Expat Life

10 great Australian inventions

There are a number of items that we associate with Australia. The didgeridoo, the boomerang, and Vegemite quickly come to mind as Australian inventions. But Australia has given the world some great inventions and you probably never knew. Here’s a short list of awesome Australian inventions.

1. Ice-making refrigerator

Before the invention of the refrigerator, icehouses placed near freshwater lakes or packed with snow and ice during the winter were used to provide cool storage. Refrigeration technology would take many years to develop and although James Harrison did not invent the first refrigeration unit, this Scottish immigrant who made Australia home developed an ice making machine in 1856.

2. Electric drill

Humans have been using drills for 35,000 years. They were powered by human effort, water wheels, and windmills. With the coming of the electric motor in the 19th century, electrical engineer Arthur James Arnot, another Scottish immigrant,  invented the first electric drill in 1889.

3. Notepad

For 500 years, paper had been supplied in loose sheets. In 1902,  Launceston (Tasmania) stationer J.A. Birchall decided that it would be a good idea glue them together at the top. Simple and brilliant.

4. Feature film

A feature film runs for 40 minutes or longer. Today we think of them just as movies and they run 90 to 210 minutes long. The world’s first feature length film was the Australian 70-minute film The Story of the Kelly Gang released in 1906.

5. Electronic pacemaker

In 1926, Dr. Mark C. Lidwell of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital of Sydney, supported by physicist Edgar H. Booth of the University of Sydney, devised a portable apparatus which “plugged into a lighting point” and in which “one pole was applied to a skin pad soaked in strong salt solution” while the other pole “consisted of a needle insulated except at its point, and was plunged into the appropriate cardiac chamber”.

6. Coupé utility

This combination a two-door “coupé” cabin and an integral cargo bed behind the cabin rolled off the Ford production lines in 1934. It was designed by Lewis Brandt at the Ford Motor Company in Geelong, Victoria. Its popularity faded in North America by the 1980s and has been largely replaced by the pickup, which has a different construction, but Aussies still love their utes.

7. Black box flight recorder

The first modern flight recorder was created in 1942 by Finnish aviation engineer Veijo Hietala. It recorded important aviation details, but it was Australian engineer David Warren that in 1953 conceived a device that would not only record instruments readings, but also cockpit voices. He built the first prototype in 1958. It’s not actually black, by the way; it’s orange.

8. RaceCam

This tiny lightweight system provides viewers with spectacular views of sporting events such as motor racing was invented by Australian engineer Geoff Healey in 1979. It was introduced to American audiences in 1983 during the Indianapolis 500.

9. Wi-Fi

Many successful technologies and devices are the result of the ideas and work of various people. This is definitely true of computer technology. Wi-Fi is any “wireless local area network (WLAN) products that are based on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) 802.11 standards”.  The technology has its origins in a 1985 ruling and its precursor was invented in the Netherlands in 1991.  In 1992 and 1996, Australian organisation CSIRO obtained patents for a method used to “unsmear” radio waves that echo off indoor surfaces. In April 2009, 14 tech companies agreed to pay CSIRO $250 million for infringements on CSIRO patents. In 2012, CSIRO won a further $220 million settlement for Wi-Fi patent infringements. This led to WiFi being attributed as an Australian invention. The Wi-Fi trademark, however, is under the ownership of the Wi-Fi Alliance based in Austin, Texas.

10. Anti-flu medication

Commonly known by its trade name Relenza, it was developed by a team of scientists at the Victorian College of Pharmacy at Monash University in Melbourne in collaboration with the CSIRO and scientists at Glaxo, UK.

What are your favourite Australian inventions?



  • I still think Aussie Rules Football is one of the greatest sports ever invented. Go St. Kilda!

    • I wholeheartedly agree! I didn’t include it on my list because I don’t think it has the global impact that some of these other inventions do, but it should! Haha. Go Pies!

  • Marty

    There’s a great list of Australian inventions at

    • Very nice; thanks! How could I forget Speedos?

  • yeezus

    yay we invented wifi.! yay my favourite thing in the whole wide world….and the notepad, go Aussie! lol #yoloswag

    • Haha! Yeah, Wi-Fi is one of my favorite inventions of the last 30 years. Thanks for your comments!

  • David

    how about the development of penicillin for use as a medicine is attributed to the Australian Nobel laureate Howard Walter Florey

  • David

    The Cochlear Implant, or Bionic Ear, invented by Melbourne Professor Graham Clark

  • cm220

    Vegemite! ;-D

    • cm220

      Or maybe ‘Iced Vo Vo ‘ biscuits?