The Year That Was 2023

An image of the top stories of 2023

We’ve come, somehow, limping to the end of another year, ready to fall into the sand at the finish line and soak up some holiday rays before the calendar ticks over to 2024 and we drag ourselves back to work, ready to begin the cycle once again.

December is a time for reflection in order to place those first tentative steps into the new year with the confidence of where we’ve come so far. Here we’re looking back at the year that was 2023 across four themes dear to the hearts of The Latch readers — science and tech, entertainment, politics, and sustainability — in an effort to glean some sense of continuum or coherence from the chaos.

As the various dictionaries’ words’ of the year suggest, these past 12 months have been dominated by a few stand-out trends, the biggest amongst them the rise of artificial intelligence. AI went from a thing you’d vaguely heard about from sci-fi films to something that many of us use every day in what felt like little more than a few weeks.

Equally, the year was dominated by social and political upheaval. The conflict in Israel and Gaza, now in its third month, has inspired action and tense conversation the world over as the centuries-old conflict became an intensely personal, global phenomenon, eclipsing what is still happening in Ukraine. On a less serious theme, strikes in the American film and TV industry brought the entertainment industry to its knees, the effects of which are still being felt and will be for years. Here in Australia, there was much fraught discussion over the Indigenous Voice to Parliament which slipped from national dialogue as rapidly as its defeat was decisive in October. Crises in the cost of living and housing continued to plague us.

It wasn’t all bleak however, there were some major successes and joyous occasions. In August, Australia unified like never before behind a scrappy team of dreamers who went on to achieve the nation’s highest-ever result at a football World Cup. Taylor Swift began storming stadiums around the world in a tour cited as single-handed reviving the global economy. And we finally got to see a mugshot of Donald Trump as he was indicted in Georgia.

Here’s our round-up of the biggest stories of 2023.


Science and Tech

ChatGPT, released in December 2022, was still a relatively new term and even concept in January. That did not, however, stop governments in NSW and QLD from opening the year by banning its use in public schools. Others soon follow suit.

While Australia was doubling down, others were stepping in. Microsoft announced a USD $10 billion investment in OpenAI, the parent company of ChatGPT. 


The year kicked off with nepo baby discourse still ringing in our ears. New York Magazine‘s infamous cover article was still impacting famous egos in January, with Kaia Gerber — daughter of Cindy Crawford — telling ELLE that she doesn’t think nepotism is as prevalent as the rest of us seem to.

Elsewhere, Prince Harry published his tell-all memoir, Spare. It quickly became the fastest-selling non-fiction book of all time. The book sparked major controversy for Harry’s detailing of his drug use, losing his virginity, and assault by his brother, among others.


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In January, we got a shock from across the pond with the surprise resignation of New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. “I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice,” the 42-year-old said. Chris Hipkins became Labour leader in her place.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese starts the year on a high note with a 35-point lead in preferred leader polling against Opposition Leader Peter Dutton. He will end the year with just 32% of voters believing he is doing a good job.


2023 dawned on Australia’s renewable energy space with a ray of sunshine and the news that, in the month prior, over 40% of the power supplied to the national grid had come from renewable sources.

The United Nations announced that the ozone layer was on track to have fully recovered from man-made degradation by 2040. The changes will help the world avoid an additional 0.5 degrees of warming.


Science and Tech

The tech sector layoff trend continued from 2022. PayPal announced a cut to 7% of its staff. Hot on their heels comes Twitter, which cuts a further 200 staff, GitHub, which cuts 10%, and Yahoo which slashes 20% of their employees. Dell, Spotify, and Google’s parent company Alphabet do similar.

In AI news, Google debuts its AI chatbot, Bard. Bard publishes an inaccurate response in its first public demonstration which results in a $100 billion drop in Google’s share price.  


In the entertainment world, Andrea Riseborough is nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the film To Leslie. The rogue nomination was later revealed to be the result of Riseborough’s orchestrated email campaign to garner support from major celebrities. In response, the Academy undertakes a serious overhaul of the nomination rules.

