- 3 September: War was declared on Germany by the Australian Prime Minister Robert Gordon Menzies.
- Forty-four hour working week became standard throughout Australia.
- Press censorship was adopted.
- Bushfires in Victoria killed seventy-one people.
- Conscription for home service was established.
- The first meeting between physicists and the Menzies Government was held.
- CSIR/O began secret radar research at the University of Sydney.
- Short-wave radio service Australia Calling (later renamed Radio Australia) began broadcasts from Sydney in English, Spanish, French and Dutch.
- Over 2,000 German 'aliens' arrived from the United Kingdom on the ship Dunera.
- Communist and Fascist parties were banned.
- Australian servicemen and women saw action in North Africa and the Middle East.
- Volunteer Defence Corps were established.
- Bass Strait was closed to shipping following the sinking of a British ship (the result of enemy mines).
- Petrol rationing began.
- The Optical Munitions Panel was established in July.
- The first optical glass was produced in Australia in December.
- Robert Gordon Menzies resigned as Prime Minister of Australia.
- The Australian Labor Party took office, led by John Curtin.
- Australian defence forces were engaged in action around the Mediterranean (primarily in North Africa, Greece, Syria and Crete).
- Sydney opthalmologist Norman Gregg discovered the connection between birth defects and the Rubella virus in pregnancy.
- Child endowment was introduced by Commonwealth Government.
- Australia declared war on Japan on 8 December.
- HMAS Sydney was sunk by the German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran off the Western Australian coast. All hands were lost (645 men).
- Australian balladist 'Banjo' Patterson died. His writings include The Man from Snowy River and Waltzing Matilda.
- The film Forty Thousand Horsemen was produced on sand dunes at Coogee (in Sydney, New South Wales) by Australian actor, writer and director Charles Chauvel.
- 7 December 1941: Japan launched her Pacific campaign by attacking Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, USA.
- John James McNeill returned to the Munitions Supply Laboratories after a fruitful period of study in England.
- Over 15,000 Australian soldiers were imprisoned by Japanese following the fall of Singapore on 15 February.
- 243 people died when Darwin was bombed by the Japanese on 19 February.
- The Battle of El Alamein, North Africa.
- The Battle of the Coral Sea.
- The Battle of the Kokoda Trail, New Guinea.
- Broome and Wyndham, in northern Western Australia, were bombed by the Japanese.
- Three midget Japanese submarines entered Sydney Harbour.
- Allied headquarters were established in Australia under the leadership of General Douglas MacArthur of the USA.
- State income tax was abolished when the Commonwealth Government took over the administration of income tax.
- The Communist Party in Australia was legalised.
- Clothes, tea and sugar rationing began.
- Daylight saving was first introduced.
- Conscription was introduced for overseas military service.
- Darwin encountered its last bombing raids (conducted by the Japanese).
- Japanese bombing occurred off the coast of Exmouth, Western Australia.
- Cooking appliances and butter rationing began.
- Australia became the first country in the world to make penicillin available
to civilians: see Howard Walter Florey.
- Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) income tax was introduced by the Commonwealth Government.
- Letters were sent on microfilm from Australia to the United Kingdom.
- The first Australian women were elected to Federal Parliament.
- William Dobell was controversially awarded the Archibald Prize,
for his painting Joshua Smith.
- Meat rationing began.
- Japanese prisoners-of-war escaped from their internee camp at Cowra, New South Wales: 234 prisoners and 4 guards were killed.
- The Liberal Party was formed by Robert Gordon Menzies out of the remnants of the former United Australia Party.
- Australia and New Zealand signed the ANZAC pact.
- Commonwealth unemployment and sickness benefits were first introduced.
- Bushfires in Victoria killed fifty-one people.
- T.H. Laby resigned as Chairman of the Optical Munitions Panel.
- John Curtin died while Prime Minister of Australia. Ben Chifley took his place as Prime Minister.
- The atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, on 6 August, and another on Nagasaki on 9 August.
- 15 August: The Second World War ended in the Pacific region with the surrender of Japan. (The war in Europe had ended previously, when Germany surrendered on 7 May.)
- Australia became a member of the United Nations.
- Howard Walter Florey became the first Australian to win the Nobel Prize (for his work on penicillin).
- Two million sheep died in a wide-spread drought.
- The National Film Board was established.
- Alcoholics Anonymous was established in Australia.
- The first Sydney-Hobart yacht race was held.
- The Optical Munitions Panel held their final meeting.
- A massive migration program (to Australia) for people from Britain and Europe began.
- Trans-Australian Airways (TAA) was established.
- Australia and Britain entered a joint venture for the testing of weapons with the establishment of the Woomera rocket range in South Australia.
- N.J.O. Makin becomes the first president of the United Nations Security
- The Australian National University was established.
- The Sydney Symphony Orchestra was established as a full-time body.
- Professor T.H. Laby died.
Source: The Concise Australian Reference Book, Golden Press in association with Daniel O'Keefe Publishing, Drummoyne, NSW, 1986.
Published by the Australian
Science Archives Project on
ASAPWeb, 30 April 1997
Comments or corrections to:
Bright Sparcs (email@example.com)
Prepared by: Denise Sutherland
and Elissa Tenkate
Updated by: Elissa Tenkate
Date modified: 19 February 1998
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