By Abbey Jane

In case you hadn’t heard, we know a thing or two about design. In fact, we’re Australia’s first and only UNESCO City of Design and a designated member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN). It turns out, we’ve been using creativity and innovation to build better communities, processes and economical fortitude for quite some time. While our previous inventions have been commercial successes, our next generation is rightly focused on liveability, resilience, sustainability and inclusivity. Here are six super Geelong inventions and innovations to tell your friends about.

1. The original Hill’s Hoist

Really? Yes really. What is arguably the most iconic Australian invention of all time was invented in our very own, er, backyard. The genius height-adjustable rotary clothesline was invented by Gilbert Toyne of Darriwill, Geelong. The Australian Patent No. 24553/25 enclosed the crown wheel-and-pinion winding mechanism that revolutionised laundry drying across the country. 

In 1941, Toyne’s patent for the all-important hoisting mechanism lapsed, paving the way for competitors to use his invention. It was returned soldier Lance Hill that incorporated Toyne’s design into his new product – the Hill’s Hoist.

It’s a sad childhood indeed that didn’t involve reckless swinging on those revolving metal bars. As real estate becomes more precious and generous backyards give way to subdivisions, alfrescos and outdoor rooms, the Hill’s Hoist planted on a slab of concrete is becoming a less common sight. Today, spare a thought for the new generation missing out on the coming-of-age rite of passage that is Goon of Fortune. The next time you see an abandoned rotary clothesline standing bent and broken in an overgrown backyard, do the right thing. Salute.

2. The Fridge

Shut the fridge door! Was the common household refrigerator really invented here? It absolutely was. While numerous methods of refrigeration were conceived prior to this invention, Geelong Advertiser newspaper editor James Harrison created the first vapour-compression mechanical ice-making machine in 1851. It was first patented as a “refrigerating machine”. By 1857, he created the world’s first large-scale refrigerator.

Harrison won a gold medal at the Melbourne Exhibition in 1873, proving meat that had been frozen for months was still edible. It wasn’t long until meatpacking plants and more importantly, breweries, bought into the invention. Essentially, this man is responsible for readily available ice-cold beers. How cool is that? His patent remains the blueprint for refrigeration around the globe. If it’s a hot summer’s day and you find yourself driving over the James Harrison bridge, looking forward to that beverage in the fridge, say cheers.

3. The Ute 

Ever been overtaken by a big brute in a ute barreling down the Princes Highway running late to a worksite? Thank Geelong. Britain has the van. America has the pick-up. We have the ute. Short for Utility Vehicle or ‘coupe utility’, the ute was invented for Ford at the Geelong plant by Lewis Bandt, motor vehicle designer and engineer.

It was originally conceived as a farm-friendly vehicle that could be used to transport livestock, but double as a comfortable passenger vehicle for regular trips to town. Released in 1934, the ute is now synonymous with Australian culture. Its original purpose as an agricultural transport solution for farming families has been superseded by tradespeople hauling building materials, wood, furniture, hay, dogs and occasionally even kids. Ute, you beaut.

4. Decimal Currency

Everyone could do with losing a few pounds. Even the country. That’s why, in 1963, the Australian government announced the conversion to decimal currency would be happening within a matter of years. Six different artists were asked to submit designs featuring an Australian theme. It was Geelong artist and Goldsmith Stuart Devlin who created the winning designs. 

Born in Geelong, Australia in 1931, Stuart Devlin AO completed art school at the Gordon Institute of Technology, specialising in Goldsmithing and Silversmithing at age 17. He went on to have a successful career spanning 70 years. Many honours have come his way, notably his appointment as Goldsmith and Jeweller to the Queen in 1982. In 1988 he was awarded an order of Australia. What many people don’t know is that he has designed coins for many other countries. Stuart apparently said ‘I like the fact that millions of people around the world carry my work in their pockets.’ So do we Stu, so do we.

5. Remotely Activated Bird Box

So it isn’t famous yet, but it will be, along with many new inventions coming from the minds of Geelong’s next generation. The bird box with remotely activated doors was designed to allow the stress-free relocation of threatened species. It was one of several inventions conceived by students as part of the Design to Thrive Program at Geelong Tech School. This design came out of a collaboration with Parks Victoria and a fully immersive 5-day Design Thinking program based at Serendip Reserve. Students used a range of emerging technologies and worked alongside Parks Victoria Staff to address challenges that occur at the reserve, by prototyping solutions and presenting their outcomes.

As STEM Program Manager Paul D’Orio affirms, “This type of experience is amazing for students! They get to work with a great industry partner like Parks Victoria and help discover real solutions that address real-world challenges.”

The Geelong Tech School currently offers students a range of pioneering programs including exploring the future of building with hemp-based bricks, a bot rescue program for disaster assistance and life-saving drones to assist Life Saving Australia. The kids are definitely alright.

6. Chrissy Amphlett

So technically her Mum and Dad invented her, but we’ll use any excuse to honour the Geelong-born rock goddess with the power pout. A rare and sultry songbird who enjoyed immense success in a music genre that favours male bands and leads, Chrissy’s face is now a feature in local CBD laneways. The Belmont High School student, artist’s muse and famous Divinyls redhead gifted the iconic song ‘I Touch Myself’ to a Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign. It is now considered a breast cancer anthem.

As reported by the Daily Telegraph, her husband Charley Dayton “thought she was something beautiful, someone so unique that I’d never witnessed before in my life, and that her energy was on another level.” We miss her dearly. When you venture through the CBD at night, you can still feel Chrissy’s energy as she lures you into bandrooms and bars to soak up the local music scene. Amph it up!

Artist credit: Glenn Smith