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Dunstan, Donald Allan 1926-1999

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Born: 21 September 1926 [Suva, Fiji]

Died: 6 February 1999 [Adelaide, South Australia]

Politician; twice Premier of South Australia

Dunstan was born in Suva, Fiji where his South Australian parents had been living for about 10 years. At seven he was sent to live with family at Murray Bridge. Dunstan completed his secondary education at St Peters College and then attended Adelaide University, graduating with a Bachelor of Law in 1948. During his time at university Dunstan joined the Australian Labor Party. He was admitted to the Bar and worked in Fiji and Adelaide. Dunstan was made a Queen's Counsel in 1965. He entered politics in 1953 when he was elected Member for Norwood.

When Labor came to power in 1965, Dunstan became Attorney General, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Minister of Social Welfare. In June 1967, Premier Frank Walsh retired and Dunstan was elected leader of the party and thus, South Australian premier and treasurer. The Labor Party lost the next state election in April 1968, but after a short period in opposition was returned in the 1970 election. Dunstan was then premier and treasurer of South Australia until his retirement due to ill health in February 1979. During his time as premier, Dunstan oversaw reform in the areas of Aboriginal land rights, consumer protection, electoral law and censorship. The Dunstan government introduced anti-discrimination laws to protect the rights of women, indigenous people and homosexuals. Dunstan supported the arts, overseeing the establishment of the Adelaide Festival Centre, the South Australian Film Corporation and the expansion of the Adelaide Festival of Arts. He supported multiculturalism and his stance helped bring an end to the federal government's 'White Australia' policy. Also under the Dunstan government, the liquor licensing laws were reformed, allowing pubs and bars to serve alcohol until 10 pm (eliminating the infamous 'six o'clock swill') and restaurants to establish 'al fresco' eating areas. Such was Dunstan's influence on the legal, political, social and cultural landscape of the state that the 1970s in South Australia have become known as the 'Dunstan Decade'.

After his political career, Dunstan was chairman of the Victorian Tourist Commission and national president of the Freedom from Hunger Campaign (1982-1987). He was president of the Movement for Democracy in Fiji and a member of the Nelson Mandela Foundation from 1987. In the early 1990s Dunstan was national chairman of Community Aid Abroad for several years. In 1994 he opened his own restaurant, Don's Table, at Norwood with his longtime partner Stephen Cheng.


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Key achievements

1948: Admitted to the Bar

1953-1979: Member for Norwood

November 1965: Appointed Queen's Counsel

1965-1967: Attorney General and Minister of Social Welfare and Aboriginal Affairs

June 1967-April 1968: Premier of South Australia

September 1967: Liquor licensing laws changed to extend hotel opening hours and allow 'al fresco' dining

April 1968-June 1970: Leader of the Opposition

June 1970-February 1979: Premier of South Australia

1976: Published Don Dunstan's Cookbook

1978: Legislation introduced to recognise traditional rights of Pitjantjatjara people to their lands

June 1979: Made Companion of the Order of Australia (AC)

1982-1987: Chairman of Victorian Tourist Commission

1982-1987: National president of Freedom from Hunger Campaign

1987-1993: Member of Nelson Mandela Foundation

1990-1994: Chairman of Jam Factory Craft and Design Centre

1992-1993: National chairman of Community Aid Abroad

1994: Opened restaurant Don's Table

1997-1999: Adjunct Professor, Department of Social Enquiry, University of Adelaide

Did you know?

Dunstan was known for his non-conformist attitude and fashionable dress sense - he attracted national attention when he wore tight pink flannel shorts into Parliament in November 1972.

See also:

Further reading

Dunstan, Don. Felicia, the political memoirs of Don Dunstan, South Melbourne : Macmillan, 1981

Don Dunstan, 1926-1999 : a Labor Herald tribute, Barton, ACT : Labor Herald, 1999

Don Dunstan Foundation Oral History Project, [sound recording] Interviewer: Peter Donovan, OH 715

[Don Dunstan : Premier of S.A.][Scrapbook], [Adelaide]; [1967-1999]

Rann, Mike. 'Mike Rann on Don Dunstan', Moments in time: true life stories of Australian men and women, ed. Debra Kandelaars, Sydney, N.S.W. : ABC Books for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2004, pp. 128-130

Spoehr, John, ed. Don Dunstan : politics and passion, selected essays from the Adelaide review, Unley, S. Aust. : Bookends, c2000


Flinders University Library: Special Collections: See Dunstan Collection: Biography

University of Adelaide: Don Dunstan Foundation: See Don Dunstan: Biography and Political Career

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