In music, Rihanna returns to the stage for the first time in five years to perform for the Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show. It quickly becomes the most-watched Halftime Show in history and the singer revealed that she was pregnant with her second child.


Mining giant Rio Tinto announces that a tiny radioactive capsule the size of a Tic Tac has somehow been lost along a 1,400km stretch of Western Australia. The news makes headlines and punchlines around the world until the capsule is found at the start of February. 

In the US, mysterious objects in the sky are ordered to be shot down by President Biden. Some of them turn out to be weather balloons blown over from China with the requisite accusations of spying. Others claim they are alien craft, forcing the White House to state that “there is no indication of aliens or terrestrial activity.”

A massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake strikes Turkey and northern Syria, the largest in almost a century. 14 million people are affected and USD $152 billion in damages are caused. International aid efforts spring into action with 141,000 people from 94 countries travelling to the area to pitch in.


The International Energy Agency announced that renewables are pushing energy generation emissions “close to a tipping point.” Most new demand is being met by renewables, suggesting that the impact of fossil fuels is starting to decline.

Australia blocks the development of a new coal mine under environmental laws for the first time in history. The mine, which was set to be built just 10 km from the Great Barrier Reef, was planned by Clive Palmer and received over 9,000 public submissions calling for its rejection.


Science and Tech

OpenAI launches GPT4. The next-generation AI language model is able to process image data as well as text and is now much better at creativity and reasoning.

At the same time, Goldman Sachs issued a report cautioning that AI technology could replace the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs. They also say it could increase the total value of the global economy by 7%.

Elon Musk is amongst 33,000 other signatories of an open letter calling for a pause in the development of powerful AI. The ‘Future of Life Institute’ letter says that the level of planning needed to ensure the safe development of AI is not happening.  


Taylor Swift embarks on her internationally attention-sucking Eras Tour which kicks off in Glendale, Arizona. The ongoing tour will see Swift play 151 shows across five continents and has already become the highest-grossing tour of all time and the first to surpass USD $1 billion in revenue.

In Australia, Liz Parnov is crowned the winner of Australian Survivor: Heroes v Villains. The season came to a head with the now infamous tribal council showdown between Simon Mee and George Mladenov dominating water cooler chat across the country.


In China, President Xi Jinping of China secures an unprecedented third term in power. The authoritarian ruler has now been in power longer than any other Communist Chinese leader after legislation passed in 2018 effectively gives him the right to rule for life.

Australia passes the Gender Pay Gap Transparency Bill, forcing companies with more than 100 employees to publish data on their gender pay gaps. The changes come into effect early next year.

The historic AUKUS deal is signed between the US, the UK, and Australia which will deliver Australia its first-ever nuclear-powered submarines. Australia has to pay France $835 million for backing out of a previous nuclear sub-deal.


World governments finalise a new United Nations Treaty for the High Seas. The deal concludes two decades of discussions and five years of negotiations. It sees 30% of the world’s oceans protected and is hailed as the “biggest conservation victory ever” by Greenpeace.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releases its synthesis for the Sixth Assessment Report. It states that there is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.


Science and Tech

NASA announces its first trip to the moon in 50 years. As part of the crew, the first female and first Black astronauts ever to embark on a lunar mission are selected.

SpaceX launches the biggest and most powerful rocket ever built. It is a test flight designed to see if the company can reach Mars. The rocket explodes a few minutes after launch. 


The Amazon Freevee mock-reality show Jury Duty takes the world by storm. The courtroom show is effectively a prank on one unsuspecting person, Ronald Galdden, and goes viral on TikTok. It later receives three Emmy nominations.

Everything Everywhere All at Once makes Oscars history, picking up seven awards including Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Actress. Michelle Yeoh becomes the second woman of colour to win the latter.

Australia is saddened by the shock passing of iconic MasterChef judge, Jock Zonfrillo. Zonfrillo was found unresponsive in his apartment at the age of 46.


