When you think of Australia, kangaroos, the Sydney Opera House and Crocodile Dundee might be the first things that come to mind, but the “land down under” has given the world more than extreme animal wranglers and Foster’s beer. In fact, many of the inventions that we take for granted every day were created by an Australian mind. In honor of Australia Day, here are a few examples:

Refrigerators: Perhaps the most ubiquitous Australian invention is present in almost every kitchen in the world: the refrigerator. Australian inventor James Garrison developed the cooling system that is used in almost every refrigerator on the market today in Geelong in 1854. The ether gas compression system, in which gas is cooled and liquefied by passing through a compressor and then over coils is used in most air conditioners. So next time you open the fridge for a cold beverage or turn your AC on full blast during the summer, pay homage to Garrison for keeping it cool.

Electric Drills: If you’ve ever needed to create a hole quickly and efficiently, you’ve probably used an electric drill, which just happens to be another Australian invention. Melbourne’s Arthur James Arnot developed the first electric drill in 1889 for excavating coal and oil from the earth; it wasn’t until several years later that the handheld style appeared on the market.
Notepads: Are you taking nots as you read this? If you’re using a notepad, you can thank Australian stationer J.A. Birchall. Owner of the Tasmania-based Birchall stationary company, Birchall created the first notepad in 1909 by taking sheets of paper, adding a cardboard backing and gluing the top edge. This idea also led to the development of the paperback book.

Splayds: You know what a spork is, right? Well, the splayd is the spork’s cousin, invented in 1943 by William McArthur. The story goes that McArthur saw women struggling to manage their meals and utensils during formal parties, and sought to create a single utensil that would serve as spoon, fork and knife. The splayd has straighter edges than a spork, making it easier to cut soft foods. Splayds aren’t in wide use today, but they do appear every now and then at some restaurants. If you happen to stumble upon one, you’ll probably know more about it than your server, so share the knowledge!

Black Box Flight Recorders: In 1958, Australian chemist Dave Warren (possibly) asked the question “What if the pilots could tell us what went wrong?” when investigating a plane crash. He went on to invent the black box recorder (which is actually orange, so don’t be confused if you ever see one) and is now installed in every commercial airplane in the world. Now, if something goes wrong with the flight, investigators can listen to the black box recordings to help determine what happened.

These are just a few of the inventions that Australia brought to the world. Other Aussie inventions include the tank, underwater torpedo, powered flight, and perhaps in a related move, the inflatable airplane escape slide. Additionally, when you lift a glass of wine from a box to honor Australia Day, you can thank Australian Thomas Cangrove for the fresh taste. He invented the “goon bag,” or the wine cask that allows you to serve wine without contacting air. Cheers to that!

There are hundreds more examples of Australian inventions, some more technologically complex than others. But one thing is clear – Australia is definitely a land of ingenuity.


This guest post article was written and provided by Erica Gustafson who is an avid Australia traveler, freelance writer and digital media consultant for Expedia.  She helps people book cheap hotel reservations at many locations around the world.