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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 41

South Australia

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South Australia.

Lying between 12° and 38° south latitude and 129° and 141° east longitude, the Colony of South Australia extends from Torres Straits to the Southern Ocean; and is bounded on the east by Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria; on the west by Western Australia; thus forming the centre-piece of the continent. Roughly defined, the territory is 2000 miles long by 500 miles wide, and has an area of over 903,000 square miles; but, with the exception of a small settlement on the northern coast, colonisation has hitherto been confined to the southern districts.

The southern coast-line, over 2000 miles long, is indented by two deep gulfs—St. Vincent's and Spencer's gulfs—giving access to large agricultural districts in the interior; and there are a number of small harbours, affording good anchorage for shipping. In the settled districts the principal mountain ranges are the Flinders, running northwards from the head of St. Vincent's Gulf, and the Mount Lofty range, skirting the eastern coast of the same gulf. The Murray is the only river worthy of the name running into the Southern Ocean. It is navigable for nearly' 2000 miles, but unfortunately a shifting sandy bar stretches across its mouth. The country generally is watered by streams, which in the winter months attain the proportions of small rivers, but during the summer are reduced to mere creeks. Towards the north of the Murray are the large fresh-water lakes, Alexandrina and Albert.

The geological features of the colony are imperfectly known, and hitherto no secondary rocks have been discovered. The principal mountains are of palæozoic origin; and fossils found on northern Yorke's Peninsula lead to the opinion that the whole system of primary stratified rocks in the colony is silurian. The palæozoic rocks are immediately succeeded by an immense area of tertiary limestone, abundantly fossiliferous, stretching eastward to Victoria, and westward to Western Australia. The carboniferous series have not been found, nor have rocks of oolitic origin. Igneous rocks occur in many parts, and volcanic rocks are well developed in the south-east corner of the colony.

The character of the South Australian flora is intermediate between the south-east, southwest, and tropical floras of Australia, and the flora is less numerous in genera and species of plants than that of the adjoining provinces. The rapid succession of forms, and the contrast between the flora of the northern and southern parts of the colony, are remarkable. As in other parts of the continent, the eucalyptus and acacia orders prevail.

The fauna is peculiarly rich in marsupials. The most peculiar of the Australian animals are the duck-bill platypus and the spiny ant-eater. The fish on the coasts are imperfectly known; but nearly 700 species of birds have been found, the most remarkable being the various parrots, bower-building birds and mound-raising megapodes, and the emu.

With the exception of the northern coast, which is tropical, the climate of the whole colony is of an unusually equal character, resembling that of the southern parts of Europe. The clearness and dryness of the atmosphere are extraordinary, and happily weaken the effect of the periods of extreme heat which occur from time to time during the summer months (December to March), so that the thermometer is no true measure of the degree of the heat. The mean temperature in Adelaide is 63° Fahrenheit, the maximum registered being 116° and the minimum 32°; but in the hilly districts close to the capital, and in the south-east, the temperature is several degrees lower. The mean annual rainfall in Adelaide is about 21 inches, the greatest during a single year being 31, and the least 13. In the hilly districts it is about 30 inches, and in the south-east it is also greater than in Adelaide.

As far as is known, the aborigines were never numerous; and since the advent of the white man their numbers have diminished so rapidly as to threaten extinction within a short period. About a thousand still remain within the settled districts of South Australia.

Consequent upon Captain Sturt's explorations, the settlement of South Australia was mooted in London in 1831; but the act of authorisation was not passed till three years later. Several shiploads of settlers arrived in 1836, and on the 28th of December of that year the foundation of the colony was proclaimed by Governor Hindmarsh.

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Responsible government, by a Governor and six Ministers forming the Cabinet, was established in 1856. The Upper Chamber, or Legislative Council, which cannot be dissolved by the Governor, is elected by the whole province as one district, and the electorate is based on a small property qualification. One-third of the members retire every fourth year. The House of Assembly, which is liable to dissolution by the Governor, is elected for only three years, the province being divided into electoral districts for the purpose. The electorate is based on manhood suffrage, but the services of the members are gratuitous. Each House is vested with equal powers, with the exception that the Legislative Council cannot initiate financial measures.