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The world’s youngest head of state, Finnish PM Sanna Marin, is defeated at a general election. Marin became famous for courting controversy with conservative media who disapproved of her social life and, in all likelihood, gender.

France increases the retirement by age two years to 64 following months of heavy national protests. The protests, which dragged on from January and incorporated over a million people, caused over a billion euros in damages.

In Australia, the ACT becomes the first jurisdiction to make medical and surgical abortions free to all residents. The move is hailed as a game-changer by reproductive rights groups.


India releases a census of the country’s tiger population which is reported to have grown to 3,167 animals — 200 more than in 2019.

Queensland introduces a Climate Transition Bill which seek to limit the state’s emissions by 75% 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050. Under the Bill, which is still being considered, all new coal, oil, or gas mining activities would be immediately banned. Exports of fossil fuels would also be phased out.


Science and Tech

Elon Musk formally steps down as CEO of Twitter, five months after purchasing the social media site. Linda Yaccarino takes his place which Musk stays on to guide product design and development.

Regulation over AI steps up as the White House calls a summit with the nation’s leading tech executives. A warning is issued that they must do more to protect the public from the risks of AI or the US government will step in. 


The Writers Guild of America goes on strike. 11,500 screenwriters put down their pens and pick up placards to begin the joint second-longest industrial stoppage in the union’s history. The writers demand greater residual payments from streaming media companies and greater protections over the replacement of their jobs by AI.

Beyoncé’s launches her Renaissance Tour in Stockholm, Sweden. It is her first solo tour since 2016 and it becomes the highest-grossing tour by a Black artist.


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One of the most popular shows in recent memory, Succession, airs its finale. Season four episode ten brings to a close the saga of the oligarchic Roy family and is widely reviewed as the perfect ‘feel-bad’ ending to the show.


The World Health Organisation declares COVID-19 no longer a global health emergency, officially putting an end to the pandemic after three years of lockdowns and disruptions.

King Charles III is crowned in England, becoming Australia’s sixth monarch. 1.1 million Aussies tuned into the broadcast from Westminster Abbey but polling suggests many of us don’t really care for the new King.

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In NSW, the four-term reign of the Coalition is brought to an end following the state election. Dominic Perrottet steps down and Labor leader Chris Minns forms a government.


Brazil reports that deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest fell by 68% compared to the same time last year. President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva took office at the start of the year, vowing to end deforestation and turn the country into a “green superpower.”

The global energy crisis pushes big spending into renewables, with the International Energy Agency forecasting that solar energy investments are set to overtake those of oil in 2023.


Science and Tech

The world was gripped by the disappearance of the Titan submersible, operated by American company OceanGate. For four days the entire globe watched as rescuers attempted to find the ship that had gone to explore the wreck of the Titanic with five people on board. On June 22, a debris field was found, indicating the submersible had imploded.

Later in the month, online chatter grows around the supposed “internet apocalypse” as scientific warnings about a coming solar storm are misinterpreted. The storm amounts to little and the internet remains online.


Sam Levinson’s HBO show The Idol, starring The Weeknd and Lily-Rose Depp, is cancelled following universal backlash. The show becomes one of the most hated pieces of content in recent years following criticisms of “sexual torture porn.”

Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour comes to Aus with the launch of ticket sales setting a new record for online demand. 450,000 tickets are sold within two hours, pushing the singer to add new tour dates.


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In Italy, the infamous PM Silvio Berlusconi passes away at the age of 86. He was head of state three times between 1994 and 2011 and the third wealthiest person in the country at his death.

The ACT passes historic new laws to protect intersex people. It becomes the first jurisdiction to ban unnecessary medical procedures for intersex children and provides a raft of support measures for parents and doctors.

In WA, long-serving Premier Mark McGowan steps down. His deputy, Roger Cook, takes his place.


Iceland suspends its whale hunting season in the name of animal welfare. Icelandic politicians state that this could be the opening of a total ban on whaling. Iceland is one of the three remaining countries that still hunts whales.

