Timeless Australian inventions 

Several groundbreaking inventions that have left marks on the world have come out of Australia. Let’s journey back in time and explore some older Australian inventions that were not only popular in their heyday but continue to be celebrated today. From the iconic Hills Hoist to the lifesaving black box, these creations showcase Australia’s ingenuity and enduring legacy.

The Hills Hoist

Although the Hills Hoist quickly became a staple in Australian backyards after its creation in 1945, Lance Hill didn’t invent the concept. The design was based on a similar device patented by Adelaide man Gilbert Toyne in 1926. While Toyne’s name is unknown to many, there’s no doubt that his mechanism helped cement the hoist’s precious place in Australia’s domestic history, creating an enduring icon for the nation.

Mr Hill’s first batch of hoists was made with tubing salvaged from the frame of the underwater boom that had hung under the Sydney Harbour Bridge to catch enemy submarines during World War II. Now they are fabricated from galvanised steel and aluminium parts, with a whopping 100kg weight capacity. 

The simple yet ingenious design allows for easy raising and lowering, making laundry day a breeze.

Ultrasound technology

Australians have played a crucial role in the development of medical ultrasound technology. In the 1960s, researchers David Robinson and George Kossoff from the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories made significant advancements in ultrasound imaging. Their work led to the development of the first commercially practical B-mode ultrasound scanner, revolutionising the field of medical diagnostics. 

Ultrasounds enable unborn babies to be observed and give doctors the ability to look inside bodies without surgery.

The bionic ear

The cochlear implant, commonly known as the bionic ear, was developed by University of Melbourne Professor Graeme Clark in the 1970s. The implant stimulates the hearing nerve and provides sound signals directly to the brain.

It is estimated around 14,000 Australians have cochlear implants on either one ear or two ears.

Plastic bank notes

Plastic banknotes were created through a collaborative effort between the Reserve Bank of Australia and CSIRO in the 1980s. The first plastic banknote, a $10 bill, was introduced in 1988 to mark Australia’s bicentenary. In 1996, Australia became the first nation to have an entire set of plastic currency.

Unlike traditional bank notes made from paper, cloth fibres, or a mix of both, Australia’s bank notes are crafted from a special polymer. This material, combined with advanced security features, makes the notes nearly impossible to counterfeit and gives them a lifespan about ten times longer than that of conventional bank notes.

The black box flight recorder

Developed by Dr David Warren in the 1950s, the black box flight recorder has revolutionised air travel safety. 

While investigating an air crash in 1954, Dr Warren had the idea that recording the final moments in the cockpit before the crash would have helped determine what went wrong. So he created a device that records flight data and cockpit conversations.

Since then, although refined and upgraded, voice-plus-data recording has become mandatory in all major aircraft throughout the world.

Wifi technology 

Though not as ‘old’ as some other inventions on this list, wifi technology, developed by a team of Australian scientists at the CSIRO in the early 1990s, deserves special mention. 

Their groundbreaking work in radio astronomy led to a successful solution to the problem of how to move large quantities of data around indoors. This has transformed the way we live and work, and cemented Australia’s place in the digital revolution.

These are just a few of the inventions developed in Australia that have changed the way we operate. Other notable Australian inventions include the notepad (1902), the surf life saving reel (1906), the ute (1934), and the wine cask (1965). Each of these inventions has played a significant role in shaping Australian culture and identity, and they continue to be celebrated as symbols of Aussie ingenuity.

What other timeless Australian inventions would you add to this list? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

Also read: You know you grew up in Australia in the 1970s if . . .

Ellie Baxter
Ellie Baxter
Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.


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