Home Decades 1980s 1989



01 – Fidel Castro completes 30 years in power in Cuba.

02 – The US and Canada sign a comprehensive free trade agreement which eliminates tariffs and other barriers to trade and investment.

04 – US Navy jets shoot down two Libyan MiG-23 fighters 112 kilometres off the Libyan coast. The Pentagon says they fired in self-defence.

05 – Former Ugandan leader Idi Amin, now persona non grata in Saudi Arabia, is detained in Kinshasa after arriving on a false passport.

07 – Emperor Hirohito of Japan dies at age 87 from cancer of the duodenum. He is succeeded by his son, Akihito.

08 – In another major British air disaster, only 18 days after Lockerbie, a British Midland Boeing 737 airliner crashes next to the M1 motorway between Nottingham and Leicester, killing 44 of the 125 onboard. The pilot of the 737, on a flight from Heathrow to Belfast, had reported engine difficulties and was lining up for an emergency landing at East Midlands airport. But the plane came down in flames less than half a mile away from the village of Kegworth.

11 – Assistant commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, Colin Winchester, 55, is shot dead in the driveway of his Canberra home. He is the highest ranking Police officer to be assassinated in Australia.

12 – Former Ugandan leader Idi Amin is deported from Zaire to Senegal.

16 – Three days of rioting begin in Miami after a Hispanic policeman shoots and kills an unarmed black man fleeing arrest.

16 – In Prague, hundreds of riot police storm Wenceslas Square and attack demonstrators demanding freedom.

17 – Five Asian children are killed by a gunman at their Stockton, California elementary school. The gunman injures 30 others before killing himself.

18 – South African president P W Botha, aged 73, suffers a mild stroke in Cape Town.

20 – George Bush sworn in as 41st US President.

23 – More than 1,000 die in USSR earthquake.

23 – Spanish artist Salvador Dali dies (b. 1904).

26 – Lone round-the-world yachtswoman Kay Cottee is named ‘Australian of the Year’.


02 – Last Soviet troops leave Kabul. All 120,000 Soviet military personnel will have left Afghanistan within the next ten days.

02 – F W de Klerk leads South Africa after Botha resigns.

02 – Alfredo Stroessner, brutal dictator of Paraguay for 34 years, is overthrown by General Andres Rodriguez.

14 – Ayatollah Khomeini issues a fatwa ordering the death of British writer Salman Rushdie for alleged blasphemy in his novel Satanic Verses.

16 – Salman Rushdie cancels a three-week trip to America and goes into hiding under police guard.

17 – British police confirm the Lockerbie air crash was caused by a bomb hidden in a radio-cassette player.

21 – Indian tribal leaders gather in the Amazon town of Altamira in a campaign to stop a hydroelectric dam project which will further deplete the Amazon rainforest.

24 – Nine people die in a freak accident when they are sucked from a Boeing 747 and dumped into the Pacific Ocean. An explosion, believed caused by structural failure, ripped a huge hole in the right side of the United Airlines plane shortly after take-off from Honolulu. The victims and a section of seats were blown through the gaping hole as air rushed through the plane. One horrified passenger, seated across the aisle from the blast, grabbed an air-hostess to stop her being sucked from the plane. Passengers cheered when the Sydney-bound plane returned to Honolulu and landed safely.

25 – Mike Tyson retains his world heavyweight title, stopping Briton Frank Bruno in the fifth round in Las Vegas.


01 – Australian Pensioner Gwendolin Mitchelhill is the first victim of Sydney’s ‘Granny Killer‘. Six elderly women are murdered over a 13 month period at Mosman on Sydney’s North Shore.

01 – A dusk to dawn curfew is imposed in Venezuela after 100 die in riots sparked by big increases in consumer prices.

07 – China declares martial law in Tibet.

09 – Kermit Beahan, the bombardier who dropped the A-bomb on Nagasaki in 1945 killing 70,000, dies aged 70 in the USA.

10 – 16 die in Tibet in riots to mark the 30th anniversary of the first rebellion against Chinese rule.

