Tourist Information Distributors Australia
Tourist Information Distributors Australia
Exploring Adelaide

Brief History

Colony Built On A Dream

Settlement of the Colony of South Australia in 1836 was the result of a vision for a self supporting free colony. It was the culmination of years of hard work by a few individuals. South Australia was a free state where a healthy lifestyle and opportunity and freedom of religous persecution was promoted. Free emigration for young married couples was offered, funded by pre-sold land. They would be gainfully employed by landholders and eventually have the opportunity of owning land themselves.

This plan was contrary to the penal colony systems operating in  Australia where vast acreage's were granted free or sold at low prices and progress was largely dependant on the convict "slave labour" work force. The South Australia scheme was to revolutionise colonization throughout the world.

During the 1820s England was in the grip of the effects of the industrial revolution where country people had flocked to the cities for work. England was still suffering economic woes of the 1808-1814 Spanish Peninsula War where British soldiers had helped defeat Napoleon. Cities were overcrowded with bad sanitation and disease.  Poverty, hunger and destitution was the lot of many. Crime was rife.

The Australian penal colonies in New South Wales, Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) and Norfolk Island had been established to relieve pressure on British jails and were under military rule. The new Swan River Settlement (Perth) was a free colony, but relied on convict labour for the work force. Land speculation was rife and tied up vast tracts of riverside land.

During 1829 the National Colonisation Society was formed by Robert Gouger, Robert Wilmont Horton and others. The Society published "The Outline of a Plan of a Colony" which was further developed by Edward Gibbon Wakefield.

This system of a self supporting colony became known as the "Wakefield Scheme". Interestingly, at the time of penning it,  Wakefield was in jail for abducting a schoolgirl heiress he planned to marry. Unfortunately for him, her family thought otherwise! Whilst in jail, Wakefield wrote passionately about conditions as young offenders of mostly minor crimes were condemned to death or transportation to the penal colonies.

During 1831 Gouger, Wakefield and associates formed the South Australian Land Company, a commercial enterprise. Whilst it had support from potential investors and emigrants, it was not acceptable to the British Government. Another approach was needed.

The South Australian Association was formed in 1833 and lobbied the Government to establish a Commission of South Australian Colonization. A number of very influential people became members.

A huge public awareness meeting on the proposed province was held at Exeter Hall on the 30th June, 1834 organised by the South Australian Association and chaired by William Woolrich Whitmore. More than 2,500 people attended. Some of the greatest  philosophers and social reformers of the times were there. Speeches and discussions on the unique plan for self government and the emigration scheme continued for 7 hours. In the days following, hundreds of enquiries from potential emigrants were received by the Association.

A key factor in the Wakefield Scheme was the price of land should be set sufficiently high to prevent speculation that left huge acreages idle or the less wealthy taking up land too soon and running into problems of infufficient capital.

The Foundation Act for the Province of South Australia was brought before the House of Commons by Whitmore in August 1934. the British Government were wary of agreeing to a self supporting Colony with risks of enormous debt. It seemed about to fail until Gouger secured the backing of the Duke of Wellington. The Act then proceeded through the the House of Lords and received Royal Assent.

By the end of 1835, targets for land sales had been reached and finances raised but there were still bureaucratic delays. The South Australian Commission could not appoint any colonial officers until the South Australian Act became law.

Finally the South Australian Act was ratified on 19 February 1836. Captain Hindmarsh was appointed Governor, Colonel William Light – Surveyor General, George Strickland Kingston his deputy.

The Commissioners authorised Colonel Light to choose the site for the capital. With a small team he was to survey the city and surrounding country.

Settling South Australia

Excitement was rising. New Colonists were embarking on a journey bound for the Province of South Australia. Quite exactly where that might be, no-one knew, for the site of the capital had not yet been decided.

The South Australian Company's ships were not obliged to wait for legal formalities. They set sail, fully laden with whaling equipment, and supplies for twelve months. The John Pirie and Duke of York sailed in February 1836, followed by the Lady Mary Pelham in March. They  establish the first industry of South Australia – a whaling station on Kangaroo Island.

The surveyors' ships were to travel together on the voyage, Colonel Light in the Rapid and Kingston in the Cygnet. But Light was too ill to leave. He finally got away on the 21st May.

The Buffalo with Governor Hindmarsh on board followed by the Cygnet dropped anchor in Holdfast Bay on 28 December 1836. At 2pm the new arrivals and Colonists gathered in the shade of a majestic gum tree where the Proclamation Ceremony was held to inaugurate the Government of the Province of South Australia. Robert Gouger, resident Colonial Secretary issued the Oath to Governor Hindmarsh. Council officers were elected. The area was named Glenelg after the Colonial Secretary of State.

Queen Adelaide

Adelaide is the only Australian capital to be named after a woman. In 1836 Captain Hindmarsh submitted a request to His Majesty King William IV that the new capital be named after his Majesty or his consort Queen Adelaide. The king chose Adelaide. Plans were already afoot to name the capital Wellington.

Queen Adelaide was the first child of the Duke and Duchess of Saxe in Meiningen (Germany) and without courtship she married William Duke of Clarence. He was 53, she 25. William was known as the rough sailor king and had spent years on the high seas where he had been involved in many scrapes and quarrels over gambling and entanglements with women.

Queen Adelaide was a superb horsewoman and was admired for her grace, her continuing charity, care for the poor and support for school and church societies. William and Adelaide had two children who both died in infancy. She was kind to his ten illegitimate children the FitzClarences and to the King's niece – Princess Victoria.

The First South Australians

The first South Australians in the Adelaide region were the Kaurna (pronounced Garna) people. The area was known to them as Tandanya - the place of the red kangaroo. Part of the Kaurna people's spiritual connection to the country is Tjilbruke, an anesteral warrior, the keeper of fire and peace, who journeyed through the landscape in the dreamtime leaving his mark where he rested - thus his tears became springs. Aboriginal people have lived in Australia for thousands of years. The Kuarna people were one of many different language groups.


One of the many ships carrying settlers to South Australia

The route

The Proclaimation of South Australia, painting by Charles Hill, 1824-1925

Queen Adelaide
Early settlement in Adelaide