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November 2, 2023

How has Adelaide changed in the past 10 years?

From building reforms to new festivals, much has changed for the better in the City of Churches – including hardly anyone using that term anymore. But some lofty ambitions are still to be realised.

  • Words: Jim Plouffe
  • Illustrations: Owen Lindsay


In 2012, then planning minister John Rau wowed the city by allowing buildings to exceed 30 storeys for the first time, and the race was on to dwarf Westpac House (now RAA Place). It took a while, but there are now six buildings over 30 storeys. Last month the Adelaide Economic Development Board released a report showing there are also five developments over 30 storeys in the works, including the SA1 Tower topping out at 55 floors.


This article first appeared in our 10 Years of CityMag, Spring 2023 edition, which is on streets now.



The state has a long history of arts and culture – that’s why licence plates used to declare to the entire nation that we are ‘the Festival State’ – but even compared to the Dunstan days, Adelaide is now truly the festival capital of Australia. Mad March has long been a misnomer, but today is completely wrong, with at least 13 major festivals being staged throughout the year – and winter and spring having the most number of festivals. Alas, now we are the Koala State or Defence State or Space State, take your pick, but know partying is in our DNA if not on licence plates.



The city council declares Adelaide ‘a city built for cyclists’, which is only true because we lack hills. A decade ago, the City of Adelaide launched a survey for feedback on bike lane designs along Frome and, interestingly, Pulteney Street to North Terrace. The idea was to begin construction in early 2013. It took till May 2014 to open the separated lane and then the troubles really began with redesigns and parts being ripped up until we are left with 1.6km of Frome Street path that doesn’t even get you all the way to North Terrace. Less than 250 cyclists use it each day.



They officially started in 2012 but no one was really drinking in them until 2013. So, from a base of zero, Adelaide has gained a multitude of small venues where the fun police can no longer insist you remain seated or must eat. According to the Attorney-General’s Department, there are currently 150 Small Venue Licences in Adelaide. But as this recent story explains, the number doesn’t reflect the cultural blossoming the licencing change triggered in SA.



Around 13,000 people called the city home in 2013 and 18,300 souls lived here at the last Census in 2021. We are equally split between men and women, with a median age of 31. About 25 per cent of the population identify as Chinese, which makes the city more diverse than the rest of SA. Back in 2013, the mix was almost even between English and Chinese cultural affiliation. One thing the stats do disprove is that although we have quite a few churches, more than half the population doesn’t attend them.


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