South Australia’s History Festival returns for 2021

South Australia’s History Festival, one of the state’s largest open-access community events, returns for its 17th annual festival in 2021 from Saturday 1 May to Sunday 30 May, encouraging people to explore the theme of Change. The Festival is an initiative of the History Trust of South Australia.

With over 600 registered events across South Australia, almost a third of the events are being held in regional areas, including Port Pirie, Barmera, and Port Broughton. There is a piece of history for everyone to experience, enjoy and learn from.

The History Festival program guide will be all digital this year, with a brand new website, with visitors able to search the range of events by date, genre and location.

Beginning in 2004 as SA History Week, the festival has grown each year and is now a dedicated month-long celebration of the events and people that have shaped our state into what it is today. This year, after last year’s event was cancelled due to COVID-19, almost 400 event, community and local organisers will be hosting events throughout May across South Australia.

The Honourable John Gardner, Minister for Education, is thrilled to see the return of South Australia’s History Festival in 2021. “History plays such an important role in our lives and the History Festival provides a wonderful opportunity for schools, families, and the community at large to explore the amazing history our state has to offer. This is achieved through a range of experiences and activities that the event promotes, from performances, exhibitions, fascinating talks, behind-the-scenes tours, screenings and more.”

This year’s theme of Change encompasses a broad range of historical topics and events. From political to social change, changing places, changing minds, changing hearts. It includes change for the better, change for the worse, on big and small scales, and everything in between.

History Trust of South Australia CEO, Greg Mackie OAM says, “We are thrilled to bring the 2021 History Festival to life – especially in this the 40th birthday year of the History Trust – and what better way than to kick it off than with the theme of Change – something that we are all too familiar with in recent years. The world is constantly undergoing change; it is a continuing journey – without change there is no history! So, to bring this theme to light and explore the many aspects of change that our state has undergone is something that will be sure to fascinate all people with a curiosity about our past.” 

History can be found anywhere, in urban and rural towns, cities and suburbs, museums, libraries, beaches and buildings. This year’s festival will present events in every corner of the state from Kangaroo Island to Hahndorf, Tumby Bay to Bordertown and every place and city in between.

Following is a snapshot for 2021:

  • Coming Back to Country – A bus tour of significant Kaurna sites in the City of Norwood, Payneham & St Peters, led by Aunty Lynette Crocker and historian Denise Schumann.
  • Willunga’s Wicked Way: Criminals, Crime and Constables – Join us at the historic Willunga Courthouse Museum to learn about Willunga’s heinous past. Listen to the stories of the shocking criminal cases that have been all but forgotten. See the underbelly of Willunga’s fascinating history.
  • Queering the Village: Upper North Adelaide ‘Exposed’! – A guided tour with queen of the walk, Dr Gertrude Glossip PhD (Formal Drapery), through lovely, leafy North Adelaide. From 19th century churches, cottages and villas to towers of today; from 1960s camp parties to 1970s Gay Liberation households and zaps; from 1950s queer theatre and personalities to 21st century Feast festivities at Carclew.
  • Adelaide Alfresco: The Dunstan Effect – A walking tour unravelling stories of the city’s first alfresco spaces, revealing Dunstan’s inspirations, challenges, and how his policies changed the way Adelaideans socialise forever.
  • Open Doors – Provides the opportunity to get inside some of the state’s most interesting places and spaces that are usually closed to the public, through a range of talks and tours. 
  • Penfolds – A guided tour taking a walk through the original working Penfolds winery, explore the vineyards and uncover the historic tales of the underground drives.
  • Roseneath House in Walkerville – A self-guided tour of Roseneath, a state heritage-listed private residence, circa 1847, which has a tunnel that leads from the ground floor to the servant’s cottage at the rear.
  • Botanica Lumina: Adelaide Botanic Gardens After Dark Tour – An after dark tour in the Adelaide Botanic Garden with a tour to the State Herbarium (former Tram Barn) and Goodman Building.

The History Festival will also be celebrating special anniversaries including:

  • Unley – 150th anniversary
  • Barmera, Monash & Glossop – towns’ centenaries
  • Loveday Internment Camp – 80th anniversary
  • Port Broughton – town’s 150th anniversary
  • Clarendon – town’s 175th anniversary

The full program will be live online on South Australia’s History Festival website on Thursday 8 April, where visitors will be able to build their own program, creating their personal journey into the past.

The History Festival program will be officially launched on Thursday 15 April by the Hon. John Gardner, Minister for Education, at the Torrens Parade Ground.


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