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View north across Valley Lake and Marist Park to the eastern urban area of Mount Gambier from Centenary Tower
View north across Valley Lake and Marist Park to the eastern urban area of Mount Gambier from Centenary Tower

Mount Gambier is the second most populated city in South Australia with an estimated urban population of 28,684.[1] The city is located on the slopes of Mount Gambier (volcano) in the south east of the state, about 450 kilometres (280 mi) south-east of the capital Adelaide and just 17 kilometres (11 mi) from the Victorian border, it is the most important settlement in the Limestone Coast region and the seat of government for both the City of Mount Gambier and the District Council of Grant.

The city is well known for its geographical features, particularly its volcanic and limestone features, most notably its Blue Lake, parks and gardens, caves and sinkholes. The peak of the dormant volcano was the first place in South Australia named by European explorers. It was sighted in 1800 by Lieutenant James Grant from the survey brig, HMS Lady Nelson, and named for Lord James Gambier, Admiral of the Fleet. The peak is marked by Centenary Tower, built in 1901 to commemorate the first sighting, and at 192 m (630 ft) above sea level the landmark is the city's highest point.


Before European settlement, the Buandig (or Boandik) people were the original Aboriginal inhabitants of the area. They called it 'ereng balam' or 'egree belum', meaning 'home of the eagle hawk'.[5]

The peak of the dormant Mount Gambier crater was sighted in 1800 by Lieutenant James Grant from the survey brig, HMS Lady Nelson, and named for Lord James Gambier, Admiral of the Fleet.

The Henty brothers who owned large holdings in Portland, Western Victoria, laid claim to the land but were forced to retreat when the lands were granted to Evelyn Sturt, the brother of the explorer Charles Sturt. Industries soon began to appear. The Post Office opened on 22 September 1846,[6] John Byng built the Mount Gambier Hotel in 1847, and Dr Edward Wehl arrived in 1849 to begin a flour-milling operation.

Hastings Cunningham founded "Gambierton" in 1854 by subdividing a block of 77 acres (31 ha). From 1861 to 1878 the Post Office was known by this name before reverting to Mount Gambier. Local government appeared in 1863 when Dr Wehl, who now owned a substantial millhouse on Commercial Road, was elected chairman of the District Council of Mount Gambier. In December 1864 this became the District Council of Mount Gambier West and, at the same time, a separate District Council of Mount Gambier East was formed.

Incorporation in 1876 saw a further division, with the creation of the Town Council and Mr John Watson elected Mayor. Mount Gambier was governed in this fashion until 1932, when the District Council of East and West merged to form a single District Council of Mount Gambier once more.

On 9 December 1954, Mount Gambier was officially declared a city, and is now an important tourism centre in south-east South Australia.[7]


Mount Gambier's urban area is located mainly along the northern slopes and plain of a maar volcano of the same name, Mount Gambier. Comprising several craters, it is part of the Newer Volcanics Province complex of volcanoes. One of these contains a huge lake of high-quality artesian drinking water which changes colour with the seasons. In winter, it is a steel grey and then changes to a spectacular cobalt blue in the summer, giving rise to its name, Blue Lake. This 70-metre (230 ft) deep lake also accommodates a range of unusual aquatic flora and fauna, in particular fields of large stromatolites. There are several other craters in the city including Valley Lake and the Leg of Mutton Lake. The region surrounding the city also includes other volcanic features such as Mount Schank, along with many karst features such as water-filled caves and sinkholes.

