A service town for an agricultural area that produces wool, wheat, vineyards, cattle and a variety of seeds and cereals, it is also remembered as the birthplace of Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke. The town boasts the only known colony of white kangaroos in Australia.
Where is it?: South east. 275 km south east of Adelaide on Dukes Highway; 82 metres above sea level.
Bordertown Wildlife Park
Bordertown Wildlife Park: developed in 1968 and is situated just near the turn-off from the Dukes Highway at the eastern entrance to the town. Visitors are able to drive or walk right around the 4.5 hectare park and its inhabitants are all quite easily observed through the fence. Entrance to the park is not permitted, however. In the park are Red, Grey and Western Grey kangaroos, emus, Red Neck and Dama wallabies as well as a variety of birdlife. The park is famous, though, for its colony of white kangaroos that are a genetic strain of the Western Grey.
Natural features: Poocher Swamp; Bordertown Wildlife Park; Padthaway Conservation Park (30 km south west); Bangham Conservation Park (34 km south); Little Desert National Park (Victoria, 40 km south west).
Bordertown railway station
The heritage listed Bordertown Railway Station was built in American Art Nouveau style in 1914. Identical stations were built at Moonta, Tailem Bend, Wallaroo and numerous other locations South Australia. The railway arrived in Bordertown on 22 September 1881 when the Kingston SE to Narracoorte line was extended north. It became a junction station in 1886 with the arrival of the Adelaide-Wolseley line with the station built in 1914. The only passenger rail service which stops at the station is Great Southern Rail's twice weekly Overland service operating between Adelaide and Melbourne.
Childhood home of Bob Hawke
This modest house in a street off the main highway was where former Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, lived as a child. Built in 1884 and located on Farquhar Street, the sandstone home was the birthplace of Bob Hawke, on 9th December 1929. The house was built in 1885 as the National Bank Office and Manager's residence and was bought in 1897 for 420 by the Congregational Church.
Clem Hawke was the congregational minister of Bordertown, serving in this position from 1928 1935. When the Hawke family moved to Maitland on the Yorke Peninsula, the house remained as the Manse until the Uniting Church was formed in 1977. The property is now privately owned and the house contains offices for several community organisations including the Tatiara Employment Support Service. A number of photographs of Bob Hawke are displayed inside the house and for some years a cartoon gallery was a feature in one of the main rooms.
Former Prime Minister Bob (Robert James Lee) Hawke was born in Bordertown on 9th December 1929, the second son of Ellie and Clem Hawke. Since Bob Hawke became Prime Minister, Bordertown has utilised this fact to promote tourism in the area.
Since moving away with his family in 1935 Bob Hawke has made three official visits back to Bordertown. He returned briefly in 1972 as part of the federal election campaign, then in 1982 he and his father Clem attended the 500th Dinner Meeting of the Bordertown APEX Club and then in October 2002, when Bob Hawke attended the official opening of the Hawke Gallery at the Tatiara Council Chambers. On this occasion he was also a guest and speaker at a school assembly held in the Bordertown Primary School. The Bob Hawke Gallery is located in the Tatiara Council Lobby of the Council Chambers located on Woolshed Street. The Gallery is open Monday Friday, 9am 5pm.
The border railway station at Serviceton
Why Bordertown is not the border town
Contrary to what its name suggests, Bordertown is not on the South Australian/Victorian border but 18 km away on the South Australian side. That is because, when the town was established, there was a dispute between the colonies of South Australia and Victoria as to where the border between them was. South Australia built the town where they believed the border should be, but when a High Court decision settled the dispute in Victoria's favour, the town was left high and dry in South Australia.
The border between Victoria and South Australia was intended to be on the 141° east meridian east but, owing to an error first made by NSW surveyor Charles James Tyers and then by surveyors sent in to correct Tyers' mistake, border markers were placed 3.6 km west of the meridian. When Victoria was proclaimed a separate province from New South Wales in 1851, the western border of the latter was defined as the South Australian border. Specific reference to the 141° east meridian was deliberately omitted, as South Australia and Victoria were in dispute as to where that border was.
When South Australia and Victoria built their respective railway lines up to the border, there was supposed to be only one station and a town to support it at the border, but as that was in dispute, South Australia built the town at Bordertown and Victoria built theirs at Serviceton. The latter was built as near as possible to the centre of the disputed territory - a strip of land 4.5 km in width which stretched along the total length of the SA/Vic border - and was accepted as the border station by both states, at least until the matter was resolved. When the station was built, there were two separate platforms and two engine sheds, one for each state's trains.
In pre-Federation times, border towns were important customs stations where excise had to be paid on goods passing between the colonies. Everything was unloaded and put onto another train, hence the sizeable railway station complex at Serviceton. Customs excise laws proved difficult to enforce because the town was in the disputed territory. Upon reaching Serviceton station, those bringing goods from South Australia told the Victorian customs officers they were not crossing the border, but were in fact already in Victoria, and therefore no duty was payable. Those bringing goods from Victoria into South Australia told the South Australian customs officers they were still in Victoria and had not crossed the border into South Australia, therefore no duty was payable. The Victorian customs officers were all too quick to confirm this. Smuggling was therefore a very profitable business.
A High Court judgement in 1911 eventually ruled in Victoria's favour, establishing that the border was where it had originally been surveyed. Serviceton was now legally fully in Victoria, and became the offical border station. Nevertheless, the South Australian Railways and its successors continued to claim ownership of the railway line to Serviceton, as according to them, the town is in South Australia, even though the High Court's ruling placed it in Victoria. And as if to have the last word on the matter, South Australia decided to not change the name of Bordertown, even though the High Court ruling meant determined once and for all that it was not a border town.
Brief history: European graziers began settling in the area in the 1840s. In 1852, Captain Alexander Tolmer surveyed an overland route through the 90 Mile Desert along which gold escorts from the western Victorian goldfields to Port Adelaide could travel. He nominated the states' border as a suitable place for a depot on the route and suggested the stopping place be named after him.
Tolmer was apparently quite upset when they chose the un-original name of Bordertown instead. One of town's functions was to be a checkpoint between Victoria and South Australia where the Victorian Government could stop the flow of Chinese immigants to its goldfields who were sneaking in through the back door (South Australia). That never happened as the town was built where South Australia believed the border to be, which was 18 km away from where Victoria believed the border to be (see above). The Chinese passed through the town without any trouble as Victorian government officials had no jurisdiction in the town and were powerless to stop them.
In July 1852, 120 allotments were sold (the cost was 50 shillings for a quarter acre block). It continued as a service centre after the goldrush, particularly after the arrival of the railway in 1886.
Origin of name: In the early days of European settlement, the are was known as 'tatiara', its local Ngarrindjeri Aboriginal name said to mean 'good country'. The name Bordertown was first given to a depot established near the state border on the gold escort route between the western Victorian goldfields and Port Adelaide when the route was being established.