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Proclamation Day

This year marks the 185th Proclamation Day and we ask you to join us to acknowledge and reflect on the impact of our shared history and what it means for all South Australians.

Pathawilyangga (Glenelg) was a significant place for cultural celebrations, ceremony and trade and would be used as a camp by traditional owners, the Kaurna People, during the summer months. When the cold south-westerly winds and the flooding of Warripari (Sturt River) that fed into the Pathawilyangga estuary made life difficult during the winter months, the Kaurna often moved further inland to the foothills. This seasonal movement allowed important food sources to regenerate and was part of the careful management of their lands.

The arrival of colonists in South Australia from 1836 signalled a new chapter for the Kaurna people and Pathawilyangga became the official ‘meeting place’ of cultures. In 1834, the British House of Commons passed ‘A Bill to erect South Australia into a British Province’ and consequently on 19 February, 1836 the Letters Patent establishing the Province of South Australia were signed by King William IV.

When the Letters Patent were issued it was the first time Aboriginal rights were legislatively acknowledged and granted in Australia’s colonial history.

The first official settlers left London for South Australia in February 1836. In all, nine ships carrying over 500 colonists had arrived on the shores of Holdfast Bay by December 1836. The last of these ships to arrive was the Buffalo, captained by John Hindmarsh, who was to be the new province’s first governor. The Buffalo anchored off Holdfast Bay early in the morning of 28 December.

On the same sweltering summer day, the new settlers gathered under the shade of a ‘huge gum tree’. The Proclamation Document was read and a moral tone was set for the new province. Marines from the Buffalo fired a ‘royal salute to the British flag’ followed by a ‘feu-de-joie’, after which the ‘Buffalo saluted the Governor with 15 guns’.

History has shown us that the intention of the Letters Patent and iteration in the Proclamation were not followed in the decades since 1836, but this year at the 185th Proclamation Day ceremony we endeavour to acknowledge and reflect on our joint histories as a State.

painting of proclamation day
The Proclamation of South Australia, 1836 Charles Hill, Circa 1856 Oil on Canvas Art Gallery of South Australia

Letter Patent

Have you heard of the Letters Patent? Do you know how important this document is for all South Australians?

Our founding document, in 1836 the Letters Patent were presented to King William IV to formally seek the approval to establish the Provence of South Australia and legally set the boundaries of the Provence of South Australia.

Beyond this, the Letters Patent acknowledges Aboriginal land rights. They reflect the sentiment of those that wished to settle South Australia – that Aboriginal people inhabited these lands and therefore held proprietary rights to these lands. The only state in Australia to make such an acknowledgment.

Learn more about the settlement of South Australia and the Letters Patent at Glenelg’s Bay Discovery Centre museum in award-winning exhibition, Tiati Wanganthi Kumangka (Truth-Telling Together).

The letters patent
Letter Patent 1836, State Records of South Australia