Port Augusta has undergone a series of fundamental changes over the past 150 years. By our geographical position, we are a "natural crossroads". 40,000 years ago the indigenous tribes came from the west, north, south and Murraylands to trade at the head of Spencer Gulf. There are sites of significance widely scattered along this quiet waterway, and relics from past ages are evident.
Since colonisation by Europeans in the 1840's and assisted later by Cameleers from Northern India (after to be called Afghans) the small port developed as pastoral occupation of west and north west of Spencer Gulf developed. The great drought in the 1860's caused severe economic setbacks, but with the completion of the Overland Telegraph Line from Darwin and commencement of the Great Northern Railway in 1877 prosperity returned until the early 1890's when again depressed economic conditions prevailed.
The Trans Australian Railway to Parkeston was commenced in 1912, and with the construction of the Railway Workshops this brought an influx into the township, and heralded in the "industrial" era. No longer was the focus upon the activities of the Port.
The township still remained a service centre for the pastoral industry, but it attracted a new breed of people, and over the next sixty years developed into a Railway hub with a very highly skilled workforce. The township played a very important role during the Second World War with the servicing of rollingstock for both the Transcontinental and Alice Springs lines, which carried our troops west and north up the track to Darwin.
In 1954 Thomas Playford 'A' Station began operations using coal from Leigh Creek. Shortly after preparatory work commenced on 'B' station which opened ten years later. The power industry gave the town an economic boost with an increase in population, and a choice of job opportunities. In late 1964 Port Augusta reached City status.
For the next ten years until I became Mayor in 1981 the City experienced great development. This saw the advent of new five Schools, Railway Offices, Bridge, Goal, Hospital, Golf Clubrooms, Pichi Richi Railway, Whyalla Road, construction of the rail link from Tarcoola to Alice Springs, Fire Brigade Headquarters, Emergency Services Headquarters, Northern Power Station, Ramsay Retirement Village, Sewerage Scheme and Civic Centre.
Until 1992 the City enjoyed steady growth, with further development of Stirling North Primary School, extension to the Civic Centre, Caritas College, Highways Regional Headquarters, Flinders View Primary School, reconstruction of Laurie Wallis Aerodrome, redevelopment of the Mall and Senior Citizens Centre, sewerage scheme completed, relocation of netball courts, filtered mains water, Nerrilda Nursing Home, Wadlata Outback Centre, Gladstone Square redeveloped, Gaol upgraded, and Croquet Club relocated.
By 1993 the restructuring of both major industries was underway, which resulted in a "brain drain" from the city, the exodus of 2,500 people, privatisation of Australian National in 1997 which attributed to yet another severe economic downturn. Both the Council and community realised we would have to turn direction, diversify and "pick ourselves up".
It was lengthy, painful and costly. However, with trust in God, and faith in our own ability and resilience, we have succeeded.
The Adelaide/Darwin Railway is already bringing benefits, and there is more in the pipeline. The completion of first stage of the Foreshore redevelopment, has been the catalyst for the construction of the Discount Departmental Store, as well as other commercial and residential projects in the C.B.D. which will create job opportunities.
In conjunction with the Upper Spencer Gulf Common Purpose Group Council is pursuing the development of Cultana/El Alamein Training Area as a major site within our Defence system. Defence Minister Senator Hill has already indicated that the new rail link will open many doors to South Australia's defence facilities.
We still have a way to go in addressing the priorities of our Social Vision Action Plan - Education, Health and Justice. We firmly believe "education" to be the cornerstone of this Plan. An "educated" Community will know how to look after it's health, as well as it's safety. We intend to make this a Safe Community for people to live, work, play and visit. However, it is up to every individual to make it work, be part of the team and play by the rules - there are no exemptions.
Since the downturn of the Nineties, I have encouraged this community to "hang in there" as God has his hand on Port Augusta - "The City of His delight".
We can now see this coming to fruition.