14 – Former world chess champion Anatoly Karpov is elected to the revamped Soviet parliament.

20 – Australian PM Bob Hawke cries on television and admits marital infidelity.

22 – Pete Rose is accused of betting on baseball. If convicted, it will trivialise his nomination into the hall of fame as well as suspend him from the league for an indefinite amount of time.

24 – Alaska is hit by the supertanker Exxon Valdez oil spill – The 11 million gallon spill is the worst in history.

26 – Soviet people cast ballots in the first free national election since the October Revolution in 1917.

28 – Reformist Boris Yeltsin wins in USSR election.

31 – Captain Joseph Hazelwood is fired because of an excessive blood alcohol reading at the time of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.


04 – Exxon apologises for the Alaskan oil spill.

09 – 42 Soviet sailors die after an explosion sinks their nuclear-powered submarine off the coast of Sweden.

09 – Wayne Gardner wins the inaugural Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix at Phillip Island.

12 – American boxer Sugar Ray Robinson dies.

13 – American writer and anti-war protester Abbie Hoffman dies.

15 – A police officer orders a gate to be opened at a football stadium to allow in a tightly packed crowd of fans to watch an FA Cup semi-final. The result is the worst ever disaster in Britain’s sporting history. 94 people perish and 170 are injured when Liverpool supporters rush onto the already crowded section of the west stand at Hillsborough in Sheffield during a match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. Victims are crushed in the entrance tunnel, on the steps up to the terraces and against the perimeter fence.

17 – The trade union Solidarity is legalised in Poland.

18 – Chinese students begin mass pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square, Beijing.

19 – An explosion kills 47 sailors aboard the battleship USS Iowa. The ship was 300 miles north of Puerto Rico at the time.

19 – British novelist Daphne du Maurier dies.

21 – 150,000 gather in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, to mourn former leader Hu Yaobang and to demand reform.

26 – Lucille Ball dies in Los Angeles of an aortal rupture, aged 77.


05 – Oliver North found guilty on three charges.

09 – Pablo Picasso’s self-portrait sells for $47.9 million in London.

14 – Carlos Menem elected as Argentina’s President.

15 – Bond University in Australia takes first students.

24 – A British jury awards Sonia Sutcliffe, wife of the Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, £600,000 damages for a libel by the satirical magazine Private Eye.

25 – Mikhail Gorbachev is elected president of USSR by the new Congress of People’s Deputies.

27 – An anti-Salman Rushdie march by 20,000 Moslems in the UK ends in 101 arrests and clashes with police.

28 – Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith completes round-the-world flight.

29 – Boris Yeltsin is elected to the Supreme Soviet following popular outrage at his being denied a seat.

30 – Students erect a 30-foot high Statue of Liberty in Tiananmen Square, Beijing.

30 – Tim Anderson is charged with the 1978 bombing of the Hilton Hotel in Sydney.


02 – Bill Wyman of The Rolling Stones, 52, marries Mandy Smith, 18, after dating her for five years.

02 – Sosuke Uno is sworn in as Japanese Prime Minister.

03 – Ayatollah Khomeini dies in Iran.

04 – Chinese troops massacre protesters in Tiananmen Square.

04 – The first partially democratic elections in Poland are held.

04 – Children setting out on their summer holidays are among the victims of what is probably the worst rail disaster in Soviet history. Shortly after 1.00am two passing trains on the Trans – Siberian Railway, both brimful of passengers, are destroyed by an explosion of gas from a leaking pipeline. The death toll could be more than 800. Hours before the disaster a smell of leaking gas was noticed up to five miles from the pipeline. Instead of looking for the leak, an employee turned up the pressure of the liquefied gas. The crossing of the trains kindled the catastrophe.

05 – Solidarity inflicts a crushing defeat on the Communist Party in Polish elections.

13 – The wreck of the German battleship Bismarck, which was sunk in 1941, is found in the Atlantic Ocean 1,000 kilometres west of Brest.

15 – Gorbachev says that the Berlin Wall could one day disappear.

22 – 24 student heroes of the democracy campaign have been executed in the Chinese government’s ruthless clampdown.


