A Look Back at Billy Graham’s Groundbreaking 1959 Australia Crusade

By   •   April 10, 2024

“For some reason I could not fully understand, although I believed it was the leading of the Holy Spirit, I had developed an overwhelming burden to visit the distant continent of Australia,” Billy Graham once wrote.
In February 1959, Billy Graham left his home in North Carolina to spend more than three months preaching the Gospel across Australia and New Zealand.
By the end of the 1959 Southern Cross Crusade, it's estimated that half the people in Australia had heard Billy Graham's Gospel message either at a live event or over the airwaves and telephone lines.
Billy Graham’s grandson, Will Graham, will be in Australia for the Gold Coast Look Up Celebration. The free event on June 29 features live music from award-winning artists and a message of hope from Will Graham.
L to R: Rev. Stuart Babbage, Dean of Melbourne; Lt. General Sir Edmund Herring, Lieutenant Governor of Victoria; Walter Smyth, Crusade Director; Billy Graham.
Walter Smyth, a longtime Billy Graham Crusade director, was concerned the team may face indifference or opposition in Melbourne, where a different American evangelist had been forced to cut his campaign short a few years earlier. But the first night of the Crusade proved the people of Melbourne were hungry for the hope of Christ.
The Melbourne Crusade began at an indoor stadium, but it couldn't hold the crowds. The events were moved to larger and larger venues, with the final service taking place at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
“In 1959 Billy Graham conducted the largest Crusades in our history in Sydney, Australia," William Petterson recently shared with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. “I surrendered my life to Jesus and responded with hundreds of others, as Billy told us of God’s great love for us in the cross of Jesus Christ.” Read more stories about the impact of the 1959 Crusades.
Billy Graham Australia Crusade
Countless individual stories kept the staggering attendance numbers from turning into numbing statistics. One attendee had embezzled a large sum of money from the bank where he worked. After giving his life to Christ at the Crusade, he confessed his crime to his manager and offered to pay everything back. Instead of firing him or calling the police, the manager kept him on staff and went to the Crusade himself. He, too, was saved by Jesus Christ.
Many of Billy Graham's messages were broadcast across Australia, allowing the Gospel to penetrate the whole country. Watch a portion of one of Mr. Graham's messages from Melbourne.
“What is the difference between Dr. Billy Graham and some of our local hot-gospellers?" a well-known Melbourne columnist named Eric Baume asked. “He insults no one; he exhorts all; his heart of wondrous sympathy beats in his face. And I, as an infidel, but a convinced Theist, will not hear a word against him. ... I, personally, cannot accept all he preaches. But that does not debar me from thanking him for coming to Australia."
Cliff Barrows, Billy Graham's longtime music director, passionately led massive Crusade choirs at each event.
The Crusade broke attendance records at several Australian arenas including the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where overflow crowds were permitted to sit on the cricket pitch. This was an unprecedented move, as only cricket players were traditionally permitted to touch the ground.
More than 3 million people—nearly a third of Australia's population at the time—attended a 1959 Crusade event in person. The Sydney Morning Herald called the Crusade “one of the most remarkable religious phenomena ever experienced in this city.”
“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!" —Psalm 115:1