Toyota finally gets with the programme and announces that it will start making electric vehicles. The Japanese auto giant and maker of Australia’s most popular models, says that its new solid-state battery will be ready for launch in 2027 and will be able to reach full charge in just ten minutes.


Science and Tech

It’s a big month for social media as Elon Musk launches a haphazard and surprising rebrand of Twitter. He names the social media site X but fails to secure the copyright in a number of jurisdictions. Many proclamations are made about the death of the platform.

Days later, Meta launches its Twitter clone, Threads. The app reaches 100 million downloads in five days, becoming the fastest-ever app to do so. However, the platform appears to fizzle as few remain online.


The film world explodes with a hype that hasn’t been seen in years for the release of two major blockbusters. Both Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer drop on the same day, prompting dress-ups and back-to-back screenings for Barbenheimer.

The Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) joins the WGA on strike for similar issues. Combined, the strikes grind the American entertainment industry to a halt and cause USD $6.5 billion in losses for the Southern Californian economy.

Legendary Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor is found unresponsive in her apartment at the age of 56. Tributes flow and a video of O’Connor’s stand against abuse within the Catholic Church in the early 1990s trends online.


After 18 months in power, the Dutch government collapses over disagreement on immigration controls. The four-party coalition dissolves, the PM steps down, and a general election is called.

The final report in the Robodebt scandal is handed down. The system designed to make welfare payments simpler was found to have been a “crude and cruel mechanism, neither fair nor legal, and it made many people feel like criminals”. Senior public servant in charge of the scheme, Kathryn Campbell, resigns.


A South Australian court rules in favour of the Barngarla people to prevent a nuclear waste facility being built on their traditional lands. It’s heralded as a major win for Indigenous rights following a 21-year battle.

Norway discovers a huge mineral deposit that could supply all the world’s batteries and solar panels for the next 50 years. 70 billion tonnes of phosphate deposits are discovered in the south of the country, easing global concerns of a shortage.


Science and Tech

In the UK, the Royal Mail postal service begins its first deliveries using drones. The unmanned aircraft are used to deliver packages in the remote Scottish highlands, removing the need for ferries and flights.

The Pyxis Ocean, a giant cargo ship, makes its first voyage from China to Brazil using wind power. The vessel’s massive sails enable it to travel without the use of its engine in a trial that could see global shipping emissions slashed. The revival of retro technology becomes the source of online jokes.


Superstar Lizzo is hit by allegations that she had failed to pay her employees fairly and created a toxic and overly sexualised working environment. The singer and champion of equality describes the claims as “outrageous” and “sensationalized.”

As the writer’s strike passes 100 days, a new report reveals that virtually all media and entertainment companies are ramping up their investments in AI. Job losses loom as it’s predicted the technology could be used in 90% of Hollywood productions by 2025.


Former US President Donald Trump is indicted for the fourth time this year in Fulton County, Georgia. A mugshot of the Republican 2024 hopeful is taken and released online. The internet goes wild.

In Australia, the Greens almost bring the Federal Government to the point of collapse by blocking, for the second time, Labor’s $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund Bill. The Greens demand the Bill go further in spending on social housing to address the housing crisis.


In Victoria, the government announces a deal with AGL to close the Loy Yang A coal-fired power station by 2035 — ten years earlier than expected. The government say it’s part of their plan to have the state generate 95% of its energy from renewable sources by that date.

In Europe, a scorching heatwave breaks records and ignites wildfires across the continent. Southern nations top 46 degrees while the UK hits a high of 40.2. Australians scrape their European holiday plans in response.


Science and Tech

India lands a spaceship on the moon for the first time. The Chandrayaan-3 lander releases a lunar rover which goes out in search of frozen water on the moon’s surface.

Apple launches the iPhone 15 and announces that the new phones will come with USB-C charging ports. Apple’s Lightning port will be phased out after EU regulations forced all phone companies to use the more common charging cable in a bid to cut down on waste.


