Copper Coast, Yorke Peninsula


The Narungga

Past directs future as Lesley Wanganeen tells of Narungga Aboriginal Progress Association (NAPA) work to rediscover and celebrate heritage and culture through a range of innovative community projects. These include the commercial propagation and planting of traditional bush tucker foods and the recording of history and language.

Buthera's Rock Story has been recorded in written form and is being used by the Toundi Aboriginal College to teach respect for the land to school children throughout the state.

Greening Australia is working with NAPA to establish commercial bush tucker trial sites. Yvonne Latham, 1999 ANTA Aboriginal Student of the Year and a student of the Spencer TAFE is employed by CSRIO to develop site trials in Moonta. The Narungga community is investing heavily in education and training. There are proposals for the development of an Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Moonta and the establishment of a Coastal Bush Tucker Interpretive Trail between Moonta Bay and Port Hughes.

The Pastoralists

In the 1840s the first European pastoralists settled Yorke Peninsula (YP). The landscape was predominately dry and featureless with much of the tillable land thick with mallee or tea-tree forest. There was no permanent watercourse. A culture of learning and adapting to change was essential and innovation was certain to follow.

Bagged grain stacked on wharf

Many progressed from tent to stone dwelling and eventually to beautiful limestone villas that still dot the countryside. Sheep died in droughts, rents increased and later the government resumed run after run. Eventually the sheep vanished and, in their place, came a new, open landscape of golden wheat.

The Mining Pioneers

The pastoralists and their families discovered pieces of copper ore. Between 1859 and 1861 deposits of exceptional quality and capacity were discovered at Wallaroo and Moonta. The discoveries stimulated the mass immigration of Cornish people seeking alternatives to the depressed Cornish economy. The unique geography of the Yorke Peninsula reminded the Cornish of 'their sea girt land of granite and moor' and also provided the same sense of Celtic independence and region that they had aspired to in Britain.

The Cornish pioneers invested heavily in learning. Management of the Moonta Mines insisted on compulsory education for the children of the Moonta Mines before compulsory State education systems were established. Walter Watson Hughes and Thomas Elder donated 20,000 Pounds each toward the establishment of the prestigious University of Adelaide.

The Moonta School of Mines was the first technical school in South Australia and helped develop the skills that assisted South Australia to become prosperous. Innovation in the face of adversity saw the first South Australian desalination technology developed in catchment pans not far from the site of the new Spencer TAFE complex!

The Plough

Wheat appeared on the horizon in the 1860s. History tells of crippling droughts, floods and then a timely boost from superphosphate. While wheat was the early mainstay the development of the barley industry this century has turned YP into the world's leading barley-growing district. Malting barley, used extensively in the brewing trade, plays an important part in the huge cereal crop exports.

Today crop diversification into legumes, canola, chickpeas, field peas and hay has lowered risk and maximised returns. The region is known for best practise in agronomy and farm technology. Our primary producers have developed a strong culture of lifelong learning. Networks for support and the sharing of information and experience are well developed. Knowledge is a most valuable commodity.

In adapting to a harsh and isolated region, early pioneers found necessity the mother of invention. The pioneers developed new farming methods and technologies including the famous stump jump plough which has its origin just outside of the council's boundary.

As early as the 1970's the transfer of learning from the Yorke Peninsula had an international perspective. Dryland farming technologies that were developed in the area were exported to the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Today entrepreneurship and a spirit of innovation have seen the region grow into a dryland farming centre of excellence and international repute. Already there is talk of international conferences and the development of an International Farm Stay Program that will allow us to share our expertise and culture with the rest of the world.

The Shipping Story

Because the bulk and tonnage of the regions commodities is so high shipping is essential to livestock, grain and mineral based industries. First small ketches and schooners found their way into improbable harbours then came glorious windjammers, steamships and finally the towering bulk carriers which now grace the Spencer Gulf horizon. The Shipping story led to the fine jetties, which grace our coastline and provide a Mecca for visitor and local alike. The Wallaroo Heritage and Nautical Museum and Yorke Peninsula Maritime Heritage Trail keep the legend alive.

Jetty and Customs ç1870


Unloading coal Price's Jetty



Copper Coast Major Town History



From 1861 until 1923, Wallaroo was the port for the mineral produce of the miners of Australia’s Little Cornwall. Until the establishment of lead smelters at Port Pirie in the 1890s, it was the principal port on Spencer Gulf. The first jetty was constructed in 1861 as part of the contract to build a tramway to the Wallaroo Mine. The port soon became one of the busiest in the state as ships brought cargoes of timber, coal, machinery and food supplies and left laden with copper ore and ingots and later wool and wheat. Wallaroo is still a major export port for grain.

Wallaroo Smelting Works

Wallaroo was also the location of the large smelting works where ore from both the Wallaroo and Moonta mines was smelted from 1861 until closure of the mines in 1923. The smelting works employed a large number of Welsh smelter men which gave the town a distinctive Welsh flavour, as the Welsh language was used in the town for many years.

By 1865, the population of Wallaroo was about 3000. This increased to 4000 by the early 1900s and reached a peak of about 5000 residents in the early 1920s. When the smelting works closed after 62 years of continuous operation, it had a major impact on the local community. Hundreds left the town; some gravitated to agriculture and others to the wharf or the chemical works.



The Government township of Moonta was surveyed in March 1863 on a grassy plain mid-way between the shafts and the sea, the name being derived from the aboriginal Moonta-Moonterra meaning 'impenetrable scrub'. It was laid out in a symmetrical grid pattern with a central square and surrounded by parkland reserves and cemetery. Allotments were auctioned in April 1863 but the town was initially slower to develop than nearby Kadina or Wallaroo.

Moonta Railway Station

Commercial buildings were the first to be established in Moonta as most miners continued to live on mining leases. The area east of the central square, along George and Ryan Streets, became the centre of business be-cause of its proximity to the main road and the mines. In response to the prosperous mining operations after 1865, the commercial structure of the town began to expand, resulting in the town’s most vigorous building period, which continued to the mid 1870s.

By 1870, the population of the Moonta district reached 10,000 of whom more than 6000 lived on mining leases, and all building blocks in the town had been sold. When the mines flourished after 1900, the new prosperity was again reflected in town growth. However, there was a rapid decline in population after the closure of the mines and, by 1926, there were only 1350 residents.


The township of Kadina was laid out by the Government in late 1860 on a site dictated by the location of mines and mining leases. It was named Kadina, a derivation of the aboriginal kaddy-yeena meaning 'lizard plain', by Governor Sir Richard MacDonnell.

Allotments were auctioned in March 1861 and, by 1862, significant building activity had begun. Miners' cottages, built of wattle and daub with shingle roofs, white-washed walls and dirt floors, and churches and businesses were soon erected. By early 1863, the government had built a court-house, police station, post office and telegraph station.

Kadina Railway Station

In 1860, it took three to four days to reach Kadina by road from Adelaide, but a direct road link was established by 1865 and coaches completed the trip in 12 hours. Kadina was connected with the port of Wallaroo by horse-drawn tram in 1862 and to Adelaide by railway in 1878.

Land to the south, east and west of the original township was subdivided as mineral leases were relinquished. Kadina East was subdivided in 1907 and Kadina South about 1900 and incorporated into the town council in 1917. West of Kadina was the subdivision of Newtown.



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