Don Dunstan as Captain Adelaide. The 1973 pop art image by Nigel Murray-Harvey is part of the Flinders University collection.
On display at Mortlock Library, State Library of South Australia

IN THE 1960s to the wowser legacy left by
long-time conservative premier Tom Playford


DON DUNSTAN BROUGHT PROGRESSIVE CHANGE to South Australian society as state premier (1970-1979). As premier, Dunstan had Aboriginal land rights recognised, homosexuality decriminalised; appointed the first female judge, the first non-British governor and the first indigenous governor Sir Douglas Nicholls.

He enacted consumer protection; reformed and expanded public education and health systems; abolished the death penalty, relaxed censorship and drinking laws; created an environment ministry; enacted anti-discrimination law; overhauled parliament's Legislative Council; lowered the voting age to 18; enacted universal suffrage and abolished the bias to rural electoral seats.

He established Rundle Mall, moved to protect heritage buildings, and encouraged support for the Adelaide Festival Centre, State Theatre Company, and set up the South Australian Film Corporation.
He encouraged cultural exchanges with Asia, multiculturalism and increased culinary awareness. He reinvigorated SA's social, artistic and cultural life.

But the economy stagnated. One of Dunstan's pet projects, a city at Monarto, near Murray Bridge, to ease urban pressures in Adelaide, was abandoned. After four election wins, Dunstan's administration faltered. He resigned in 1979 due to ill health, but remained a vocal and outspoken campaigner for progressive social policy.

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