05 – Oliver North is sentenced to two years probation and 1,200 hours of community service.

06 – Chris Evert plays her last match at Wimbledon, losing to Steffi Graf in a semi-final.

10 – Reverend Jerry Falwell officially disbands the Moral Majority, stating that his goal of getting fundamentalist Christians involved in national politics has been achieved.

10 – “That’s All Folks!” – Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and many others, dies aged 81 in Los Angeles.

10 – A series of nationwide strikes by coal miners starts in the Soviet Union.

11 – Acting great Sir Laurence Olivier passes away in England.

14 – 16-year-old Claire Leighton dies in the UK’s trendiest club, The Haçienda in Manchester, after taking Ecstasy.

14 – A controversial glass pyramid outside the Louvre, Paris, is opened.

19 – Of the 298 on board, 150 survive the crash of United Airlines flight 232.

21 – 100,000 coal miners end crippling 10-day strike after Gorbachev warns they are threatening perestroika.

28 – Pravda attacks Gorbachev‘s reforms.

31 – Arab terrorists hang a US soldier after their demands are not met.


01 – 16 English cricketers announce they will tour South Africa next northern winter.

04 – At his first press conference, Emperor Akihito defends the right of people to accuse his father, Hirohito, of war atrocities.

05 – The All Blacks defeat the Wallabies 24 – 12 in Auckland, New Zealand.

08 – For the first time since the Challenger disaster in 1987 the US launches a manned space flight, as the Space Shuttle Columbia blasts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

08 – Geoffrey Palmer is elected Prime Minister of New Zealand.

08 – After eight years of guerrilla warfare, the US-backed Contras are to be demobilised in Nicaragua.

09 – Army General Colin R. Powell is the first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

09 – President Bush signs a bill appropriating $166 billion over ten years for the bail-out of troubled savings and loan associations. 75% of the money will be taken from the income taxes of US citizens.

10 – 99 people are killed in Mexico when a train plunges off a bridge into a flooded river.

10 – Toshiki Kaifu is sworn in as Japanese Prime Minister amid media reports of money and sex scandals.

11 – Australian actor John Meillon dies (b. 1/5/1934).

13 – Two hot air balloons collide at a height of 2,000 ft over Alice Springs in Australia, killing 13 people.

14 – South African president P W Botha resigns and is succeeded by F W de Klerk, who begins to dismantle the apartheid system.

15 – Australian missionary Jacqueline Hamill is shot dead while being held hostage at a Philippines jail.

20 – Revellers drown in Thames collision aboard the Marchioness.

23 – Hundreds of thousands of Latvians, Lithuanians, and Estonians form a human chain to protest against their annexation by the Soviet Union.

24 – Poland becomes the first Eastern Bloc country to appoint a non-Communist PM and end one-party rule, Tadeusz Mazowiecki – Lech Walesa having turned down the leadership.

24 – 1,645 Australian airline pilots resign en masse.

30 – US scientists identify the cystic fibrosis gene.

31 – Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips announce they have decided to separate after 16 years of marriage.


03 – 45 of the 54 on board a Boeing 737 survive when the plane crash lands in the Amazon jungle.

03 – The US begins shipping military aircraft and weapons worth $65 million, to help Colombia in its fight against drug lords.

07 – A shipment of 100,000 Australian sheep is rejected by Saudi Arabia on the grounds that they are diseased.

07 – Legislation is approved by the US Senate that prohibits discrimination against the disabled in employment, public accommodation, transportation and communications.

11 – Hungary first to lift Iron Curtain, opening its borders with Austria. Thousands of East German refugees take the opportunity to leave for the West.

13 – 20,000 take part in the biggest anti-apartheid march in Cape Town for 30 years, a week after the National Party is re-elected.

14 – After nearly 30 years in exile, SWAPO President Sam Nujoma returns home to Namibia.

18 – A Gorbachev adviser says that “Pravda tells lies and should be closed down”.

19 – The San Diego Yacht Club is ruled winner of the 1988 America’s Cup, reversing a decision that gave the prize to New Zealand’s Mercury Bay Boating Club.

