Governor of South Australia

The governor of South Australia is the representative in South Australia of the Monarch of Australia, currently King Charles III. The governor performs the same constitutional and ceremonial functions at the state level as does the governor-general of Australia at the national level. In accordance with the conventions of the Westminster system of parliamentary government, the governor nearly always acts solely on the advice of the head of the elected government, the Premier of South Australia. Nevertheless, the governor retains the reserve powers of the Crown, and has the right to dismiss the Premier. As from June 2014, the Queen, upon the recommendation of the Premier, accorded all current, future and living former governors the title 'The Honourable' for life.[1] The first six governors oversaw the colony from proclamation in 1836, until self-government and an elected Parliament of South Australia was granted in the year prior to the inaugural 1857 election.

Governor of South Australia
Badge of the Governor
Flag of the Governor
Frances Adamson
since 7 October 2021
StyleHer Excellency the Honourable
ResidenceGovernment House, Adelaide
NominatorPremier of South Australia
AppointerMonarch of Australia
on the advice of the Premier
Term lengthAt His Majesty's pleasure
(usually 5 years by convention)
Formation28 December 1836
First holderCaptain John Hindmarsh

The first Australian-born governor of South Australia was Major-General Sir James Harrison (appointed 1968), and most subsequent governors have been Australian-born. The first South Australian-born governor was Sir Mark Oliphant (appointed 1971), and the first Aboriginal governor was Sir Douglas Nicholls (appointed 1976).

The current governor is diplomat Frances Adamson who was sworn in at Government House, Adelaide on 7 October 2021,[2][3] replacing Hieu Van Le,[4] who held the role from 2014 to 2021.[5][6]

The governor's official residence is Government House, in Adelaide, the state's capital.


Prior to self-government, the governor was responsible to the Government of the United Kingdom and was charged with implementing laws and policy. Currently, the governor is responsible for safeguarding the South Australian Constitution and facilitating the work of the Parliament and state government.

The governor exercises power on the advice of ministers, conveyed through the Executive Council. Constitutional powers bestowed upon the governor and used with the consent and advice of the Executive Council include:

  • to appoint and dismiss ministers.
  • exercising the prerogative of mercy.
  • issuing regulations and proclamations under existing laws.
  • giving royal assent to bills passed by Parliament.
  • appointing judges, royal commissioners and senior public servants.
  • dissolving Parliament and issuing writs for elections.

The governor additionally maintains 'reserve powers' which can be used without the consent of the Executive Council. These powers relate to the appointment and dismissal of ministers and Parliament.[7]

Governor's standard

The governor standard of South Australia is the same design as the British blue ensign with the Union Flag at the upper left quarter. On the right side, the State Badge of South Australia, comprising a piping shrike in a golden disc, is surmounted by the St. Edward's crown.

If the standard is flying at Government House, on a vehicle or at an event, this indicates that the governor is present.

Past and present standards of the governor

Governor's Awards and Commendations


The Governor of South Australia supports outstanding achievers within the South Australian community through the presentation of a number of annual awards:[8]

  • The Governor's Multicultural Awards recognise and celebrate South Australians who promote multiculturalism and increase the understanding of the benefits of cultural diversity in our community; administered by the Department of the Premier and Cabinet through Multicultural Affairs. They are presented by His Excellency the Governor on the advice of an independent judging panel.[9]
  • The Governor's Aboriginal Youth Awards recognise young Aboriginal South Australians, aged between 15 and 29 years, who are showing potential and determination to achieve success, or who are excelling in their chosen field in one of three areas: Sport, Arts and Higher Education; delivered through a partnership between the Department of the Premier and Cabinet’s Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation division and the Office of the Governor.
  • The Governor’s Civics Awards for Schools provide the opportunity for young South Australians to develop their understanding of the role citizenship plays in a multicultural and democratic society. The inaugural awards in 2019 had two categories: an individual and a group award for Year 5 students; in 2020, they expanded to include students from Years 5-12.


