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Cows Only!

Mary Lee Park (Park 27B)

Did you know that in 1963 there were well over a thousand livestock grazing on the Park Lands?

photo-icon Mary Lee, State Library of South Australia, B 70647, circa 1880
photo-icon "Cows Only" sign in the Park Lands, circa 1956

One of the most enduring images of the Park Lands until the end of the 1960s was of signs dotted throughout bearing the words ‘Cows Only’. Eventually, all that remained of these were the last two dozen cows in Mary Lee Park (Park 27B), next to the North Adelaide Railway Station. These were finally removed in 1972, while 60 odd horses still grazing in several parks were brought together in Lefevre Park / Nantu Wama (Park 6) in North Adelaide.

To ensure that the Park Lands were suitable for livestock, it took almost 128,748m of fencing for the entire Park Lands to be completed in 1880. However, within 20 years of being completed, the fences began to slowly be removed.

Originally part of Bonython Park / Tulya Wardli (Park 27), this area became separated when the government constructed a railway line from Adelaide to Port Adelaide.

The North Adelaide Railway Station was also built in 1857 and remains today as one of the oldest surviving railway stations in South Australia.

In 2017, the park name was named after Mary Lee, an Irish-Australian suffragist and social reformer in South Australia.

After arriving in Australia as a widow in 1879, Mary Lee worked single-mindedly for political and social reforms, devoting herself with compassion to social causes despite her slender means. Mary Lee worked on the Female Refuge Committee and in 1883, became the foundation secretary of the Social Purity Society working for legal changes in women's sexual and social status. Most notably though, was her work as a suffragist, where she, along with Purity Society members, inaugurated the South Australian Women's Suffrage League in July 1888.

Through her work in the league, Mary Lee played an instrumental role in the passing of the Constitution Amendment Act on 18 December 1894, making South Australia the first state in Australia to gain the parliamentary vote for women, on the same terms as men. Additionally, it gave them the right to postal votes and to stand for parliament.

City of Adelaide acknowledges the traditional Country of the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains and pays respect to Elders past and present. We recognise and respect their cultural heritage, beliefs and relationship with the land. We acknowledge that they are of continuing importance to the Kaurna people living today. We also extend that respect to other Aboriginal Language Groups and other First Nations.

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