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Commonwealth Government Records about South Australia


Image 19: A wheat stack, South Australia, 1890

Image 19: A wheat stack, South Australia, 1890
NAA: A13774, 17
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Early European settlers in South Australia engaged in agricultural and pastoral activities, with wheat, vines, horticulture, cattle and sheep the basis for early production. By Federation, South Australia's agricultural areas had greatly expanded due to drainage of parts of the Lower South East region, invention of the stump-jump plough and introduction of irrigated horticulture along the River Murray.

Over time, the Commonwealth Government created agencies to deal with single purpose issues such as flax, wheat and wool production. For example, the Australian Wheat Board was established in 1939. The board acquired and marketed each season's wheat crop and returned the net proceeds to wheat-growers. In 1948 the responsibility for flax production passed from the Department of Supply to the Department of Primary Industry.

The Commonwealth created the Department of Commerce and Agriculture in 1942. This department was responsible for a range of primary industry matters including agricultural economics, assisting primary producers, and collecting and disseminating commercial intelligence and general information. It also liaised with state agricultural departments about agricultural production, general trade and investigation of overseas trade.

In 1956 the Department of Commerce and Agriculture was superseded by the first Department of Primary Industry, which was responsible for administering legislation on the export of meat and eggs, tobacco charges, and the dairying, wheat and wool industries. Divisions responsible for marketing, fisheries and agricultural economics, production and inspection were established within the new department. It also became responsible for a number of related matters such as the War Service Land Settlement Agreements Act 1945, a function it inherited from the Department of the Interior.

The State Branch, South Australia of the Department of Primary Industry dealt with agricultural, pastoral, fisheries and forestry issues. The department implemented and administered a variety of government programs for primary products such as meat and dairy products, field and horticultural crops, fisheries and wool. It was abolished in 1987 when it merged with the Department of Resources and Energy to become the Department of Primary Industries and Energy.

Records held by the Archives relating to agriculture in South Australia are principally the correspondence series of these agencies, files and some publications.

Selected series relating to agriculture in South Australia
Recorded by: Department of Commerce and Agriculture/Department of Primary Industry, State Branch, South Australia
Correspondence files, 'F' (Flax), 1941–58 D2085
Personal history files, 1943–62 D473
Dairy farming in Australia publications, 1949–64 D1457
Correspondence files, 1947–56 D4898
Correspondence files, 1956–77 D919
Correspondence files, 'K' (some 'V'), 1977– D920
Recorded by: Australian Taxation Office, Branch Office, South Australia
Wool tax contributory charge subject files, 'WTM', 1952–64 D3998
Selected items relating to agriculture in South Australia
Agricultural and pastoral statistics – policy file – South Australia, 1945–59 A1871, 1946/57
Rural Reconstruction Commission exhibit – South Australia, 1941 A6184, EXHIBIT 61
Photograph of mustering sheep, Partacoona, Flinders Ranges, 1965 A1200, L52224
Frost damage to wheat and barley – South Australia, 1970–71 A463, 1971/612
J Martin and Co. – Martins Home and Farm, a monthly journal for Australian farmers, 1885 AP476/4, B203
Government statist – statistical returns – yearly return also agricultural, dairying and pastoral statistics, 1942–49 D2077, EX195


Chapter 14
Primary industries and natural resources