What happened in Australia in 1885?

If Social Media existed back then, what would our ancestors have been talking about? Taken from year books, Almanacs and newspapers, follows is a list of notable events that occurred in this year. Includes disasters, severe weather, notable people, milestones, construction, inaugurations and other significant events. Obviously, this list references recorded events only and is not exhaustive.


1st – Heavy hailstorm at Toowoomba (Queensland) – many tons of fruit destroyed.
1st – Victorian Public Service Act of 1883 came into operation.
3rd – Heavy hailstorm at Glen Innes (NSW) – one farmer lost over 25 acres of crops.
3rd – Academy of Music Adelaide, burnt.
5th – The Government of New South Wales transferred account from Bank NSW to Associated Banks.
5th – Severe shock of Earthquake at Geraldton, Western Australia, the sea subsided three feet in 15 minutes.
6th – The Historical Society of Australasia founded in Melbourne.
7th – English insect-eating birds liberated at Manly (NSW) by Captain Wagstaff, of the ship “La Hogue”.
7th – Crowded meeting at Melbourne Town Hall protesting against foreign annexation in Pacific Ocean.
10th – H.M. transport “Tamar” arrived at Port Jackson with relief crews for Australian Squadron.
12th – Great storm at Roma (Queensland) – telegraph office struck by lightning.
13th – Great wind at Rookwood (Queensland) – township nearly all destroyed.
13th – First Melbourne tramway (cable) commenced to Richmond.
14th – Discovery of glacier traces in Australian Alps by Dr. Von Lendenfeld.
15th – Picnic at Pearl Bay Sydney, in honour of Hon. John Forrest M.L.C. of West Australia.
16th – lmportant find of water by boring at Wilcannia (NSW) Brisbane tramway begun.
18th – J. A. Froude (historian) arrived in Melbourne from England on a visit to Australia.
20th – Wealth and Industrial Exhibition (Sydney) closed.
20th – Large bush fire at Albury, thousands of acres of grass burnt.
20th – Education Union League formed in Victoria.
21st – Free Public Library, Sydney adopted Kershan pneumatic system of ventilation.
21st – Shock of earthquake at Moruya, New South Wales.
21st – Mr. Arketell, manager and Mr. Burrup, clerk of Union Bank, murdered at Roeburne, Western Australia.
25th – Severe railway disaster at Cootamundra, New South Wales, through the washing away of line and part of bridge by heavy rains, seven killed and many injured. Also a collision near Penrith.
26th – Many miles of fencing and a thousand acres of grass destroyed by fire at Bega, New South Wales.
27th – Foundation stone laid of Her Majesty’s Theatre, Sydney.
28th – Rear-Admiral Tryon welcomed by the Mayor of Sydney on behalf of citizens.
31st – Collision in Port Jackson between “Lass o’ Gowrie” and “Glaucus”.


3rd – Synod of Eastern Australia assembled.
4th – Public meeting in Sydney as to New Guinea annexation.
5th – Mission schooner “Ellangowan” arrived at Sydney after three year cruise.
5th – Railway collision at Rooty Hill (NSW) – trucks and engines damaged.
7th – Hanlan won boat race for £1,000 against Clifford.
8th – Great damage to property at Walgett and Forbes (New South Wales) by storms.
12th – New South Wales Government offered troops for service in Soudan.
12th – Mr. Scott, Professor of Classics, Sydney University, arrived in Sydney.
14th – Her Majesty’s Imperial Government accepted offer of New South Wales troops for Soudan.
16th – Duke of Manchester arrived in Brisbane.
17th – Offer of troops for Soudan service made by the Victorian Government.
20th – An immense public meeting in Exhibition Building, Sydney – 12,000 people present, in approval of Government sending New South Wales Contingent to the Soudan, and for formation of “patriotic fund.”
24th – The Melbourne Aquarium opened in Exhibition Building.

