South Barwon was created in 1976 as a predominantly rural seat which was considered safe for the conservative Liberal Party of Australia. It was won by Liberal Aurel Smith, formerly the member for Bellarine, upon its inception, and retained for the party by Harley Dickinson upon Smith's retirement in 1982. Dickinson held the seat until 1992, when he quit the party and attempted to retain the seat as an independent, but lost to endorsed Liberal candidate and former television newsreader Alister Paterson. The seat underwent significant demographic change during Paterson's tenure, with major population growth in the traditionally Labor-voting areas of Torquay, Barwon Heads and southern Geelong, causing the seat to become progressively less safe for the Liberal Party. These changes came to a head at the 2002 election, when Labor nominated former Geelong mayor Michael Crutchfield as its candidate, and amidst a statewide landslide victory, succeeded in taking South Barwon for the first time in its history. Crutchfield was re-elected in 2006, but lost in 2010 to local councillor and Liberal candidate Andrew Katos.