Australia's First Free Settlement
The South Australian Company was established by an Act of Parliament in England in 1834. Its charter was to establish the first colony somewhere along the coast between the Great Australian Bight and Port Phillip Bay. By 1836 the company had acquired a fleet of ships and chose Kangaroo Island to start Australia's first free settled colony. On 27 July 1836 the barque Duke of York anchored in Nepean Bay and began the first formal settlement in South Australia at the place now known as Reeves Point. Several other ships soon joined the Duke of York. Passengers were 'Capitalists' (as defined in the Company Prospectus) or carefully selected workers, many with families. Challenged by a shortage of water and building timber, the formal settlement was to last less than four years. At its peak some 300 people lived there, and 42 dwellings and other buildings were constructed.
Some persistent individuals stayed on and formed the basis of a community that prided itself on a strong sense of independence. Reeves Point remains as testimony to the hopes and aspirations of the early pioneers. In 1982 the site was placed on the South Australian Heritage Register. Poignant reminders of the early days include the first European cemetery, site of the first post office, early house sites, original jetty remains, and the mulberry tree that grew from a cutting brought out from England with the first settlers.