What happened in Australia in 1886?

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 these years. Includes disasters, severe weather, notable people, milestones, construction, inaugurations and other significant events. Obviously, this list references recorded events only and is not exhaustive.


2nd – Violent storm at Cootamundra, railway damaged.
6th – “Colleen Bawn” foundered near Hobart – 5 persons drowned.
7th – Severe bush fires in Victoria.
12th – Attempt by four men to rob the Hoddle-street branch of the Commercial Bank of Australia, Melbourne.
13th – Mackay, Queensland, Railway opened.
16th – Mr. John Douglas gazetted High Commissioner of New Guinea, in succession to late Sir Peter Scratchley. Wharf labourers strike in Melbourne ended.
19th – Norfolk Island offered to New South Wales by Imperial Government.
25th – Federal Council of Australasia first met at Hobart under Imperial Act.
26th – Dr. C. Doherty resigned his seat in Legislative Council, Queensland.
30th – Nepean water turned into Botany Dams.


8th – Explosion at ice factory, Ballarat. 1 man killed.
13th – Presentation of Soudan medals to New South Wales Contingent.
16th – “Waihora” (s.s.) struck on sunken rock off Eddystone Point, Tasmania – no lives lost. Perth Industrial Exhibition opened in Town Hall.
24th – Commercial Bank of South Australia suspended payment.

MARCH 1886

5th – Welcome banquet given at Sydney to Consul-General for Germany.
6th – Railway workshops at Ipswich, Queensland, much damaged by fire. Robbery of the Yankalilla branch of the Commercial Bank, South Australia.
18th – Ferndale, New South Wales, Colliery flooded.
29th – Colonial Agents-General to be freely admitted to Chamber when House of Lords is sitting.

APRIL 1886

1st – All Imperial convicts in Western Australia handed over to Local Authorities.
7th – Extensive goldfields reported at Kimberley, Western Australia.
8th – Water famine at Rochester, Vic. Campaspe River dry. Major Fremantle (lately commanding in the Soudan) received in Sydney with Guard of Honour.
10th – Barque “South Hilton” wrecked at Port Phillip Heads, 840 tons of sugar on board.
12th – Wreck of s.s. “Taiaroa” – 34 lives lost.
13th – Officers of the Japanese s.s. “Tsukuba” entertained by the Mayor of Sydney.
14th – Scare at Adelaide in connection with Savings Bank.
19th – Colliery disaster at Lithgow – five men killed. His Excellency Governor Musgrave and family left Queensland for England.
21st – Boat sheds on Yarra burned.
27th – Naval Defence Conference held on board H.M.S. “Nelson” terminated.
30th – South Australia 4 per cent, loan of £1,332,000 floated in London.

MAY 1886

1st – Victorian Water Commission arrived in Sydney. Census of population taken throughout Colony of Queensland.
3rd – Colonial and Indian Exhibition opened in London.
8th – Railway accident at Bowral, New South Wales.
22nd – North Shore (Sydney) Cable Tramway opened.
27th – Principle of payment of members in New South Wales Legislative Assembly affirmed by 41 to 29 votes.
30th – Loss of steamer “Ly-ee-Moon” at Green Cape – 70 lives lost and all cargo.

JUNE 1886

21st – Explosion on H.M.S. “Opal” – 1 man killed.
23rd – Five hundred brickmakers go out on strike in Sydney because the employers will not concede the eight-hour system.
25th – Sawmill premises of Mr. James Moore on the Yarra Bank, Melbourne, destroyed by fire – damages £20,000.
28th – Mr. Critchett Walker (Principal Under-Secretary of New South Wales) presented with handsome silver service by his brother officers on his birthday.
29th – Railway accident on main line, Tasmania – 2 killed, many injured.

JULY 1886

2​4th – Railway collision at Newtown (near Sydney).
14th – First Federal Assembly of Presbyterian Church.
24th – The introduction to Dr. Tucker’s Report on Hospitals for Insane published.
27th – Large meeting in Sydney for devising means to encourage Colonial Industries.


