Moonta's vital statistics

Latitude
34 06s
Longitude
137 32e
Annual average rainfall
372.2mm
Population (2011 census)
4,011
Population growth 2011 to 2016
3.8 per cent per year
Establishment date
1861
Postcode
5558
Population changes over the years

Population censuses have been conducted in South Australia since 1881 and are now conducted in Australia every five years. Early census data is hard to find and populations for urban centres have not always been provided. Older censuses used electoral districts and/or local government areas as their local units. Data for the Moonta Town Council area is reported for 1901, 1951 and 1961. However, Council areas do not always include contiguous urban areas. The Australian Bureau of Statistics introduced the Urban Centre concept for the 1966 census and data based on that concept is reported for each subsequent census. Moonta's population has grown steadily since 1966, at an annual average rate of 2.1 per cent. By 2016 the Census reported a population of 4,839.

Census year
Population
Moonta Town Council area
1901
1,607
1954
1,220
1961
1,151
Moonta (Urban centre concept)

1966
1,702
1971
1,570
1976
1,751
1981
1,925
1986
2,199
1991
2,723
1996
2,898
2001
3,084
2006
3,322
2011
4,010
2016
4,839
Moonta's labour force profile-2011 Census
Full time employed
779
Part time employed
596
Not stated
43
Unemployed
105
Labour force
1,617
Not in Labour Force
1,865
Unemployment rate
6.5%
Labour force participation rate
45.0%

Data supplied by ABS and South Australian Year Books. Compiled by Canberra Media Research

Moonta is located on the western side of northern Yorke Peninsula on the eastern shore of Spencer Gulf. Its settlement dates back to 1861 only 73 years after the First Fleet landed in Sydney Harbour and 25 years after the foundation of the province of South Australia in 1836.

View of Moonta by Google maps

The discovery of copper by a shepherd, Paddy Ryan, was the initial impetus for Moonta's establishment. Copper mining ceased in 1923 and the town became a service centre for surrounding primary industries, notably wheat, barley and to a lesser extent fishing. During the second world war a small munitions factory contributed to Australia's war effort. In the 1950s caravan parks at Moonta Bay and Port Hughes contributed to the development of tourism and recreation. Since the 1970s holiday homes have proliferated, especially in the beachside areas. As well the town has become a popular retirement centre for persons from Adelaide and the surrounding countryside. Copper was again mined in the 1990's for a short time but was not a dominant contributor to the local economy.


It's a great place to visit!

Moonta has great beaches, a touch of history and it's not expensive. Moonta has:

  • two caravan parks (Moonta Bay and Port Hughes)
  • a museum
  • an old time miners cottage
  • historical railway
  • mine tours
  • an 18 hole golf course
  • a "test" standard bowling green
  • tennis courts
  • a shark proof sea swimming pool
  • two wooden jetties
  • 3 country style pubs
  • attractive public parks
  • a cricket and Australian Football oval

Moonta is not over commercialised, it's not the Gold Coast, Noosa or even Batemans Bay, if anything it's a bit under commercialised and that for many  is its charm. In some ways it's a bit like that place in the ABC series Sea Change. However,  Moonta's beaches are for swimming not surfing, as Moonta is on a gulf it is protected from ocean swells. I have seen bigger waves on Lake Burley Griffin.

Moonta's climate is mediteranian with mild wet winters and dry warm summers. Summers days can be hot (over 40 degrees) but changeable. In summer it is not unusual to have a day of 40+degrees followed by one of 20 degrees. The rainfall, while not high, is dependable and not affected by El Nino events as much as areas in Eastern Australia.

Moonta is a well planned town with a central square and suurounding parks. Victoria Park on the southern edge of the town was planted in the 19th Century to protect the town from sand drifts and southerly winds. It's main vegetation is native pine, eucalypts and some pinus radiata. It was named after Queen Victoria. Today Moonta is growing rapidly and the Moonta Progress Association has been formed to promote the town and build a strong local community, for details click here.

Moonta is in the South Australian time zone (-9:30 GMT) and observes daylight saving from November to  March. Use this link to find the time in Moonta.


i







Tourist information

The Moonta Visitor Centre is located in the old Railway Station (the last train to Moonta was in 1969) which is on the northern side of the town just of the Kadina Road. It is open 7 days a week from 9 to 17 hours, except Chrismas day. You can obtain details on all local attractions and accommodation. Telephone 08 8825 2449






We had a great time!

At the time of visiting Moonta, at Christmas 1996, we were a family of 2 adults and four children (aged between 6 - 14). We visited Moonta as part of a visit South Australia. We visited South Australia because Dad had been there a lot when he was young man and he talked about it a lot. He said that we should see Moonta.

