South Australia

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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South Australia

South Australia, state (1991 pop. 1,236,623), 380,070 sq mi (984,381 sq km), S central Australia. It is bounded on the S by the Indian Ocean. Kangaroo Island and many smaller islands off the south coast are included in the state. Adelaide is the capital; other important cities are Port Pirie, Port Augusta, Whyalla, and Mt. Gambier. Two thirds of the state's population live in the Adelaide metropolitan area. Much of South Australia is inhospitable terrain—deserts, mountains, salt lakes, and swampland. The Musgrave Ranges are in the north, the Flinders Ranges in the east, and the Great Victoria Desert and the Nullarbor Plain in the west. The only important river is the Murray, in the extreme southeast. The heavily populated southeastern area has a mild and healthful climate, while the north is arid to semiarid. Agriculture, confined almost exclusively to the Murray River area, consists of the raising of barley and grapes (for wine and brandy) and of wheat, oats, and rye. Livestock are grazed in the northern plains. There are valuable mineral deposits in the state; iron ore, salt, and gypsum are mined, and coal and natural gas are exploited. Industry developed rapidly during and after World War II; the chief products are industrial metals and transportation equipment. South Australia's coastal areas were visited by the Dutch in 1627. The British explorer Matthew Flinders noted likely settlement sites in 1802. Prompted by the writings of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, a British colonial statesman, the English Parliament passed the South Australian Colonization Act in 1834, and in Dec., 1836, the first colonists arrived and proclaimed South Australia a colony. In South Australia, unlike most of Australia, convicts were not admitted as settlers. In 1901, South Australia was federated as a state of the commonwealth. Northern Territory, which had been included in the state in 1863, was transferred in 1911 to the commonwealth government. The government of South Australia consists of a premier, a cabinet, and a bicameral state parliament. The nominal chief executive is the governor, appointed by the British crown on advice of the cabinet.

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