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South Australian History: 1930s

This guide covers a range of topics relating to the history of South Australia, including the South Australian Company, researching Aboriginal history in South Australia, mines and mining, and the South Australian experience of religion and education

Books and pamphlets

Anderson, R J Solid town: the history of Port Augusta Port Augusta: R J Anderson, 1988 pages 169-175 Chapter 20 Great Depression

The Beef March - coping: making ends meet: the South Australian experience Adelaide: State History Centre, 1993

Broomhill, Charles Raymond Unemployed workers: a social history of the Great Depression in Adelaide St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1978 bibliography

Cass, Bettina Income support for the unemployed in Australia: towards a more active system Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, c1988 Issues Paper Social Security Review Australia; no 4 pages 11-12 A brief history of unemployment relief

The Depression - coping: making ends meet: the South Australian experience Adelaide: State History Centre, 1993 illustrated

Dickey, Brian Rations, residence, resources: a history of social welfare in South Australia since 1836 Netley, S Aust: Wakefield Press, 1986 Chapter 9 'The depression years 1927-39'

Gregory, R G and Butlin, N G (eds) Recovery from the depression: Australia and the world economy in the 1930s Cambridge; Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1988 bibliography

Hickok, Lorena A One third of a nation: Lorena Hickok reports on the Great Depression Edited by Richard Lowitt and Maurine Beasley Urbana: University of Illinois Press, c1981 Individuals' experiences in the USA - useful for comparisons/similarities

Lowenstein, Wendy Weevils in the flour: an oral record of the 1930's depression in Australia Fitzroy Vic : Scribe, 1981 c1978 pages 455-457 bibliography

Mackinolty, Judy ed The wasted years?: Australia's Great Depression Sydney: George Allen & Unwin, 1981 pages 213-253 - bibliography

Moss, Jim Sound of trumpets: history of the Labour movement in South Australia Cowandilla: Wakefield Press, 1985 pages 293-309 - The Great Depression , pages 420-422 - bibliography

Tassell, Val Kuitpo colony: Forsyth's adventure in faith Adelaide: Kuitpo Colony Inc , 1980

Van Tongeren, Stella The great depression: a story of flotsam kids Henley Beach, S. Aust.: Seaview Press, 2002

Wanna, John Defence not defiance: the development of organised labour in South Australia Adelaide: Adelaide College of the Arts and Education, 1981 (Texts in humanities series) pages 96-111 Broomhill, Ray and Wanna, John 'Unemployment then and now: The Great Depression and the present'

White, Michael Education and youth employment in Australia during the Great Depression Payneham: TAFE National Centre for Research and Development, 1985 pages 62-69 - bibliography

Archival items

Best, Alec. Papers of Alec Best relating to the "Barwell Boys" c 1920-1984 PRG 602

Farrow, P D. Those illusive specks of gold 1930-1933 30 pages D6441 (L)

Forsyth, Rev Samuel. Papers of the Rev Samuel Forsyth, Methodist Minister and founder of Kuitpo Colony 1901-1960 PRG 8/7

Penn, David Weathering the Great Depression Reminiscences forming the basis of newspaper article in the Sunday Mail, 1983 26pp. D6613 (L) - Microfilm

Journal articles

The State Library provides access to electronic resources that can be useful for locating full-text online journal articles when researching topics. Some of these resources can only be used within the library and others can also be accessed from home by becoming a Home Access user. 

These relevant databases are all available at the library and via Home Access.

Academic Search Premier

Australia/New Zealand Reference Centre

Australian Public Affairs

Selected articles from journals held in the State Library collection are listed below:

Cabbages and kings: selected issues in history and Australian studies

Vol 11, 1983, pages 1-7 'The role of women in South Australia during the Great Depression' by Rosemary Green

Vol 18, 1990, pages 112-122 'South Australia and the Great Depression' by Merilyn Probert

Economic Record

Vol 41, 1965, pages 426-450 'Australian unemployment 1900-1940' by C Forster

Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia

No 1, 1975, pages 33-41 'On the dole in Adelaide during the Great Depression' by Ray Broomhill

No 2, 1976, pages 30-45 'Non-Labor during the Great Depression in South Australia' by John Lonie

No 2, 1976, pages 64-75 'Farm relief in South Australia during the Great Depression' by Steve Dyer

No 16, 1988, pages 144-158 'The Maltese in Adelaide in the Depression' by Barry York

Newsletter /Historical Society of South Australia May, 1980, pages 7-8 'Being old in Port Adelaide during the Depression' by Joanne Small

South Australiana Volume 14, no 1, March 1975, pages 3-19 'Rural life between the wars' by Joan Airy


Search the library catalogue for images associated with the depression in South Australia. Many photographs have been digitised and can be viewed online, such as this image which depicts hessian huts along the bank of the Torrens River in Adelaide, occupied by homeless men during the depression of 1930.

