Bound for South Australia - Secret Ballot Voting and First Trade Unions
including the development of the Northern Territory
South Australia was created as a free province (with absolutely no convicts) by an Act of Parliament in London in 1834. It had its own governor, unconnected with Sydney. The plan was to have a number of wealthy potential wheat and livestock farmers and merchants pay for land orders in London that would allow them "first dibs" on choices of acreages in a new South Australian settlement. The sheep and other livestock were to be brought in from NSW, or, at first, Van Diemen's Land.
After commissions were paid, those monies then provided "free passage" for poor, but skilled, labourers in Britain. It was a bit similar to the £10 Poms scheme introduced by the Labour Government in Australia after World War 2. But this
one was free.
The theory was these labourers would work in the province, earning wages, saving money to buy their own land. And to some degree, it was a very popular pitch, yes it worked.
Bound for South Australia (click here to hear this old 19th century sea shanty)
Two boats sailed from England in 1836 with about 500 settlers. Needless to say, it included many church-goers.
More boats followed, including one from Germany with a bunch of Lutheran farmers. Wine growing became very popular in the province.
The main settlement was named Adelaide after King William IV of England's wife. The free passage scheme lasted until 1840, when it ran out of money. In fact there was no other place in Australia quite like it.
And needless to say, it wasn't easy. Although the aboriginal people's rights and lands were protected by the Letters Patent attached to the 1834 Act, these provisions were many times ignored by the province's commissioners, governors and the South Australian Company. So, arguments and fights with the Aborigines, numerous internal disagreements, drought, all the problems to be expected with a new settlement. Sheep farming squatters settled on unused land, many of these became leaseholds.
And so the non-aboriginal population grew, 500 in 1836, 15000 in 1841, 64000 by 1851 then 86000 by 1855. Today, South Australia's population is 1,721,000 with 1,390,000 living in Adelaide.
At first there was just the governor in charge of the province, in 1842 a legislative council was set up, with three representatives from Britain, and four colonists who were appointed by the governor.
It was granted self-government, with an elected upper and lower house, in 1855.
Formation of the Northern Territory
Click here for a map of its boundaries.
Click here for a list of its administrators since 1863.
- 1863 The Northern Territory which had been administered by Sydney, was formally named a separate territory to be administered by Adelaide, in preparation for the South Australian Overland Telegraph.
- 1864 An early settlement at Escape Cliffs (about 60 kms north-east of Darwin) was abandoned the following year.
- 1869 First permanent settlement now established at Port Darwin. Initially just 135 people. Main town became known as Palmerston.
- 1871 Overland Telegraph built over 3000 kms, via twelve repeater stations, starting at Port Augusta (300 kms north of Adelaide) to Port Darwin. From there it ultimately connected to London.
- 1911 Administration of the Northern Territory now the Federal Government, at that time in Melbourne. The city of Palmerston was renamed as Darwin. White population about 3,000.
- 1947 Legislative Council set up with locally elected councillors, and others appointed by the Federal Government, now based in Canberra. White Population was shown to be 20,000 in a 1956 census.
- 1967 Australia-wide referendum changes the rules of census counting to include indigenous peoples wherever possible. Northern Territory 80,000 in a 1970 census.
- 1973 Fully elected Legislative Assembly set up in the Northern Territory, preparing for self-government. Population count in 1976 is 100,000 residents. Self-government arrives in 1978.
- 1983 Registration of indigenous peoples becomes no longer optional (on their part) but becomes mandatory from a government perspective.
- 1998 Territory votes to reject the opportunity to become an Australian state, which would have meant it had greater freedom from Canberra's oversight, but more responsibilities similar to the other states. Thus it remains today a self-governing territory under Canberra's rule.
- 2018 Current population 250,000 residents.
Back to South Australia
South Australia claims a lot of "firsts", or "firsts with others" in Wikipedia. See below.
- Secret Ballots in 1856
Secret ballots to elect public officials were always a tricky thing for countries everywhere, how do you stop people voting twice, perform the extra work marking names off a list, what to do if many can't read, etc. Massachusetts in the US apparently had secret ballots early in the 1600s, but at that time you had to bring your own paper. So instead the candidate would normally supply you with a pre-filled card (and often a reward).
In 1856 both Victoria and South Australia (and Tasmania) voted for the use of "private" booths and "pre-printed" forms.
Victoria's elections in 1856 were a bit messy, the rule was you had to cross out all the names you didn't want. Every paper was allocated a number (that identified you as the citizen). South Australia, in their first ballot election in 1858, removed those identifying numbers, making it truly secret, and also added checkboxes, for an X mark to be placed against the chosen candidate. Much simpler.
The system became known as "Aussie ballots", spread to New Zealand, the UK, Canada, the USA, then just about everywhere.
- Adult male suffrage (to include indigenous men) in 1856
- one man, one vote in 1856
- no property qualifications required, to be a member of the lower house in 1856
- low property qualifications required, to be a member of the upper house in 1856
- propertied women granted the vote in local mayoral elections in 1861
- Trade unions legalised in 1871, a first
(note - trade associations have been around forever, but a workers trade union that could put pressure on a wages contract, so badge-wearing workers could insist on either doing less work for the same money, or the same work but for more money, the concept was illegal, a form of intimidation, everywhere)
- Four United Labour Party members were elected to Parliament in 1891, again a first in Australia. The Labour Party became famous for the "White Australia" policy, protecting jobs.
- Women granted the vote in parliamentary elections in 1895
** End of report