MARCH 1885

3rd – New South Wales Contingent sailed for service in the Soudan in steamships Iberia and Australasia, immense excitement in Sydney, people arriving from other colonies to witness departure.
3rd – Prince Alfred Hospital recognised by Royal College of Surgeons, England.
4th – Railway opened to Bungendore, New South Wales.
7th – Lord Carrington appointed Governor of New South Wales, vice Lord Loftus.
11th – Sydney Light Horse held first parade.
12th – G. A. Sala arrived in Sydney.
12th – Professor Kernott elected President of Royal Society, Victoria. Mr. Ellery retired after 20 year’s presidency.
13th – The Employers’ Union formed in Melbourne.
14th – Archbishop Moran laid foundation stone Bethlehem Convent, Sydney.
17th – Rev. William Webber appointed Bishop of Brisbane (C.E.)
19th – Rev. Sydney Linton installed at Hay as Bishop of Riverina. (C.E.)
19th – First sod turned at Blayney-Murrum burrah Railway. Newcastle Hospital opened.
23rd – Silver found at Yam Creek, Port Darwin.
26th – Railway opened Murrumburrah to Young (NSW). “Iberia” arrived at Aden with New South Wales troops.
26th – Foundation stone of New Freemason’s Hall. Melbourne, laid. Miss Bella Guerin took degree M.A. Melbourne University. She was the first lady who did so in Victoria.
29th – Rev. Dr. Reville, Coadjutor R.C. Bishop of Sandhurst (Victoria), consecrated.
31st – Bishop Hale, of Brisbane, resigned. New variety of orange Citrus caprera grown by Mr. Pye. of Parramatta.
31st – Geographical Society of Australasia subsidize Mr. Forbes’ expedition to New Guinea and resolved to send an expedition to explore from mouth of Aird River.

APRIL 1885

4th – Sydney Wharf Labourers’ Naval Reserve instituted for defence purposes.
7th – A Gynaecological Department started at Sydney Hospital.
8th – Railway opened to Loganlea, Queensland.
9th – Sydney Musical Union dissolved.
10th – Separation Convention met at Townsville.
13th – Phylloxera vastatrix found on vines at Camden, New South Wales.
20th – Queensland Government purchased steamer “Advance” for £12,000.
23rd – Shakesperian Festival held at Melbourne Town Hall.
24th – Presentation of valuable set of surgical instruments to Prince Alfred Hospital by Hon. James White, M.L.C.
25th – Hanlau (ex-champion) sailed for United States.
27th – New South Wales Contingent offered for service against Russia, if required.
30th – Sydney Philharmonic Society formed. Toowong (Queensland) Railway Station burnt.
30th – The first sod of the railway from Stanthorpe (Queensland) to the New South Wales border, turned.

MAY 1885

8th – Memorial of thanks to Australians for offer of troops signed by 20,000 people in England.
8th – New system of fire alarms fitted in Sydney.
9th – History of water supply of Sydney from 1788 to 1867 published in the Herald.
13th – Severe shock of earthquake in Tasmania and South-eastern Victoria.
14th – Earthquake shock felt in southern districts of New South Wales.
14th – First intercolonial exhibition of canary societies in Temperance Hall, Sydney.
17th – Dr. J. E. Taylor, naturalist and editor of Science Gossip, arrived at Adelaide on an Australian lecturing tour.
19th – Electric light tried successfully at Parliament House, Brisbane.
26th – Trout and perch put in Hacking River and Kangaroo Creek, near National Park, New South Wales.
28th – Conference of Marine Underwriters in Sydney.

JUNE 1885

5th – Large public meeting, Melbourne Town Hall, in favour of Imperial Federation, and branch formed of Imperial Federation League.
5th – New timber regulations (Queensland) gazetted.
11th – New Guinea exploring expedition left Sydney in steam launch “Bonito” A.S.N. Co.’s steamer “Cahors” wrecked on Evan’s Reef, north of Clarence River – 233 passengers and crew, all saved.
16th – Duplication of Brisbane and Ipswich railway lines commenced.
20th – Steamer “Arab” arrived and quarantined with NSW Contingent on board.
24th – Public landing of New South Wales Contingent at Sydney, witnessed by thousands of people, although heavy rain continued during the day.
26th – Captain Cook’s compass purchased by Agent-General in England for Sydney Museum.