We spent a week at Moonta. It was very hot, however we had a good size cabin that was nice and cool. We can’t remember if it was air-conditioned. Our cabin was right next to the beach, which was great because we spent a lot of time there. A man at the garage gave Dad a car tyre tube for free and we had a great time with that on the beach.

The beach was great fun because the waves were small and you did not get sucked out. Every day we went swimming early and when we were tired we fished and most times we got something to eat for breakfast.

After we had been swimming and had breakfast we would play around the cabin or have a look at Moonta or some of the other towns around there. Moonta was interesting because of all the old houses and the mines we visited. Tom, the second oldest boy in our family loves to collect rocks and he got a lot of them there, he still has lots of peacock ore. There was a good miniature train ride. Around the mine were some old buildings and Mum told us some interesting stories like how the family lived in a cottage that had a dirt floor, how all the children died after they were poisoned from the water and how copper was discovered at Moonta

The shops had a lot of interest things for lunch, we had Cornish pasties a lot for lunch and we found a good place for fish and chips.

We also visited some places around the area. Some of the things we remember are, driving on the beach, seeing a giant squid, visiting an old bank.

We would like to go back to Moonta mainly because of the great beach and having a cabin so close. We spent a lot of time there mostly in the morning and evening. One evening we were still swimming when the sun went down into the sea. We hope that we will get back there soon.

Parents comments

The kids enjoyed Moonta and consequently so did we. The beach suited the kids each

Great weather

Go for a swim when you need a rest, throw a line an and catch one

Interesting history, which is evident everywhere from the houses, Cornish cuisine, old mining building."

The Heazlewood family: Cook ACT


Moonta bay jetty



























How do you get there?

By Road:

From Queensland, NSW and the ACT-Get onto highway 20 turn off to Morgan at Renmark and go through to Port Wakefield and turn off Highway 1,  just after going through Port Wakefield, the sign will tell you the way.

From Victoria and Tasmania-Go through Adelaide onto Highway 1 and turn off just after Port Wakefield.

From Western Australia and Northern Territory-Turn off Highway 1 at Port Pirie and go through Port Broughton and Wallaroo.

By Bus:

Buses leave twice daily except on Weekends from the Franklin Street Bus Station in Adelaide (Premier Stateliner)




Political

Federal

Moonta is in the Federal Division of Grey, a seat held by Rowan Ramsey of the Liberal Party.

State

Moonta is in the State of South Australia and is included in the State electorate of  Goyder, the current member is Mr Steven Griffiths of the Liberal Party.

Local Government

Moonta is in the District Council of the Copper Coast presided over by His Worship the Mayor Paul Thomas.


Copper Mining: a tempetuous history

Copper mining started around 1861 some 12 to 18 months after discoveries in nearby Wallaroo Mines. The principal developer was William Watson Hiughes who together with four other shareholders formed the Wallaroo and Moonta Mining companies. The early days were dominated by legal and political disputes about ownership and leases. Despite these diversions the mines prospered, particularly the Moonta Mines. They were the first company in South Australia to pay one million pounds in dividents or in decimal currency two million dollars.

Flinders University historian Patricia Sumerling has undertaken considerable research into the early mining days and can be contacted on 61-8-8362 8262 for further details. Her research resulted in a thesis entitled William Watson Hughes and the Moonta and Wallaroo Mines. The thesis is only available at the Flinders University Library Bedford Park South Australia. She intends to publish a synopsis some time in the future.

The halcyon years were 1861 to 1870 when the richest lodes were mined. After then the mines faced stiff competition from mines in Chile.  Mining continued until 1923. But there was always talk that there was more copper to be won. In the 1960s Western Mining set up a lab in Moonta to assess ore from test drillings. An open cut mine was eventually established in the Yelta area. However, with electricity, technology and capital equipment most of the ore was mined in a few short years (it has been claimed as much as was mined in the 1861-1923 period). The mine is now closed and is open to tourists.

The Moonta mines made an important contribution to Australia's economy. They were crucial to the prosperity of the fledgling economy of the province of South Australia and were equivalent to the gold rushes in other parts of Australia. Money from the Moonta Mines helped to establish the University of Adelaide.


The Hughes pumping station, Moonta Mines

The establishment of a School of Mines in Moonta was one of the first steps towards providing comprehensive vocational training in Australia. The skills of the Moonta miners added to Australia's skill base in terms of mining engineering, management and financing.


