Chronology of the Major Events in Australian History Regarding the Topic of Marriage

Marriage in Australia: A timeline of how love and law have changed in 130 years

Adapted from Kathy Gollan for Earshot
Updated Mon 17 Apr 2017, 12:58 PM AEST

  • June 10, 1884 Married women can own property
    Victoria becomes the first Australian colony to pass legislation allowing married women the right to own property, in the wake of the UK Parliament passing the Married Women’s Property Act.
  • June 1, 1918 Laws control Aboriginal marriage
    The Aboriginals Ordinance 1918 restricts marriage between Indigenous women and non-Indigenous men in the Northern Territory. There were also state laws in place to control marriage for Indigenous Australians.
  • November 16, 1942 Marriage age raised
    Tasmania passes a law to raise the minimum age of marriage from 12 for women and 14 for men to 16 and 18 respectively. Other states follow.
  • November 9, 1961 Australia’s first Marriage Act
    The Marriage Act 1961 makes marriage law uniform across the country and sets the minimum marriageable age as 18. It does not, however, formalise a definition of marriage.
  • November 18, 1966 ‘Marriage bar’ abolished
    The bar on employment of married women in the Commonwealth Public Service is abolished. Introduced at the beginning of the 1900s, the “marriage bar” was intended to keep women from “stealing” men’s jobs and also to boost the birth rate. It meant many women kept their marriages a secret.
  • July 19, 1973 First civil celebrant appointed
    Civil celebrancy is formally established in Australia by the Commonwealth Attorney General, Lionel Murphy, despite widespread opposition. Murphy appoints a 26-year-old woman, Lois D’Arcy, as the first independent civil marriage celebrant.
  • June 12, 1975 No-fault divorce
    The Family Law Act 1975 establishes the principle of no-fault divorce, with 12 months separation being sufficient to prove breakdown of the marriage (prior to that, some form of wrongdoing by either party had to be proved). In the wake of the act, the divorce rate temporarily skyrockets.
  • April 1, 2001 Netherlands legalises same-sex marriage
    The Netherlands becomes the first country to extend marriage laws to include same-sex couples.
  • August 16, 2004 Marriage Act amended
    Under prime minister John Howard, the Marriage Act is amended to add the following definition: “Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.”
  • March 1, 2009 De facto status
    De facto relationships are granted similar rights to married couples. In some States a couple needs to have lived together for a minimum period before they can claim de facto status.
  • November 1, 2016 Push for same-sex marriage plebiscite defeated
    In November, the Australian government’s push for a plebiscite on same-sex marriage is defeated in the Senate.
  • September 7, 2017
    Postal vote distributed to all voting-age Australian’s for them to vote “yes” or “no” as to whether Australia should allow Same-Sex Marriage. The Outcome will be published in November 2017.
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