South Australia officially became as a British province on 28th December 1836. This date is known as “Proclamation Day” in South Australia because it was on this day that Captain John Hindmarsh stood beside the Old Gum Tree and read the official proclamation of the establishment of the new province.
The date of Proclamation Day holiday was later changed from 28th December to the first work day following Christmas, which is typically 26th December.
The proclamation called upon the settlers to “conduct themselves with order and quietness,” to be law-abiding citizens, to follow after industry, sobriety, and morality, and to observe the Christian religion. By so doing, they would prove to be worthy founders of a “great free colony.” They were also warned that the existing Aboriginal population were now considered British subjects and entitled to the same protection under the law as they were. Those who committed “acts of violence or injustice” on them would be punished with “exemplary severity.” The natives were also to be introduced to the benefits of civilization and of working towards their conversion into the Christian faith.
Formal ceremonies involving officials and politicians plus reenactments of the events of South Australia’s founding, complete with a reading of the official proclamation, continue to be held at the still-standing Old Gum Tree every 28th December. The public are welcome and at the end of the reenactment, there is a celebration and free food for all visitors.