Australian Crimes
The Aussie Criminal Record
True Australian crime stories
from newspaper reports
and historic crime records.
Friday 15th December 1922:
Queensland Abolishes Death Penalty
-Queensland has become the first state in Australia to abolish capital punishment. Life imprisonment has replaced the death penalty, however such imprisonment is not to be mitigated or varied.
At the time of settlement there were 160 offences punishable by death, including treason, murder, piracy, forgery, burglary, housebreaking, cutting down trees in an avenue or garden, sending threatening letters and sacrilege. Records disclose that the number of executions in Australia between 1901 and 1910 averaged four per year.

Tuesday 18th September 1877:
Port Arthur Gaol Closed
-Tasmania's infamous Port Arthur penal station, founded by Lieutenant-Governor Arthur in 1830, closed down yesterday -- a decision which must come as a relief to the colony's residents. The gaol has received unwanted publicity in recent years with the release of the popular series His Natural Life by journalist Marcus Clarke. Clarke set his harrowing tale of crime and punishment around the gaol. It also featured in Anthony Trollope's account of his visit Australia and New Zealand.
    The gaol lies on the south-eastern coast of the island, in an inlet of the Tasman peninsula. Convicts who were incarcerated had little chance of escape from Port Arthur, as the gaol was heavily guarded by dogs, soldiers and a bay full of sharks -- for those who would try their luck swimming to freedom.
    Under Governor Arthur's rules, only the serious criminals were sent to the penal station, as convicts remain a cheap source of labour for the government and the settlers. The convicts are given food and clothing by the settlers, according to government regulations, and the less trusted convicts work on the government chain-gangs, carrying out public works.

Monday 28th November 1881:
Kelly Spurs On Police Changes
-The royal commission established to inquire into the functioning of the Victorian Police has described the Kelly Gang period and the corresponding police hunt as 'a disgraceful and humiliating episode in the history of the colony.' It has brought down its first report, recommending a number of dismissals, forced retirements and demotions for charges which range from 'arrant cowardice' to 'indolence and incompetence." more »

Thursday 6th January 1904:
Fingerprinting Leads To Arrest
    -A Sydney man due to face trial for burglary is the first suspect to have been charged with an offence by police using new fingerprinting identification methods. While in police custody for another offence, the accused was charged with the burglary of a house in the suburb of Potts Point after detectives established that his fingerprints matched those found on a window pane and window sash in the house.
A government medical officer told the court that this method of identification was the most reliable presently available and that the chances of discovering identical fingerprints are estimated to be 'a million to one.' The accused was remanded to face trial next month.
    Known as the Bertillon system, the policing technique was introduced at Darlinghurst, Sydney in 1902 and criminal suspects have since been regularly fingerprinted to assist in the investigation of crimes.

Tuesday 27th September 1927:
Federal Police Force Formed
    -A new police force has been established for the Australian Capital Territory under Commonwealth legislation. From tomorrow, members of the New South Wales police force at present in Canberra will join the new organisation, whose powers are expected to be more wide-ranging than those currently conferred upon state police forces.

Monday 3rd September 1928:
'No' To Prohibition
-NSW voters have given a resounding 'no' to prohibition in Saturday's referendum. Counting is not yet complete but the 'no' vote is more than double the 'yes' vote. The Federal Capital Territory also rejected prohibition by a majority of three to one.
  The Reverend Hammond, who took a leading part in the campaign, said: 'Those silly people who voted yesterday against prohibition will live to regret it, I am certain.'
Friday 13th October 1933:
Automatic Traffic Lights
The new 'electromatic' traffic signals have been installed at the corner of Kent and Market Streets. When approaching the intersection motorists will see coloured lights mounted on posts on the footpath. The three lights are arranged vertically; red, amber and at the base, green. There is a yellow line painted across the lanes at the intersection which is called the 'stop line'.
  The red light means stop at the stop line before entering the intersection, and remain stationary until the green light appears. Red and amber indicates that the light will shortly change to green and the driver should get ready to start. Green means that the driver may proceed straight on, or to the left, or right depending on the safety of others. However, green does not indicate that a driver can proceed without taking proper precautions. Amber means to stop on the line, unless the vehicle has already entered the intersection, in which case it should proceed.
  The signals will come into operation at 11.00am this morning.

