12 amazing Australian inventions and innovations
This land of ours is home to some incredible inventors and innovators who have brought their ground-breaking ideas to the world. Discover more about life-changing inventions such as the pacemaker to Aussie classics like Speedo and the Hills Hoist to those gems we didn’t even realise were home-grown concepts.
This brand is certainly one of our most iconic and yet we have a Scottish immigrant to thank for it. Recognising Australia’s growing beach culture, Alexander McRae developed the swimwear in Bondi in 1914. Inspired by the McRae family crest, it was originally launched as ‘Fortitude’. Renamed ‘Speedo’ in 1928, the swimwear gained worldwide recognition thanks to strong performances by Olympians wearing the brand at the 1932 and 1936 Olympics. The cozzies were considered risqué at the time for all the skin they showed!
Whilst there were many variations of the Hills Hoist, most credit blacksmith Gilbert Toyne as the creator back in 1911. However, by 1941 Toyne’s patent for the hoisting mechanical clothesline had lapsed which paved the way for returned solider Lance Hill to modify the design and market the product in his own name.
By the ‘50s and ‘60s, the Hills Hoist was in backyards everywhere. Its durability was well-proven during Cyclone Tracey when one family lost their house but not their Hills Hoist! These days, over five million Hills Hoists are sold each year around the world and it’s listed as a National Treasure.
3 local innovations and inventions we love!
We love celebrating north coast success stories and Croker Oars are a family-owned business with a product used globally. On the banks of the Manning River, the Croker family are busy designing sculling and sweep oars. As well as being popular with surf boat crews, many of the best still-water rowers in the world use Croker Oars. So, when the Olympic Games do happen in 2021, be sure to look for the signature pink Croker sleeves as the winners cross the finish line in Tokyo.
Flow Hive are another NSW North Coast company who have a designed a product loved worldwide. A father and son team are behind this revolutionary Australian invention that allows people to harvest honey without opening the hive or disturbing the bees. Launched in the Byron Bay hinterland in 2015, it became an overnight success and now has over 75,000 customers in 130 countries.
The Surf Ski
Did you know that the origins of the surf ski came from the teenage mind of Port Macquarie lad Harry McLaren? As a youngster, Harry loved carpentry and used to work alongside his uncle in the family’s oyster farm on Lake Innes. Around 1912, he came up with the design of a board to use on the oyster beds and in the surf with his brother Jack. Harry would later build one for a Sydneysider from Manly who is often credited with designing the surf ski, but original plans and other records tell us otherwise.
Inventions you didn’t realise were Australian
First feature film
In 1906, the first feature-length film was an Aussie production written and directed by Charlie Tait and co-starring his wife, children and brothers. The film cost £1000 to make and brought in £25,000. The film was titled The Story of the Kelly Gang.
Who remembers how strange the plastic notes seemed (and felt) when they first came out? Research actually began on these in the late ‘60s to combat forgeries. The aim was to invent something more durable with a see-through panel and hologram. It took about a decade to iron out these issues, but the notes were not launched until 1988. Within a decade all Aussie banknotes were issued in plastic and polymer banknotes were being used in 25 countries with more than three billion of them in circulation.
Today the Black box flight recorder is mandatory on all aircraft throughout the world. The brains behind this was an Australian scientist, who at the age of nine, lost his father in an aircraft accident. In 1954 Dr David Warren created a device to record flight data as well as voices and other sounds in cockpits immediately prior to an aircraft crashing. While not terribly well-received in Australia, thankfully, the rest of the world embraced the device and it went on to become a complete game-changer. Did you know the ‘black box’ is actually bright orange to aid in its recovery after an accident?
Amazing discoveries in the field of medicine
Australians are behind some incredible medical inventions from the bionic ear to the ultrasound scanner, spray-on skin, first frozen embryo baby and the pacemaker. We’ll delve into them all further in an upcoming article, but here’s a little more info on two….
Bionic ear / cochlear implant
Melbourne-based Professor Graeme Clark is behind the prototype of the first cochlear implant (Bionic ear) in 1978. As the child of a deaf father, he aspired to help deaf people from a young age. In just over 30 years the Australian cochlear implant has changed countless lives by bringing the gift of hearing to 350,000 people in over 12 countries. Head to YouTube to watch the incredible moments of people hearing for the first time thanks to these implants.
This was invented (but never patented) by Dr Mark Lidwell from Sydney’s RPA hospital in 1926 when he successfully connected electrodes to the heart of a newborn baby to revive it. Nearly a century on, well over a million patients around the world use a pacemaker as an essential life-saving implantable device.
Celebrating two home-grown initiatives that have gone global
These days when we see a normally hairless friend growing a moustache in November, we know it’s for a great cause. The origins of Movember date back to Melbourne in 2003 when two mates came up with the idea (yep, over a beer) to bring back the ‘mo’ and highlight men’s health and prostate cancer. The two fellas set some rules (which are still in place today) and challenged 30 of their mates to take part.
2018 stats show that the Movember community championed men’s health in 20 countries through the growth of more than half a million moustaches, raising 65 million Euro!
Earth Hour 2020 occurred just a few days ago – Saturday March 28. The concept to ‘switch off’ came about in Sydney in 2007 and is a gesture of solidarity for people to show that they care for the future of our planet. Since its inception, it has grown to engage millions of supporters in over 7,000 towns and cities in 187 countries. Find out more from our recent article.