove’s and required one to manually squeeze out the air after opening the bag and then holding it closed with a special peg. Australian company Penfolds developed the idea further in 1967 into the wine cask box we know today.
  • Mechanical Refrigeration (Artificially created ice)
    James Harrison invented the first mechanical refrigeration plant, it was built at a Victorian Brewery in the late 1850s produced 3 tonnes of ice per day. Harrison first discovered the process of cooling water could be achieved while working as an editor with the cleaning chemical, ether.
  • Shepherd Castor (Steerable wheels for furniture)
    In 1946, George Shepherd redesigned existing furniture castors that made furniture difficult to move. His improved design swiveled on an angled axle and included a dustproof dome making it more attractive for high class furniture and practical in industrial environments. Shepherd’s design is used on millions of pieces of furniture worldwide.
  • Duel Flush Toilet
    During drought in many Australians adopted the technique of placing a house brick inside the cistern to reduce the amount of water used. During one of Australia’s worst droughts in 1980, with the assistance of a government grant, Caroma company’s Bruce Thompson developed a cistern with two buttons that would release different volumes of water. The new system required the toilet bowl itself to be redesigned to ensure hygienic operation with a reduced amount of water. The new design is shipped to 30 countries worldwide.
  • Staysharp Knife
    Launched in Australia in 1970, the Staysharp knife was invented by Melbourne’s Dennis Jackson after he heard that 80% of Americans didn’t know how to sharpen a knife.
  • Victa Rotary Lawn Mower
    First built in 1952 and based on a machine that was built by boat engine builder Lawrence Hall for his parents’ lawn. The Lawrence machine was crude and impractical but inspired Mervyn Victor Richardson into making a commercially viable product. Since 1952 Victa has sold over 6.5 million lawn mowers in 30 countries.
  • Electric Drill
    Invented in Melbourne in 1889 by Arthur James Arnot.
  • Biodegradable Packaging
    The Cooperative Research Centre for International Food Manufacture and Packaging Science developed new biodegradable packaging materials based on starch in the year 2000.


  • Stump Jump Plough.
  • Grain stripper.
  • Anthrax Vaccine for sheep and cattle.

More Stuff I’m researching:

  • Ballot Box – method of voting confidentially, invented in Victoria in 1956.
  • First Place in the world to give women the vote – 1894.
  • Counterfeit-proof banknotes (Plastic laminated) in 1988.
  • Hills Hoist – rotary clothesline in 1945.
  • Trousers with Permanent Crease.
  • Differential Gears.
  • Surf Life-Saving Reel.
  • Orbital Internal Combustion Engine.
  • Automatic Letter Sorting Machine.
  • Lithium as a treatment for manic depression.
  • The underwater torpedo.
  • Postage Stamps.
  • The imax theatre.
  • Solar Powered Calculator.
  • Efficient solar cells.

Links to more information

Sources: ,, Wikipedia , Tomorrow’s World, the Australian Initiative, 100 Years of Innovation,

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