People and Places

Investigation 1

What was South Australia like in the late 1800s?
Resource Sheet 1

Investigation 2

How did newspapers in South Australia represent life in the colony?
Resource Sheet 2

Investigation 3

What impact did the construction of South Australia’s Overland Telegraph Line have on the colonies?
Resource Sheet 3

Investigation 4

Who were some of the political figures from South Australia that played a leading role in the Federation movement?
Resource Sheet 4

Investigation 5

Who were some South Australian women that made important contributions to social and political change in the late 1800s?
Resource Sheet 5

What are you thinking now?

Additional activities and exercises to explore in the classroom.


In the years before Federation, South Australia was different to the other Australian colonies in many ways. The Europeans that arrived there from 1836 onwards came as free settlers, planning to build a modern and well-managed society. Unlike other colonies, convict labour was never used to build public buildings such as schools and hospitals, or to construct the railways and telegraph lines. At the end of 1836, there were just more than 500 free settlers living in South Australia. However, the population quickly grew. By the time of the 1891 census, the population had grown to more than 324,721 people. And, by 1901, the year of Federation, it had reached 363,157.

The settlers rapidly spread out across the countryside, growing wheat and grapes, raising sheep and cattle, and mining copper. Indigenous people, however, lost more and more of their traditional lands and many died of European diseases.

In 1857, Britain granted South Australia the power to elect its own parliament, which could make laws to govern the colony. Prior to 1857, a governor appointed by the British Government ruled the colony. The women of South Australia were among the first in the world to win the right to vote. This important democratic event took place in 1894. In the years before Federation, the Northern Territory was part of South Australia. It was not until 1 January 1911 that it became a Territory under the control of the new Australian Commonwealth.