1997 in Australia

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The following lists events that happened during 1997 in Australia.

1997 in Australia
Monarchy Elizabeth II
Governor-General William Deane
Prime minister John Howard
Population 18,517,564
Elections NT, SA

Flag of Australia.svg

See also:


Premiers and Chief Ministers[edit]

Governors and Administrators[edit]



  • 9 January – HMAS Adelaide rescues British yachtsman, Tony Bullimore, from the Southern Ocean, after his boat, Exide Challenger, capsized three days before.[1]
  • 20 January - Prime Minister John Howard calls a meeting of State Premiers to discuss the implications of the High Court's Wik judgment.
  • 26 January – Nobel Prize winner Peter Doherty is named Australian of the Year.
  • 29 January - Hundreds turn out in North Queensland to hear Pauline Hanson criticise the High Court's ruling in the Wik case.


  • 4 February - Prime Minister John Howard wins Parliamentary support for a constitutional convention on the republic.
  • 10 February - Prime Minister John Howard convenes meetings between miners, farmers and Aboriginal leaders, to discuss the Wik native title issue. Mr Howard also reveals the details of the Government's Work for the Dole plan.
  • 11 February - Prime Minister John Howard admits he approved a requested pay rise for one of Labor defector Mal Colston's staff shortly before last year's crucial Senate vote on the partial sale of Telstra.[2]
  • 14 February - Arnott's Biscuits begins withdrawing its biscuits from supermarket shelves as authorities issue a health alert over an extortionist's poison threat. A pesticide strong enough to kill a small child had been found in some of the biscuits.[3]
  • 23 February - Federal Independent Senator Mal Colston denies new allegations that he had rorted his parliamentary expenses, saying the claims by a former employee were "malicious".[4]
  • 25 February - The Minister for Administrative Services, David Jull, announces a departmental investigation into Independent Senator Mal Colston's use of chauffeur-driven Commonwealth cars and warns he would have no hesitation referring the matter to police.[5]
  • 26 February - Arnott's Biscuits restocks Queensland supermarket shelves with its biscuits three weeks after it was rocked by an extortion threat. The threat has cost the company at least $10 million.[6]


  • 6 March - In Cairns, Paul Streeton is sentenced to life imprisonment for setting fire to school boy Tjandamurra O'Shane.
  • 24 March -
    • Senator Mal Colston admits he's guilty of claiming an extra $7,000 for travel expenses, but blames sloppy book-keeping.
    • A conscience vote by the Senate overturns the Northern Territory's controversial voluntary euthanasia legislation, The Rights of the Terminally Ill Act.
  • 26 March - Prime Minister John Howard announces plans for a constitutional convention in Canberra to consider the republic issue.
  • 29 March - Prime Minister John Howard arrives in Shanghai, China to promote trade relations.


  • 8 April - New South Wales Premier Bob Carr announces plans to abolish or amend the law which allows diminished responsibility to be used as a legal defence.
  • 14 April - Prime Minister John Howard announces that the Government will no longer accept the vote of Senator Mal Colston.
  • 29 April – BHP announces it will end steel-making operations in Newcastle in 1999, with 2,500 job losses.


  • 1 May –
  • 5 May –
  • 6 May -
    • Mal Colston resigns as Deputy President of the Senate.
    • Prime Minister John Howard appeals for an end to protests against Pauline Hanson.
    • Kerry Whelan disappeared. Believed murdered, her remains have not been located as of 4 August 2016, when the man convicted of her murder died
  • 8 May – Melbourne's Crown Casino is opened by Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett.
  • 20 May – The Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission releases a 689-page report entitled, Bringing Them Home, which states that Australian governments must apologise and pay compensation for the forced removal of Aboroginal and Toores Strait Islander children from their families. The report concludes that successive government policies of forced removal of children constitutes a crime against humanity which amounted to "genocide". It recommends a national compensation fund be established by the Commonwealth and states, as well as a national "sorry day" be held each year.
  • 30 May – Prime Minister John Howard releases a ten-point plan in response to the High Court of Australia's historic Wik decision last December which recognised that native title and pastoral leases can co-exist. Key points of the plan include the permanent extinguishment of native title on freehold, exclusive-tenure leases, agricultural leases deemed to confer exclusive title and where rights are inconsistent with those of pastoralists; the removal of the right of native title-holders to negotiate over mining exploration and the imposition of a six-year unset clause to register statutory native title claims.


  • 15 June – 14-month-old Jaidyn Leskie disappears from a house in Moe, Victoria.
  • 21 June - Prime Minister John Howard briefs the Queen on his plans to deal with the republic issue.
  • 24 June - Prime Minister John Howard describes Australia as a racially tolerant nation in the Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Lecture in London.
  • 26 June - Prime Minister John Howard arrives in Washington and is met by US Ambassador Andrew Peacock. Mr Howard meets with President Bill Clinton on 27 June.


