Port of Adelaide
Review and History

The Port of Adelaide is the capital of South Australia. Lying at the base of the Mount Lofty Range, it is located 12 kilometers inland from the Gulf St. Vincent. It has a Mediterranean climate with mild winters and hot summers. Home to over a million people, the Port of Adelaide is Australia’s fifth largest city. In 2006, over one million people lived in the metropolitan area.

Port History

King William IV’s consort, Queen Adelaide, gave the city its name. Founded in 1836, Port Adelaide is the capital of Australia’s only freely-settled province. The city was designed by a founding father, Colonel William Light, to occupy lands traditionally belong to the indigenous Kauma people. Surrounded by parkland, the city is based on a grid pattern with wide boulevards and big public squares.

The Port of Adelaide’s early economy got a boost in 1838 when livestock arrived, fueling the wool industry. Early colonists created wheat farms from Encounter Bay to Clare. The governor’s house was constructed in 1838, along with police barracks, a hospital, custom house, and wharf. During this period, homes were also built for public officials, missionaries, police, and surveyors.

Originally incorporated in 1840, it was the first municipal government in Australia. Sadly, the city council acquired a lot of debt, and the city government collapsed in 1843. In 1842, a third of the houses in Adelaide were abandoned. Until 1849, the provincial government controlled the town. The municipal government was re-established in 1852, and the lord mayoralty was realized in 1919.

By 1845, the Port of Adelaide was economically independent, although deeply in debt. Gold was discovered in Glen Osmond in 1841, and mines appeared everywhere. Agricultural industries were well-developed by this time, and the Port of Adelaide was busy exporting wool, meat, wine, fruit, and wheat.

In 1853, resident Francis Cadell successfully navigated the Murray River, linking the Port of Adelaide with other Australian states. When a new constitution was ratified in 1857, South Australia became a self-governing colony of Great Britain. Growth and development began in earnest.

The Throndon Park reservoir was opened in 1860. Gas lighting for the streets was introduced in 1867. The University of Adelaide was founded in 1874, and the South Australian Art Gallery opened in 1881. In 1896, the Happy Valley Reservoir opened.

A nationwide economic depression in the 1890s ended the Port of Adelaide’s growth spurt. Banks closed, and immigration dwindled. South Australia exports decreased dramatically in value, and drought brought poor harvests and forced families to leave the province. Although Adelaide was not as deeply affected as larger gold-rush cities, the only industries that did not suffer financially were wine and copper.

At the turn of the century, the Port of Adelaide began to recover. In 1900, electric street lights appeared. In 1909, electric trams moved passengers around the city. The city sent 28 thousand men to fight World War I. The Port of Adelaide had a post-war boom, but drought and the worldwide depression of the 1930s slowed progress.

By 1933, almost 600 thousand people lived in South Australia. World War II brought industrial diversification and growth as manufacturers looked for a safer location. Shipbuilding became an important employer. After the war, the wartime manufacturing industries were encouraged and supported by the government. Auto manufacturers used the factories, transforming the agriculture-based town to a 20th Century city. Between 1947 and 1973, immigration brought over 200 thousand new residents to South Australia.

During the 1970s, the Port of Adelaide enjoyed a cultural “revival.” Social reforms were instituted, and the city became a center for the arts. Adelaide hosted the Australian Grand Prix from 1985 to 1996. In 1992, bank collapses brought a new economic recession to the Port of Adelaide and South Australia that lasted until 2004.

The Port of Adelaide economy is based primarily on manufacturing, defense, commodity exports, and supporting service industries. Its electronics industry has grown steadily since 1990, and its electronics plants produce systems sold worldwide for many industrial sectors. Adelaide produces almost half of all the automobiles produced in Australia. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation was founded here, and the Port of Adelaide is still its “spiritual” home. Other major companies include Australia’s largest oil company, a prominent brewery, an important national retailer, and Australia’s second biggest investment company. Despite recessions and debts, South Australia enjoys a trade surplus and has higher per capita growth than the country of Australia.

Although established as a British territory, the Port of Adelaide contains many immigrants from non-English speaking countries. German Lutherans arrived there in 1838, growing grapes and founding wineries. After World War II, people came from Italy, Greece, Holland, and Poland. In more recent times, refugees from Africa have brought new life to Adelaide’s mix of cultures.

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