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Whyalla, South Australia

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Whyalla, South Australia

South Australia
View of Whyalla CBD Hummock Hill lookout

33°02′0″S 137°34′0″E / 33.03333°S 137.56667°E / -33.03333; 137.56667Coordinates: 33°02′0″S 137°34′0″E / 33.03333°S 137.56667°E / -33.03333; 137.56667

Population 21,988 (including Mullaquana)
Established 1920
Postcode(s) 5600 [1]
Time zone ACST (UTC+9:30)
 • Summer (DST) ACDT (UTC+10:30)
Location 395 km (245 mi) from Adelaide
LGA(s) City of Whyalla
State electorate(s) Giles
Federal Division(s) Grey

Whyalla /hwˈælə/ is the third most populous city in the Australian state of South Australia after Adelaide and Mount Gambier. It is a seaport located on the east coast of the Eyre Peninsula.


It was founded as Hummock's Hill in 1901 by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company (BHP) as the end of a tramway bringing iron ore from the Middleback Ranges to be used in the lead smelters at Port Pirie as flux. A jetty was built to transfer the ore. The settlement consisted of small cottages and tents clustered around the base of the hill. The Post Office opened in 1901 as Hummock's Hill and was renamed Whyalla on 1 November 1919.[2]

The arid environment and lack of natural fresh water resources made it necessary to import water in barges from Port Pirie.

In 1905 the town's first school opened. It was originally called Hummock Hill School, and was subsequently renamed as Whyalla Primary School and Whyalla Higher Primary School. The school's current name is Whyalla Town Primary School.

On 16 April 1920 the town was proclaimed as Whyalla. The ore conveyor on the jetty was improved and ore began to be shipped to the newly built Newcastle, New South Wales steelworks. The town grew slowly until 1938.

The BHP Indenture Act was proclaimed in 1937 and provided the impetus for the construction of a blast furnace and harbour. In 1939 the blast furnace and harbour began to be constructed and a commitment for a pipeline from the Murray River was made. A shipyard was built to provide ships for the Royal Australian Navy. The population began rising dramatically and many new facilities, including a hospital and abbatoirs, were built.

In 1941 the first ship from the new shipyard, HMAS Whyalla, was launched and the blast furnace became operational. By 1943 the population was more than 5,000. On 31 March 1943, the Murray River pipeline from Morgan became operational. In 1945 the city came under combined company and public administration and the shipyard began producing commercial ships. In 1948 displaced persons began arriving from Europe.

In 1958 the Company decided to build an integrated steelworks at Whyalla. They were completed in 1965. In the following year salt began to be harvested and coke ovens were built. The population grew extremely rapidly, and the South Australian Housing Trust was building 500 houses a year to cope with the demand. Plans for a city of 100,000 were produced by the Department of Lands. A second pipeline from Morgan was built to cope with the demand.

In 1970 the city adopted full local government status. Fierce competition from Japanese ship builders resulted in the closing of the shipyards in 1978, which were at the time the largest in Australia. From a peak population of 33,000 in 1976 the population dropped rapidly. A decline in the BHP iron and steel industry since 1981 also impacted employment.

The BHP long products division was divested in 2000 to form OneSteel which is the sole producer of rail and steel sleepers in Australia.

From 2004 northern South Australia enjoyed a mining boom and Whyalla found itself well placed to benefit from new ventures, being situated on the edge of the Gawler Craton. The city experienced an economic upturn with the population slowly increasing and the unemployment rate falling to a more typical level.


Whyalla has a semi-arid climate with hot summers and cool winters, and mild rainfall spread throughout the year.

Climate data for Whyalla
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 47.2
Average high °C (°F) 30.0
Average low °C (°F) 17.5
Record low °C (°F) 5.9
Precipitation mm (inches) 14.6
Source: [3]


According to the 2011 Census the population of the Whyalla area was 21,988 (including Mullaquana) people, making it the second largest urban area in the state outside of Adelaide. Approximately 50.5% of the population were male, 74% are Australian born and 4.2% were Indigenous.

