South Australia is the southern, central state of mainland Australia. It has a total land area of 983,482 square kilometres (379,725 square miles), which is similar in size to Egypt, the Canadian state of Ontario, or the combined areas of France and Germany. It borders all other mainland states and the Northern Territory.
Its landscape varies from rugged outback wilderness and desert, including some of the most arid parts of the continent, to scenic mountain ranges and a coastline that stretches more than 3,700km.
The state has a population of more than 1.7 million people, 77% of whom live in Adelaide and surrounding metropolitan areas. Large regional population areas include Mount Gambier in the state’s South East, and Whyalla, Port Lincoln and Port Augusta on the Eyre Peninsula.
While English is the principal language, the state is made up of over 200 ethnic communities.
Adelaide is the capital city of South Australia and is the fifth largest city in Australia.
The Kaurna Aboriginal people, whose traditional lands include the area around the Adelaide Plains, are recognised as Adelaide’s original inhabitants.
The site for metropolitan Adelaide was chosen and mapped out by surveyor Colonel William Light in 1836, based on a plan of one square mile (2.6 sq km) of town surrounded by parklands.
As the city grew, new suburbs developed west along the coast and east into the Mount Lofty Ranges as well as to the north and south.
As well as early British migrants, there was a strong German influence in the Adelaide Hills and the Barossa Valley. More recently, migrants include large communities of Chinese, Italian, Greek, Indian, Vietnamese, African and Middle Eastern origin.
Adelaide consistently ranks highly for its quality lifestyle and as one of the world's most desirable cities to live. Our cultural diversity is evident in all aspects of city life from shops and restaurants, to numerous music, theatre, dance, and visual arts events and festivals.
Visitors from around the world are attracted to Adelaide’s many festivals and sporting events. It is a clean green city, known for its vibrant food and wine culture.
From the city, an hour's drive or less can take you to as far north as Lyndoch in the Barossa Valley, south to McLaren Vale or Aldinga Beach, or to the Adelaide Hills towns of Lobethal, Hahndorf or Mount Barker.
Adelaide is South Australia's commercial centre and has advanced manufacturing, technology and research bases.
Many of the world's leading companies are represented, including those involved in defence, resources, information and communications technology.
South Australia also has a large agricultural industry and is a major wine producer. The National Wine Centre located in Adelaide is fitting, considering SA produces over 45 per cent of the country's wine grape crush.
Health and service industries are also important to the economy, together with education. Thousands of international students study at the city's secondary schools and universities every year.
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About South Australia’s regions
South Australia's rural regions are an integral part of the state's community and economy, offering diverse work and lifestyle opportunities.
People with professional qualifications and trade expertise are in strong demand in the mining sector, manufacturing, agriculture, fishing, wine and tourism.
About a quarter of South Australia's population lives in regions outside Adelaide.
If you’re visiting South Australia, the state is informally divided into 12 tourism regions:
- Adelaide Hills
- Clare Valley
- Eyre Peninsula
- Fleurieu Peninsula
- Flinders Ranges and Outback
- Kangaroo Island
- Limestone Coast
- Murray River, Lakes and Coorong
- Yorke Peninsula.
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The first Australian people migrated from the north some 50,000 years ago. Rock engravings in the Olary region of South Australia are said to be more than 35,000 years old.
Although never large in numbers, indigenous peoples occupied all areas of the state, including Kangaroo Island.
European interest began early in the 17th century when the Dutch explored parts of southern Australia. In 1802, British explorer Matthew Flinders mapped the entire South Australian coast in his ship, the Investigator. French explorer Nicholas Baudin was mapping the southern Australian coastline at the same time. The two expeditions met at Encounter Bay near Victor Harbor in April 1802.
The first European entry into South Australia in the early 1800s was unplanned and made up of sealers who lived on Kangaroo Island. The sealing industry peaked in the 1820s.
In the early 1830s, southern right whales passed close to Encounter Bay and Kangaroo Island on their annual migration west. The lure of quick profits from whaling and longer-term land speculation saw the formation of the South Australian Company, which selected land around Nepean Bay near the current town of Kingscote as its headquarters.
After the British Parliament passed the South Australia Colonisation Act in 1834, the South Australian Company was formed. Its purpose was to establish a colony based on free settlement rather than convict labour used in eastern Australia. A number of Adelaide city streets, including Wakefield, Angas, Currie, Hindley, Pirie and Rundle, are named after members of the founding board of directors.
The first settlers and officials set sail in early 1836 onboard nine ships and landed at Kangaroo Island, where they initially started a settlement near the current town of Kingscote. Less than four years later it was abandoned because there was no reliable supply of fresh water.
Surveyor Colonel William Light was given the responsibility of surveying Adelaide for the new colony. Governor John Hindmarsh proclaimed the province of South Australia on 28 December 1836 in a ceremony at Glenelg.
Copper discoveries in the state’s mid north helped attract more immigrants, while religious refugees, particularly German Lutherans, moved to South Australia to avoid persecution.
South Australia became a self-governing colony in 1856 and was among the world’s most progressive and democratic constitutions.
The state was the first Australian colony to introduce male adult suffrage for parliamentary elections and in 1895 it became the first place in the world to allow women to stand for parliament. At that time, women were given the right to vote.
When Australia was declared a federation in 1901 South Australia became a state within the Commonwealth of Australia.
The State Flag, which is flown from government buildings and vessels, was authorised by proclamation on 13 January 1904. It comprises the Blue Ensign, which is the Union Jack in the top left corner (canton) and the blue background, with the State Badge in the fly (area farthest from the flag pole).
The State Badge is described heraldically as:
the Rising Sun Or (gold) with thereon an Australian Piping Shrike displayed proper, and standing on a staff of a gum tree raguly (bough), gules (red) and vert (green)
The State Badge of a piping shrike (also known as a White Backed Magpie), was notified by a proclamation gazetted on 14 January 1904. The original drawing of the piping shrike was done in 1904 by Robert Craig of the School of Arts. A later drawing was done in 1910 by Harry P Gill, who was the Principal of the School of Arts.
Blue, red and gold were adopted as the official State Colours of South Australia on 25 November 1982.
The colours can be used by individuals or organisations without permission.
Coat of arms
The State Coat of Arms, conferred in a proclamation gazetted on 19 April 1984, replaces an earlier Coat of Arms conferred by King Edward VIII in 1936.
The Armorial Bearings are described heraldically as:
for Arms, Azure on the rising sun depicted as a roundel or an Australian Piping Shrike displayed and standing on the staff of a Gum Tree proper and for the Crest on a wreath or Azure and Gules Four sprigs of Sturt's Desert Pea proper the Shield upon a Compartment comprising a grassy mount and in front of two Vines growing therefrom each entwining their stakes proper on either side thereof stalks of Wheat and Barley and the dexter side scattered with Citrus Fruits and lying on the sinister side two Cog Wheels with between them a Miner's Pick also proper together with on a Scroll the name "South Australia ".
For more information
Department of the Premier and Cabinet
GPO Box 2343
Adelaide SA 5001
Phone: 8226 3631
- The Sturt’s Desert Pea was adopted as South Australia’s floral emblem on 23 November 1961.
- The southern hairy-nosed wombat was adopted as South Australia’s fauna emblem on 27 August 1970.
- The opal was adopted as South Australia’s gemstone emblem on 15 August 1985.
- The leafy sea dragon was adopted as South Australia’s marine emblem on 8 February 2001
- The Spriggina Floundersi was adopted as South Australia’s fossil emblem on 14 February 2017.