Prior to the departure of the first group of colonists from England for Australia, a judge was appointed to the Supreme Court of South Australia. A comprehensive legal system for the State developed, evidenced in the records held by State Records of South Australia relating to its operation [1]. This Fact Sheet is an essential starting point for any researcher seeking to understand the depth of this collection of records.

Supreme Court

Five days after the proclamation of the colony, on 2 January 1837, the Supreme Court was established. State Records holds a large collection of Supreme Court records including case records such as criminal files, civil files, and records of other areas of the court’s jurisdiction including lunacy petitions, matrimonial petitions (pre 1976) [2], company petitions, revenue petitions and the hearing of insolvency matters. For records of the Supreme Court search our Catalogue, ArchivesSearch, for Government Record Group (GRG) 36 and Government Agency (GA) 445 - Supreme Court of South Australia.

District Court

Prior to the establishment of the District Court in 1969, matters were heard by the Local Court (summary and minor matters) or by the Supreme Court (all other matters).  To find records prior to 1969 search by the name of the Local Court: e.g. Burra Court (within GRG 4). Records held include civil and criminal record books, Justice’s minute books and registers of summons issued.

After 1969 District Court records can be searched for using the central agency name – GA 1078 District Court of South Australia.  State Records holds a range of records including criminal case files, court files and Appeals Tribunal files.

Magistrate’s Court

The Magistrate’s Court of South Australia was established in 1992. To find records for this Court refer to GA 2018 - Magistrate’s Court of South Australia.  State Records’ holdings include maintenance orders and civil record books.

Prior to 1991 records for civil and criminal matters heard outside of Adelaide should be searched for by the name of the Local Court: e.g. Burra Court and/or refer to GRG 4.  Records held include civil and criminal record books, Justice’s minute books and registers of summons issued.  To find Adelaide metropolitan area records refer to Adelaide Police Court [criminal] (GRG 65) or the Adelaide Local Court [civil] (GA 1943 or GRG 3). Records held include court files and minute books.

Other Courts

Youth Court – established in 1895. Holdings include adoption and case files. For Adelaide adoptions refer to the Children’s Court, and for country adoptions search by the name of the Local Court in the area.

GA 1076 Youth Court of South Australia

GA 1811 Children’s Court of South Australia

Warden’s Court – established in 1971. Hears and adjudicates matters relating to mining legislation.

GA 74 Department of Mines


Coroner’s Court – the current iteration was established in 2003. It is responsible for investigating deaths considered unusual or suspicious.

GA 371 State Coroner’s Office

GRG 1 Attorney General`s Department, predecessor and successor agencies 

Search ArchivesSearch using the keyword ‘Coroner’ and refer to State Records’ Inquests Fact Sheet

Industrial Relations Court – established in 1994. Responsible for interpreting awards and enterprise agreements, and deciding questions of industrial law.

GA 338 Industrial Court, from 1994 Industrial Relations Court

Environment, Resources and Development Court – established in 1993. This is a specialist court dealing with disputes, and law enforcement relating to the development and management of land, the natural and built environment and natural resources.

GA 2413 Environment, Resources and Development Court

Licensing Branch and Court – from 1837 the South Australian government licensed the sale of alcoholic beverages. This function was originally carried out by the Licensing Benches and was transferred to the Licensing Court in 1967, which closed in 1976. [3]

GRG 67 Licensing Branch, Attorney General’s Department, and predecessor and successor agencies 

Insolvency Court - the Supreme Court of South Australia was established as a Court of Insolvency in 1841. The Insolvency Court heard and adjudicated matters when an individual became financially insolvent/bankrupt and still owed money to his/her creditors. Bankruptcy became a federal function with the passage in 1928 of the Bankruptcy Act (Commonwealth).

GRG 66 Insolvency Court, Adelaide

GRG 68 Insolvency Courts, Country Districts

Probate Registry - the Supreme Court of South Australia has exclusive jurisdiction in South Australia to make orders in relation to the validity of a will of a deceased person, the appointment of an executor or an administrator and the administration of a deceased estate. The Probate Registry deals with applications for grants of probate or administration and other related matters, and keeps a register of probates and administrations granted by the Court.

GA 411 Probate Registry, Supreme Court of South Australia.

Finding and accessing Court records

Finding a Court record depends on knowing which Court will have heard the matter, the existence of indexes to the relevant Court records and any restrictions upon access placed on the records by the Court.

State Records holds a limited number of indices to Court records, which refer mainly to matters heard in the Supreme Court during the nineteenth century. For indexes to Magistrate and District Court records, contact each court’s registry.

Descriptions of records and their creators, along with access conditions are available via State Records’ catalogue ArchivesSearch. 

Access to many Court records is restricted. Researchers are required to apply to the relevant court registry for access; State Records can provide advice about the application process.



[1] For a more detailed history of the courts see:

[2] Divorce matters have been handled by the Family Court of Australia from 1976.

[3] See also J L (Bob) Hoad, Hotels and Publicans in South Australia, 1999.

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