Australia Day: Inventions you didn’t know you had Oz to thank for

Australia Day: Inventions you didn't know you had Oz to thank for

It’s time to thank the many Australian inventors who have quite literally changed our world… here’s a list of the top 14 essential gizmos and gadgets that can trace their roots Down Under (and which without – our day-to-day lives would be very different).

The Electric Drill

Hailing from Scotland (but an honourary Aussie), Arthur James Arnot touched down on the sun-kissed soil of Australia in 1889. He came to build a power plant for the Union Electric company in Melbourne, but fate had other ideas, and he created one of the most useful tools that is still used universally today.

The drill designed by Arnot wouldn’t exactly fit in your toolbox today as it was designed to drill rock and coal so was rather cumbersome. Yet, within six years, a miniature version was on the market.
And the rest, as they say, is history.


Sullivan had his eyes to the skies in 1977. His work as an electrical engineer led him to investigate how a tool called a Fourier Transform, which breaks waveforms down, could be applied to radio astronomy.

His discoveries turned out to have a much wider application. They formed the core technology, patented in 1996, which made wireless LAN fast and reliable.

And today there’s just the small matter of 8 billion devices using Wi-Fi across the globe, with more than $420 million having been banked thanks to the patent held by the national science agency, CSIRO.

Plastic Banknotes

Way back in 1968 the increasing number of forged and counterfeit bank notes led to a skilled team of individuals being appointed to develop an alternative to paper banknotes: polymer banknotes.

These notes incorporate many security features not available with paper banknotes and last significantly longer.

It took twenty years until the world’s first ever plastic banknote was released into circulation in Australia during 1988.

Worldwide now you will find some three billion polymer notes in service in 22 countries, including right here in the UK.

Google Maps

Australians Noel Gordon and Stephen Ma co-founded a mapping-related startup in 2003. It wasn’t long before their invention, quite literally, placed Australia on the map.

Google bought the company in 2004 and, using the Where 2 Technologies software, created Google Maps, which is now used all over the world. In fact, it has almost replaced the paper map entirely in some countries.

There are 4,632,704 live websites that currently integrate Google Maps, and who knows how many of us have reached our intended destination thanks to it?

There’s more!

Here are some other notable inventions we have Australia and Australians to thank for.

  • Pharmacologist and pathologist Howard Florey shared a Nobel Prize in 1945 for his work extracting penicillin
  • David Ronald de Mey Warren invented the ‘black box’ flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder in 1958
  • Ian Frazer invented a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer in 2006
  • Notepads (1902)
  • The tank (1912)
  • Aspirin (1915)
  • The pacemaker (1926)
  • The wine cask – or Goon Bag, as it is affectionately called in Australia (1965)
  • The bionic ear (1978)
  • Dual-flushing toilets (1980)

Post thanks to Distant Journeys

The Great Barrier Reef undergoes world’s biggest IVF procedure

The Great Barrier Reef undergoes world's biggest IVF procedure

A ground-breaking coral reef experiment, likened to the world’s biggest IVF procedure, could be the answer to a healthy future for the Great Barrier Reef which, at 70 million football fields in size, is the world’s largest living organism and a natural asset valued at $56 billion.

Professor Peter Harrison, the marine scientist who co-discovered coral spawning 35 years ago, conducted the oversized “fertility treatment” at the Heron Island Research Station with help from the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. The experiment was first trialled in November 2016 when millions of microscopic sperm and eggs were harvested from last year’s annual coral spawning event, and placed into giant tanks for fertilisation. The subsequent coral larvae were then planted back onto the reef.

Professor Peter Harrison on Heron Island

Professor Peter Harrison on Heron Island

Based on the learnings from the 2016 trial, Professor Harrison this month captured and reared more larvae, taken from the 8th-9th November 2017 spawning event, in a larger-scale study that has already shown signs of successful larval settlement. This time round, mesh tents were used to veil the planted larvae to prevent them from floating to the surface, which Professor Harrison says assists the larvae to attach and settle onto the reef and form juvenile colonies.

“This is the first large-scale study of its kind and our research shows that we can help corals reproduce successfully by increasing larvae settling on the Great Barrier Reef and allowing them to develop into juvenile corals,” said Professor Harrison. “From our previous studies, we know that microscopic larvae, once settled, can grow into dinner plate size corals in just three years and become sexually reproductive.”

“The success of this project on Heron Island could increase the scale of coral restoration on the Great Barrier Reef in future; if we can fast track coral growth and regeneration and apply this to other areas of the reef, we hope to see larger areas of healthy coral that can be enjoyed by generations to come.”

Heron Island

Heron Island

The success of the larval reseeding project at Heron Island is a marker of hope for restoring areas of the Great Barrier Reef previously affected by coral bleaching. Like any parent-to-be, Professor Harrison will continue to anxiously monitor the growth of both coral colonies and refine techniques for future application to other areas of the Great Barrier Reef.

Great Barrier Reef Foundation Managing Director Anna Marsden said Heron Island, once rated by Jacques Cousteau as one of the Top 10 dive sites in the world, was well qualified for pioneering reef studies. “It’s not only tourists who come from all over the world to experience the sheer magic of the Great Barrier Reef at Heron Island, marine scientists also flock to the island to access one of the best reef research laboratories in the world, the University of Queensland Research Station,” said Anna.

“Researchers on the island are looking at innovations like larval reseeding to help coral reefs rebuild and adapt so they can live through everything the world is throwing at them and to survive into the future.”

Acropora valida

Acropora valida

Professor Harrison and the team at the Heron Island Research Centre worked alongside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority on the project, which was made possible through a donation by Stephen Fitzgerald, the former chairman of Goldman Sachs Australia and New Zealand.

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