The urban area extends outside of the City of Mount Gambier into the District Council of Grant where the following suburbs now exist: Suttontown, Mil Lel and Worrolong to the north of the city, Glenburnie and Yahl to the east, Compton to the west, and Moorak and OB Flat to the south.[8]

Mount Gambier has a warm-summer Mediterranean climate (Koppen: Csb). The town has warm dry summers and cool wet winters. July is the wettest month with an average of 100.2 mm falling on 22 days whilst February normally records the lowest rainfall with an average of 26 mm on an average 8 days. The highest ever temperature recorded in Mount Gambier was 44.9 °C on 2 February 2014[9] and the lowest ever temperature recorded was −3.9 °C on 20 June 1950 and 2 July 1960.[10] Mount Gambier has 40.5 clear days on an annual basis.[11]


The government in the south-east area of the state, consisting of three local councils, amounted to a single administration. In consequence, many residents of Victoria used to look across the border to Mount Gambier as their centre. Consequently, during the 1970s many elderly locals relocated to Victor Harbor and Moonta, both rural areas but with more resources available to cope with an ageing population. A 1976 study found that less than 10 per cent (around 160 people) of residents aged over 65 had lived in the area for less than 5 years, leading to a lack of specific aged-care facilities.[13]

According to the 2006 Census the population of the Mount Gambier census area was 24,905 people, making it the largest urban area in the state outside Adelaide, and the 50th largest urban area in Australia. Approximately 51.7% of the population were female, 84.9% were Australian born, over 91.5% of residents were Australian citizens and 1.6% were indigenous.

The most popular industries for employment were Log Sawmilling and Timber Dressing (8%), School Education (4.8%) and Retail Trade (3.8%), while the unemployment rate is approx. 7%. The median weekly household income is A$814 or more per week, compared with $924 in Adelaide.

According to the 2006 Census,[14][15] 60.0% of residents identified themselves as being Christian. The largest denominations represented were Catholics at 21.5%, Anglicans at 11.4%, the Uniting Church at 8.6%, and Presbyterians at 6.9%. 26.9% of people claim no religion. A further 12.1% of people chose either not to state their beliefs, or did not adequately define them.


The economy of Mount Gambier is driven by all three economic sectors, though it has emerged as a regional service economy with its main industry being the service industry and its key areas of business including tourism, hospitality, retail, professional services, government administration and education. The city's historic primary industry roots including mining, agriculture and forestry continue to play a key role as well as being a major road transport and trucking centre.

Mount Gambier is the major service centre for the tourism region known as The Limestone Coast. It is a progressive community, visitors enjoy city services and facilities. With many natural attractions, including volcanic craters, lakes, limestone caves, sinkholes and underground aquifers, surrounded by a thriving city with a wide range of accommodation, shopping and entertainment opportunities. Tourism generates around $100 million for the Mount Gambier economy.[16] The city is a major accommodation gateway for the region. Major tourism attractions include the Blue Lake and Valley Lake wildlife park and caves such as Umpherston Sinkhole, Cave Gardens and Engelbrecht Cave. Engelbrechts Cave is a popular cave diving venue. The region around Mount Gambier also has many water-filled caves and sinkholes which attract cave divers from around the globe.[17][18]

  • [[INLINE_IMAGE|//|// 1.5x, // 2x||h200|w267]] Blue Lake
  • [[INLINE_IMAGE|//|// 1.5x, // 2x||h200|w267]] Umpherston Sinkhole
  • [[INLINE_IMAGE|//|// 1.5x, // 2x||h200|w267]] Engelbrecht Cave

As a major service centre for the region, the city has several key retail districts including the Commercial Street CBD. Mount Gambier Marketplace, opened in August 2012, is one of two major shopping centres in the city, the other being Mount Gambier Central (formerly known as Centro Mount Gambier). Major department stores include Big W, Kmart, and Harvey Norman. Additionally each of the major supermarkets (Coles, Woolworths, Foodland, IGA) are represented. Servicing the financial sector are branches of the big four Australian retail banks (National Australia Bank, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, Commonwealth Bank and Westpac) along with Bendigo Bank and St.George Bank and a number of smaller independent financial services firms.


There are six Reception to Year 7 (R-7) Primary schools:

  • Reidy Park Primary School;
  • McDonald Park;
  • Compton Primary School;
  • Melaleuca Park;
  • Mulga Street Primary School; and
  • Mount Gambier North Primary School.