The Governor also awards a series of commendations for excellence in the SACE year 12 exams, including:[10]

  • Governor of South Australia Commendation - Excellence Award
  • Governor of South Australia Commendation - Aboriginal Student SACE Excellence Award
  • Governor of South Australia Commendation - Excellence in Modified SACE Award.

List of governors of South Australia

No.PortraitGovernor[11]Term beginTerm endTime in office
Governor appointed by King William IV (1830–1837):
1Rear Admiral Sir John Hindmarsh KH28 December 183616 July 18381 year, 200 days
Governors appointed by Queen Victoria (1837–1901):
2Lieutenant-Colonel George Gawler KH17 October 183815 May 18412 years, 210 days
3Sir George Grey KCB15 May 184125 October 18454 years, 163 days
4Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick Holt Robe25 October 18452 August 18482 years, 282 days
5Sir Henry Fox Young KCMG2 August 184820 December 18546 years, 140 days
6Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell KCMG, CB8 June 18554 March 18626 years, 269 days
7Sir Dominick Daly4 March 186219 February 18685 years, 352 days
8The Rt Hon. Sir James Fergusson Bt16 February 186918 April 18734 years, 61 days
9Sir Anthony Musgrave KCMG9 June 187329 January 18773 years, 234 days
10Lieutenant-General Sir William Jervois GCMG, CB2 October 18779 January 18835 years, 99 days
11Sir William Robinson GCMG19 February 18835 March 18896 years, 14 days
12The Rt Hon. Earl of Kintore GCMG11 April 188910 April 18955 years, 364 days
13Sir Fowell Buxton Bt, GCMG29 October 189529 March 18993 years, 151 days
14The Rt Hon. Lord Tennyson GCMG10 April 189917 July 19023 years, 98 days
Governors appointed by King Edward VII (1901–1910):
15Sir George Le Hunte KCMG1 July 190318 February 19095 years, 232 days
16 Admiral Sir Day Bosanquet GCVO, KCB 18 February 1909 22 March 1914 5 years, 32 days
Governors appointed by King George V (1910–1936):
17 Lieutenant Colonel Sir Henry Galway KCMG, DSO 18 April 1914 30 April 1920 6 years, 12 days
18 Lieutenant Colonel Sir Archibald Weigall KCMG 9 June 1920 30 May 1922 1 year, 355 days
19 Lieutenant-General Sir Tom Bridges KCB, KCMG, DSO 4 December 1922 4 December 1927 5 years, 0 days
20 Brigadier The Hon. Sir Alexander Hore-Ruthven VC, KCMG, CB, DSO* 14 May 1928 26 April 1934 5 years, 347 days
21 Major-General Sir Winston Dugan KCMG, CB, DSO 28 July 1934 23 February 1939 4 years, 210 days
Governors appointed by King George VI (1936–1952):
22 Sir Malcolm Barclay-Harvey KCMG 12 August 1939 26 April 1944 4 years, 258 days
23 Lieutenant-General Sir Willoughby Norrie KCMG, CB, DSO, MC 19 December 1944 19 June 1952 7 years, 183 days
Governors appointed by Queen Elizabeth II (1952–2022):
24 Air Vice-Marshal Sir Robert George KCMG, KCVO, KBE, CB, MC 23 February 1953 7 March 1960 7 years, 13 days
25 Lieutenant-General Sir Edric Bastyan KCMG, KCVO, KBE, CB 4 April 1961 1 June 1968 7 years, 58 days
26 Major General Sir James Harrison KCMG, CB, CBE 4 December 1968 16 September 1971 2 years, 286 days
27 Professor Sir Mark Oliphant AC, KBE 1 December 1971 30 November 1976 4 years, 365 days
28 Sir Douglas Nicholls KCVO, OBE 1 December 1976 30 April 1977 150 days
29 Reverend Sir Keith Seaman KCVO, OBE 1 September 1977 28 March 1982 4 years, 208 days
30 Lieutenant General Sir Donald Dunstan AC, KBE, CB 23 April 1982 5 February 1991 8 years, 288 days
31 The Hon. Dame Roma Mitchell AC, DBE, CVO, QC 6 February 1991 21 July 1996 5 years, 166 days
32 Sir Eric Neal AC, CVO 22 July 1996 3 November 2001 5 years, 104 days
33 Marjorie Jackson-Nelson AC, CVO, MBE 3 November 2001 31 July 2007 5 years, 242 days
34 Rear Admiral The Hon. Kevin Scarce AC, CSC 8 August 2007 7 August 2014 6 years, 364 days
35 The Hon. Hieu Van Le AC 1 September 2014 31 August 2021 6 years, 364 days
36 Frances Adamson AC 7 October 2021 1 year, 115 days