Saturday 26th March 1955:
NSW Abolishes Death Penalty
    -After a heated debate in the NSW parliament, an amendment to the Crimes Act which will abolish the death penalty for rape and murder is set to become law. The changes have been made to bring the law into line with accepted practice, where sentences for the death penalty are usually commuted to life imprisonment.
    In making a case against the change, Mr L. Jordan, MP, quoted the case of Jack the Ripper in London, who had written a letter to police in the blood of one of his victims. 'This is the kind of person upon whom so much compassion is being wasted tonight,' he said.

Wednesday 31st March 1892:
'Baby Farming' Now Illegal
    -'Baby farming' has been outlawed under the newly passed Children's Protection Act of NSW.
    The widely condemned practice of unlicensed fostering of children has caused much misery both here and in England. This practice of finding homes for unwanted children has led to the murder of several babies.
    Intense lobbying from a number of charity groups as well as the strong commitment of the State Children Relief Board (SCRB) has helped the push to stamp out the practice. The Act is especially concerned with children under three years of age who are secretly boarded out by their own mothers, independent of the SCRB.
    Under the new law, the cleanliness of homes and fitness of foster parents is subject to careful inspection.
Sunday 28th March 1886:
Convict System Closes
-The convict system in W.A. has been disbanded due to the drop in crime rate in Great Britain and Northern Ireland as trial rates have dropped by 75 per cent. more »

Wednesday 1st August 1956:
Pokies Legalised
-Poker machines in New South Wales will be legalised, following a decision of the state Cabinet yesterday. They will be legally available in non-proprietary clubs, with fixed fees of between £40 and £500 each to be paid to the government. The fees are expected to bring up to £750,000 each year, which will be directed to the Hospitals Commission as part of its regular maintenance subsidy. It is uncertain whether other states will follow the NSW action.
Friday 2nd May 1958:
Dictation Test Abolished
-The Federal Minister for Immigration, Mr A. Downer, yesterday announced that the dictation test would be abolished as a condition of entry into Australia. The test, which has the effect of discriminating against Asian and European people with a limited knowledge of written English, was established as long ago as 1897 in some states, and was also used as a reason for deporting people who had legally settled in the country.
Friday 2nd December 2005:
Government Pushes Through Agenda
    -The ruling Liberal/National Party coalition has taken advantage of its control of the Senate to push through controversial legislation. The last time a party had control of both houses of Parliament was when Prime Minister John Howard was Treasurer in Malcolm Fraser's government more than twenty-five years ago.
   The first controversial Bill pushed through has given the Government the option of selling its 51 percent stake in Telstra. The legislation was not supported by voters in the bush. But National Party senators, including maverick Queenslander Barnaby Joyce voted for it.
   The most controversial was the Industrial Relations Bill, which passed today after a marathon Senate sitting. Opposed by the Labor Party, union movement and religious organisations.
Tuesday 6th December 2005:
New Anti-terrorism Laws
-The Australian Federal parliament has passed a new anti-terrorism Bill today that vastly increases the power of law enforcement agencies. The Bill was a response to the London bombings in July, which killed 53 people. Authorities feared that a similar attack could happen easily in Australia.
   The Prime Minister John Howard consulted with the leaders of the states and territories, who had to pass complementary laws through their respective parliaments.
   Many of the provisions have been criticised by civil libertarians, and have generated heated debate in the community. These include: detaining suspects for a limited time without legal representation; restricting movements of suspects who have not been charged with any crimes; and stricter sedition laws.
   The Bill was pased with the qualified support of the Federal Opposition.
Thursday 24th April 1975:
Victoria Ends Death Penalty
-Capital punishment was abolished in Victoria tonight. The legislative council voted 20-13 to abolish the death penalty two weeks after the Legislative Assembly supported abolition by 36-30. Tonight 11 Liberals and all 9 Labour MLCs supported the Bill.
Wednesday 1st September 1976:
Cigarette Ads Banned
-Cigarette and tobacco ads were abolished today to comply with the widely held medical opinion that smoking should be discouraged. Actor Stuart Wagstaff tossed double or nothing for a couple of cartons of cigarette in return for a tank of petrol in the last cigarette advertisement seen on Australian television last night. At a few minutes before midnight, the Benson and Hedges ad made its last appearance.


Friday 17th January 1941
Pacifist Sect Banned
-The Federal Government decided yesterday to ban the Christian sect known as the Jehovah's Witnesses. Effective upon gazettal, the organisation, which is also known as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, will become illegal.
  The decision follows the closure last week of four sect-owned radio stations and imprisonment of announcer and sect-member Gordon Edwards for refusing to take the the oath under compulsory military training regulations.
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