SA Firsts - Timeline for South Australian firsts

South Australia has achieved a notable list of parliamentary "firsts". It was the Australian or world leader in many reforms through legislation and other changes to our system of government, particularly in establishing a democratic system of government and extending the political and social rights of its citizens.

Democracy and human rights in the 19th century


South Australia's foundation incorporated ideas of social and political freedom that were among the most advanced of their time.

Crown Land was sold, not given away. The money raised was used to fund the immigration of the respectable poor, to provide a labouring class and to encourage a class of yeoman farmers.

There was no dominant religion in the colony and no government control of religion.

South Australia was promised representative government when it reached a minimum population size.

Support for democratic government and religious freedom remained powerful forces in the colony.


The City of Adelaide is the first elected town council in Australia.


South Australia is the first Australian colony to adopt the legal provision that evidence from Aborigines could be accepted in courts of law.


The new, partly elected, Legislative Council puts an end to State Aid to religion - the first part of the British Empire to cut the links between government and the church.


South Australia's new democratic Constitution is one of the most democratic in the world, ahead of the other Australian colonies, the UK and most European countries.

It includes:
Adult male suffrage (including Aboriginal men).
Secret ballot.
No plural voting.
No property qualification for Members of the House of Assembly
A relatively low property qualification for Members of the Legislative Council


South Australia is the first part of the British Empire to legalise trade unions.


Four United Labor Party candidates are elected to Parliament, the first endorsed Labor members in Australia.


Parliament passes the Constitutional Amendment Act and South Australia becomes the first colony in Australia and the fourth place in the world to grant adult women the right to vote and the first in the world to grant them the right to stand as Members of Parliament.
The right to vote includes Aboriginal women.


Women vote in a general election for the first time in Australia and the second time anywhere in the world.

Democracy and human rights in the 20th century


The government of J. Verran is the first complete Labor government in the world.


The Aboriginal Affairs Act repeals many regulations that restricted the civil liberties of Aboriginal people, including their right to mix with non-Aboriginal people.


Prohibition of Discrimination Act prohibited discrimination on the grounds of race, colour or country of origin.


The Aboriginal Lands Trust is set up to hold lands acquired for Aboriginal people.


The Sex Discrimination Act is passed, making discrimination on the grounds of gender, marital status or sexuality unlawful in the provision of goods, services, employment, education, and accommodation.


An Equal Opportunity Office for the Public Service is created.
Parliament decriminalises homosexual acts between consenting adults in private.


The Family Relationships Act abolishes the legal consequences of illegitimacy.


The Racial Discrimination Act makes discrimination on the grounds of race unlawful.


Rape in marriage is made a criminal offence.


The Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Act gives the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjarra peoples inalienable freehold title over 100,000 km of their land.


South Australia becomes the first Australian State to make discrimination based on age unlawful.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Parliament of South Australia acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the traditional owners of this country throughout Australia, and their connection to land and community. We pay our respect to them and their cultures and to the Elders both past and present.