What was South Australia like in the late 1800s?
South Australia, as it was before the Federation of the six Australian colonies in 1901, stretched from South Bay (the southernmost part of South Australia) to Oxley Island (the northernmost point of the Northern Territory). The majority of people (57 per cent) lived in rural areas; one in 10 people (11 per cent) lived in Adelaide, while nearly a third of the population (32 per cent) lived in other urban areas.
From 1863 until 1911, the Northern Territory was the responsibility of the South Australian Government. At the time, Darwin was called Palmerston, a name it used until the Territory came under the control of the Commonwealth in 1911.
In many ways, we can only imagine what the colony was like so long ago. However, there are photographs from which we can draw information, along with reports and stories in which writers of the time vividly convey details and impressions of people and places.
Explore the similarities and differences between life in Adelaide and life in other parts of South Australia in the late 1800s.
- As a class, read the accounts of Adelaide and look at the photographs. You may use the National Library of Australia's Trove website to locate other photographs. Type in ‘Adelaide SA’ and a particular year, for example, ‘Adelaide SA 1890’.
- Form small groups. Discuss the following questions about Adelaide and record your responses.
- What evidence can you find to determine whether Adelaide was a planned or unplanned city?
- How did the population of Adelaide show links to their British and German backgrounds?
- What examples of transport, clothing and technology from the late 1800s can you identify?
- What might you see, hear, feel and smell if you were living in Adelaide in the late 1800s? You can use an X-chart to record your responses.
- How do your answers help you to build up a picture about life in Adelaide at the time?
- In your groups, read the accounts and discuss the following questions about Port Augusta, Strathalbyn and Palmerston and record your answers. You may want to use the National Library of Australia's Trove website to locate photographs from the late 1800s. Type in the town’s name, SA and a particular year: for example, ‘Palmerston SA 1895’.
- What evidence can you find to determine whether Palmerston was a planned or unplanned town?
- What examples of transport, technology and occupations from the late 1800s can you identify?
- What might you see, hear, feel and smell if you were living in Port Augusta, Strathalbyn or Palmerston in the late 1800s? You can use an X-chart to record your responses.
- What do the three towns have in common? How are they unique?
- How do your answers help you to build up a picture of life in the colony of South Australia at the time?
- Use your responses to create a Venn diagram to identify the similarities and differences among the lives of people in Adelaide and the lives of people in other parts of South Australia in the late 1800s. Share your Venn diagram with the rest of the class.
- What are the differences? What are the similarities?
- Would they have had the same kinds of hopes?
- How would their opportunities have been different?