Please note: to contact the Port Augusta Courthouse go to the Port Augusta Magistrates Court – please see their contact details here.
Port Augusta Courthouse 1884, South Australia
The Port Augusta Courthouse had a resident Magistrate as early as 1856, (South Australian Register, 1856). In 1858 estimates were made for a courthouse and custom’s house, (The South Australian Register, 1858), drawings for a courthouse were eventually done and advertised eight years later, (South Australian Weekly Chronicle, 7 July 1866).
The Courthouse sits on the traditional lands of the Kokatha, Nukunu and Barngarla peoples. In 2021 the Barngarla people were granted native title in the area including Port Augusta.
While magistrates travelled from Clare, the Clare Courthouse there to conduct hearings, there was no permanent magistrate in Port Augusta until 1874, when Special Magistrate E Gower was appointed.(The Northern Argus, 31 March 1874).
1880s building boom
As in many areas of Australia, the 1880s saw a building boom in Pt Augusta with new bank buildings, a Customs House, and a post and telegraph office. New facilities for the administration of justice were called for and in 1884 a new courthouse was constructed, (Port Augusta Then and Now, State Library of South Australia).
Circuit Courts began in the Port Augusta Courthouse in 1889, (South Australian Register, October 1889).
Among the many and varied cases was the drowning in 1890 of a 40 year old man, a drover from Queensland, formerly from Scotland. The Coroner travelled from Adelaide to hold an inquest in the Port Augusta Courthouse, (The Advertiser, 1890).
In early times, as a matter of practicality, courthouses weren’t only used for the administration of justice.
In 1896 the Northern Land Board met at the Courthouse to consider applications for land. An important function of the Board was to administer transfers of land ownership. Also dealt with were applications for reductions in rent and surrenders of old leases for new perpetual leases. These were governed by the Act of 584 of 1893, (The Chronicle, 27 June 1896).
Courthouse was a venue for public administration generally
Even the monthly meeting of the Pt Augusta Hospital Board was held in the Courthouse, (The Chronicle, 22 October 1898).
The Northern Licensing Bench would meet at the Courthouse to consider applications and renewals for licenses for ‘old Publican’s Houses and billiards’, storekeepers’ licences, storekeepers’ colonial wines licenses, billiard table licenses and slaughterhouse applications, (The Chronicle, 20 March 1897).
A growing community – more Circuit Courts
In the early twentieth century a monthly Circuit Court arrangement was established to provide services to the Pt Augusta community.
Justic Cleland presided over the Circuit Court session of November 1937. One case concerned the occurrence of wood placed over the railway line. This was alleged to be an attempt to escape custody: The Advertiser, 10 November 1937.
A National Heritage listing
The Port Augusta Courthouse, 1 Jervois St, Port Augusta, SA, has been listed on the Australian Heritage Database, ID number 6919, the Australian Government Department of the Environment. More history can be read there.
15 September 2013, updated June 2023