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22 April 1857 Responsible Government

 22 April 1857   Responsible Government

Responsible Government in South Australia was officially launched when the first session of Parliament was opened on 22 April 1857.

The South Australian Constitution Act was passed in January 1856 and assented to on 24 June that year. The first elections were held on 9 March 1857. The new constitution, which gave self government to the colony, provided for a bicameral parliament consisting of a House of Assembly of 36 members, elected by manhood suffrage for a term of three years, and a Legislative Council of 18 members, elected by voters with the correct property qualification, with the colony as one district, for a term of twelve years, six members retiring every fourth year.

Members had to be 30 years of age and resident in the colony for three years. The Act also removed the Governor from involvement in political life other than being the official link between the province and the British Government. In fact London retained the right of vetoing legislation in Australia until Queen Elizabeth II proclaimed the Australia Act in March 1986. In South Australia the veto was used only infrequently until 1893 and not at all after that. 

By the 1890s, South Australia had the most democratic constitution of all Australian colonies and led the world in adopting a system of secret ballot. In 1894 South Australian women were the first in Australia to be given the right to vote and to stand for parliament.

Peter Howell, 'Constitutional and Political Development 1857-1890', Dean Jaensch (ed), The Flinders History of South Australia Political History, 1986, pp. 95-105.

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