Local self-government is carried on in 21 towns under the form of municipal corporations, and in the country by 112 district councils, elected by ratepayers living within the limits of a proclaimed district.

The population exceeds 253,000, most of whom are employed, directly or indirectly, in the cultivation of the soil, or in the production of mineral and pastoral wealth. The native-born element already forms 60 per cent. The proportion per 1000 of the population in 1879 was—of marriages, 8¾; of births, 38¾; and of deaths, 14. The capital city is Adelaide, with a population of nearly 40,000, exclusive of the suburbs, which swell the number to about 65,000. The largest provincial towns are Port Adelaide, Glenelg, Wallaroo, The Burra, Mount Gambier, Kapunda, and Gawler.

Assisted passages are given to agricultural, mining, and other labourers, artisans, domestic servants, and other desirable colonists, on the nomination of friends already in the colony. Land-order warrants to the value of £20 are granted to persons who pay their own passages, by the Agent-General for South Australia, 8 Victoria Chambers, Westminster, London, from whom full information on the conditions of immigration can be procured.

At a rough estimate, about a quarter of a million square miles of country are at present put to more or less profitable use. Agriculture has not extended more than about 100 miles from the southern coast, and pastoral occupation cannot be said to have reached further than 500 miles, though lately squatters have taken up large areas of land in the centre of the continent. Excluding the Northern Territory, the total area of land sold by the Crown is under 9,000,000 acres, about one-fourth of which is cultivated.

Long leases, at small rentals, are offered to capitalists willing to occupy waste lands for pasture; but the main principles embodied by the land laws are—purchase after survey; deferred payments; limitation of area held upon credit to 1000 acres of ordinary lands, or 640 acres of lands reclaimed by drainage; conditions of improvement and cultivation; and, as far as possible, compulsory residence.

In 1879 there were 177,000 square miles of land leased from the Crown for pastoral purposes, 130,000 horses in the colony, 266,000 horned cattle, over 6,000,000 sheep, 90,500 pigs, and 11,200 goats. The favourite kind of sheep in the interior is the Merino; but on the coast long-wools are, in some cases, preferred. Camels have been introduced, and are proving a useful acquisition. The value of the export of wool during 1878 amounted to over £1,750,000 sterling for 56,500,000 lb.

That the general character of the land, so far as it has been tested, is favourable to agricultural settlement, may be judged from the fact that nearly half of the adult male population of the community is engaged in farming pursuits, chiefly cereal. Notwithstanding the aridity of the climate, the soil is productive, and, consequent on that dryness, the quality of the products is often excellent. Not only do English fruits, vegetables, and cereals of all kinds, grow to perfection, but many semi-tropical products do well.

Of the total area under cultivation (2,271,058 acres) nearly two-thirds is cropped with wheat, of which about 1,500,000 acres were reaped at the last harvest, yielding an aggregate of over 14,000,000 bushels. The actual production of wheat to the acre is small, averaging about 9½ bushels; but the cost of cultivation is also small. Of the quality of the wheat it is almost needless to write. It fetches the highest price in the London market, and has obtained the highest awards at every International Exhibition where it has been shown.

The extent of lands planted with vines in 1878 was over 4000 acres, and the produce of the vintage of March, 1879, was nearly half a million gallons, or about 200 gallons per acre of vines grown for wine. The greater part of this wine is consumed in the colony; but over £16,000 worth was exported in 1879. Most of the South Australian wines are of a full-bodied or sweet character; but on the hills lighter wines are readily made. The olive oil industry is also beginning to assume considerable proportions. Several thousand gallons of oil were made during the past season, and the area under olives is increasing. The oil commands a read; sale in the colony at a higher price than the imported article.

During the season 1879-80, 202,000 bushels of barley, 61,000 of oats, 58,000 of peas, 296,000 tons of hay, and 27,000 tons of potatoes, were gathered. Hops are grown with great success in the south-eastern district. Flax, tobacco, the castor oil plant, the sunflower, mustard, rape, lupin, maize, lentils, chicory, osier, broom, millet, opium, and many plant used in the distilling of perfumes, are grown in the colony in small quantities. The mulberry and silkworm thrive well; but no substantial results have as yet attended the attempt to establish sericulture.