There are two Reception to Year 12 (R-12) colleges:

There are two high schools for Year 8 to 12:

Post-secondary education is offered by the following providers:

  • TAFE South Australia has a campus in Mount Gambier providing an extensive variety of vocational study.[19]
  • University of South Australia has a modern, state of the art campus in Mount Gambier which offers full-time or part-time undergraduate degrees in Education, Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work with enabling courses in Foundation Studies and Aboriginal Pathways Program also offered.[20]
  • Flinders University also operates Flinders Rural Health SA in the grounds of Mount Gambier Hospital.[21][22]


The local newspaper for Mount Gambier, Limestone Coast and South East region of South Australia is The Border Watch. It is published and available in the local area every Tuesday through Friday (with the exception of some public holidays such as Christmas Day). Daily newspapers from Melbourne (Herald Sun and The Age) and Adelaide (The Advertiser) as well as national newspapers such as The Australian and The Australian Financial Review are also available. Some newspapers from nearby towns such as Millicent and Penola, specialty newspapers like the British International Express weekly newspaper, agricultural newspapers such as The Weekly Times newspaper from Victoria and The South Australian Stock Journal (published by Rural Press) and The Independent Weekly from Adelaide are also available from local newsagents.

Historically, the town was served by multiple newspapers.[23] Two earlier papers, the biweekly Mount Gambier Standard (3 May 1866 – 1874),[24] and the South Eastern Star (2 October 1877 – 13 October 1930), were taken over by The Border Watch. Another, the South-Eastern Ensign (2 July 1875 – 30 June 1876), was also briefly printed. Later, a free commercial paper, the Exchange (1902– 8 October 1942) ran in opposition to the Watch, and was published by the Clark family. However, it ceased when the Second World War caused paper restrictions and a decline in advertising.[25]

WIN Television broadcasts Nine Network programming, Channel Seven broadcasts Seven Network programming & Channel Ten broadcasts Network Ten programming. The programming schedules for these channels is the same as Channel Nine, Channel Seven and Channel Ten in Adelaide, with local commercials inserted and some variations for coverage of Australian Football League or National Rugby League matches, state and national news and current affairs programs, some lifestyle and light entertainment shows and infomercials. As of February 2013, there are no local news programs for the Mount Gambier area since the closure of WIN Television's news operation.

On 11 November 2011, WIN Television commenced transmission of the digital TV multi-channels WIN Bold, WIN Peach, 9Go!, 9Gem (HD), 7Two (an acronym of "72") and 7mate (HD) for Mount Gambier and the surrounding South East region of South Australia.[26]

Due to the close proximity to the Victoria/South Australia state border, most people in Mount Gambier and some adjacent areas of southeast South Australia can receive television services from Western Victoria. These channels are broadcast from the Mount Dundas transmitter near the town of Cavendish, Victoria. The transmitter site is located approximately 100 kilometres northeast of Mount Gambier and broadcasts all the television channels from Western Victoria including Prime7 Television (AMV), WIN Television Victoria (VTV), Southern Cross Nine (BCV), the ABC and SBS Victorian services, as well as the digital free-to-air multi-channels that are also now available from the Mount Burr transmitter, north west of Mount Gambier.

Some ABC radio services can also be received from the nearby town of Naracoorte and from Western Victoria.

Arts and culture

The city's Civic Centre, around Cave Gardens, is the hub of the city's arts and includes the Riddoch Art Gallery, South Australia's major regional art gallery located in the adaptively reused old town hall complex. Also houses the University of South Australia's James Morrison Academy.[29] The complex was extended in 2011 to include "The Main Corner", a modern building which includes a theatre. Nearby are the public library, a cafe next to the library and the old post office.

