Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Icons of South Australia: Donald Dunstan

Icons of South Australia
Donald Dunstan

Donald Dunstan was an important figure in South Australian politics, a man some thought was ahead of his time (if you were a supporter).
Dunstan was born in Fiji, and was moved to Murray Bridge at the age of seven. He went on to complete his education at St Peters College, and then Adelaide University. Dunstan graduated with a Bachelor of Law in 1948.
Whilst studying at Adelaide University, Dunstan met his first wife, Gretal, who was from a Jewish family who had escaped Nazi occupied Germany for a new life in Australia. After a brief stint living in Fiji together the couple moved back to Norwood in 1951, now with their first child Bronwen, and soon to follow, two sons, Andrew and Paul.
In 1953 Dunstan entered the world of South Australian politics becoming an elected Member for Norwood, this would eventually lead to his placement in 1965 as the Attorney-General, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Minister of Social Welfare.
In 1967, the current South Australian Premier, Frank Walsh retired, and Donald Dunstan was elected the leader of the party, and therefore, the new Premier and Treasurer of South Australia.
Dunstan lost the next State election, and the Liberals regained power of the State, which only lasted until the next election, when Dunstan was elected by the people. He then went on to to serve for another ten years, only standing down due to ill health in 1979

Dunstan was always a controversial figure in South Australian politics, but also a forward thinker. Under Donald Dunstan laws were changed that introduced anti-discrimination laws to protect the rights of women, indigenous people and homosexuals. Dunstan was also an avid supporter of the Arts, establishing the Adelaide Festival Centre, The South Australian Film commission and expanding upon the Adelaide Festival of Arts.
If it was for Donald Dunstan, all South Australians would still be kicked out of the pub at 6pm – It was Dunstan who changed the Liquor Licensing laws, and allowed puns to serve alcohol until 10pm!
Dunstan was also the man responsible for legalising homosexuality in South Australia and taking us out of the dark ages.
Dunstan also began the process of handing the Pitjantjatjara lands back to its native owners.
In 1972 Donald Dunstan caused a media sensation across Australia when he 'donned' a pair of tight pink flannelette shorts and wore them into parliament, his advisers and personal assistants did all they could to keep the media at bay, and stop them taking photographs, but Dunstan snuck out a back door and welcomed the media to take photos, which would eventually lead to him being seen across Australia and a whirlwind of political controversy and opinion that soon followed. By all accounts, Donald Dunstan relished every minute of the attention.

More about the enigmatic South Australian Premier Donald Dunstan