Six Things You Didn’t Know About Australian History

After watching a few episodes of the award winning series Redfern Now I was curious about the history of the show’s country, Australia. There are many topics the show touches on, but there’s even more that I didn’t know about Australia. Missing Prime Ministers, bullet-proof men robbing banks, and many other interesting things that you probably didn’t know about Australia either. Not only did Australians invent Wi-Fi, they also have some very large and some very small claims to land that make them a fascinating country to study.

Missing Prime Minister: Where’s Harold? 

Harold Holt, didn't know about australia

Looking good, Harold!

Here’s something you didn’t know about Australia: Australia once lost their leader at sea.

Harold Holt was the Prime Minister of Australia from 1966-67, wherein he mysteriously disappeared before the end of his term. Known for his strong swimming skills he would often venture out into dangerous waters where no other swimmers would go. He was known for being more akin to swimming than to walking, and said that he felt more at home in the sea. He likely died by swimming too far out and being unable to swim back to shore. He had a bad shoulder and his doctor advised against swimming that day, but Harold had his mind made up. 

The Original “Iron Man”

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The original hipster

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Not as glamorous as Iron Man’s suit, but it worked! (mostly)

Here’s something else you didn’t know about Australia: Iron Man is Australian.

Ned Kelly was one of the last great Bushrangers of the Australian Outback. His rise to notoriety came from committing criminal acts in his teens, seemingly escaping trouble with the law at every turn. His criminal record began with a highway robbery of a Chinese immigrant. With no interpreter present for the Chinese man, the case was quickly dismissed. After escaping these charges, and many more, he teamed up with a few Bushrangers to form a band of criminals. These wild-west-like outlaws were the last of the Bushrangers before the turn of the century. Some viewed Ned and his bandits like Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to the benefit of his countrymen, while many others reviled in his notoriety. His most famous heist was that of robbing a bank, wherein he wore make-shift body armor and attempted to flee before being shot in the leg and captured. He claimed that protecting his legs made him move too slow, but I would argue that a bullet slowed him down even more.

Bow and Arrow? Never Heard of It

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Although they did not invent the bow & arrow, the woomera was just as effective

One more thing you didn’t know about Australia: no bows and arrows to be had here.

Instead of archery, they mastered the use of spear throwing. The woomera is a spear-throwing device that is equally as deadly and just as effective as the bow and arrow. Australia is the only continent to not have invented the bow and arrow, and one of the very few countries to not have it. With the woomera being so effective there was no need to improve their hunting technology, and so very few indigenous Australians progressed to the agriculture stage of society. Because they never developed agriculture, their people were hunter/gatherers throughout time. The Aboriginals thrived in the outback and were very experienced hunters, providing for their tribe with excellent hunting skills thanks to tools such as the woomera.


It’s Bigger Than You Thought

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Australia owns the largest portion of Antarctica

You didn’t know this about Australia: Australia has the most claimed land on the planet.

Australia not only owns its very own continent, it actually owns the largest swath of land in the world. Thanks to early exploration and scientific settlements and experiments, as well as close proximity to the continent, Australia is the largest land-owning country on the planet. 

Where Does Wi-Fi Come From?

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Free WiFi at the Queen Victoria Building in Australia, hosting displays of their nation’s achievements

Another thing you didn’t know about Australia: the Wi-Fi you may be currently using was first invented in Australia.

Although it was America that invented the internet, it was Australia that propagated the use of 802.11 Wi-Fi. The internet first cropped up and started in Hawaii with the ALOHA network in order to connect university scientists to share research and data with each other throughout the islands. Several years later Wi-Fi was invented by Australian rocket scientist and engineer John O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan and other scientists pioneered the use of radio waves to transmit data, using the 802.11 Wi-Fi standard. The term Wi-Fi is a play on words with the commonly known audio signal at the time, Hi-Fi.

Are We In Tasmania Or Australia?

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These two island nations share a small border on a tiny island

Now I know this is a thing you didn’t know about Australia: Australia shares a super tiny border with the island commonwealth of Tasmania.

How can it be that two islands share a border? Surely it’s a geographical mistake. Nope! One of the small islands owned by Tasmania is also shared with the nation of Australia. Although Boundary Islet is only a few acres across (4.9 acres) it is still a point of contention between the two lands. Australia and Tasmania agreed to set the border between the two on the 39th degree, 12th minute latitude and settled on sharing the space. The border was set by Captain John Black, who made an error in placing the islet further north than it actually was. It was later found that the border passed through the islet, but there was no desire to change the already established boundary.