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Aboriginal people of South Australia: Aboriginal History of South Australia

South Australian Aboriginal people and languages


Selected South Australian newspapers, published prior to 1955, have been digitised as part of the National Library of Australia’s Trove website, and this is an excellent source of information about the history of Aboriginal people in South Australia.

Further newspaper articles may be indentified by using the following, Newspaper index : references to Aborigines in Adelaide newspapers, 1836-1940, 1989.

The State Library has a number of electronic resources that are useful for finding periodical articles. Some of these can only be accessed within the library and others can also be accessed from home by becoming a Home Access User. Learn more on our eResources page.

Aboriginal History. v. 24, 2000, Foster, Robert. 'Rations, coexistence, and the colonisation of Aboriginal labour in the South Australian pastoral industry, 1860-1911.'

Australian Historical Studies. v. 34, no. 121, Apr 2003. Paul, Mandy and Foster, Robert. 'Married to the land: land grants to Aboriginal women in South Australia 1848-1911.'

Cabbages and kings : selected essays in history and Australian studies. v. 22, 1994. Martin, Susan. 'Relationships between Aborigines and Europeans from 1860 to 1940.'


AIATSIS. South Australian legislation and Protector's reports relating to Aboriginal people.

Getting started

This guide to sources relating to the Aboriginal history of South Australia was last updated by Library staff in 2012. It comprises selected material held by the State Library or available online.

To find further material relevant to this topic, try searching with this subject heading in the State Library catalogue:

  • Aboriginal Australians - South Australia - History 

Or conduct a keyword search using the following terms:

  • Aborigin* and South Australia and History

For more assistance, talk with staff at the Library's Information Desk or Ask Us.

Books and pamphlets

The following list of resources comprises books written about the history of Aboriginal people in South Australia statewide. If you are looking for the history of specific towns, regions, Aboriginal communities or language groups, try searching with this subject heading in the State Library catalogue:

Aboriginal Australians - South Australia - (Geographic location)

Aborigin* and (Geographical location)
(Aboriginal Language group) eg. Ngadjuri

Histories of some Aboriginal language groups have been brought together on the other tabs of this Library Guide. Resources relating to Aboriginal missions in South Australia can be found on another guide. 

Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement. Reflections: 40 years on from the 1967 referendum, 2007.

Berg, Shaun (ed.). Coming to terms : Aboriginal title in South Australia  2010.

Berndt, Ronald and Catherine. From black to white in South Australia. 1951.

Brock, Peggy. Outback ghettos : Aborigines, institutionalisation and survival. 1993.

Davenport, Sue, Johnson, Peter and Nixon, Yuwali. Cleared out : first contact in the Western Desert. 2005.

Foster, Robert and Nettlebeck, Amanda. Out of the silence: The history and memory of South Australia's frontier wars, 2012. Also available as an eBook, 2011.

Foster, Robert, Hosking, Rick and Nettlebeck, Amanda. Fatal collisions : the South Australian frontier and the violence of memory. 2001.

Gibbs, RM. Humanitarian theories and the Aboriginal inhabitants of South Australia to 1860. 1959.

Hall, Andrew. A brief history of the laws, policies and practices in South Australia which led to the removal of many Aboriginal children : we took the children : a contribution to reconciliation. 3rd ed. 2014.

Jones, Philip. Ochre and rust : artefacts and encounters on Australian frontier. 2007.

Lydon, Jane. Calling the shots: Aboriginal photographies (e-Book), 2014. Ch 7. South Australia

Newspaper index : references to Aborigines in Adelaide newspapers, 1836-1940. 1989.

O'Brien, Lewis Yerloburka. And the clock struck thirteen: the life and thoughts of Kaurna Elder Uncle Lewis Yerloburka O'Brien. 2007

Pope, Alan. Resistance and retaliation : Aboriginal-European relations in early colonial South Australia. 1989.

Raynes, Cameron. The last protector : the illegal removal of Aboriginal children from their parents in South Australia. 2008.

Raynes, Cameron. A little flour and a few blankets : an administrative history of Aboriginal affairs in South Australia, 1834-2000. 2002.

Simpson, Jane and Hercus, Luise (eds). History in portraits : biographies of nineteenth century South Australian Aboriginal people. 1998.

This is what happened : historical narratives 'by Aborigines' ; edited by Luise Hercus and Peter Sutton, 1986.

Watson, Irene. Looking at you looking at me: an aboriginal history of the south-east. Volume 1. 2002.

Who we are

State Library of South Australia
GPO Box 419
Adelaide SA 5001
(08) 8207 7250

Survival in our own land



Survival in our own land (1988) was the first publication to present South Australian history from the Aboriginal viewpoint, and remains the most comprehensive historical overview of the experiences of Aboriginal South Australians.

Oral Histories

Oral history is a means of documenting the past by recording interviews with people who have lived through a period or an event of interest, and the State Library holds several such interviews with Aboriginal South Australians.

The full collection can be found via an 'advanced search' in the State Library catalogue by entering Aboriginal Australians as a subject search, and then limiting to 'spoken sound' in the 'material type' drop down menu.

Alternatively, to see if there are oral histories on a particular subject, conduct a keyword or subject search and then 'refine' your search to 'spoken sound' on the left of the screen.

Read more about the State Library's oral history collection here.