History of Equal Opportunity in South Australia

20 December 2014 marks 30 years since the passing of the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (SA).

This timeline shows significant dates in South Australia’s history that have improved equal opportunity and human rights.;xNLx;;xNLx;South Australia has a history as an early leader in human rights. For example, in 1861 land-owning South Australian women were able to vote in local elections. In 1894, South Australia followed New Zealand in extending the franchise to women voters - but went further than New Zealand and offered women also the right to stand for the colonial Parliament.;xNLx;;xNLx;Since then, the state has often led the nation with its anti-discrimination laws and in human rights.;xNLx;;xNLx;The timeline includes major legislative milestones including the introduction of the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (SA) and subsequent amendments to the Act. ;xNLx;;xNLx;Have questions about this timeline or something to add? Please contact the Equal Opportunity Commission via our website www.eoc.sa.gov.au or call (08) 8207 1977.

1836-02-19 15:58:41

The Proclamation of South Australia

The provision to establish the settlement in South Australia, was set out in the South Australia Act, 1834. The Letters Patent were presented to King William of England to formally seek the approval to establish the province of South Australia and precisely define its boundaries. The Letters were dated 19 February 1836.

1851-01-01 00:30:36

Pastoral leases

In 1851, the development of a system of pastoral leases in South Australia began. Governor Henry Young insisted that these include reservations where Aboriginal people could access pastoral lands.

1856-10-24 22:37:19

South Australian Constitution

Adult male (including Indigenous) suffrage, a secret ballot and no property qualification for Members of the House of Assembly are some of the South Australian Constitution’s decrees, making it one of the most democratic in the world at the time.

1857-01-01 19:15:11

Self-government for South Australia

The Parliament of South Australia began in 1857, when the colony was granted self-government.

1858-01-01 17:05:21

Associations allowed to incorporate

In 1858, South Australia was the first State to legislate for associations to be able to incorporate.

1858-01-01 18:30:48

Women allowed to divorce

South Australia is the first colony to pass a law giving women the power to petition for divorce based on the English Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Act 1857. Other states follow suit.

1861-01-01 15:58:41

Women property owners able to vote

Women property owners were granted the right to vote in municipal elections in 1861.

1866-01-01 15:58:41

Education for the poor

Mary MacKillop co-founded the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart in South Australia in 1866. Dedicated to the education of the children of the poor, it was the first religious order to be founded by an Australian. MacKillop established schools, orphanages and welfare institutions throughout the colonies.

1867-01-11 17:39:58

Law for neglected children

South Australia is the first colony to de-institutionalise children under government control.

1872-09-28 06:55:48

David Unaipon born

David Unaipon, preacher and Australia's first Aboriginal author, was born at Point McLeay Mission in South Australia in 1872.

1876-01-01 00:00:00

Trade Union Act 1876

South Australia was the first territory outside Britain to legalise Trade Unions via the Trade Union Act, 1876 (SA). In 1884, the United Trades and Labor Council (UTLC) was formed.

1881-01-01 23:47:07

University of Adelaide admits women

In 1881, The University of Adelaide was the first Australian university to admit women to science courses.

1881-11-18 18:30:48

Destitute Persons Act 1881

South Australia passes the Destitute Persons Act 1881, the first legislation for the state relief of poverty in Australia. Many immigrants to Australia have painful memories of the English poor laws and the hated workhouse, and regard the absence of poor laws in Australia as a sign of social progress.

1883-07-01 16:55:19

Married Women's Property Act

The Married Women's Property Act entitled married women to legally own and manage property. Previously, property was held by husband or trustee.

1885-01-01 16:30:40

Age of consent raised

The Social Purity Society successfully lobbies for legal reforms aimed at the protection of children from sexual exploitation.

1888-07-01 16:55:19

Women's Suffrage League

The Women’s Suffrage League is established in South Australia, spearheading the campaign for women’s right to vote. The League grows out of the work of the Social Purity Society.

1890-01-14 16:44:07

Working Women's Trades Union

On 11 December 1889 Mary Lee called on the UTLC to form female trades unions, and on 14 January 1890 the Working Women's Trades Union of South Australia was formed, with Mary Lee serving as Secretary and Augusta Zadow as Treasurer.

1894-12-18 00:00:00

Votes for women in South Australia

Women gained the right to vote in South Australia, on the eighth attempt, when the Constitution Amendment Act was passed on the 18 December 1894.

1896-04-25 07:21:32

Women vote for the first time

South Australian women go to the polls in 1896, becoming the first women in Australia and amongst the first in the world to cast their vote in parliamentary elections.

1897-01-01 06:13:26

Catherine Helen Spence stands for office

Australia's first female political candidate was South Australian suffragette Catherine Helen Spence (1825-1910).

1908-01-01 20:38:49

First free secondary school

Adelaide High School was the first free secondary school in the British Empire.

1909-09-18 01:08:40

Mary Lee dies

Mary Lee, women's suffragist, welfare worker, trade union official, and social reformer dies in North Adelaide.

1914-01-01 18:19:07

First woman elected to a University Council

Dr. Helen Mayo elected to the Council of the University of Adelaide. Dr Mayo was the first woman elected to a University Council in Australia. She served continuously for 46 years.

1915-01-01 12:24:55

First female police officer

Fanny Kate Boadicea (known as Kate) Cocks was appointed the first woman police officer in South Australia, and possibly the British Empire, with the same rate of pay and same powers as the policemen.

