History: Adelaide


The Adelaide plains were inhabited by the Kaurna people at the time European contact was made. The Kauma territory extended from what is now Cape Jervis to Port Broughton. The Kaurna were a peaceful group of people numbering around 300.


Founding of Adelaide

Named in honour of Queen Adelaide, who was the wife of King William IV, the city was founded in 1836 with a proclamation under a gum tree at Glenelg, now a seaside suburb west of the city. Colonel William Light, one of Adelaide's founding fathers, chose the city location and planned its layout. Light was a surveyor and his design set out Adelaide in a grid layout that included wide boulevards and large public squares. The site was well-drained, had fertile soil and straddled the Torrens River which guaranteed a ready water supply. He designed the city to be entirely surrounded by parkland.

Unlike other Australian capitals, Adelaide has no convict history. It was regarded as a free city. The British government gave the city no financial backing. The settlers of the city were assured civil and religious rights and liberty by the colony


Growth of the colony

By November 1837 there were about 2,500 settlers in the new colony. However, by May 1841 there were nearly 2,000 buildings around Adelaide and the population had increased to nearly 15,000. Adelaide's colonists built in stone and those buildings are well preserved.

The discovery of silver in the Adelaide Hills in 1841, and copper, near Kapunda in 1842, and a massive lode at Burra in 1845, saw the beginnings of a boom in the economy. German immigrants were working the land and there were adequate supplies of fruit, vegetables, and dairy products. By the early 1840s the town had about 30 satellite villages, including the German settlements of Hahndorf, Klemzig and Lobethal, where the state's wine industry was founded

However gold was discovered in New South Wales and Victoria in the early 1850's and Adelaide suffered a mass exodus of males who went in search of their fortunes. With a mass exodus of around 20,000 males the Adelaide economy suffered. It recovered when the miners returned with wealth to kick-start the economy again. The history of Adelaide is sadly filled with tales of economic upheaval and administrative instability.



Adelaide's land is flat. So horse trams worked really well and Adelaide developed Australia's first permanent (and largest) horse tram system. It grew to 82 route kilometres. By 1883 there were eleven companies operating horse trams. The lines were taken over by the Municipal Tramways Trust (MTT) and electrified from 1908.


The aftermath of the World Wars saw rapid expansion in the population of South Australia. Following World War Two, immigrants arrived from Malta, the Netherlands, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Greece, West Germany and Spain, bringing with them the many cultural delights South Australians now like to call their own. In recent times, it is Asia, rather than Europe that is the source of new migrants, adding to the cultural diversity of the state.

A modern-thinking city

In the early days, Adelaide led the way in allowing women to stand for parliament and to vote. The city was quick to legalize trade unions and instituted the secret ballot. In more recent times, it has set the pace for Australia with legislation on a range of social issues.

Adelaide was the first city to have a police force. It was felt that a gaol and a police force were necessary to cope with a possible influx of convicts to this beautiful free city.

Adelaide is the fifth-largest city in Australia, with a population of more than 1.1 million








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