The most popular industries for employment were Metal Manufacturing (18%), School Education (5.5%) and Health (4.1%), while the unemployment rate is approx. 8.1%. The median weekly household income is A$932 or more per week, compared with $1,106 in Adelaide. 19.6% of the population identify themselves as Catholic, while a higher 33.5% identify with no religion at all. [4]


A narrow gauge so-called tramway was built to Iron Knob to supply iron ore originally used as flux when smelting copper ore.[5] This ore became the basis of the steelworks. As the Iron Knob deposits were worked out, the railway was diverted to other sources of ore at Iron Monarch, Iron Prince, Iron Duke and Iron Baron.

To enable interchange between the BHP's other steelworks in Newcastle and Port Kembla of specialised rollingstock, the railway system within the Whyalla steelworks was converted to standard gauge circa 1963.[6]

Although the steelworks produced railway rail, for several decades there was no railway connection to the mainland system. Finally in 1972, a standard gauge link to Port Augusta was completed.

Some iron ore is exported from Whyalla. In 2007, steps were being taken to export iron ore from Peculiar Knob, 600 km away. To meet this increased demand, a balloon loop is being installed in 2013 at the port.

Whyalla is served by Spencer Gulf due to engine failure in mid flight. All 8 people on board (1 Pilot, 7 Passengers) died.

The city is also served by Premier Stateliner which operates 4 coach (bus) services to and from Adelaide (via Pt Augusta) each week day (less on weekends) and one service each way to Pt. Lincoln. There are however occasional exceptions to the week day route due to lack of demand to travel through Whyalla.


Though maintaining strong effort for the tourism industry, Whyalla has struggled to compete with other cities in the area in regards to tourism. Such attractions possessed by the city to attract more tourists include HMAS Whyalla.

HMAS Whyalla was a World War II-era corvette. It was the first ship built in the city of Whyalla and was named after the city. The ship was landlocked as a tourist attraction in 1987, the main attraction of the Whyalla Maritime Museum.

In the late 1990s the spectacular annual migration of the Australian Giant Cuttlefish Sepia apama to the reef areas in the Spencer Gulf north of Whyalla around Black Point and Point Lowly became recognised by international divers.[7][8] It has also come to the attention of divers of Whyalla, that the same area in which the cuttlefish breed is, just a few months later, the place of congregation for squid, which also come there to breed. This has only come to the attention of locals in 2005. There are also dolphins that frequent the local marina.

The Whyalla Conservation Park provides an example of the natural semi-arid environment.

The Hummock Hill lookout provides excellent views across the town, the port and the coast.

Whyalla is home to the annual Snapper Fishing Competition. Those who have not fished commercially in the past 12 months are invited to try their luck over a weekend. Prizes are awarded bases on individual fish weights. Tagging also takes place at this time.


State & Federal

2006 State Election [9]
  Labor 66.3%
  Liberal 21.8%
  Family First 6.5%
  Greens 4%
  Independent 1.4%
2007 Federal Election [10]
  Labor 57.07%
  Liberal 29.5%
  Greens 5.19%
  Family First 4.59%
  National 1.60%
  Democrats 1.16%
  Independent 0.88%

Whyalla is part of the state electoral district of Giles, which has been held since 1997 by Labor MP Lyn Breuer. The seat is held by a margin of 14.4%. In federal politics, the city is part of the division of Grey, and has been represented by Liberal MP Rowan Ramsey since 2007. Grey is held with a margin of 8.86% and is considered safe-liberal. The results shown are from the largest polling station in Whyalla Norrie — which is located at Nicolson Avenue Primary School.


Whyalla is in the City of Whyalla local government area (along with some of the sparsely inhabited areas around it).


Primary schools

Sunrise Christian School, St Teresa's and Our Lady Help of Christians.

Secondary schools

Secondary Education is provided by Whyalla High School, Stuart High School, Samaritan collage, Edward John Eyre High School and Saint John's College, Whyalla.

Tertiary education

Tertiary education is provided by the Spencer Institute of TAFE, and the Whyalla Campus of the University of South Australia. UniSA Whyalla's academic programs include business, social work, nursing and research opportunities in rural health and community development.

Sister cities

Whyalla has two sister cities, according to the Australian Sister Cities Association.

Notable people from Whyalla



External links

  • Whyalla City Council's tourist information site
  • Whyalla's Weather for the last 72 hours
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