21 – Hurricane Hugo sweeps across South Carolina and Georgia in the US causing $8 billion of damage and many deaths.

22 – Irving Berlin – who gave America some of its greatest popular songs, including God Bless America, Easter Parade and White Christmas – dies at the age of 101. When he stopped producing hits at the age of 75, he had outsold his great competitors Gershwin, Kern and Porter with an output of 900 songs. His real name was Israel Baline and his family emigrated from Siberia when he was four.

23 – Lithuania votes to declare invalid the 1940 Soviet annexation of the republic.

24 – The Canberra Raiders defeat Balmain 19 – 14 in the Australian Rugby League Grand Final.

26 – The last of the Vietnamese Army leave Cambodia.

28 – The FDA announces that it will allow DDI (dideoxyinosine), an experimental AIDS drug, to be prescribed to AIDS patients while it is still being tested. To date, over 106,000 cases of AIDS have been reported in the US, and over 61,000 Americans have died of the disease.

28 – Exiled former Philippines leader Ferdinand Marcos (born 117) dies in Hawaii.

29 – In what is the largest single drug seizure in history, federal agents discover 20 tons of cocaine (with a street value of $2 billion) in a warehouse in California’s San Fernando Valley.


01 – Pakistan rejoins the British Commonwealth after a 17-year absence.

05 – The Dalai Lama is named the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

05 – US television evangelist Jim Bakker is found guilty of fleecing his followers of some $158 million.

06 – Screen veteran Bette Davis dies in Paris, France.

07 – Gorbachev begins a visit to East Germany and tells his hosts it’s time for change.

17 – A global ban on ivory trading is ratified in Switzerland by the Endangered Species convention.

19 – Eighty-three people are believed to have died and a further 650 injured when at 5.04 pm local time an earthquake, triggered by the San Andreas fault, strikes the San Francisco Bay area. The quake, which measures 6.9 on the Richter scale, wrecks homes and offices, cuts off vital services and brings chaos to the cities of San Francisco and neighbouring Oakland. The bulk of the deaths come when a half-mile section of the double-decker Interstate 880 motorway collapses, crushing those in vehicles travelling on the lower deck. California declares a state of emergency and the cost of the damage may total $10 billion.

19 – Hungarian parliament legalises opposition parties.

19 – The Guildford Four are released.

23 – A new Hungarian republic is declared.

23 – In Melbourne, Australia, Footscray Football Club supporters raise $1.1 million to stave off a merger with the Fitzroy club.

25 – Judge “Maximum Bob” Potter is true to his name in Charlotte, North Carolina, sentencing the disgraced evangelist Jimmy Bakker to 45 years imprisonment. He also fines Bakker $700,000 for swindling his followers. The TV evangelist comes up for parole in 1999.

25 – Communist party of Yugoslavia adopts a new policy of political pluralism.

26 – John Major becomes chancellor of the exchequer in the UK.


01 – Pakistan PM Benazir Bhutto narrowly survives a no-confidence motion.

02 – UK car-maker Jaguar is taken over by Ford America.

03 – Deposed Fijian Prime Minister Dr Timoci Bavadra dies (b. 1934).

04 – 500,000 people march in East Berlin and call for free elections.

06 – Satirical magazine Private Eye agrees to pay Sonia Sutcliffe (wife of the Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe) £60,000. The British High Court had originally awarded £600,000 for libel but the damages were reduced after an appeal from the magazine.

08 – The Beatles‘ legal battle with EMI over royalty payments, which has dragged on for 20 years, is finally settled when the record company agrees to pay the group many millions of pounds – the precise amount remains undisclosed.

09 – Few thought to see it happen in their lifetime, but at the stroke of midnight, thousands lining both sides of the Berlin Wall give a great roar and begin to pour through checkpoints as well as climbing over the wall. They dance and trumpet on top. They crowd onto the West Berlin streets, spraying champagne and sounding car horns until long past dawn. It all began quietly with mass protests and the flight of refugees continuing unabated, and Egon Krenz, the new leader, intent on showing sincerity about reform. It was declared yesterday that starting from midnight, East Germans would be free to leave the country, without special permission, at any point along the border, including the crossing points through the wall in Berlin. In 28 years, at least 75 people have met their death while trying to escape over the wall. Its last known victim died in March this year.

