Australian Inventions that Changed the World

Australia is famous for its laid-back atmosphere and beach culture. Less well-known are the inventions that have emerged from the country and changed the way we live. These innovative ideas cross various sectors including medicine, transport, and DIY.

Want to know more about influential inventions from Australia? Let’s take a closer look at them and the impact they have made.

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Australian Technology

Black Box Flight Recorder


Dr David Warren invented the black box flight recorder in 1954. He was influenced by the loss of his father when the Miss Hobart crashed into the Bass Strait, in 1934. Warren’s invention has helped to make air travel the safest form of commercial transportation.

This has happened as the box records the final moments before a plane crash thereby allowing the industry to improve flight safety. Despite what it’s commonly referred to, the box is orange rather than black. Industry professionals refer to it as an electronic flight data recorder.

Spray-on Skin

Plastic surgeon Professor Fiona Wood patented her spray-on skin invention in 1999. The Perth-based professional’s creation has since played a vital role in treating burn victims.

The technique involves using a small piece of a burn victim’s skin in the laboratory to grow new healthy cells which are then sprayed on to the victim’s damaged skin allowing the patient to recover quicker and with a reduced amount of scarring.

Electronic Pacemaker

The first external electronic pacemaker was invented by Doctor Mark Lidwill supported by physicist Edgar Booth. The work was completed in Sydney during the 1920s. Since this initial development work, pacemakers are now used to keep millions of people alive.

The artificial pacemakers that Lidwill and Booth invented used electric charges to maintain regular beating of the heart. Lidwill used the pacemaker to revive a baby that had been stillborn, and the child went on to recover fully.

The same basic principles are still used in pacemakers. However, they are now implanted in the body.

Electric Drill

Anyone who loves DIY will have probably used an electric drill. These tools have their origins in the invention patented by Australian electrical engineer Arthur James Arnot, and his partner William Brain, in 1889.

This was the first patent for an electric drill. The tool was designed to drill into rock and coal. It looked very different to the hand drills we use today but the basic technology used remains the same.


Wi-Fi technology

The central parts of the Wi-Fi technology we know today emerged from development work conducted by John O’ Sullivan and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), in 1992.

The team was originally conducting astronomy research and was looking for the faint echoes of black holes. It was from this work that the original patents for Wi-Fi technology resulted.

Cochlear Implant

The cochlear implant was one of the earliest Australian inventions in the healthcare sector when University of Melbourne Professor Graeme Clark came up with the idea in the 1970s. He was inspired by his father’s hearing loss issues.

The cochlea implant Clark invented works by electronically stimulating the auditory nerve. The implants are used across the world to help hearing impaired people to hear.

Inflatable Escape Slide

Most of us have seen an inflatable escape slide used during an emergency aircraft landing in the movies even if we have never used one. These inflatable slides were invented by QANTAS airlines employee Jack Grant, in 1965.

Today, the equipment is used by all may airlines globally. It can also be used as a life raft if an aircraft comes down in water.

Ultrasound Scanner

During the 1950s there was concern about taking x-rays of pregnant women. Doctors experimented to find other methods to check on the health of an unborn child. They discovered that there were small differences in ultrasound echoes that bounced off soft tissue and converted them into TV images.

As a result of this research, David Robinson and George Kossoff from the Ultrasonic Research Group of the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories created the first ultrasound scanner, in 1961.

Today, ultrasound scans allow expectant parents to see their unborn child on screen and give doctors vital insights into how well the pregnancy is progressing. Ultrasound technology is also being used elsewhere in the field of medicine.

Permanent-crease clothing

The invention of clothing with permanent creases may not be lifesaving like some other influential Australian innovations. But it did lead to the development of specific items of clothing like permanently pleated skirts.

The permanent creases are the result of a process called Si-Ro-Set which was invented by CSIRO in 1957. The process works by altering the structure of wool fibres so that they can be fixed in place using heat.

Gardasil and Cervarix Cancer Vaccines

The creation of the Gardasil and Cervarix Cancer Vaccines came about as the result of work carried out by Jian Zhou and Ian Frazer at the University of Queensland.

The work took place in 1991 and has had a positive impact on the health of women ever since.

Each of these Australian inventions have made an impact on the world around us. It will be interesting to see what innovations emerge from the country in the future.


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