  • 1 July –
    • The telecommunications market is deregulated, allowing the entry of competitors other than Telstra and Optus.
    • When Britain hands back Hong Kong to China, Prime Minister John Howard warns China that it must keep its promise to maintain Hong Kong's freedom and autonomy.
  • 13 July – A crowd of over 100,000 people watches the Royal Canberra Hospital implosion. A 12-year-old girl, Katie Bender, is killed instantly and nine others are injured when debris from the site travels across Lake Burley Griffin.
  • 15 July - Senator Mal Colston and former West Australian Liberal MP Noel Crichton-Browne are charged with fraud.
    • Two Australians are killed when a temporary wooden bridge collapses into a shallow creek at the Maccabiah Games near Tel Aviv, Israel.
  • 17 July – Frank Gilford waives his right to call for the death penalty of two British nurses charged with the murder of his sister Yvonne in Saudi Arabia.
  • 21 July - Former West Australian Premier Dr Carmen Lawrence pleads not guilty to giving false evidence to the Marks Royal Commission.
  • 23 July - Queensland Premier Rob Borbidge criticises cuts by the Federal Government to drought relief funds.
  • 24 July – The West Australian Court of Criminal Appeal quashes seven convictions against former West Australian Premier Brian Burke.
  • 30 July –
    • The Thredbo landslide occurs, killing 17 people.
    • New South Wales Premier Bob Carr announces that New South Wales Police will employ Korean police and intelligence officers to help crack down on organised crime gangs as investigations continue into Korean loan-shark operations at Sydney Harbour Casino.


  • 2 August – Stuart Diver, a ski instructor, is rescued as the sole survivor of the Thredbo landslide.
  • 12 August - Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett is under fire for spending over $5,000 on a helicopter trip.
  • 18 August – Aboriginal activist Burnum Burnum dies at his Woronora home near Sydney. He is particularly remembered for claiming Britain on behalf of the Aboriginal people on Australia Day 1988, while Australia celebrated its bi-centennial.
  • 28 August - Pauline Hanson sues the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for playing a new song lampooning her.
  • 29 August -
    • Queensland Premier Rob Borbidge denies allegations that a senior member of his government frequented a male brothel.
    • Telstra to cut another 15,000 jobs over the next three years after it revealed a big slump in profits.
  • 30 August – Elections in the Northern Territory re-elect the Country Liberal Party government of Shane Stone.
  • 31 August –
    • The head of Yagan, a Noongar warrior, is repatriated to Australia 164 years after being taken to the United Kingdom.[7]
    • Prime Minister John Howard announces the 36 names of Australians appointed to the Constitutional Convention that will discuss Australia becoming a republic.


  • 1 September - Federal Cabinet shelves plans to alter cross-media ownership laws.
  • 2 September - Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett ridicules Federal Cabinet's indecision on media ownership laws. The Federal Opposition uses this to help show that the Prime Minister is weak.
  • 3 September - Waterfront unions and the ACTU warn the Federal Government of widespread industrial action if the Government continues its method of reforming work conditions at seaports.
  • 5 September - Wilba was born the legend
  • 8 September - New South Wales Premier Bob Carr opens a world-class cancer research institute in Camperdown, Sydney.
  • 11 September - BHP announces plans to cut over 800 jobs from coal mines in Illawarra.
  • 14 September - Prime Minister John Howard announces a $5 million rescue package for farmers.
  • 30 September - The guns buyback amnesty expires with owners of restricted weapons now facing fines.



  • 2 November - Prime Minister John Howard launches the Federal Government's anti-drug campaign.
  • 5 November - Postcard bandit Brendan Abbott and three others escape from Sir David Longland Prison at Wacol, Brisbane.
  • 13 November - Postcard bandit Brendan Abbott carries out a robbery on a Gold Coast Commonwealth Bank.
  • 14 November –
    • Sydney is awarded the 2002 Gay Games and Cultural Festival.
    • Arnott's Biscuits shareholders overwhelmingly approve a takeover bid from American conglomerate Campbell's.
  • 15 November – Two men are charged over the abductions and murder of Bega schoolgirls Lauren Barry and Nichole Collins.
  • 17 November – Telstra shares are listed on the Australian stock exchange.
  • 26 November – Sydney's Star City Casino is opened by New South Wales Premier Bob Carr.


  • 3 December -
    • Queensland Premier Rob Borbidge announces nearly $30 million to bailout the Queensland Ambulance Service, but unions say it is not enough.
    • The first of the Federal Government's Work for the Dole schemes begins in Sydney.
  • 9 December - The Australian Bankers Association doubles the bounty on the head of bank robber Brendan Abbott
  • 19 December - Postcard bandit Brendan Abbott robs the Yirrigan Drive branch of the Commonwealth Bank in Perth, disguised as a businessman in a grey wig and a false moustache and brandishing a .45 Webley, stealing $300,000.
  • 26 December - The final figures for the nationwide guns buyback are released - 640,000 weapons were surrendered across Australia with New South Wales providing the poorest number of returns.

Arts and literature[edit]






Unknown date[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tony Bullimore is rescued by the Navy
  2. ^ "Denial of Telstra vote buy". The Courier-Mail, p.2. 12 February 1997. 
  3. ^ "Poisoned biscuits could kill children: health chief". The Courier-Mail. 15 February 1997. 
  4. ^ "Colston to sue over rorts allegation". The Australian, p.2. 24 February 1997. 
  5. ^ "Minister investigates Colston's use of cars". The Australian, p.2. 26 February 1997. 
  6. ^ "Arnott's back in biscuit business but down $10m". The Courier-Mail, p.2. 26 February 1997. 
  7. ^ McPhee, Lindsay (2008). "Reburial of Yagan head is delayed". The West Australian, 19 November 2008.