JULY 1885

1st – Public meeting at Town Hall to recognise services of Contingent.
1st – Sixpenny telegram system introduced into Victoria.
3rd – New South Wales Contingent disbanded.
8th – Banquet to officers of New South Wales Contingent in Town Hall, Sydney.
9th – lnsurance Institute of Victoria inaugurated.
14th – Dr. Butler, Speaker of Tasmanian House of Assembly, resigned in consequence of ill health.
16th – Opening of Jerilderie extension, New South Wales railways.
18th – Lighthouse, Pine Islet, Queensland, lit first time.
22nd – Dr. Ambrose Wilson, new Head Master of Church of England Grammar School, arrived in Melbourne.
25th – Railway opened to Beenleigh (Queensland).
30th – Sydney Chamber of Manufactures formed.
31st – Disastrous fire at Brisbane, damage about £100,000.


1st – Members of Australian Contingent presented with commemoration medals.
4th – Severe hailstorm at Wynnum, Queensland, some stones nearly 1 inch in diameter.
5th – South Australian House of Assembly affirmed the principle of admitting women to the franchise.
7th – The Prahran Public Gardens opened (Victoria).
10th – Tramway cars commenced running in Brisbane.
10th – Mackay (Queensland) railway opened.
21st – Corner stone of New Masonic Hall Brisbane, laid.
22nd – Second section of Warwick and Killarney (Queensland) railway opened.


1st – Banquet to Dr. Tucker on his return to the colony, after visiting the principal lunatic asylums of the world.
1st – Busts of Mr. Gladstone, Lord Beaconsfield. Earl of Derby, Lord Palmerston, and Earl Russell arrived per Garonne.
3rd – Opening of railway to Bourke (NSW) line.
7th – Sir James Martin elected to Sydney University Senate in room of late Sir G. W. Allen.
10th – Rev. J. F. Macarthur, Head Master of King’s School, Parramatta, New South Wales, sent in resignation, to take effect June 1886.
15th – Dr. Moran elected to Cardinalate.
16th – Foundering of the steamer “Gulf of Carpentaria” near Wilson’s Promontory, no lives lost.
17th – Formation of branch of Australian Natives’ Association in Sydney.
22nd – Year-Book Prize of £50 awarded to Mr. James Smith for essay on the “Development of the Australian Wine Industry”.
25th – Opening of the Lane Cove bridge, near Sydney. Foundation stone of new buildings of A. M. P. Society, Brisbane.


2nd – Last stone laid on Post Office Tower, Sydney. Committee formed in London to aid Separation of Northern Queensland.
8th – New South Wales Loan, 5½ millions, floated in London.
10th – New South Wales Fire Underwriters Association formed.
12th – Sugarcane affected by frost on Tweed River.
13th – Riot at Coorambong, 3 navvies shot.
17th – Fifteen horses fell at Caulfield Races, Vic – one jockey killed and several injured.
21st – Resumption of land Lady Robinson’s Beach, near Sydney, for Public Park.
22nd – Strike in coal trade at Newcastle, New South Wales.
24th – Lioness arrived for Zoological Society, Sydney.


2nd – Hon. W. Macleay presented Linnaen Society, Sydney, with new hall.
3rd – Newcastle coal strike ended.
3rd – £70,000 refused at auction for Brisbane Town Hall.
4th – S.A. Chapter erased from roll of English Free masons.
5th – Arrival in Sydney of Victoria Lunacy Commission.
5th – Sydney University Senate establish new chair of Professor of Physics.
10th – Departure of Lord Loftus from New South Wales.
11th – St. John’s Church, Parramatta, New South Wales, struck by lightning.
11th – New Oddfellows’ Hall opened in Sydney.
16th – The first Roman Catholic Plenary Council of Australia opened at Sydney.
17th – Quadruple system of telegraphy commenced between Sydney and Brisbane.
24th – Return of Geographical Society’s New Guinea Expedition, after supposed loss.
30th – Melbourne Storage Co.’s premises, Yarra Bank, burned, loss £20,000.
30th – First Section Cooktown-Maytown Railway opened.


1st – Cornerstone laid of St. Andrew’s Chapter House (Barker Memorial), Sydney. Fatal railway accident at Binalong.
8th – Captain Cook’s compass and grog-flask received in Sydney.
8th – Queensland branch of Geographical Society instituted at Brisbane.
12th – Lord Carrington received at Sydney with great public demonstration and sworn in at Government House.
23rd – New Art Gallery opened in Sydney.
29th – Medals from Imperial Government arrived for Soudan Contingent.
30th – Large fire in Melbourne – 40,000 cases of kerosene consumed.