Moonta's name honoured

Moonta's contribution to Australia has been recognised through Street names in both Canberra and Adelaide. There is a Moonta Place in the Canberra suburb of Fisher, which has a mining town theme to its street names. In Adelaide Moonta Street runs between Grote and Gouger Streets and is now the centre of Adelaide's Chinatown

There were 3 vessels named Moonta. The first was a barque, it was mentioned in the Wallaroo and Kadina Times 16 December 1868: The vessel MOONTA 627 tons, one of the Black Diamond Line was selected to convoy the Northern Territory Party. The ship Moonta under Captain Barneson was chartered to take Surveyor-General Goyder's northern expedition to Port Darwin. The second a screw steamer, Moonta built 1892 by W Dobson and Company, Newcastle on Tyne in England and from 1899 until 1913 sailed by the name La Serena. It weighed 2,266 tons and had a speed of 8 knots. The Moonta was eventually sold, going to Japan to be scrapped in 1931. The third MV Moonta operated from 1931 to 1955. It was built in Copenhagen (Denmark) and had a speed of 12.5 knots and weighed 2,993 tons. M V MOONTA was built for the Adelaide Steamship Company the Moonta provided a regular passenger and freight service between Adelaide and Spence Gulf ports. The Moonta was 285 ft long and could transport up to 146 persons - she was eventually sold in 1955 to a Greek company who renamed her LYDIA and ended up being beached in Southern France for use as a Casino. The picture from a commemorative plaque in Port Lincoln describes the second Moonta. Both ships were operated by the Adelaide Steamship Company.


The above information was kindly supplied by the Australian National Maritime Museum-Darling Harbour Sydney.



Australia's little Cornwall

The people of Cornwall in England have been mining copper and tin since the days of the Roman Empire. They were mining experts. The discovery of rich lodes of ore in Australia together with declining yields in Corwall led to many Cornish people migrating to Australia, especially Moonta.  Cornish miners brought their culture with them and Moonta became a Cornish enclave. The Cornish are a Celtic people as are the Irish, Welsh, Scots and the inhabitants of Brittany in France. Until the 1770s they had their own language which some people in Cornwall are trying to revive today.

Moonta's Cornish hertitage is now celebrated through the Kernewek Lowender Festival held every two years (the odd year). The last Kernewek Lowender was held in May 2017. The next will be held in May 2019.

One of the floats in Moonta's parade at the 2005 Kernewek Lowender. Photo supplied by the Yorke Peninsula Country Times


Cornish Pasties-Fast Food and a culinary delight

"In Moonta, South Australia where the Cornish population mined copper last century (19th), are the finest Cornish pasties in the land. Freshly baked and served with home-made relish, I've been known to have very aromatic hand luggage on my flights home."

Susan Parsons-Food and Wine Supplement Canberra Times 29 December 1999

You can buy pasties (sometimes Cornish pasties) in most parts of Australia, but are they genuine? Why not make your own and get a taste of the real thing. The recipe for the Moonta Cornish pasty is:

Pastry

(Ensure that pastry is soft and elastic)
250g self raising flour, 85g fat (1/2 Lard-1/2 Margarine)(All Margarine if on low cholesterol diet) and a pinch of salt

Filling

Chuck steak cut finely-not minced Small potato, turnip, 1/2 onion, salt and pepper to taste. Vegetables need to chipped not diced or minced

Putting it together

Roll out the pastry to about 15cm diameter and place ingredients into layers, turnips first then potato, meat, salt and pepper, onion then more potato. Then close pastry over ingredients in the usual pasty shape. Prick a small hole to allow steam to escape and glaze with milk. Place in oven heated to 220 degrees celsius for 10 minutes then turn down to 190 for another 20 minutes. When taken out of oven let them stand for 5 minutes to allow steam to soften ingredients and improve the flavour.


Moonta: Hotbead of Methodism

In the late 18th Century various sects arose as a result of the activities of Anglican preachers John and Charles Wesley. These were the Methodists. With their empathy for the poorer classes of England they attracted converts among miners, particularly those in Cornwall. When they came to Moonta they brought their religion with them. Originally, there were many sects of Methodism in Moonta which led to the creation of up to 5 Methodist churches in the area. Today two survive, these are the Moonta Mines church in the Moonta Mines area and the town church in Robert Street. The Moonta Mines Church was built in 1865, just 4 years after the discovery of copper. It is one of the largest churches in Australia with a seating capacity of 1,200 (two levels of seating). The Canberra theatre can seat 1,500. The Moonta Methodist church is also quite large.

The Church in Moonta Mines was remarkable in the sense that it was probably built by church goers who did hard physical work all day in the mines and then built their own cottages in their spare time. That they could also build a large church in such a short time is a tribute to their faith. They did not need a City to Surf run to keep fit.

The Moonta Methodists had a large impact on the politics of South Australia particularly through their involvement in the labour movement. Early methodists were opposed to all forms of gambling and alcohol. South Australia has a religious composition quite different to other Australian States. It has more protestants (mainly non-conformist and Lutheran) and fewer Catholics.

Both of the Moonta Methodist churches are now part of the Uniting church which was formed in 1978 out of the Methodist, Congregational and Presbyterian denominations. According to the 2001 Census 30 per cent of Moonta people cite the Uniting church as their religion.

