Our History

Historical events in Salisbury

The development of the City of Salisbury is a rich and exciting story. The first people associated with the Salisbury area were the Aboriginal people known as the Kaurna. Many occupational and sacred sites associated with the Kaurna people still exist around the Salisbury area, including the Greenfields Wetlands.

In 1839, three years after the founding of South Australia, a Scot named John Harvey migrated to the colony. In 1847, he purchased land along the Little Para River for the purposes of establishing a township. In 1848, Harvey began selling allotments for the township of Salisbury, named after Salisbury, England near his wife’s hometown. Many of Salisbury’s streets are named after John and his family.

By 1881, the Salisbury Township’s population was between 400 and 500. The area’s main crops were oranges, wheat, hay and dairy produce. Its most notable industries were flourmills and the Paternoster Engineering Works, which produced windmills.

Little changed until 1940 when the Federal Government built a munitions factory at Penfield. As most of the workers resided outside the Salisbury area, homes were built nearby for them. This effectively doubled the area’s population overnight.

Since World War II, the Salisbury area has expanded dramatically due to the changes in transport, population growth, technology, immigration, and close proximity to the City of Adelaide. In 1933, the District Council of Salisbury’s population was 2,385. By 1947, it was 4,160, while in 1981 it had grown to 86,451. At the 2016 Census*, the population was recorded at 140,212. 

*Australian Bureau of Statistics Census of Population and Housing