1881 in Australia
- Governor of New South Wales- Lord Augustus Loftus
- Governor of Queensland- Sir Arthur Kennedy
- Governor of South Australia- Sir William Jervois
- Governor of Tasmania - Major Sir George Strahan
- Governor of Victoria- George Phipps, Marquess of Normanby
- Governor of Western Australia- Sir William Robinson
- Premier of New South Wales - Sir Henry Parkes
- Premier of Queensland - Thomas McIlwraith
- Premier of South Australia - William Morgan till 24 June then Sir John Cox Bray
- Premier of Tasmania - William Giblin
- Premier of Victoria - Graham Berry until 9 July then James Service
In the mid-19th century the colonial statisticians encouraged compatibility between the colonies in their respective censuses, and in 1881 a census was held simultaneously in each of the colonies. This was part of a census of the British Empire. The questions posed in the colonies were not uniform.
The population of Australia was 2,250,194.
Northern Territory was counted within South Australia (286,211) and was 3,451 plus 6,346 Aboriginals in settled districts. The population of Western Australia did not include full-blood Aborigines.
The population of greater Melbourne was 282,947 and of Sydney was 224,939.
Arts and literature
- Zulu wins the Melbourne Cup
- 6 April - Frank Leslie Thomson Wilmot, Australian poet (died 1942).
- 11 September - William Jolly, first Lord Mayor of Brisbane (died 1955)
- 2 August - Marcus Clarke, author (born 1846)
- "The population census - a brief history". 1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2005. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2005. Retrieved 2006-06-25.
- Aplin, Graeme, S.G. Foster and Michael McKernan (editors), ed. (1987). Australians: Events and Places. Broadway, New South Wales, Australia: Fairfax, Syme & Weldon Associates. p. 97. ISBN 0-949288-13-6.