Moonta does have other churches. There is an Anglican church on Milne Terrace and a Catholic church in Robert Street.


A world political first: the Moonta connexion

In the 1910 South Australian elections the Australian Labor Party won a majority of seats in the House of Assembly, the lower house of the South Australian Parliament. It was the first such victory for a labour party anywhere in the world. The labor leader, and new South Australian Premier was John Verran, a Moonta resident and member for Wallaroo (the electorate that included Moonta).

John Verran was born on the ninth of August 1856 in Gwennap Cornwall. His family migrated to Australia in 1857 and lived in Kapunda (South Australia) before moving on to Moonta. At the age of ten he started work in the Moonta Mines as a "pickey table boy". His education was rudimentary but the ministers of the Primitive Methodist church encouraged him to read and take an interest in trade unionism. He later went on to lead the Amalgamated Miners' Association (1895-1913) and stood for Parliament on several occasions. In 1901 he won the seat of Wallaroo for Labor and became its leader in 1909.

His Government had mixed success. It developed railways and harbors and allowed the State Bank of South Australia to grant loans to poorer people. However, it had considerable problems with the upper House (the Legislative Council) and was bedevilled by industrial disputes. The Government only lasted two years.

Having lost the election he resigned from the Labor leadership and left the Labor Party over the conscription issue during the first world war. He was succeeded in the seat of Wallaroo by RS Richards who also become a Labor Premier in the 1930s. More information on John Verran can be found in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.


Another first: a hanging offence

Elizabeth Woolcock was the first, and only women, to be hanged in South Australia. At the time of her conviction she lived in East Moonta, one of the early mining areas. She was tried and convicted for the murder of her husband Thomas Woolcock. Elizabeth Woolcock originally came from the Victorian goldfields where she had a troubled childhood. She came to Moonta to live with her mother and eventually married Thomas Woolcock. However, she was reputedly subjected to what we now call domestic violence and decided to poison her husband with mercury compounds. She was hanged at Adelaide Gaol on 30 December 1873 aged just 25 (seven years before Ned Kelly was hanged). The East Moonta area where she lived was known as poison flats for many years after.

Fortunately, capital punishment was abolished in South Australia in 1975, just more than 100 years after Elizabeth's execution. The story of her life is well documented in Allen Peters's book "No Monument of Stone" printed by the Lutheran Publishing House-Adelaide and published by the author.

It is available from the author at Allanpeters@Picknowl.com.au. or A. L. Peters 8 Archer St. Christies Beach. South Australia 5165


Early exploration and the original inhabitants of Moonta

The first European to come anywhere near Moonta was the British explorer Matthew Flinders who charted the coast of Southern Australia in his ship the Investigator. He named the Gulf on which Moonta is located Spencer Gulf (after the British Spencer family of whom the late Princess Diana was a descendent).

The French were also interested. Their navigators (Freycinet and Boudin) explored the Southern Australian Coast and named the Gulf, Golfe de Bonaparte after Napoleon Bonaparte who was to later become Emperor of France. However, Flinders was first so the people of Moonta eat pasties not croissants.

Moonta was original inhabited by the Narangga people who called the area Monta-Montarra which means thick scrub. Therefore, Moonta in common with many other cities and towns in Australia has an Aboriginal name.

The Narangga resisted early European settlement by spearing shepherds and their sheep. However, there was swift and indiscriminate retaliation by the settlers. In 1868 the Point Pearce mission was established, about 30 kms south of Moonta, which became the home of the Narangga.


Read about Moonta and its people

Moonta's colourful history is set out in a number of books. These are listed below, some are available from the Visitor Information Centre and would certainly be kept by major libraries such as the State Library of South Australia (North Terrace Adelaide) and the National Library in Canberra. They are also likely to be available from the tourist centre and local newsagents.

Title
Author
Publisher/Comments
Australia's Little Cornwall
Oswald Prior
National Trust/The definitive story about Moontas's early days, Mining, Cousin Jacks and others
Cornish Pasty
Oswald Prior
Publisher not known/A book of cartoons on Moonta's Cornish miners
Not Only in Stone
Phyliss Somervale
Wakefield press/A novel based on a family who emigrated from Cornwall to the Moonta Mines, it's a good story of hope, tragedy and human endurance
Cap'n 'Ancock
Mandie Robinson
Rigby/The story of Captain Hancock, a long standing manager of the Moonta Mines and a larger than life character
No Monument of Stone
Allen Peters
Published by the author/The story of Elizabeth Woolcock (see story above)
Cornish Heritage
Jim Faull
Published by the author/a novel about a cornish miner who comes to Moonta
Licorice and All Sorts
Ben Sims
Published by the author/an autobiograpy of Ben Sims, of the Sims Cove fishing family (Sims cove is near moonta Bay)

It's time to go home

terryg design