1861 in Australia
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- Governor of New South Wales - Sir William Denison, John Young, 1st Baron Lisgar
- Governor of Queensland - Sir George Bowen
- Governor of South Australia - Sir Richard G. MacDonnell
- Governor of Tasmania - Sir Henry Young
- Governor of Victoria - Sir Henry Barkly
- Premier of New South Wales - John Robertson, then Charles Cowper
- Premier of Queensland - Robert Herbert
- Premier of South Australia - Thomas Reynolds, then George Waterhouse
- Premier of Tasmania - William Weston, then Thomas Chapman
- Premier of Victoria - Richard Heales, then John O'Shanassy
- 13 May - The Great Comet of 1861 is discovered by John Tebbutt of Windsor, New South Wales.
- 6 July - Robert Palin is hanged in Western Australia following the use of Ordinance 17 Victoria Number 7 to secure the capital punishment of a convict for a crime not normally punishable by death.
- 8 July - The Geelong College is established by Reverend Alexander James Campbell in Newtown, Victoria.
- October - Robertson land acts passed by Parliament of New South Wales.
Arts and literature
- National Gallery of Victoria founded
- 2 August - Edith Cowan, the first Australian woman elected as a representative in an Australian parliament.
- 15 March – James Clow, Presbyterian minister and settler (b. 1790)
- 28 June - Estimated death of William John Wills (born 1834) and Robert O'Hara Burke (born 1821), explorers.
- 21 October – Hannibal Hawkins Macarthur, New South Wales politician and businessman (b. 1788)