Whyalla is the third most populous city in South
Australia after Adelaide and Mount Gambier. It is a
seaport located on the east coast of the Eyre
Peninsula in South Australia.
It was founded as Hummock's Hill in 1901 by the
Broken Hill Proprietary Company (BHP) as the end of
a tramway bringing iron ore from the Middleback
Ranges to be used in the lead smelters at Port Pirie
as flux. A jetty was built to transfer the ore. The
settlement consisted of small cottages and tents
clustered around the base of the hill. The Post
Office opened in 1901 as Hummock's Hill and was
renamed Whyalla on 1 November 1919.
The arid environment and lack of natural fresh water
resources made it necessary to import water in
barges from Port Pirie.
In 1905 the town's first school opened. It was
originally called Hummock Hill School, and was
subsequently renamed as Whyalla Primary School and
Whyalla Higher Primary School. The school's current
name is Whyalla Town Primary School.
On 16 April 1920 the town was proclaimed as Whyalla.
The ore conveyor on the jetty was improved and ore
began to be shipped to the newly built Newcastle,
New South Wales steelworks. The town grew slowly
The BHP Indenture Act was proclaimed in 1937 and
provided the impetus for the construction of a blast
furnace and harbour. In 1939 the blast furnace and
harbour began to be constructed and a commitment for
a pipeline from the Murray River was made. A
shipyard was built to provide ships for the Royal
Australian Navy. The population began rising
dramatically and many new facilities, including a
hospital and abbatoirs, were built.
In 1941 the first ship from the new shipyard,
HMAS Whyalla, was launched and the blast furnace
became operational. By 1943 the population was more
than 5,000. On 31 March 1943, the Murray River
pipeline from Morgan became operational. In 1945 the
city came under combined company and public
administration and the shipyard began producing
commercial ships. In 1948 displaced persons began
arriving from Europe.
In 1958 the Company decided to build an integrated
steelworks at Whyalla. They were completed in 1965.
In the following year salt began to be harvested and
coke ovens were built. The population grew extremely
rapidly, and the South Australian Housing Trust was
building 500 houses a year to cope with the demand.
Plans for a city of 100,000 were produced by the
Department of Lands. A second pipeline from Morgan
was built to cope with the demand.
In 1970 the city adopted full local government
status. Fierce competition from Japanese ship
builders resulted in the closing of the shipyards in
1978, which were at the time the largest in
Australia. From a peak population of 33,000 in 1976
the population dropped rapidly. A decline in the BHP
iron and steel industry since 1981 also impacted
The BHP long products division was divested in 2000
to form OneSteel which is the sole producer of rail
and steel sleepers in Australia.
From 2004 northern South Australia enjoyed a mining
boom and Whyalla found itself well placed to benefit
from new ventures, being situated on the edge of the
Gawler Craton. The city experienced an economic
upturn with the population slowly increasing and the
unemployment rate falling to a more typical level.
Whyalla has a semi-arid climate with hot summers and
cool winters, and mild rainfall spread throughout
According to the 2006 Census the population of the
Whyalla census area was 21,122 people, making it the
second largest urban area in the state outside of
Adelaide. Approximately 50.6% of the population were
male, 73% are Australian born, over 86.3% of
residents are Australian citizens and 3.6% were
The most popular industries for employment were
Metal Manufacturing (17.9%), School Education (5.8%)
and Health (4.8%), while the unemployment rate is
approx. 5.6%. The median weekly household income is
A$744 or more per week, compared with $924 in
Adelaide. 19.7% of the population identify
themselves as Catholic, while a higher 29.8%
identify with no religion at all.
2007 population estimates have Whyalla's population
at 22,612 people, an increase of 7% on the previous
year. This constitutes the city's largest growth
A narrow gauge so-called tramway was built to Iron
Knob to supply iron ore originally used as flux when
smelting copper ore. This ore became the basis of
the steelworks. As the Iron Knob deposits were
worked out, the railway was diverted to other
sources of ore at Iron Monarch, Iron Prince, Iron
Duke and Iron Baron.
To enable interchange between the BHP's other
steelworks in Newcastle and Port Kembla of
specialised rollingstock, the railway system within
the Whyalla steelworks was converted to standard
gauge circa 1963.