1958-02-01 03:54:35

Federal Council for Aboriginal Advancement

The Federal Council for Aboriginal Advancement (FCAA) was formed in Adelaide in February 1958. The idea was to form a federal council, uniting existing state bodies to press for greater Commonwealth involvement in Aboriginal affairs and to work for the removal of discriminatory state legislation.

1965-07-01 14:06:59

Equal pay for women

The Industrial Court makes a landmark decision in July 1965, agreeing to incremental pay increases over 5 years for female teachers in South Australia, starting the following year.

1965-09-23 00:00:00

Roma Mitchell appointed to Supreme Court

Roma Mitchell appointed to the Supreme Court. First female judge in the British Commonwealth. "As far as being a woman is concerned, I am hopeful that in my lifetime, appointments such as this will not excite comment."

1966-12-01 17:09:14

Prohibition of Discrimination Act

1966 Prohibition of Discrimination Act. The Act was the first of its kind in Australia and protected people against race discrimination (including skin colour and country of origin) in services, accommodation, employment and controlling land.

1967-05-27 15:58:41

Australian referendum, 1967 (Aboriginals)

In a Federal Referendum on 27 May 1967, an overwhelming majority of Australians (90.77% of votes cast) voted to alter the Constitution. The changes allowed Aboriginal people to be counted in the national census and the Commonwealth to make laws relevant to them.

1971-07-12 16:40:31

Aboriginal flag flown for the first time

The Aboriginal flag is flown for the first time in Victoria Square Adelaide on National Aborigines Day 12 July 1971.

1972-07-26 18:30:48

Criminal Law Consolidation Act changes

On 26 July 1972, Liberal MLC, Murray Hill, introduced a private members Bill to amend the Criminal Law Consolidation Act, 1935-1971.

1973-08-01 01:34:57

Private Member's Bill on sex discrimination

Liberal back-bencher Dr David Tonkin introduced a Private Member's Bill focused on investigation and remedy of sex discrimination.

1974-01-01 00:00:00

Ethnic Communities' Council formed

Ethnic Communities' Councils are established in Victoria and South Australia in 1974. By 1979, Councils exist in all states.

1975-08-27 18:30:48

Homosexual acts "decriminalised"

South Australia is the first jurisdiction in Australia to decriminalise some homosexual acts between consenting adults in private.

1975-12-04 00:00:00

Sex Discrimination Act 1975

The first Sex Discrimination Act in Australia was passed by the South Australian Parliament. It protected people against sex or marital status discrimination, and against being victimised for complaining about discrimination

1976-08-01 10:23:40

Sex discrimination complaints

From August 1976 to 30 June 1977, files were opened on 154 complaints of discrimination on the grounds of sex or marital status.

1976-08-12 02:47:04

Office of the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity

The Office of the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity was created on 12 August 1976.

1976-08-23 11:22:24

First Commissioner Mary Beasley

Mary Beasley was South Australia's first Commissioner for Equal Opportunity.

1976-12-01 13:27:29

Douglas Nicholls appointed Governor

Douglas Nicholls was the first Aboriginal person to be knighted and also the first appointed to vice-regal office, serving as the 28th Governor of South Australia from 1 December 1976 until his resignation on 30 April 1977 due to poor health.

1976-12-16 20:29:04

Racial Discrimination Act

The Racial Discrimination Act was assented to on 16 December 1976, repealing the Prohibition of Discrimination Act, 1966.

1978-06-06 22:46:44

Commissioner Joan Colley

Joan Colley was appointed Equal Opportunity Commissioner on 6 June 1978 and resigned in February 1980.

1980-06-18 07:48:56

Commissioner Josephine Tiddy

Josephine Tiddy was Commissioner of Equal Opportunity from June 1980 to February 1995.

1981-03-05 22:04:38

Disability Bill introduced to Parliament

Attorney-General Trevor Griffin introduced a Bill in the Legislative Council to make discrimination against disabled persons unlawful in employment, education, goods and services and accommodation.

1981-06-25 16:39:23

Handicapped Persons Equal Opportunity Act, 1981

The Handicapped Persons Equal Opportunity Act, 1981 was assented to on 25 June 1981.

1981-10-02 10:47:16

Aboriginal land rights

In 1981, South Australian Premier David Tonkin returned 102,650 square kilometres of land (10.2% of the state's land area) to the Pitjantjara Yankunytjatjara people.

1984-12-20 18:59:02

Equal Opportunity Act 1984 assented to

The Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (SA) was assented to by the South Australian Parliament on 20 December 1984. The Premier at the time was John Bannon.

1986-03-01 18:59:02

Equal Opportunity Act came into force

The Equal Opportunity Act, 1984 came into force on the 1 March 1986.

1987-01-01 02:38:45

Private Member's Bill on age discrimination

Liberal politician Diana Laidlaw introduced a Private Member's Bill to amend the Equal Opportunity Act to include age discrimination.

1987-03-01 18:59:02

Clubs and Associations added

On the 1st March 1987, the Equal Opportunity Act introduced clubs and associations as a public area in which sex, race or physical impairment discrimination was unlawful.

1987-12-01 00:01:02

Sexual Reassignment Bill

In December 1987, the Attorney General, the Hon. Chris Sumner, introduced the Sexual Reassignment Bill, making South Australia the first state to regulate the performance of reassignment procedures, and provide for the legal recognition of the reassigned sexual identity.

History of Equal Opportunity in South Australia

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