UNLIKE AUSTRALIA'S OTHER CONVICT-SETTLED COLONIES, government social welfare was strong factor from the very start in South Australia.
Because the colonial commissioners in London had made promises to the free settlers, the South Australian authorities felt obligated to meet their needs.
The migrants sometimes needed a temporary place to stay while they found somewhere to rent or buy a home and find work.
Because of the fatal rigours of the journey to South Australia, the government often had to help children who had arrived parentless, wives who arrived as widows and some husbands as widowers, often with children to support.
The government have to find temporary homes for dependent women and children, and for migrants arriving without jobs or accommodation. These difficulties were worsened during early recessions.
On the Adelaide parklands near the present Adelaide High School, several acres was set aside as the emigration depot where around two dozen semidetached gabled weatherboard huts on brick foundations were available for a limited time to newly arrived immigrants.
During 1844-45, when immigration was halted, the third governor George Grey used the accommodation at Emigration Square for unemployed men, who did labouring around the city in return for food and shelter.
Grey was obliged to do this as the South Australian colonisation commissioners had guaranteed to assist immigrants with the promise of “for employment, and hence maintenance”. This cornerstone of South Australia’s welfare system was unique in Australia at that time.