State of south-central Australia, including Kangaroo Island and other islands in the Indian Ocean; bounded on the northeast by Queensland, on the east by New South Wales, on the southeast by Victoria, on the south by the Indian Ocean, and on the west by Western Australia; area 984,381 sq km/380,071 sq mi; population (2001 est) 1,514,900. The capital (and chief port) is Adelaide. Products are meat, wool, wine, wheat, barley, almonds, oranges and other citrus fruits, and dried and canned fruit, coal, copper, uranium, silver, zinc, gold, steel, jade, slate, opals, marble, granite, household and electrical goods, vehicles, oil, and natural gas.
Geography Much of the north and west of South Australia is desert or arid wasteland, chiefly the Great Victoria, Simpson, and Tirari deserts, which are covered by sand ridges. There are also wide expanses of flat or undulating land, particularly the treeless Nullarbor Plain, which stretches along the southwest coast into Western Australia. The state is generally low-lying, with several low mountain ranges. Most of South Australia is under 600 m/2,000 ft in height, and the eastern half of the state is under 150 m/500 ft. The area around Lake Eyre lies below sea level and is the lowest elevation of the Australian continent. The Mount Lofty Ranges (maximum height 727 m/2,385 ft) rise east of Adelaide, the Flinders Ranges (maximum height 1,165 m/3,822 ft) run north from Port Pirie, and the Musgrave Ranges, with South Australia's highest peak (Mount Woodroffe 1,440 m/4,724 ft), lie in the northwest of the state. The Murray is the only navigable river. Apart from the Murray river system, most of South Australia's rivers, including Cooper Creek and the Warburton, flow intermittently, feeding into salt lakes such as lakes Eyre, Torrens, Frome, and Gairdner. These huge salt lakes, dry for most of the year, are a feature of South Australia's interior. Towns include Whyalla, Mount Gambier, Port Pirie, and Port Augusta. There is an experimental rocket range in the arid north at Woomera (Woomera Prohibited Area).
Climate South Australia has a mild climate. The rainfall at Adelaide averages 530 mm/21 in annually, most of it falling between May and October. The mean temperature is 17°C/63°F, the extreme range being 1°C/34°F to 44°C/111°F. Further inland rainfall decreases considerably, and the interior has an arid climate with very high temperatures.
Economy Agriculture is concentrated in the southeast of the state, on the Yorke peninsula and north of Adelaide as far as Peterborough, where there is fertile land irrigated by the River Murray. Wheat, grown largely for export, is the main crop, but barley, hay, almonds, and vegetables are also grown, and dairy products are produced. Vines are grown extensively for wine production, and the state produces over half of the Australian crop of wine grapes. The Barossa Valley, 55 km/34 mi north of Adelaide, produces almost one third of Australia's wine, and has more than 55 wineries producing a wide range of wine varieties, generally of high quality. Other wine-producing areas include the Clare Valley, the Mount Lofty Ranges, and irrigated areas near the Murray River. Vines are also cultivated to produce raisins and currants, largely for export. Olives and almonds are also grown in the Barossa area. Oranges and other citrus fruits, and peaches are other important crops, usually intensively cultivated and with the help of irrigation. Livestock farming varies from extensive rearing of sheep for wool and meat, and of cattle for beef in the drier northern areas of the state, to intensive farming of dairy cattle, pigs, and poultry in the southeastern areas, especially in areas easily accessible to Adelaide.
South Australia has a large manufacturing economy. Industrialization after World War II centred on the production of cars, electrical goods, and household appliances, mostly in and around Adelaide. Outside Adelaide the two most important industrial concerns are the iron and steelworks at Whyalla and the lead smelters at Port Pirie. Other factories are located near their source of supply, such as the sawmills and pulp- and paper-mills of the southeast, the fruit-processing plants of the upper Murray, and the wineries and distilleries of the Barossa Valley. A petrochemical complex at Redcliffe, built with Australian and Japanese funds, produces caustic soda and ethylene-dichloride.
Tourism Tourism makes a major contribution to South Australia's economy. 249,000 tourists from overseas visited the state in 1995–1996. Major attractions include the Adelaide Hills (including the town of Handorf, built by Prussian and German migrants); the wine-producing Barossa Valley; the Flinders ranges, which are known for their wildlife and include sites of Aboriginal art and ceremonial significance; Kangaroo Island, which has 16 national and conservation parks, including Flinders Chase, a wildlife sanctuary; the Murray River; and the towns of the Riverina district. The opal fields at Cooper Pedy also attract many visitors.
Mining and natural resources South Australia is rich in natural resources and mining is important to the economy. The iron-ore deposits of the Middleback Ranges on the Eyre Peninsula supply the steel industry at Whyalla, Port Kembla, and Newcastle. The ore is mined at Iron Duke and Iron Knob. Olympic Dam has deposits of copper, uranium, silver, and gold. It is one of the largest copper mines in Australia; it has one of the world's largest uranium deposits, and is one of only two uranium mines in Australia (the other being at Ranger in Northern Territory). South Australia also has large opal deposits, and mines at Cooper Pedy and Mintabie produce about half of all Australia's opals. Jade (in the form of nephrite) has also been mined near Cowell since its discovery in 1966. South Australia also has the bulk of Australia's gypsum; it is mined at Lake MacDonnell, Bielamah, Streaky Bay, Spider Lake, Blanchetown, and Cooke Plains. There are coalmines at Leigh Creek, Arckavinga, Cooper, and Northern St Vincent Basin; the coal from Leigh Creek powers the Thomas Playford and Northern power station at Port Augusta.