Administrators and lieutenant-governors

These people administered the government in the absence of the official governor.[11]

George Milner Stephen1838
Boyle Travers Finniss1854-55
Lt.-Col. Francis Gilbert Hamley1868-69
Major James Harwood Rocke1870
Hon. Sir Richard Davies Hanson, Chief Justice1872-73
Sir William Wellington Cairns, K.C.M.G1877
Hon. Samuel James Way, Chief Justice, Lt.-Gov.1877 to 1915 (on 65 separate occasions)
Hon. James Penn Boucaut, Judge of Supreme Court1885, 1886, 1888, 1890, 1891, 1897
Hon. William Henry Bundey, Judge of Supreme Court1888
Hon. Sir George John Robert Murray, Chief Justice, Lt.-Gov.1916–24, 1926–42 (on 103 separate occasions)
Hon. Thomas Slaney Poole, Judge of Supreme Court1925 (on 2 occasions)
Hon. Sir Herbert Angas Parsons, Judge of Supreme Court1935 to 1942 (on 6 separate occasions)
Hon. Sir John Mellis Napier, Chief Justice, Lt.-Gov.1942 to 1973 (on 179 separate occasions)
Hon. Sir Herbert Mayo, Judge of Supreme Court1946 to 1965 (on 25 separate occasions)
Hon. Sir Geoffrey Sandford Reed, Judge of Supreme Court1951 to 1957 (on 5 separate occasions)
Hon. John Jefferson Bray, Chief Justice1968 to 1973 (on 8 separate occasions)
Hon. David Stirling Hogarth, Judge of Supreme Court1971
Sir Walter Crocker, Lt.-Gov.1973 to 1982 (on 29 separate occasions)
Hon. Sir Condor Laucke, Lt.-Gov.1982 to 1992 (on 43 separate occasions)
Hon. Leonard James King, A.C., Chief Justice1987
Hon. Dr. Basil Hetzel, Lt.-Gov.1992 to 2000 (on 32 separate occasions)
Hon. John Doyle, Chief Justice1999-2012 (on 10 separate occasions)
Hon. Bruno Krumins, Lt.-Gov.2000-2007 (on 60 separate occasions)
Hon. John William Perry, Judge of Supreme Court2002
Hon. Hieu Van Le, Lt.-Gov.2007–2014
Hon. Brenda Wilson, Lt.-Gov.2014–date


  1. SA Government Gazette
  2. Frances Adamson announced as South Australia's new governor, replacing Hieu Van Le - ABC News, ABC News, 19 May 2021
  3. "Frances Adamson sworn in as South Australia Governor". Sky News. 7 October 2021. Retrieved 7 October 2021.
  4. Former refugee Hieu Van Le sworn in as South Australia's governor during official ceremony, ABC News, 1 September 2014.
  5. Hieu Van Le to be next SA Governor, from war-torn Vietnam to vice-regal post: ABC 26 June 2014
  6. Kevin Scarce appointed SA governor by Premier Mike Rann Archived 31 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Press release, 3 May 2007,
  7. "Role of the Governor". Government House South Australia. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  8. "Governor's Awards". Governor of South Australia. 20 September 2021. Retrieved 24 January 2022. Text may have been copied from this source, which is available under a Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY 3.0 AU) licence.
  9. "Governor's Multicultural Awards". Department of the Premier and Cabinet (South Australia). 15 August 2022. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  10. "Commendations and awards". South Australian Certificate of Education. Retrieved 24 January 2022.
  11. "Table A: Governors and Administrators" (PDF). Parliament of South Australia. 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 March 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
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