Oral histories

Andrews, George. George grew up in Port Adelaide. He was 18 in 1930 when he lost his job and was out of work for three years 1hr 17 mins Transcript 38 pages OH111/1

Bell, Irene. In 1927 Irene Bell was 21 years old and a mother of three relying on government rations to feed her family Husband, Tom Bell, complains about 'green meat' and defies the butcher to call the police 18 mins Transcript 6 pages OH64

Potter, R. Mr Potter was a young bank clerk whose job involved visits to bank tenants and mortgagees, re-negotiate payments and sometimes arrange evictions 1hr 10 mins Transcript 14 pages OH23/24

Proctor, Jack. Teenager working for a butcher in Port Adelaide Working conditions and the distribution of meat rations for the unemployed Transcript only available 8 pages OH24/35

Summers, Viona. Three sisters, Bertha Broadbent, Viona Summers and Edna Ward, whose father was of Maori descent, talk about their childhood during the 1930s depression when the family lived in a tent in the sand hills at Semaphore 1hr 5 mins Transcript 24 pages OH111/2

Tonkin, Hurtle Ray. As a young, single man, Ray Tonkin, a carpenter, travelled widely in the city, suburbs and country to find jobs in the Depression 3hrs Transcript 66 pages, pages 25-40 OH10/2

Newspaper articles

The National Library of Australia Trove website provides word searchable access to digitised Australian newspapers from 1803 to 1954.

The State Library also has a number of indexes to newspapers. These can help find the particular issue of a newspaper which reports an event. See the Newspaper Collection guide for more details.

For newspaper titles not available on Trove check the State Library catalogue. Some suggested newspaper articles are listed below.

The Advertiser

2 August 1930, p 17 cols E, F 'March of the unemployed starting at Newmarket Hotel on 1 August 1930'

10 January 1931, p 9 cols A-E 'Iron bars and spiked sticks in city riot'

10 January 1931, p 16 cols B-I Photos 'Seventeen injured in street riots following demonstrations by Communists'

20 February 1931, p 20 Photograph only 'Representing 40,000 these parcels are vouchers for bread and groceries supplied as rations relief to the unemployed'

22 January 1934, p 12 col B 'Fruit pickers in distress at Mildura'

28 March 1934, p 23 col E 'Evicted family sleeping in streets'

29 March 1934, p 11 col A 'Declare House "black"'

30 June 1934, p 9 col H 'Unemployed refuse to work for gifts at Kadina and Moonta'

3 July 1934, p 12 col F 'Men living in concrete pipes at Port Augusta'

15 August 1934, p 17 col E 'Unemployment Relief Council, Review of the Year, 11 64% drop'

16 March 1935, p 21 col H 'Australian unemployed 18 8% lowest since 1929'

12 June 1935, p 20 col H 'Clothing grant for those receiving rations'


15 January 1931, pages 44-45 'Communist demonstration leads to pitched battle with police' Photograph

5 February 1931, pages 46-47 'Remedies for State's disabilities' Low tariffs, grants and secession

10 September 1931, p 32 Photograph of Unemployed camp on banks of Torrens, behind Zoological Gardens

Parliamentary publications

Acts of the Parliament of South Australia

No 1965 of 1930 'Unemployed Relief Council Act' Assented to November 12, 1930

No 1971 of 1930 'Parliamentary Salaries Act : an act to reduce the payments made to Members of Parliament by Five per centum for One Year, and to reduce the salaries of certain officers of Parliament for a like period' Assented to November 12, 1930

No 1973 of 1930 'Ministers' Salaries Reduction Act: an act to reduce the salaries of Ministers of the Crown by Fifteen per centum for a period of One Year' Assented to November 12, 1930

No 1997 of 1931 'Farmers Relief Loan Act, 1931: an act to authorise the Treasurer to raise moneys to the amount of four hundred thousand pounds for assistance to farmers, and for other purposes' Assented to, April 2nd, 1931

Parliamentary debates South Australia (Hansard)

17 June 1930 pages 320-324 Debates relating to the reduction of salaries, starting with those of the politicians

16 October 1930 pages 1461-1466 'Unemployed Relief Council Bill' 2nd reading