Slideshow trails > Educational Value Statement: Innovations and inventions

Educational Value Statement: Innovations and inventions

‘Innovations and inventions’ features Australian inventions developed between 1876 and 1991. The images show in chronological order some of the challenges that Australians have faced and the solutions that they have devised. There are iconic inventions such as the Hills hoist and the drip-fire rifle used at Gallipoli during the First World War. A still from what was probably the world’s first full-length feature film, ‘The story of the Kelly Gang’, is included. More recent inventions from Swinburne University of Technology conclude the trail.

  • This picture trail shows some of the ingenious ways that Australians have met challenges presented by the country’s huge size, unique environment and relative isolation. For example, refrigerated rail carriages enabled fresh food to be delivered to inland towns. Early planes and the pedal-wireless aided long-distance communication, saving lives and facilitating education. The stump-jump plough enabled cultivation of terrain previously thought to be unusable.
  • Some Australian inventions shown in the trail were so outstanding that they became known throughout the world. The Hills hoist – Lance Hill’s version of the rotary clothes hoist – was a great commercial success in Australia and internationally, and became an iconic feature of suburban Australian life. The Traegar pedal wireless was sold in Nigeria and Canada. The surf rescue belt saved lives in Australia and overseas for almost 90 years from 1906.
  • Outdoor and leisure activities, encouraged by the Australian climate and relatively short working hours, have also resulted in inventions. There is a still in the trail from what was probably the world’s first full-length feature film, the Australian-made ‘The Story of the Kelly Gang’. Homemade camping trailers such as the one shown were popular and affordable ways for families to take holidays. The unusual patented golf machine was used for gambling.
  • Inventions developed to support Australians at war have achieved legendary status for their creativity. The ingenious periscope and drip-fire rifles used in the First World War saved the lives of many troops at Gallipoli. The lightweight and more reliable Owen gun was used in the Second World War and the Korean and Vietnam wars. Military research also produced a vertical acceleration machine and an invention for salvaging air-dropped supplies.
  • Australian prisoners of war are renowned for their capacity to devise ingenious solutions to difficult problems. The artificial limb factory in a prison camp in South-East Asia provided mobility to soldiers whose legs had been destroyed by tropical ulcers. Photographs of short-wave radio receivers built from stolen parts and cleverly concealed in a book and clogs show both creativity and courage in keeping vital communications open under threat of death.
  • The trail displays innovations developed at Swinburne University of Technology that make use of microprocessors and biophysics equipment. Some of these inventions, such as a hovercraft and a vehicle in the Shell Mileage Marathon, improve the environment. Others enhance lives, including a writing tool for disabled people, equipment used by a body artist to enhance sensory experience and a data acquisition system for recording electroencephalograms (EEGs).

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