Oil and gas are found in the Cooper and Eromanga Basins; the construction of processing facilities began in 1981, and in October 1982 a liquid petroleum gas pipeline from Moomba to Adelaide was completed. The pipeline has branches to Port Pirie, Whyalla, and the Barossa Valley. There is also gas at Katnook which is piped to Safries, Glencoe, and Mount Gambier.
Australia's largest granite quarries are at Black Hill, 80 km/50 mi east of Adelaide, and granite is a major growth area in the South Australian stone industry, with production tripling over the last ten years. South Australia is also Australia's largest producer of slate, and marble is quarried at Kapunda (greys and pinks), and Barossa Valley (white).
Government The parliament of South Australia consists of a Legislative Council and a House of Assembly. The Council has 22 members (elected for an 8-year term) and the Assembly has 47 members who serve a minimum of 3 years and a maximum of 4 years. Since 1978 Cabinet has been formed by 10 ministers from the House of Assembly and 3 from the Legislative Council. Voters must be 18 years of age and have been on the electoral roll 6 months, besides being natural-born or naturalized British subjects. The franchise for both houses was extended to adult women in 1894.
19th century South Australia was probably known to the Dutch in the middle of the 16th century. It was visited by Dutch navigator Abel Tasman in 1644, and surveyed by Matthew Flinders in 1802. In 1829–30 Charles Sturt explored the Murray River to its mouth. In 1831 Major Baron suggested founding a British settlement in the neighbourhood of the River Murray and in 1836 South Australia became the only Australian colony to be founded entirely by free settlers. The British parliament passed the South Australia Colonization Act in 1834. This established the province on lines inspired by the ideas of Edward Gibbon Wakefield and the National Colonization Society, a radical group of English colonial reformers, who believed that a colony should be based on free emigration and land sales. The first colonists landed at Kingscote on Kangaroo Island but the settlement was almost immediately transferred to the mainland, where the province was proclaimed at Glenelg (a suburb of Adelaide) on 28 December 1836. Originally South Australia had semi-independent status as a hybrid of a Crown colony and a chartered colony, to which no convicts were to be sent. However, in 1842, after a financial collapse, it became a regular Crown colony. The discovery of copper at Kapunda in 1842 and at Burra in 1845 brought prosperity. During the first 30 years of the colony's existence a number of attempts were made to explore the interior. Edward John Eyre crossed the Flinders Ranges in 1839–41, opening up the central-north region of the state to settlement. In 1840 he travelled from Port Augusta to Albany in Western Australia. In 1839 Charles Bonney found an alternative stock route to the Murray by driving a herd of cattle from Melbourne to Adelaide. John MacDouall Stuart made several journeys into the interior between 1858 and 1862, finally succeeding in crossing the continent from south to north in 1862. Stuart's success linked South Australia with Northern Territory. Northern Territory was annexed to South Australia in 1863, and the overland telegraph from Adelaide to Darwin, on the north coast, was completed in 1872.
20th century South Australia became a state of the Australian Commonwealth in 1901. From 1901–1911 the region north of 26° of latitude (Northern Territory) was under the control of South Australia, but in 1911 it passed to control of the Commonwealth. The steel industry developed rapidly in the early 20th century and the steel works opened in Whyalla in 1938. The rapid expansion of the railways from 1906–1914 facilitated the development of agriculture, and irrigation of the Murray River region was developed from 1910–1920. The mineral industry in the Flinders ranges expanded rapidly in the 1940s, and the 1950s saw great expansion in the manufacturing industry (including cars). In 1963 British nuclear tests were carried out at Maralinga, in which Aborigines were said to have died. In 1966 the Aboriginal Lands Trust was created to hold the title to Aboriginal lands and lease them back to their Aboriginal occupants. The Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Act of 1981 gave the Pitjantjatjara people freehold title over a large area in the northwest of the state.
Demography The majority of South Australia's population is descended from English, Scottish, and Irish settlers. Other European settlers included a group of German Lutherans who came to South Australia in 1838–41 to escape religious persecution. A further group of Germans followed in the 1850s and settled in the Barossa Valley, where they established vineyards. There are Aboriginal lands in the northwest corner of the state.
Flora and fauna In the higher rainfall coastal regions eucalyptus woodland was the dominant vegetation, although much of this was cleared for agriculture. However, eucalyptus woodland does remain in national parks and nature reserves. Acacias also grow in abundance. The remaining drier regions of the state are dominated by mulga, scrub, saltbush, spinifex, and wild flowers. Fauna includes marsupials, including kangaroos, wallabies, and koalas, platypuses, possums, and bandicoots; there are reptiles such as the king brown snake, the death adder, pythons (including the diamond python), and lizards; birdlife includes emus, penguins, kingfishers, kookaburras, and magpies.
South Australian Tourist Commission
South Australia – flag
Sturt's desert pea
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