1st – Parcels post between New South Wales and United Kingdom commenced.
7th – Opening of Scientific and Mechanical Exhibition in Prince Alfred Park, Sydney.
11th – Waters of Yarra turned into the Melbourne Canal.
12th – Seam of coal 6 feet thick struck in South Gippsland.
14th – Miners’ riots at Wollongong.
18th – The Queensland Legislative Council declared vacant, by resolution of the House, the seats of the Honourables C. S. D. Melbourne and G. Sandeman, through absence.
19th – Sir. W. F. Stawell resigned Chief Justiceship of Victoria.
20th – Savings banks established in New South Wales in connection with public schools.
24th – Fire in Parliament House, Brisbane.


6th – Complimentary Banquet to U. S. Consul Griffin. Opening of new technical workshops in Sydney.
7th – Foundation stone of new Prince’s Bridge, Melbourne, laid by Mayoress. New wing (Barry Hall) of Melbourne Public Library opened.
11th – Banquet to Sir John Robertson on his retirement from public life.
17th – Opening of first section at Homebush of Great Northern Line from Sydney to Queensland.
21st – Conference between Steamship Owners’ Association and Maritime Union. Captain Smith, Superintendent of Western Australia Police Force, presented with silver plate by members of Police Force.
23rd – Cameron’s tobacco factory, Sydney, totally destroyed by fire ; loss, £80,000.
24th – Mr. Justice Higinbotham appointed Chief Justice of Victoria.
27th – Australian Stock Conference commenced. Land bought in Pitt-street. Sydney, by Messrs. W. H. Soul & Co., at the rate of £725 per foot frontage. Conference of stock breeders and stock inspectors commenced sitting in Sydney.


1st – Memorial-stone of the Victorian Houses of Parliament laid by His Excellency the Governor. Pitt-street portion of new Post Office opened.
2nd – Lighthouse at Kent Group struck by lightning.
12th – Jubilee Municipal Gathering commenced in Sydney.
14th – Extraordinary rainfall in Sydney, 4.68 inches fell in 24 hours.
16th – Important gold discovery at Teetulpa, South Australia. Great flood at Goondiwindi, Queensland – town submerged.
19th – Railway from Glen Innes to Tenterfield opened.
20th – His Excellency the Governor of Western Australia turned first sod of Great Southern Railway.
25th – First section of Cape York (Queensland) telegraph line completed.
27th – New South Wales Government establish relief works for unemployed.


10th – Inaugural meeting at Sydney of the Australian Association for the advancement of science.
15th – Last service in York-street Wesleyan Chapel (erected 1839) prior to re-erection of building.
18th – Conference of Postmasters-General at Melbourne.
20th – Unveiling of Kendall’s Monument at Waverley.
22nd – Mr. David Lindsay successfully completed exploring journey across Australia from Port Darwin.
27th – The Hon. F. M. Darley, M.L.C. Q.C. accepted Chief Justiceship of New South Wales. Nine men sentenced to death for outrage at Mount Rennie.
30th – Severe shocks of earthquake felt in various parts.


3rd – William Beach, champion oarsman of the world, received enthusiastic welcome in Sydney.
6th – “Corangamite” (s.s.) wrecked at Wreck Bay.
7th – Hon. F. M. Darley, Q.C. sworn in as Chief Justice of New South Wales. A.S.N. Co.’s fleet sold to B.I.S.N. Co. for £200,000.
10th – Collision between “Keilawarra” and “Helen Nicoll” off South Solitary – loss of 43 lives, and foundering of “Keilawarra”.
17th – Title of “Royal” conferred on Geographical Society of Australasia. lnauguration of New South Wales Literary and Debating Societies Union.
24th – Coal found by Diamond Drill at 2,228 feet on Holt-Sutherland Estate.