1983 in Australia


State and Territory Leaders

Governors and Administrators



  • 4 January Louise Bell, aged 10-years, disappeared from her bedroom in Hackham West, South Australia. Her body has not been located. On 11 November 2016, 68-year-old Dieter Pfennig was found guilty of murdering her. He was already serving a life sentence for murdering a boy in 1989 and the abduction and rape of another boy.[1][2]
  • 14 January Federal Opposition Leader Bill Hayden reshuffles the shadow frontbench, while a conspiracy to depose him still looms large.


  • 3 February Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser is granted a double dissolution of both houses of parliament for a double dissolution election for 5 March. On the same day Bob Hawke replaces Bill Hayden as federal ALP leader.
  • 8 February A severe dust storm sweeps through Melbourne and deposits an estimated 1,000 tonnes of topsoil on the city.
  • 16 February The Ash Wednesday bushfires in Victoria and South Australia claim the lives of 72 people and destroys over 2,000 homes in one of Australia's worst ever fires.
  • 21 February The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) endorses the prices and income accord drawn up jointly with the Australian Labor Party.
  • 23 February Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser's claim that people's savings would be safer under the bed than in the bank exposes him to ridicule, including Bob Hawke's riposte, "But that's where the Commies are!".


  • 5 March 1983 Australian federal election. The ALP, with Bob Hawke as leader wins with one of the biggest parliamentary majorities in Australian political history.
  • 8 March The Australian dollar is devalued by 10 per cent.
  • 11 March The Hawke Government's new ministry is sworn in, Andrew Peacock becomes Federal Opposition Leader after he wins the Liberal Party leadership. John Howard retains the Deputy Liberal leader position.


  • 11 April
  • 21 April The National and International Security Committee decides to expel Soviet First Secretary Valery Ivanov and to blacklist David Coombe, a Canberra lobbyist and former Australian Labor Party National Secretary, whom Ivanov was thought to have been cultivating.
  • 22 April Soviet embassy official Valery Ivanov is expelled from Australia for allegedly trying to recruit spies in the Australian government.


  • 1 May The Sydney Entertainment Centre is opened.
  • 3 May All of Queensland is declared a disaster area after a fortnight of almost continuous rain breaks a drought and floods nine river systems.
  • 10 May Canberra lobbyist and former Federal Secretary of the Australian Labor Party David Combe is declared persona non grata by the Federal Government because of his association with Valery Ivanov.
  • 16 May NSW Premier Neville Wran steps aside in response to allegations raised by ABC program Four Corners that he attempted to influence the NSW Magistry
  • 19 May The Federal Government's announcement of sweeping changes to the superannuation structure evoke widespread opposition.


  • 14 June The Royal Australian Navy patrol boat HMAS Bendigo rescues British solo navigator, Peter Bird, as his boat was wrecked just 33 kilometres from Wreck Bay at the northern extremity of Queensland. Bird had crossed 9,000 kilometres of the Pacific Ocean in 294 days in a 10.6 metre rowing boat.


  • 1 July High Court blocks construction of the Franklin Dam in Tasmania in the Tasmanian Dams Case.
  • 14 July Mick Young resigns as Special Minister of State after admitting being indiscrete in remarks he made about the expulsion of Soviet First Secretary Valery Ivanov to lobbyist Eric Walsh and Australian National Opinion Polls' Rod Cameron, both of whom were friends of Mick Young.
  • 18 July The first death in Australia attributable to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) occurs.
  • 22 July Dick Smith completes the world's first solo helicopter flight around the globe.
  • 28 July New South Wales premier Neville Wran exonerated by Street Royal Commission over claims raised by ABC program Four Corners which claimed that he attempted to influence the NSW magistry.


  • 2 August Paul Sharp becomes the first European to cross the Simpson Desert alone and on foot.
  • 4 August Queensland Welfare Minister Terry White is dismissed from his portfolio for voting with the opposition during a debate on the establishment of a public accounts committee, despite this being a part of both Liberal and Labor policies.
  • 18 August A road train is deliberately driven into a motel at Ayers Rock, killing five people and injuring a further 20. The driver, Douglas Edwin Crabbe is subsequently convicted of murder.




  • 9 December Federal Treasurer Paul Keating announces that the Australian dollar would be allowed to float on the international money market. Under the old flexible peg system, the Reserve Bank bought and sold all Australian dollars and cleared the market at the end of the day.
  • 15 December Legendary Australian band Cold Chisel plays its farewell show at the Sydney Entertainment Centre after more than a decade together.

Arts and literature



  • 30 April Four Corners program aired exposing allegations that NSW Premier Neville Wran had tried to influence the magistry over the dropping of fraud charges against Kevin Humphreys, charged with misappropriation of funds from the Balmain Leagues Club. Humphreys is forced to resign his position as President of the NSWRL, while Wran has to face the Street Royal Commission over the allegations & was later exonerated.
  • 26 September After Australia's America's Cup win, Prime Minister Bob Hawke goes on the Today show and declared a public holiday for that day, stating that "any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum."
  • 27 November The last ever episode of The Don Lane Show goes to air on GTV-9.


  • 26 February Value of a rugby league try is increased to four points for the start of the 1983 season. A number of other rule changes are also made, including a "hand over" after six tackles instead of a scrum.
  • 20 March Robert de Castella is Australia's best finisher at the eleventh IAAF World Cross Country Championships, staged in Gateshead, England. He finishes in sixth place (37:00.0) in the race over 11,994 metres.
  • 11 May VFL Board accepts the findings of the McKinsey Report in principle, suggesting major changes to league administration including the establishment of an independent commission.
  • 12 June John Stanley wins the men's national marathon title, clocking 2:17:04 in Sydney, while Megan Sloane claims the women's title in 2:37:50.
  • 18 June Fitzroy produce an amazing performance against North Melbourne in a top-of-the-table clash at the Junction Oval, winning by 150 points and kicking the third-highest VFL score to that point. The previous biggest loss by a minor premier was 69 points. Matt Rendell, effectively playing as a seventh forward, kicked eight goals after having not kicked one for seventeen games.
  • 9 July Australia's run of 16 consecutive Rugby League test victories is ended when New Zealand upset Australia 19–12 at Lang Park, Brisbane.
  • 22 July Fitzroy with 12.6 (78) and St Kilda with 7.1 (43) set a record aggregate score for a quarter in VFL football, beating the previous record of 18.2 (110) in 1975 by Essendon and Carlton.
  • 5 August First game played under lights since 1952. Geelong defeat Sydney at the SCG
  • 24 September Hawthorn (20.20.140) defeat Essendon (8.9.57) to win the 87th VFL premiership
  • 25 September Parramatta Eels defeat Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 18–6 to win the 76th NSWRL premiership
  • 26 September Newtown Jets & Western Suburbs Magpies axed from the 1984 NSWRL premiership. It is announced that Newtown will return as Newtown-Campbelltown in 1985. The move never eventuates.
  • 1 November Kiwi wins the Melbourne Cup.
  • 5 December NSWRL reinstate Western Suburbs after Equity Court ruling. Wests end up moving to Campbelltown around the same time.
  • 28 December Pat Cash clinches a Davis Cup tennis win for Australia over Sweden.
  • Ross Glendinning (North Melbourne) wins the Brownlow Medal



See also


  1. Prosser, Candice (11 November 2016). "Louise Bell trial: Dieter Pfennig found guilty of murder". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  2. Sutton, Candace (15 July 2016). "The haunting crime scene of the Louise Bell murder mystery". News.Com.Au. News Limited. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  3. Chapter 8: Caught in the act : the ASIS raid, Australian Institute of Criminology (1989).
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