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Nearly all kinds of European fruits are produced in the colony—those of the Continent almost everywhere, and the more peculiarly English fruits in the hilly districts. Apricots, peaches, plums, and grapes are especially abundant, and are exported in considerable quantities. Raisin-making vines are largely grown, and about 80 tons of raisins, equal to the best imported, are manufactured every year. The Zante grape is also grown, and the currant-making industry promises to become of importance. During the summer season large quantities of jam are made, much of which is exported, more especially of the apricot, peach, and plum varieties.

Over £16,000,000 worth of copper have been exported since its discovery. The most famous mines are the Burra Burra, Wallaroo, and Moonta, the last two of which are still being worked. Owing to the prevailing low prices, the value of the copper export during 1879 fell to £358,000.

Several small discoveries of gold have been made from time to time; but, except in the Northern Territory, gold-mining has hitherto made little progress. The deposits of iron in the province are of great richness and extent, but they have been little worked. Lead ore is found in several places, and generally contains a proportion of silver; but the cost of smelting has hitherto prevented the extraction of the metal. Very fine roofing and paving slate quarries are being worked at Willunga and Mintaro; and gypsum found near Yorketown gives rise to a trade in plaster-of-Paris. Amongst other mineral productions found are—asbestos, baryta, bitumen, cobalt, calcspar, dolomite, fire-clay, fluorspar, Fuller's earth, kaolin clay, lignite, marble, magnesia, magnesian limestone, mica, ochre, salt, soapstone, native sulphur, and diamonds. In the south-east district a remarkable substance called coorongite is found on the surface; and a company has recently been formed to bore for oil in the locality.

With the exception of a few miles of suburban lines, all the railways, amounting to over 620 miles, have been constructed and are maintained by Government. The standard gauge for the main trunk lines is 5 ft. 3 in., but in some outlying districts the 3 ft. 6 in. gauge has been adopted. Besides a number of district roads in the charge of local municipalities, there are over 3300 miles of main roads in the colony. The most notable bridge is that at Edward's Crossing over the Murray, which is 1900 feet long. There are several other fine bridges and a number of smaller structures across the rivers and creeks in country districts.

Water has been laid on to several centres of population, including the metropolis, where a scheme of deep drainage is now being carried out. On 13 prominent points on the southern coast lighthouses have been erected, and as there is a complete system of marine survey, wrecks are not frequent.

South Australia has special reason to be proud of her postal and telegraph systems. Direct postal communication with Europe is maintained by two lines of packets, each of which despatch steamers twice a month. There is a daily overland mail to Victoria and New South Wales, besides ship mails about twice a week. A uniform rate of 2d. per ½ oz. is charged upon inland and intercolonial letters, and newspapers are forwarded free of charge to any part of the world. Over 4400 miles of telegraph lines and 6000 of wire are open to the public, and every township of any importance is connected with the capital. To South Australia belongs the honour of having constructed the trans-continental line—over 2000 miles long—which joins the Indian and Southern oceans.

The legal tribunals consist of a Supreme Court and a Court of Insolvency in Adelaide, local courts of civil jurisdiction in all the principal towns and townships, and police courts in a few chief towns to deal with petty offences, and to commit to the Supreme Court. There is an efficient police force, comprising about 300 men.

The education given at the 220 primary State-schools now open is secular, but not to the exclusion of Bible-reading; and attendance is compulsory for children between the ages of 7 and 13. In addition to these State-schools there are a number of provisional schools in the country districts only partially under State control, and about 300 private schools, including several of the grammar-school type. Secondary education is not undertaken by the State, but higher education is provided for by the University at Adelaide. Amongst the most useful public institutions of an educational character are the Adelaide Botanic Garden and the South Australian Institute, which latter contains, under one roof, a public and circulating library, a museum, and reading-room, in Adelaide; with branches in the country districts.

The colony was founded upon principles entirely opposed to any connection between Church and State, and yet two-thirds of the population have provided themselves with accommodation for public worship. The number of churches and other buildings thus used is over 900, and the total number of sittings 150,000. About 85 per cent, of the population are Protestants, and 15 per cent. Roman Catholics. The Church of England stands numerically at the head of the denominations, but the Wesleyan Methodists have the largest number of churches. An efficient system of Sunday-schools is spread throughout the colony, and they are attended by about 40,000 children.

