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South Australia

Copper in South Australia
Copper in South Australia

South Australia was a haven for religious refugees leaving Europe over this period. German Lutherans established the influential Hermmannsberg Mission in Central Australia in 1870. David Unaipon who was to become a preacher and Australia’s first Aboriginal author was born at Point McLeay Mission in South Australia in 1872. The son of Australia’s first Aboriginal pastor, he is today honoured on the Australian $50 note.

Saint Mary Mackillop co-founded the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart in rural South Australia in 1866. Dedicated to the education of the children of the poor, it was the first religious order to be founded by an Australian. Mackillop established schools, orphanages and welfare institutions throughout the colonies. She became the first Australian to be honored by canonization as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church in 2010.

Saint Mary Mackillop
Saint Mary Mackillop

During John McDouall Stuart‘s 1862 expedition to the north coast of Australia he discovered 200,000 km2 of grazing territory to the west of Lake Torrens and Lake Eyre. Stuart succeeded in traversing Central Australia from south to north. His expedition mapped out the route which was later followed by the Australian Overland Telegraph Line. South Australia was made responsible for the administration of the Northern Territory, which was previously part of New South Wales.

In the 1890s Australia was affected by a severe economic depression. Financial institutions in Melbourne and banks in Sydney closed. The national fertility rate fell and immigration was reduced to a trickle. The value of South Australia’s exports nearly halved. Drought and poor harvests from 1884 compounded the problems with some families leaving for Western Australia. Adelaide was not as badly hit as the larger gold-rush cities of Sydney and Melbourne, and silver and lead discoveries at Broken Hill provided some relief.

Self-Governing Colony:

South Australia became a self-governing colony in 1856 with the ratification of a new constitution by the British parliament. A bicameral parliament was elected on 9 March 1857, by which time 109,917 people lived in the province.

South Australia’s 1856 constitution was among the most democratic in the world – more so than the other Australian colonies, the United Kingdom and most European countries at that time. It provided for: Adult male suffrage (including indigenous men); Secret ballot voting; one man, one vote; no property qualifications for Members of its House of Assembly and a relatively low property qualification for Members of its Legislative Council.

Propertied women in the colony of South Australia were granted the vote in 1861. In the Constitutional Amendment Act 1894, all women became eligible to vote for the Parliament of South Australia when they won the same voting rights as men, and they did so in South Australia’s 1895 elections.

The Constitutional Amendment Act 1894 was also the first legislation in the world permitting women also to stand for election to political office and, in 1897, Catherine Helen Spence became the first female political candidate for political office, unsuccessfully standing for election as a delegate to the Federal Convention on Australian Federation.

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