On this day: the Black Thursday Bushfires

William Strutt, Black Thursday, February 6th (detail), 1864. Australian Art. Bushfires.

As depicted by English-born artist William Strutt in 1864.

One of the worst bushfire disasters in recorded Australian history, the Black Thursday fires took place on the 6th of February, 1851, in the colony of Victoria.

Severe drought in 1850 helped to create the conditions ideal for bushfires. An estimated maximum temperature of 47 °C and strong winds on the day of the disaster magnified the situation.

It is believed the fire started when two bullock drivers left burning logs unattended.

The disaster claimed the lives of twelve people and many animals, and caused significant damage to the countryside.


On this day: a Royal Visit to Colonial Australia

Prince Albert Victor and Prince George visit a mine in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia. 1881.

The young Princes in Ballarat during the same 1881 visit to Victoria. X

On the 5th of July, 1881 the Princes Albert Victor and George (the future King George V of the United Kingdom) visited Bendigo in the colony of Victoria, Australia to open a fountain in honour of their mother.

Albert_Victor_late_1880s Albert Victor photographed by Bassano, c. 1888.

Prince Albert Victor in the late 1880s.

The Alexandra Fountain, named for Alexandra of Denmark, daughter-in-law of Queen Victoria, is the second largest municipal fountain in what is now the state of Victoria.

Prince George, the future King George V, 1893.

George in 1893.

Albert died of influenza less than a decade after this Australian visit, leaving younger brother George to go on to become King in 1910.

The Alexandra Fountain is arguably the most prominent monument in Bendigo. Designed by W.C.Vahland. 1881.

The fountain in 2013.

On this day: the last execution in Australia


On the 3rd of February, 1967, Ronald Joseph Ryan became the last criminal to be executed in Australia.

Convicted of shooting and killing warder George Hodson two years earlier while escaping from Pentridge Prison in the state of Victoria, Ryan was hanged at eight in the morning.

He was forty-one at the time.


Ronald Ryan

To his death Ryan maintained he was innocent of the murder, though he had an extensive criminal history that continued after his escape from the prison. His execution led to widespread protests and the abolition of the death penalty in the nation.


On this day…

In the buildup to the Eureka Stockade in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, men swear allegiance to the Southern Cross on 1st December, 1854.

The stockade was a gold miners’ rebellion against the authority of the United Kingdom.

Swearing Allegiance to the Southern Cross on 1 December 1854 — watercolour by Charles Doudiet.


When Australian women were accidentally given the vote.

Australian Suffragettes

Australian suffragettes in London in 1911

In the nineteenth century, in the colony of Victoria in Australia, the Electoral Act 1863 was passed. According to the act, “all persons” who owned property were entitled to vote. Though it was not intended to include women in this, there were plenty in the state who did, indeed own property.

In the 1864 elections, some women took advantage of this error and went to the polling stations, where their votes were recorded:

The Argus  , 5 November 1864, p 4. When women in Australia accidentally got the vote.

“At one of the polling booths in the Castlemaine district a novel sight was witnessed. A coach filled with ladies drove up, and the fair occupants alighted and recorded their votes.”
The Argus , 5 November 1864, p 4.

The oversight was quickly fixed, and a new law in 1865 once again took voting rights away from women. However, Australia was very early in granting women full voting rights, in 1902.




On this day…

A railway accident at Kurkurac Creek bridge on the Heathcote line in Victoria, Australia. 4th November 1907.


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On this day: the Violet Town rail accident

Southern Aurora collision, Violet Town, 7 February 1969.


Otherwise known as the Southern Aurora rail disaster, the Violet Town accident happened in Australia on the 7th of February, 1969 on the overnight train between Sydney and Melbourne.

1969 Southern Aurora train crash at Violet Town


Occurring about one kilometre out Violet Town in the state of Victoria, the accident happened when the driver of the passenger train, the Southern Aurora, had a heart attack and collided with a freight train.

Nine people died and forty were injured. The driver of the other train was one of the people killed, though he tried to take cover in the engine room.