What is South Australia?

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  • Written By: Mary Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 September 2019
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South Australia is one of Australia’s 6 states and 2 territories, along with New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory, and the Northern Territory. South Australia is in the south-central part of the country, and it borders every major division of Australia except the Australian Capital Territory. It is bordered on the west by Western Australia, the North by the Northern Territory, on its northeast corner by Queensland, and on the east by New South Wales and Victoria. Its southern border is on the water of the Great Australian Bight and Spencer Gulf.

South Australia is both the fourth largest in size with 379,725 square miles (983,482 sq km) — which is 13% of the land area in Australia. It is also the fourth largest in population with a 2006 population of 1,568,200. South Australia has 3,148 miles (5,067 km) of coastline, and it is completely in the temperate zone. The highest point is Mount Woodroffe at 4,708 feet (1,435 m), and most of the state is plains and low uplands.

South Australia is nicknamed the Festival State, and its motto is simply its name. Its state emblems are as follows:


  • State floral emblem: Sturt’s Desert Pea, the most wide-ranging plant in the state. It has gray leaves and scarlet flowers.
  • State bird: Australian Piping Shrike or White Backed Magpie
  • State animal: Hairy-Nosed or Plains Wombat, which lives only in South Australia and some small regions in Western Australia.
  • State gemstone: opal. South Australia boasts three major opal fields, and these fields supply about 80% of the world’s opals.
  • State marine emblem: Leafy Seadragon, a marine fish related to the seahorse. Its leafy appendages help to camouflage it.

The state flag of South Australia features a Union Jack in the Upper left and a blue field on which figures a Rising Sun with an Australian Piping Shrike or White Backed Magpie superimposed on it. The state badge has the same symbol, as does the South Australia State Coat of Arms. But on the coat of arms, there also appear a staff of Gum Tree and sprigs of Sturt’s Desert Pea, along with wheat and barley stalks, citrus fruit, cogwheels and a miner’s pick to represent the state’s produce and industry.

South Australia had been inhabited for about 34,000 years — not as long as some other regions of Australia, if the evidence is complete — when Europeans arrived. Like the population of South Australia today, the aboriginal population was mainly located near the Murray River, and this is where the capital, Adelaide, is found in the present time.

The economy of South Australia centers around agriculture and mining exports and manufacturing for the home markets. The northern part of the state is largely dry and barren, but the southern section is fertile and well-irrigated. Wheat and barley are grown on farms, and the northern deserts are used for open range cattle ranching. Sheep, pigs, poultry, and dairy cattle are also important, as are grapes, and orchard crops. South Australia boasts over two-fifths of Australia’s vineyard land.


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