Although the steelworks produced railway rail, for
several decades there was no railway connection to
the mainland system. Finally in 1972, a standard
gauge link to Port Augusta was completed.
Some iron ore is exported from Whyalla. In 2007,
steps were being taken to export iron ore from
Peculiar Knob, 600 km away.
Whyalla is served by Whyalla Airport, with Regional
Express flying into Whyalla from Adelaide a number
of times a day. On 31 May 2000, Whyalla Airlines
Flight 904 (registration VH-MZK) crashed into the
Spencer Gulf due to engine failure in mid flight.
All 8 people on board (1 Pilot, 7 Passengers) died.
The city is also served by Premier Stateliner which
operates 4 coach (bus) services to and from Adelaide
(via Pt Augusta) each week day (less on weekends)
and one service each way to Pt. Lincoln. There are
however occasional exceptions to the week day route
due to lack of demand to travel through Whyalla.
Though maintaining strong effort for the tourism
industry, Whyalla has struggled to compete with
other cities in the area in regards to tourism. Such
attractions possessed by the city to attract more
tourists include HMAS Whyalla.
HMAS Whyalla was a World War II-era corvette. It was
the first ship built in the city of Whyalla and was
named after the city. The ship was landlocked as a
tourist attraction in 1987, the main attraction of
the Whyalla Maritime Museum.
In the late 1990s the spectacular annual migration
of the Australian Giant Cuttlefish Sepia apama to
the reef areas in the Spencer Gulf north of Whyalla
around Black Point and Point Lowly became recognised
by international divers. It has also come to the
attention of divers of Whyalla, that the same area
in which the cuttlefish breed is, just a few months
later, the place of congregation for squid, which
also come there to breed. This has only come to the
attention of locals in 2005. There are also dolphins
that frequent the local marina.
The Whyalla Conservation Park provides an example of
the natural semi-arid environment.
The Hummock Hill lookout provides excellent views
across the town, the port and the coast.
Whyalla is home to the annual Snapper Fishing
Competition. Those who have not fished commercially
in the past 12 months are invited to try their luck
over a weekend. Prizes are awarded bases on
individual fish weights. Tagging also takes place at
State & Federal
Whyalla is part of the state electoral district of
Giles, which has been held since 1997 by Labor MP
Lyn Breuer. The seat is held by a margin of 14.4%.
In federal politics, the city is part of the
division of Grey, and has been represented by
Liberal MP Rowan Ramsey since 2007. Grey is held
with a margin of 8.86% and is considered
safe-liberal. The results shown are from the largest
polling station in Whyalla Norrie — which is located
at Nicolson Avenue Primary School.
Whyalla is in the City of Whyalla local government
area (along with some of the sparsely inhabited
areas around it).
Primary schools in Whyalla include Whyalla Town
Primary School, Fisk Street Primary School, Long
Street Primary School, Hincks Avenue Primary School,
Memorial Oval Primary School, Whyalla Stuart Campus,
Nicolson Avenue Primary School, Whyalla Christian
School, St Teresa's and Our Lady Help of Christians.
Secondary Education is provided by Whyalla High
School, Stuart High School, Edward John Eyre High
School and Saint John's College, Whyalla.
Tertiary education is provided by the Spencer
Institute of TAFE, and the Whyalla Campus of the
University of South Australia. UniSA Whyalla's
academic programs include business, social work,
nursing and research opportunities in rural health
and community development.
Whyalla has two sister cities, according to the
Australian Sister Cities Association.
Texas City, Texas
Notable people from Whyalla
Robert Bajic - soccer player
Aileen Ekblom OBE - first female and longest serving
Mayor of Whyalla 1975-1991
Levi Greenwood - AFL player with North Melbourne
Barrie Robran 3 time SANFL Magarey Medal winner
(1968, 1970, 1973)
Ian Rawlings - actor
Vern Schuppan - former Formula One driver and 1983
24 Hours of Le Mans winner
Robert Shirley - AFL player with Adelaide Crows
Peter Stanley - historian
Carl Veart - International soccer player. Played 18
games for the Socceroos.
Isaac Weetra - AFL player with Melbourne Demons