History

Coober Pedy, known nationally and internationally as the "Opal Capital of the World" is a vibrant and multicultural town of 3,500 people. It is located in the far north of the state, 850km north of Adelaide and 680km south of Alice Springs, on the Stuart Highway between Adelaide and Alice Springs.

For thousands of years Aboriginal people walked across this area. Because of the desert environment, these people were nomadic hunters and gatherers. Opal was first found in February 1915 and by 1917 opal miners came to settle and try their luck. After the Great War (1914-1918), returned soldiers also drifted to the fields to seek their fortune.

Coober Pedy was named by the local Progress and Miners Association in 1920 from the Aboriginal words "Kupa Piti", meaning white man's hole or waterhole. During the great depression of the late 1930's and 1940's, opal prices plummeted and production almost came to a standstill.

Typical of Coober Pedy's history of boom and bust, an Aboriginal woman named Tottie Bryant made a sensational opal find at the Eight-Mile field in 1946, starting a new rush to the fields.

During the 1960's, the mining industry expanded rapidly due to the many European migrants who came to seek their fortunes. The 1960's and 1970's saw opal mining develop into a multi-million dollar industry with Coober Pedy developing into a modern mining town.

In 1980, with a population of over 3,000 people and an ever increasing reliance on the Coober Pedy Progress and Miners Association Inc., a formal approach was made to the Minister of Local Government to establish a Select Committee to investigate the provision of Local Government in Coober Pedy. The outcome of the report submitted by the Select Committee was the creation of the Coober Pedy Act of 1981. The Act is tailored to the needs of a unique, isolated outback town experiencing problems of administration that are not normally encountered in other long-established Local Government areas. The first Council election was held in January 1987.

The introduction of Local Government in Coober Pedy at first caused considerable controversy in the town, but people understood that the more formal town administration established facilities that could not, in the past, have been provided.

The continued development of Coober Pedy can be attributed to the maintenance of its opal mining industry and the increasingly important role of tourism. Its recognition as a major regional centre for the Outback of South Australia has seen its importance to the delivery of Government services grow.

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