Every year the town and the surrounding area, hosts nearly 7,000 secondary school musicians for the Generations in Jazz Festival. Jazz artists like James Morrison, Ross Irwin, and Graeme Lyall travel to perform and adjudicate the stage band competition. Special guests have included Gordon Goodwin and his Big Phat Band, Whycliffe Gordon and recently (2017) the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.[30]

There are four Australian rules football teams competing in the Western Border Football League: North Gambier, East Gambier, South Gambier and West Gambier. They have produced such AFL players as David Marshall, Nick Daffy and Matthew Clarke.

There is also a range of different sporting leagues and clubs in Mount Gambier and surrounding regions, including soccer, netball, basketball, tennis, hockey, cricket, swimming, cycling, triathlon,[31] rifle, gun and pistol shooting, lawn bowls, ten-pin bowling, angling, archery and golf.[32]

Motor sport is also popular, with the main facilities being the McNamara Park road racing circuit, and the Borderline Speedway, a 372-metre (407 yd) dirt track oval speedway nicknamed "The Bullring". Borderline Speedway hosts an annual Sprintcar event called the "Kings Challenge", first run in 1995 and is held in January each year a week before the Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic in nearby Warrnambool (Victoria), and two weeks before the Australian Sprintcar Championship. Borderline has played host to many Australian and South Australian speedway championships throughout its over 50-year history and is regarded as one of the best run and promoted speedways in Australia. The speedway is currently managed and promoted by former star sprintcar driver, Mount Gambier native Bill Barrows.[33] In 2007, Borderline hosted the fifth and final round of the Australian Solo Championship. The round and the championship was won by Australia's own reigning World Champion Jason Crump.

Mount Gambier is the home of "The Alex Roberts 100 Mile Classic", a cycling event that lays claim to the longest continuing open cycling event in South Australia. The event held annually by the Mount Gambier Cycling Club.[31]

The 120m Mount Gambier Gift was held annually on the first Saturday in December at Vansittart Oval was the 2nd richest professional footrace in South Australia. Resurrected in 2001 the athletic carnival includes races from 70m to 1600m and attracts athletes from all over Australia, mostly from South Australia and Victoria. Of the eleven Mount Gambier athletic carnivals held to date, three Victorians have won the 120 m Gift. On 3 December 2011, 21-year-old Wallace Long-Scafidi won the Gift for the second year in a row.[34] The race has not been held since 2012, and to this date continues to go unheld.[35]

There is only one national sporting side which is the Mount Gambier Pioneers. The Pioneers entered the South Eastern Basketball League in 1988 and currently play in the SEABL (South East Australian Basketball League). The Pioneers play at the Icehouse (Mount Gambier Basketball Stadium) which seats over 900 people and is also home to the Mount Gambier Basketball Association. The Pioneers have had four ABA / SEABL championships which occurred in 2003, 2014, 2015 and 2017. The 2003 side was rated second in the top 5 sides to have ever played in the league by a group of special selectors in 2012 to mark the leagues 25th anniversary celebrates. The Pioneers have been six-time champions of the South Conference in the SEABL, occurring in 2003, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. The Pioneers were also twice Runners-up of the South Conference occurring in 1997 and 2000.

In 2017 President Neale Boase, Head Coach Richard Hill and Club Captain Matt Sutton lead the team into its 30th season in the SEABL, with former NBL player Brad Hill and US imports.

The Mount Gambier Pioneers celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2013. This anniversary weekend also included a 10-year re-union of the 2003 championship side and a highlight game before the men played, including two teams of Pioneers players from the 25 years of existence. The Pioneers also listed their 25 best players of all time during this weekend. The number one Pioneer of all time going to 2003 Championship player and former import Jamie 'X-Factor' Holmes.

