South Australia

May 31, 2018

Rundle: on Elizabeth, the town Australia failed

The city of Elizabeth, South Australia, stands as an exemplar of lost possibilities; of what could have been but was squandered.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


Standing before the austere modernist clock tower of Elizabeth, South Australia, Marilyn Baker, several times mayor of the city and one of its greatest champions, admonished me for the third time:

"You will write good things about us, won’t you?"

Free Trial

You've hit members-only content.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

9 thoughts on “Rundle: on Elizabeth, the town Australia failed

  1. Swish

    My Elizabeth High Year 12 class from 1977 belies many of the myths about the Northern suburbs.

  2. AR

    Nice colour piece from Grundle – “a long time ago, in a forward thinking country far, far away..”
    Meanwhile, young families commute 2-3 hours, if lucky, the inner cities reach for the skies of Shanghai & HK and shoeboxes cost a coupla mill.

    1. kyle Hargraves

      It is rather difficult to compare Shanghai (or Shenzhen) with HK; much less summarise the cities. The trains in those cities are rather good; superior to the lower grade that exists in any capital city of Oz. One could get entirely across either city in (well) under two hours by (metro) train. Commuting for 40-60 minutes is normal – as it is in Oz.

      Shoeboxes : well it depends. Yep – top dollar is possible but the “same” place 45 minutes away is a half to a third the price. The (average) occupancy of about 40% in Shenzhen (a bit higher in Shanghai or HK) “helps”.

      However, I agree with the general tone; because there are no votes (comparatively) in the regional areas no poly gives a damn and there is a vested interest (ask any inner-city dwelling Green) to increase concentration in the cities. Myopic, as a policy, but there it is.

  3. Draco Houston

    Very depressing. We’ll all be swallowed up by the vampiric cities of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Stuck in the Judge Dredd timeline.

  4. Trelevn

    Thanks Guy, for revisiting Elizabeth. This is the place where they let a girl go halfway through year 12 without a qualifying set of subjects because they didn’t believe THIS GIRL IS GOING TO UNIVERSITY! Had to pick up some subjects in a hurry. Another friend taught 3rd generation unemployed around here. That was in the 90s, long before they pulled the plug on Holden. The crying shame is that for the price of 1 stupid submarine, they could GIVE Elon Musk a factory, re-furbished and staffed with workers trained to his specification. Hell, for the price of the submarine rort the Tesla could become the Ausla…

  5. kyle Hargraves

    On the one hand the topic cannot be addressed in under a few thousand words. Such being the case statements, in compensation, to the effect of “We killed Elizabeth as a possibility” BECAUSE unrestrained financial interest attained the upper-hand. Consider Kalgoorlie. The malls/shopping centres are at the lower end of town. Port Hedland wiped out its town centre about 40 years ago by permitting a shopping centre to be constructed about 3km distant from the town centre. South Hedland is “only” a Shopping Centre. As for educational “attainment”? Similarly, or anyone under the age of 11 they are great places go grow up.

    Then we have the fatuous implication :” and then we pointed to it as an example that planning, state investment and conscious social development do not work” – which, in point of fact, do work but only with an organised strategic plan and political will. Considerations to “cost-cutting” will undermine everything – and defeat any laudable objective.

    Then we have, from the author of the article “Not the place’s fault. We sacrificed aspiration and audacity to endless subdivision, surrendered to sprawl” – which goes some (minor) way to identifying the problem with out identifying the specifics. Then, lastly, “I shed a tear for ambition sold short, what we might have been”. Well you might Guy but your submission deserves a fail in any event. Should you wish me to expand on what ought to have been a more comprehensive article I am happy to do so.

  6. Ally Morgan

    I spent a lot of my time in Elizabeth in my youth (I lived in nearby Salisbury) – it was vibrant, it was exciting, buzzing with new migrants… the businesses have been closed, the main employer, Holden’s, has shut its doors, even the Edinburgh airfield (where lots of English airmen were employed for short stints) has changed……..and yes, it was a great idea…..but no carefully considered back up plan.

  7. Damon

    I’m a fan, Guy, but having spent near,y all of my single-digit years in Elizabeth I must agree with Kyle Hardgraves.

    For a better take, I highly recommend Mark Peel’s “Good Times, Hard Times”

    1. kyle Hargraves

      As a illustrative example of political will (or inclination) just take a guess when footpaths were provided for the community (and for primary school children in particular) in South/Port Hedland. Keep in mind that the Port is the hub for iron-ore exports so, prima facie, there ought not to be a problem with revenue. Ok : Answer – on the occasion of the town’s centenary (’96 if memory serves)! In fact it was then (and not for previous decades – that it got a jab in the arm. It took some political will to get SBS and ABC FM into the town.
      In the case that someone wishes to become “picky” : yes there were a few kms of footpath in Port (of a ill and unmaintained standard) but damn all in South at that time.

      As an aside, and to be fair, the mining companies are assuming a much greater responsibility for the town (than previously), which, of course, is all to the good – and rather necessary.

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details