Ample provision is made in public, semi-private, and private institutions for the relief of the helpless sections of the community. There are hospitals for the adult sick and for children; page 108 asylums for lunatics, orphans, and neglected children, the poor and infirm, inebriates, and the deaf and dumb; a club for bushmen, and mission stations for the natives.

Well-armed forts have been erected to cover the approach to Port Adelaide, and a military road is being made along the east coast of St. Vincent's Gulf. The defence force consists of a militia of 1000 men, and a body of rifle volunteers of 500 men.

In 1879 the value of exports amounted to £4,750,000 sterling, or £19 15s. per head of the population. The imports in the same year reached £5,000,000, or about £19 18s. per head. Breadstuffs have for many years occupied a foremost place amongst the staple products; and the value of the export under this heading last year, in spite of a bad harvest, was considerably over £1,500,000 sterling, comprising over 70,000 tons of flour and 442,000 quarters of wheat Wool is also an important staple, of which 56,500,000 lb., valued at £1,750,000 sterling, were exported. Copper has long been one of the most important sources of wealth; but, owing to the low price, the export in 1879 fell to £350,000 worth. In addition to these chief staples, a variety of minor products are annually exported, the principal items being tallow, sheepskins' bark, wine, horses and sheep, eggs, jams, leather, fresh fruit, preserved meats, gum, hay and chaff, hides, biscuits, reaping-machines, soap, potatoes, almonds, slate, and salt. Nearly two-thirds of the trade is absorbed by the United Kingdom.

There were 1100 vessels, representing 468,000 tons, entered inwards at ports in the province in 1879, as against 1010 vessels, with 465,000 tons, cleared outwards. There is direct steam communication with London weekly, Melbourne bi-weekly, Sydney, Hobart Town, besides three lines of clipper ships trading regularly to London, and a large number of craft in the intercolonial trade.

The existing tariff was passed ostensibly for the purpose of raising revenue, and not with a view to protection. Most articles of drapery, furniture, carriages, drugs, earthenware, jewellery, leather goods, stationery, fancy goods, and fish and meat in pickle or brine, are charged 10 per cent, ad valorem; while engines not exceeding 60-horse power and agricultural implements pay 5 per cent. A number of articles are placed on the free list.

Within the last few years local industries have largely increased in number and efficiency, Most of them have their raw material at hand in the produce of the country, and are engaged in supplying local demands rather than in exporting. The chief manufactories are—steam mills, 113; wine-making establishments, 100; agricultural implement works, 43; tanneries and fellmongeries, 40; boot factories, brickyards, and breweries, each 25; saw-mills, aerated water and cordial factories, and coachbuilders' shops, each 20; clothing factories, 13; besides limekilns, soap and candle factories, bone-dust mills, glue and size works, ship and boat building yards, potteries and tile and pipe works, gas-works, dye-works, rope-walks, brush factories, biscuit bakeries, jam and confectionery factories, dried fruit and olive oil factories, and ice-works. Among other miscellaneous local productions and manufactories are—barilla, billiard-tables, baking-powder, blacking, cayenne pepper, cement, cigars, fibre, plaster-of-Paris, washing-machines, sauces and pickles, salt, gas-stoves, iron safes, bedsteads, galvanised iron tinware, and nickel-plating.

The amount of the public debt outstanding at the end of 1879 was over £9,750,000 sterling, of which £8,000,000 (about) has been raised at 4 per cent. The price of South Australian 4 per cents, at Sept. 1, 1880, was £97. The total rate of indebtedness per head of the population is near £21. Against that indebtedness (nearly £10,000,000) may be set £5,000,000 due to the Government by credit selectors, and public works to the value of, say, £8,000,000.

The general revenue for the financial year ending June 30th, 1880, amounted to £1,831,161, as against an expenditure of £1,853,112. The total taxation in 1879 was about £2 per head of the population, £1 19s. of which was raised by Customs' duties.

Eight banking institutions carry on business within the province—viz., the Bank of South Australia, National Bank of Australasia, Union Bank of Australia, Bank of Australasia' English, Scottish, and Australian Chartered Bank; Bank of Adelaide, Bank of New South Wales, the Commercial Bank of South Australia. The total average liabilities of the eight banks at the end of June, 1880, amounted to £4,555,045; and the assets to £7,370,531.