FOR ITS SIZE (ADELAIDE STILL ONLY HAD A POPULATION OF AROUND 300,000 IN THE 1930s) and relatively short history of European settlement, South Australia has achieved an impressive list of firsts for Australia and, in several key instances, the world.
Granting women the right to stand for election to parliament in 1894 is the prime example of its world firsts.
South Australia as a settlement was a first in itself: the first Australian colony to be established without convict labour – one of the points of pride that motivated other firsts.
The reason for the point of difference was the dominance of middle class Dissenters among the South Australia’s founders. These members of Dissenting nonconformist churches (Methodist, Baptist, Congregational etc) wanted freedom of belief and opportunity that stood in their way in Britain where the ruling upper class establishment and its established Church of England.
Although they drew on the ideas for systematic settlement of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, quoted by Karl Marx as a model for capitalism, and strains of Chartist sentiment may have influenced some, South Australia’s founders didn’t have a unifying ideology of socialism and democracy.
But South Australia was founded in the 1830s when the first of Britain's Reform bills only gave limited democracy to the middle class. An element of resentment at that pushed South Australia to leap ahead of the rest of the British empire by giving all itsadult males the right to vote for the House of Assembly in 1856.
But an anxiety to make the most of their escape to freedom and opportunity was common. The Dissenters – as did the German Lutherans who arrived early – had the typical refugees’ drive to succeed.
Although the founders’ next generation divided into conservatives and liberals, that anxiety to preserve their rights and freedom of opportunity, together with proving that they could have an colonial establishment with its elite trappings, pushed the drive that created firsts.
Opening the door to rights and freedoms gave the space for unintended consequences such as women winning the world-first double of the right to vote and to stand for election in 1894. (But no woman was elected to parliament until the second half of the 20th Century.)
In a colony with limited and unreliable resources, South Australians also were to propelled to invent firsts as a means of survival.
FIRST AUSTRALIAN POLICE FORCE, METAL MINE, ORDER OF NUNS
The Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, the first entirely Australian order of nuns, were founded by Mary MacKillop and Father Julian Tenison Woods at Penola in 1866. Other Australian firsts for the decade included the first croquet club (1867) at Kapunda and the South Australian Chamber of Manufactures (1867). In an inkling of future democratic rights in South Australia, women who owned property were given the right to vote in local government elections (1867).
FIRST TELEGRAPH LINK TO EUROPE; FIRST AUSTRALIAN SECONDARY SCHOOL FOR GIRLS
In 1872, Adelaide was the first Australian capital city connected by telegraph with London. Four years later, South Australia was the first part of the British Empire, excluding Britain, to legalise trade unions. More Australian technology firsts came In 1878 with Adelaide's horse-drawn trams system and a major long-distance telephone call made from Semaphore to Port Augusta. The Advanced School for Girls, opened in 1879, was Australia's first secondary school for girls.
Among the Australian firsts for South Australia and Adelaide in the 1880s were a Salvation Army meeting, being connected to water-borne sewage, the university admitting women for dgreees, a hockey game played by Royal Navy teams in the parklands, cement produced at Brighton by William Lewis, an agricultural college opened at Roseworthy, income and land tax levied, and a trunk telephone line connected between Adelaide and Port Adelaide.
FIRST ABORIGINAL PUBLISHED AUTHOR; FIRST AUSTRALIAN CHRISTIAN MINISTER
Adelaide's impressive array of aviation firsts was started by Bill Wittber who in 1910 made the first Australian aircraft flight – a 40-yards hop – in a Bolivar paddock. This small leap became a huge one when Ross and Keith Smith, with Norwood-born navigator Walter Shiers on board, made the first flight from England to Australia in less than 30 hours in 1919. Other firsts for the decade were women police, a babies hospital and Susan Benny becoming a member of Brighton Council.
David Unaipon’s booklet Native Legends, in 1929, was first Australian publication by an Aboriginal author. In 1927, Winifred Kiek was the first woman ordained into the Christian ministry in Australia. In a breakthrough vital to the flying doctor service and the school of the air, the first practicable pedal wireless sets in Australia were made by Alfred Traeger of Adelaide (1928). Australia's first public archives were created for South Australia's public library, museum and art gallery (1920).
Australia’s first motor trolley bus began running from Payneham to Paradise in 1932. South Australian led the nation in public housing when its Housing Trust was set up under premier Tom Playford in 1936. In another of the state's many contributions to technology, the first talking fire alarm in the world was installed at Woodville in 1938.
AUSTRALIA'S FIRST FEMALE JUDGE; STATE ABORIGIAL GOVERNOR; NUDIST BEACH
Xerography (photocopying), using liquid developer, was advanced by Ken Metcalfe and Bob Wright of the Defence Standards Laboratory in Adelaide in 1952. Xerography is a form of copying invented by American Chester Carlson in 1937. Carlson based his method on the property of some materials to increase their ability to conduct electricity when exposed to light (known as photo-conductivity).The xerographic process exposes a photosensitive surface to light reflected through or from the image to be copied. Next the surface is dusted with a dry powder developer that adheres to the charged areas creating a copy of the image. The copy is then transferred to paper and fixed with heat. Carlson's process reproduced black and white images well, but not images, such as photographs, with any shading. Metcalfe and Wright of the Defence Standards Laboratory (formerly the Munitions Supply Laboratory) in Adelaide studied xerography to adapt it for industrial and military use. In 1952, they began to use liquid developers which, because they contained more pigment particles than the dry developers, allowed copying of images containing continuous tones. Metcalfe and Wright's invention allowed the development of colour copying by overprinting consecutive image.
Roma Mitchell became the first female judge in Australia in 1965. She would later become state governor of South Australia, the first women to hold that position. Among the legislative reforms of the 1960s was the Prohibition of Discrimination Act against racial discrimination; the first such act in Australia. In 1964, the first commercial natural gas well in Australia was completed at Gidgealpa in the state's far north..