Flag of South Australia on Our Flagpole

South Australia

Pro-Federation Children
Pro-Federation Children

By the 1890s, several new factors were drawing the Australian colonies towards political union and South Australians voted by referendum to join the Commonwealth of Australia.

Twentieth Century:

On 1 January 1901, following a proclamation by Queen Victoria, South Australia ceased to be a self-governing colony and became a state of the Commonwealth of Australia. In 1906, South Australia’s first uranium mine was opened at Radium Hill. In 1910, the government of John Verran served as the first complete Labor party government in the world.

28,000 South Australians volunteered to fight during Australia’s involvement in the First World War. Adelaide enjoyed a post-war boom but with the return of droughts, entered the depression of the 1930s, later returning to prosperity with strong government leadership. Secondary industries helped reduce the state’s dependence on primary industries. The 1933 census recorded the state population at 580,949, which was less of an increase than other states due to the state’s economic limitations.

After the second world war, the Woomera rocket range was established in 1947 as part of the Anglo-Australian Joint Project – at that time one of only four rocket ranges in the world. Busy through the 1950s, Woomera played an important role in the development of space technologies. With US assistance, Wresat 1, the first Australian satellite, was launched from Woomera, in November 1967 – a joint project of the Weapons Research Establishment and the University of Adelaide. The project made Australia only the 4th country to launch its own satellite from its own territory – and a landmark in Australian science.

After World War II, an assisted migration scheme brought 215,000 emigrants of all nationalities to South Australia between 1947 and 1973. Murray Bridge, earlier known as Mobilong and then Edward’s Crossing, was given its current name in the 1920s. It is now the fourth most populous region in South Australia, preceded by Adelaide, Mount Gambier and Whyalla.

Construction of the Adelaide Festival Centre began in 1970 and South Australia’s Sir Robert Helpmann became director of the Adelaide Festival of Arts. The South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC) was established by the Don Dunstan government in 1972 and played a significant role in the revival of Australian cinema, with such critically acclaimed works as Picnic at Hanging Rock and Breaker Morant.

In 1976, the Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Act gave the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara Aboriginal peoples inalienable freehold title over 100,000 km of their land. That same year, South Australia appointed the first Aboriginal governor of an Australian state when Sir Douglas Nicholls was made Governor of South Australia.

In 1987, copper, gold, and silver production began at the Olympic Dam mine. Olympic Dam also possesses the world’s largest known deposit of uranium.


The terrain consists largely of arid and semi-arid rangelands, with several low mountain ranges.

Flinders Ranges
Flinders Ranges

The most important (but not tallest) is the Mount Lofty-Flinders Ranges system, which extends north about 500 miles from Cape Jervis to the northern end of Lake Torrens. The highest point in the state is not in those ranges; Mount Woodroffe (4,708 ft) is in the Musgrave Ranges in the extreme northwest of the state. The south-western portion of the state consists of the sparsely inhabited Nullarbor Plain, fronted by the cliffs of the Great Australian Bight. Features of the coast include Spencer Gulf and the Eyre and Yorke Peninsulas that surround it.

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