Popstar Joe Jonas and actress Sophie Turner file for divorce. The separation quickly becomes messy after Jonas refuses to hand over the passports of their two children. Turner sues Jonas in New York under child abduction laws.


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Drew Barrymore draws the ire of the Hollywood unions by announcing that her interview talkshow, The Drew Barrymore Show will return despite ongoing industrial action halting all productions. A little over a week later, Barrymore backs down following an uproar.

The WGA reaches an agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), ending the union’s strike after 148 days. The SAG-AFTRA strike continues.


India and Canada get into a diplomatic spat over the alleged assassination of a Sikh activist in Canada. Both countries expell each other’s diplomats and India temporarily stops issuing visas to Canadians.

The UK says it will follow New Zealand in phasing out cigarette sales to people born after a certain year. Each year the legal age to buy tobacco will rise, according to proposed legislation, so that young people today will never be allowed to purchase cigarettes.

Dan Andrews steps down as Premier of the state of Victoria after nearly a decade in power. He says that he doesn’t have it in him to give 100% any more and regrets not spending more time with his family. Deputy PM Jacinta Allan takes over as leader.


The EU votes to raise its renewable energy target from 32% to 42.5% by 2030. The legally binding agreement will enable the trading bloc to transition far more rapidly away from fossil fuels.

Separately, France announces that it will go further and end all fossil fuel use by 2030. At the same time, the country says that it will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by the same date.


Science and Tech

Microsoft announces a $5 billion investment into computing capacity and capability to help Australia embrace the AI age. The company also announces it is working with the military to create a ‘cyber shield’ around the country.

Reports emerge that AI large language models are being trained by an army of ‘digital slaves’ in developing nations. People in places like Kenya, Venezuela, and India are being paid almost nothing to correct the judgements of AI models. 


The first South by Southwest festival outside of Austin, Texas, kicks off in Sydney. Over six days, the city comes alive with over 1,000 music, entertainment, and tech events. 280,000 people attend and the festival is secured for another year in Australia.

Matthew Perry, the much-loved Canadian actor who became one of the most recognisable people on the planet for his portrayal of Chandler Bing in the sitcom Friends, is found dead in his hot tub at the age of 54. Tributes flow.


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Britney Spears drops her long-awaited memoir, The Woman in Me. Spears candidly discusses her journey to stardom and later conservatorship, detailing her relationships with Justin Timberlake, Colin Farrell, and Kevin Federline. It becomes a number one New York Times bestseller 


On 7 October Hamas militants attack Israel, killing around 1,200 civilians. The surprise attack sparks a retaliatory war on Gaza by the Israeli army. The world is gripped by the atrocities and casualties on both sides.

Australians vote in the Voice to Parliament Referendum after months of debate. 60% of the country votes ‘no’ to the proposed constitutional changes and The Voice is defeated, failing to gain support in a single state.


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In New Zealand, the ruling Labor government are ousted in a general election landslide after two terms. The National Party, led by Christopher Luxon, gain 15 seats and form a new government.


In the UK, plans are released to launch a 2km long solar panel farm designed to orbit the Earth. It is set to be operational by 2035 and joins other initiatives by the EU and other nations to do the same, opening up the field of space-based renewable energy.

In the ACT, the government introduces a Bill to protect the rights of its citizens to a healthy environment. Breaching rights to clean air, water, food, and biodiversity systems will now be a human rights issue.


Science and Tech

Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, is fired without warning by his company’s board along with several other top employees. A mass staff walkout is threatened and Altman is reinstated after nine days. Rumours circulate that his dismissal had something to do with the discovery of a “terrifying” AI breakthrough called Q*.

Elon Musk’s artificial intelligence company xAI launches its first product: an AI chatbot named Grok. The chatbot has real-time access to Twitter and is supposed to be an ‘anti-woke’ alternative to ChatGPT. The chatbot proceeds to insult Musk.