In 2015, The Mount Gambier Pioneers officially started their hall of fame status for people of the club. The Hall of Fame is divided into two categories; Player Members and General Members. There are a list of criteria that these people have to make. There are currently 6 Hall of Fame members:

  • Bill Hately (2015)
  • Tony Cook (2015)
  • Jason Joynes (2015)
  • Soyna Knight (2015)
  • Jason Sedlock (2015)
  • Jamie Holmes (2015)


Council Chamber in the Civic Centre at 10 Watson Terrace, Mount Gambier is the seat of local government for the City of Mount Gambier.[49] The council was created in 1932 when the District Council of Mount Gambier West and District Council of Mount Gambier East merged to become the District Council of Mount Gambier which was later proclaimed a city on 9 December 1954. The city consists of a mayor and ten councillors, elected equally from the East and West wards once every four years by postal voting. As of May 2017, the Mayor of Mount Gambier council is Andrew Lee. The local government area is situated entirely within the District Council of Grant and due to the city's growth there have been ongoing talks of amalgamation, the most recent boundary changes taking place in 2010.[50]

Law and order for the Limestone Coast region is maintained via the Mount Gambier Police Complex at 42 Bay Road Mount Gambier, the Mount Gambier Magistrates Court at 41 Bay Road Mount Gambier and the Mount Gambier Prison at Moorak south of the city.[51][52][53]

In state politics, Mount Gambier is located in the South Australian House of Assembly electoral district of Mount Gambier, which has been held since 2014 by former Liberal Party member Troy Bell, who was re-elected as an independent in the 2018 state election.[54]

In federal politics, Mount Gambier is located in the Australian House of Representatives division of Barker, which has been represented by Tony Pasin since 2013. It is a safe Liberal Party of Australia seat.


The city has a major regional hospital, Mount Gambier Hospital out of which operates the Mount Gambier and Districts Health Service. Additionally there are a number of private health services including the Mount Gambier Private Hospital.

The city's main catchment is the Blue Lake, the volcano lake is both a tourist attraction and the city's main reservoir. Water supply, sewage collection and disposal are provided by South East Catchment Water Management Board.

Mount Gambier sits on a number of highways which connect the city to other major towns in the region, as well as to Adelaide and Melbourne.

  • Princes Highway (Jubilee Highway) travels through the city east to west. [[INLINE_IMAGE|//|// 1.5x, // 2x|Australian Alphanumeric State Route A1.svg|h15|w30]] to Melbourne via Dartmoor, Portland and Warrnambool [[INLINE_IMAGE|//|// 1.5x, // 2x|Australian Alphanumeric State Route B1.svg|h15|w30]] to Adelaide via Millicent, Kingston S.E. and Meningie
  • Riddoch Highway (Penola / Bay Road) travels through the city north to south. [[INLINE_IMAGE|//|// 1.5x, // 2x|Australian Alphanumeric State Route A66.svg|h15|w30]] to Adelaide via Naracoorte and Keith [[INLINE_IMAGE|//|// 1.5x, // 2x|Australian Alphanumeric State Route B66.png|h15|w30]] to Port Macdonnell

Before conversion of the Adelaide-Wolseley railway line to standard gauge in 1995, Mount Gambier was connected to Adelaide on the broad gauge network via Naracoorte, Bordertown and Tailem Bend. Normal commercial passenger services to Adelaide ceased on 31 December 1990, while limited freight services operated until the line was disconnected from the national network on 12 April 1995. Limestone Coast Railway operated tourist trains to Coonawarra, Penola, Millicent, Tantanoola and Rennick until it ceased on 1 July 2006.

Mount Gambier Airport is located a few kilometres north of the city via the Riddoch Highway.[55] The city is served only by Regional Express, which flies Saab 340 aircraft to Adelaide and Melbourne a number of times a day.

Premier Stateliner operate coach services to Mount Gambier from Adelaide.[56] V/Line operates a daily interstate coach service from Mount Gambier to Warrnambool, connecting with a rail service to Melbourne.[57] The Visitor Centre (The Lady Nelson) is an agent for public passenger services tickets sales, and the services use the car park to arrive and depart from.

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