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South Australia

The Proclamation of South Australia 1836
The Proclamation of South Australia 1836

Surveyor Colonel William Light was given two months to locate the most advantageous location for the main colony. He was required to find a site with a harbour, arable land, fresh water, ready internal and external communications, building materials and drainage. Light rejected potential locations for the new main settlement, including Kangaroo Island, Port Lincoln and Encounter Bay. Light decided that the Adelaide plains were the best location for settlement.

Most of the settlers were moved from Kangaroo Island to Holdfast Bay with Governor Hindmarsh arriving on 28 December 1836 to proclaim the province of South Australia. The Port River was sighted and deemed to be a suitable harbor, but there was no fresh water available nearby.

The River Torrens was discovered to the south and Light and his team set about determining the city’s precise location and layout. The survey was completed on 11 March 1837.

Expansion of the Colony:

Until 1851, the Governor ruled with the assistance of an appointed Executive Council of paid officials. Land development and settlement was the basis of the Wakefield vision. Land law and regulations governing it were fundamental to the foundation of the Province and allowed for land to be bought at a uniform price per acre (regardless of quality), with auctions for land desired by more than one buyer, and leases made available on unused land. Proceeds from land were to fund the Emigration Fund to assist poor settlers to come as tradesmen and laborers.

European Settlers with Aborigines 1850
European Settlers with Aborigines 1850

Agitation for representative government quickly emerged. Most other colonies had been founded by Governors with near total authority, but in South Australia, power was initially divided between the Governor and the Resident Commissioner, so that government could not interfere with the business affairs or freedom of religion of the settlers. From 1843 to 1851, the colony was governed by a legislative council of seven appointed members. By 1851 the colony was experimenting with a partially elected council, with 16 of 24 members of the South Australian Legislative Council being elected that year and the remainder appointed.

First Agriculture: Sheep, Wheat and Wine:

The first sheep and other livestock in South Australia were brought in from Tasmania. Sheep were over-landed from New South Wales from 1838, with the wool industry forming the basis of South Australia’s economy for the first few years. Vast tracts of land were leased by “Squatters” until required for agriculture. Once the land was surveyed it was put up for sale and the Squatters had to buy their runs or move on.

Most bought their land when it came up for sale, disadvantaging farmers who had a hard time finding good and unoccupied land. Farms took longer to establish than sheep runs and were expensive to set up. Despite this by 1860 wheat farms ranged from Encounter Bay in the south to Clare in the north.

In 1840, the brigantine Maria was shipwrecked near Cape Jaffa after leaving Port Adelaide for Hobart. All 25 people aboard were massacred by Aborigines along the Coorong.

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