The First Traffic Lights in Australia

When were the first traffic lights installed in Australia? It’s an interesting question, and one that once asked, makes you intrigued to find out … well it did me anyway.

So that’s what today’s history lesson is all about. When were the first traffic lights installed in each of the Australian states?

Of course I headed to the one and only magnificent Trove to find out, and you might just be as surprised as I was!

SYDNEY – 13 October 1933
Friday, 13 October 1933 was when Sydney’s (and Australia’s) first traffic lights began operating. The lights were installed at the intersection of Market and Kent Streets in city of Sydney, and were switched on at 11am, by the then Minister for Transport, Colonel Michael Bruxner. You can see a fabulous photo of the traffic lights here.


BRISBANE – 21 January 1936
At 3pm on Tuesday, 21 January 1936 a large crowd gathered in the CBD to watch the switching on of the first traffic lights in Brisbane.  These were installed at the intersection of Ann, Upper Albert and Roma Streets.


HOBART – 27 January 1937
This one surprised me as I never realised that Hobart had traffic lights so early. But the newspapers reported the grand occasion which you can read on the link below. Just before 11am on Wednesday the 27th of January 1937 the lights were turned on at the intersection of Elizabeth and Liverpool streets.


ADELAIDE – 13 April 1937
Tuesday, 13 April 1937 was Adelaide’s big day, as that’s when Adelaide’s first traffic lights were turned on. These were installed at various intersections along King William Street in the city.


MELBOURNE – late December 1937
The Melbourne public had to adapt to traffic lights around Christmas time in 1937. The “new traffic-actuated single lights” were installed at the intersection of Collins and Queen Streets in Melbourne’s CDB, and “they will also provide a separate crossing signal for pedestrians”. As these were deemed a success others at St Kilda Road followed shortly afterwards.


PERTH – 19 December 1954
December was the time for yet another set of traffic lights to be turned on. This time it was Perth. Their first set of traffic lights was installed at the St Georges Terrace and William Street intersection.

CANBERRA – 23 October 1965 
Canberra’s first two sets of traffic lights were brought into operation on Saturday, the 23rd of October 1965. The traffic lights were installed at the intersection of Northbourne Avenue and London Circuit, and Northbourne Avenue and Cooyong Street.

DARWIN – approx 1960s-1970s
I was unable to find an official date, but I did find a reference in someone’s memories of life in Darwin which says “there were no traffic lights anywhere at the time. The first set of traffic lights I remember were at the intersection of Bagot Road with the Stuart Highway!” You can read the full article here. If anyone can provide a date please let me know, and I’ll be happy to update my post.

9 Responses to “The First Traffic Lights in Australia”

  1. Carmel says:

    An interesting topic and fun facts, thanks Alona, Trove comes up trumps yet again.

  2. Isabel Flynn says:

    I enjoyed your traffic light story – I was surprised that Melbourne took so long after Sydney to put them in place..

  3. Isabel Flynn says:

    I have seen in Melbourne in front of their office (?RTA) in the city – the old clock face traffic signal with the red, green yellow segments. They were in place from the 40’s to the 70’s I think.

  4. David Tattersall says:

    I can remember the traffic clocks in Frankston in the late 1960s/early 1970s. It is my belief that this was the last place they were used in Victoria

  5. TrafficLights says:

    Have a look at Melbourne 28 June 1928 installed traffic signals befor Sydney

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