Don Dunstan's shorts at the South Australian parliament a symbol of decade of reform 1967-79

Don Dunstan's pink shorts, now displayed in the Centre for Democracy in the Institute building on North Terrace, Adelaide.

Premier Don Dunstan made international and national headlines by wearing pink shorts to work at South Australian Parliament House on November 22, 1972.

Dunstan was aware the shorts would attract attention and was determined to be seen, despite the efforts of his Apparently, Dunstan’s minders had been trying to shield the premier from press photographers. But, around 4pm, Dunstan slipped out and posed for them.

The gesture fitted with the whole social revolution that Dunstan had brought to South Australia in the wake of conservative Tom Playford era.

Dunstan had always been flamboyant in florals and safaris suits but, as a white  middle-aged man – and premier – wearing pink shorts (with white T-shirt, long socks, brown shoes) to work was his ultimate signicant salute to diversity – even in the black-and-white news footage of the time. Dunstan made South Australia the first to decriminalise homosexuality in Australia, earning him hero status in Adelaide's gay community.

The pink shorts came to represent Dunstan's political legacy and were bequeathed to Dunstan’s widowed partner Stephen Cheng, who donated them in 2017 to be displayed in Adelaide's new Centre for Democracy in the Institute building on North Terrace.

Dunstan, premier for two terms 1967-79, was a staunch social reformist and one of the most progressive politicians Australia has ever seen.

Born in Fiji and having later practised law there, he was deeply committed to social justice, cultural diversity, democracy, human rights and respect for Indigenous people. He also legislated reforms on land rights, anti-discrimination laws and environmental protection. He was instrumental in eliminating the white Australia policy. Other of his social reforms included legislation for consumer protection, the abolition of capital punishment and child protection reforms.

As premier, Dunstan overhauled the drinking laws that closed pubs at 6pm, and because of his love of food and wine – he later opened his own restaurant, Don’s Table and encouraged the emergence of a new restaurant culture.

Dunstan was also a passionate patron of the arts and was responsible for cultivating a thriving live theatre scene. The Dunstan Playhouse, one of Adelaide’s largest theatre venues, was named to honour his contribution to the performing arts.

His relationship with Cheng, which began in 1988, gives personal context to his earlier act of decriminalising homosexuality.


Other related ADELAIDEAZ articles

Macabre and bizarre characterises South Australian murders in late 20th Century

Adelaide was called the “murder capital of the world” in the British TV documentary The trials of Joanne Lees in 2002. Statistically, this is absurd, with Adelaide and South Australia's s murder rate mostly below the national average at less than two per 100,000 people since 1989. But a string of bizarre homicides in the late 20th Century gave Adelaide notoriety. Most prominent were: • The Truro murders, named after the discovery in 1978-79 of the remains of two young women in bushland east of the town Truro. Later, the remains of seven women were discovered: five at Truro, one at Wingfield at  and one at Port Gawler. The women had been murdered over two months in 1976-77. Christopher Worrall and James Miller died before they could be charged. • The Family was the name for a close-knit group of men believed to be involved in the kidnapping, drugging, sexual abuse and, at times, torture of young men and teenage boys in Adelaide and surrounding areas throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s. This followed the murder of five teenagers between 1979 and 1983. • The Snowtown (or bodies-in-barrels) murders were homicides mainly in Salisbury North by John Bunting, Robert Wagner, and James Vlassakis between 1992 and 1999. The trial was one of the longest and most publicised in Australian legal history. The killers were led by Bunting to believe the victims were paedophiles, homosexual or “weak”. In some instances, the murders were preceded by torture, with efforts made to access victims’ Centrelink social security payments and bank funds.

Eccentric genius Percy
 Grainger inseparable 
from his most devoted mother: 
Adelaide’s Rose

The bizarre and brilliant career of “mad genius” Percy Grainger is inseparable from his Adelaide-born and raised mother Rose (nee Aldridge). Percy and his mother are buried together at Adelaide West Terrace cemetery. Percy’s architect father John migrated to Adelaide in 1877 to join the engineer in chief’s office. He married Rose (Rosa) Aldridge, daughter of a prominent Adelaide hotelier and race horse owner, in 1880. The couple moved to Melbourne where John produced designs for the Princes Bridge and, via her builder father David Mitchell, Nellie Melba’s Coombe Cottage. But, in 1890, John Grainger left for England and never returned. He possibly had passed on the disease syphilis to Rose. This left Rose to foster Percy’s precocious musical talents. Rose was Percy’s constant companion around the world with his reputation soaring, including as a prime exponent of friend Edvard Grieg’s music. Grainger’s personal eccentricities stretched from extremes of his bisexuality to an enormous appetite for sado masochism. Rose’s suicide (by jumping from the Aeolian Building in 42nd Street, New York) in 1922, from despair at false rumours of incest with Percy and the gathering effects of her illness, was a crushing blow for Grainger.