World leaders gather at Bletchley Park in the UK to sign an historic deal on the responsible development of AI. The Bletchley Declaration, which Australia is a signatory, is quickly followed by other multilateral AI safety agreements, although all of them stop short of actual binding laws.


A tentative deal is reached between SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP, ending the strike on 9 November. The union wins USD $1 billion in provisions over three years and protections over the use of AI in film.

Troy Sivan wins four awards at the 2023 ARIAs fresh off the back of two Grammy nominations for his song ‘Rush’. Genesis Owusu, G-Flip, and Kylie Minogue also take home awards.


The Reserve Bank of Australia hikes up interest rates for the 5th time this year, stating that inflation is still too high. The RBA’s new governor, Michele Bullock, says that the increase to 4.35% was needed to get inflation back to target by the end of 2025.

Optus customers are left in the dark after a major outage on 8 November. For nearly 10 hours, more than 10 million people and 400,000 businesses cannot connect to the internet. Optus’ share price drops by $2 billion, a Senate inquiry is launched, and CEO Kelly Rosmarin steps down.

The government launches a second national vaping ban. Disposable vapes will be illegal to import from January 2024, with a complete ban on all vaping devices set for March.


National representatives from around the world gather in Dubai for the United Nation’s 28th Conference of the Parties. Australia pledges $150 million in compensatory damages to Pacific Nations but the conference is widely considered a failure after agreeing only to a “transition away from fossil fuels.”

In Indonesia, a critically endangered Sumatran rhino is born in captivity. It is the second birth of the year for a species that has fewer than 50 animals remaining.


Science and Tech

The Tesla Cybertruck finally launches after its debut in 2019. The first ten orders are filled at the Tesla Gigafactory in Austin, Texas, but critics remain sceptical after it’s ‘bulletproof’ claims aren’t properly demonstrated. Tesla still hasn’t announced plans for when it will bring the Cybertruck to Australia.

The Verge declares that 2023 is the year that “Elon Musk killed Twitter.” They publish a series of in-depth articles memorialising the “tool of mass harassment” and “infinite joke machine.”


Critics Choice Association Awards nominate Barbie, Oppenheimer, and Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon for best films of the year. Succession and The Morning Show are tipped for best TV series.

Streaming giant Netflix releases its first Engagement Report. It reveals what we watched from January to June of this year, with the biggest shows being The Night Agent, Ginny & Georgia, and The Glory. The biggest films were The Mother and Luther: Fallen Sun. We spent a collective 100 billion hours watching Netflix in the first half of the year across 18,000 titles.

The ABC undergoes major changes at its leading radio station, triple j. ABC Head of Music, Meagan Loader, and Group Music Director, Richard Kingsmill, leave the station and Ben Latimer, formerly of Nova, comes in as Head of Audio Content. Several high-profile presenters depart in anger following a firey internal meeting.


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A temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas comes to an end. Fighting resumes but international calls for an extended truce grow louder. Australian Parliament votes in favour of calling for a ceasefire.

Queensland’s long-serving Premier, Anastacia Palaszczuk, announces that she is stepping down as Labor party leader after eight years. Plummeting opinion polls and the loss of her party’s support are thought to be behind the decision. Steven Miles is sworn in as Queensland’s 40th Premier.

The New Zealand government reverses the country’s stance on a smoking ban. The internationally-leading policy is cut in part because of the NZD $1 billion projected losses in tax revenue.


The Australian government joins an international partnership to suspend the financing of fossil fuel projects overseas. $1.7 billion has been spent by the country between 2009 and 2020 on international projects and activists now call for the same suspension of subsidies at home.

EV sales have more than doubled in Australia over the past year, jumping from 28,000 to 80,000 cars sold. Experts say that cheaper models and incoming fuel efficiency standards are likely to drive sales even higher next year.

Related: Aussie Scientists Say Technology In Our Brains Will Be Commonplace By 2040

Related: “A Shift in Sentiment”: The Legacy of the FIFA Women’s World Cup

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