10 – In Bulgaria, Todor Zhivkov (78) – the longest serving East European boss – resigns.

16 – The South African government announces an end to apartheid on the country’s beaches.

21 – The British House of Commons is televised for the first time.

21 – Australian entrepreneur Christopher Skase’s Quintex empire goes bankrupt.

23 – A new National Unity Government is sworn in in Greece, led by Xenophon Zolotas.

24 – The Czech administration resigns following a week of violent anti-government demonstrations in Prague and elsewhere in the country.

25 – Elias Hrawi, a Christian, is the new president of Lebanon.

29 – Russian gymnast Nadia Comaneci, star of the 1976 Olympics, flees to Hungary. It is believed she is US-bound.


01 – Alliance leader Vishwanath Pratap Singh becomes India’s seventh Prime Minister.

01 – Mikhail Gorbachev meets Pope John Paul II in Rome, the first meeting between a Soviet leader and a Pontiff.

03 – President Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev have their first summit meeting in Valetta, Malta. Both presidents make statements agreeing that the Cold War is finally over. Communism begins to collapse throughout Europe.

10 – Gustav Husak resigns as president of Czechoslovakia.

12 – Billionaire Leona Helmsley, who once remarked “only the little people pay taxes,” is fined $7 million and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for tax evasion.

14 – Election victory for the Left in Chile ends 17-year rule of General Pinochet.

18 – Thousand demonstrating against the Ceausescu regime are killed in Rumania by security police.

20 – 24,000 US soldiers invade Panama to overthrow and capture military dictator Manuel Noriega. 23 Americans are killed and 323 wounded in the fighting, which ends on January 3, 1990, with Noriega’s capture.

20 – Lisa Marie Presley, 21-year-old daughter of Elvis Presley, inherits his $100 million estate – although it will be managed by a trust until 1998.

22 – Nicolae Ceausescu‘s government in Romania is overthrown after a battle with security forces. Ceausescu and his wife go into hiding.

22 – Irish playwright Samuel Beckett (b. 13/4/1906) dies in Paris at the age of 83.

23 – Another person is injured in the US due to a pipe bomb explosion. The bombing is one of a series of bombings linked to one person who becomes known as the ‘Unabomber‘.

25 – Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu is executed, along with his wife, ending Romanian oppression.

28 – Rescuers are trying to reach at least eight people feared still trapped in the ruins of the Newcastle Workers’ Club, which collapsed during Australia’s most devastating earthquake. There are 12 confirmed deaths in the quake, nine from the club and three from the inner suburb of Hamilton. The city’s business district has been severely damaged along with hundreds of thousands of other buildings and houses, in a damage bill estimated at around $1,500 million. Police and the army are in Newcastle in force, helping in rescue work, demolition of unsafe buildings and the prevention of looting. The Workers’ Club collapsed when the quake struck just before 10.30am. It was pension day and the club poker machines were pulsating as the members were still in festive mood on the Christmas break.

29 – Dissident Czech writer Vaclav Havel is elected president of Czechoslovakia.

31 – In Melbourne, 13-month-old Heidi Gellert becomes Australia’s youngest heart transplant recipient.

Also This Year . . .

  •  In Australia, The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) comes into existence. Ian Temby QC is the first Commissioner
  • Meteorologists pronounce 1989 to be the warmest year on record, worldwide
  • Computers across the West are hit by the “Friday the 13th” virus
  • Allan Border captains Australia to their first Ashes series win in 55 years
  • Liverpool win the FA Cup, defeating Everton 3-2 after extra time
  • ‘Nashwan’ wins the English Derby
  • ‘Tawriffic’ wins the Melbourne Cup
  • Canberra wins their first NSW rugby league first-grade premiership in Australia
  • The Simpsons premiers on US TV channel Fox