Coober Pedy golf club only one in the world with reciprocal rights to St Andrew's in Scotland

Coober Pedy Opal Fields Golf Club is the only one in the world with reciprocal rights for its members to play at The Royal and Ancient Golf of St Andrews – home to the British Open in Scotland. This came from a 2003 satellite-link exchange, arranged by a film maker doing a documentary at Coober Pedy, between St Andrew’s general manager Alan McGregor and opal fields club president Kim Kelly. The humourous McGregor offered rights to St Andrew’s in exchange for an opal mine. Kelly promptly staked a mine claim near the course and sent off a few opals and a how-to mining brochure. While the reciprocal rights are actually for the nine-hole Balgove Course, a Coober Pedy member who tested the privilege “with a few mates” was given the OK by McGregor to play on the revered Old Course. Coober Pedy's golf course – mostly used at night to avoid daytime heat – is strewn with rocks. Golfers, who take a piece of turf for teeing off, can keep any opals they find. It's hardly an oddity in the context of Coober Pedy, 846km north of Adelaide, renowned for its life below ground that extends beyond “dugout” homes to churches (the Serbian Orthodox and Catholic) and motels plus the 250,000 small opal mines. The name “Coober Pedy” comes from the local Aboriginal term: kupa-piti (boys’ waterhole). The town didn’t start until 1915, when opal was discovered by Wille Hutchison. Miners first moved in about 1916. 

Brilliant Paris Nesbit leads Bar with Symon in between episodes of notoriety and scandal

The brilliant Paris Nesbit had 30 years sharing the late-19th Century leadership of the South Australian Bar with Josiah Symon. Nesbit, a Queen’s Counsel from 1893, drafted numerous complex government parliamentary bills and had a forensic ability and histrionic courtroom-cabaret style that won him admirers and detractors. But his fame became notorious for his time in lunatic asylums and as the “absinthe drinking, woman loving, tobacco-enslaved…Prince of Bohemia”.


Charles Kingston’s duel
 challenge in Victoria
 Square only one aspect
 of notorious life, career

Charles Cameron Kingston was a notorious giant among men and certainly among politicians in the 1890s when he led the South Australian government for a then-record six years and a leading member of federal parliament after 1901. He was a radical South Australian premier for his time who introduced votes for women and a state bank plus many social and industrial reforms on a state and federal level. He’s also the only premier who's ever challenged an opponent to a duel in Victoria Square. In another Victoria Square incident in 1895, the Adelaide manager of the South Australian Company, provoked by Kingston, thrashed him with a riding whip. Aside from his  numerous disputes, Kingston’s private life ostracised him even more from Adelaide’s conservative “society”. His wife Lucy took in a child that Kingston had fathered with another woman. He was widely believed to be the father of the firebrand Labor politician Albert (Bert) Edwards. Kingston’s body was exhumed in 2008 because two people thought they might be his direct descendants from one of at least six illegitimate children he is believed to have fathered.

Tanunda Kegel Club rolls out South Australian German tradition from 1858 in Barossa Valley

Tanunda Kegel Club, claiming to be the southern hemisphere’s oldest sporting club, has its origins with a kegelbahn or skittles alley built in 1858 in Paul Fischer's Tanunda tea gardens in South Australia’s Barossa Valley. A precursor to tenpin bowling — kegel or kegeln (German for “skittle”) – was played by the valley’s early Silesian settlers. Tanunda’s is the only surviving kegelbahn of other Australian towns with German population. The kegeln scoring system is complex. Based on traditional German nine-pin bowling and closely related to skittles and tenpin bowling, the game’s object is to knock down nine pins. Leaving only the front pin (kegel) of the nine pins standing scores 60 points. In 1931, Tanunda kegelbahn was dismantled and reassembled at the showgrounds in wooden kegel barn style, with its narrow 38-metre alley that can be affected by soil dampness underneath, adding to its challenges. Some of original pins and wooden balls. Unlike modern kegel clubs in Germany, a pinsetter is still required to reset pins after each roll and send the balls back down. The bowling competitions were social events, mostly on Sunday afternoons, with coffee and German cakes. League competitions are on Thursday and Friday nights with the venue available for hire on weekends. Women weren’t allowed to play until the 1970s but now have their own competition. Tenpin bowling is a much more recent in Australia. The first tenpin alley in Sydney in 1937 didn’t take off and it wasn't until 1960 that tenpin became popular, when an eight-lane manually-operated centre was built at the Adelaide suburb of Glenelg.

Contact Us

We welcome positive constructive feedback