Roxby Downs, South Australia

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Roxby Downs
South Australia
Roxby Downs is located in South Australia
Roxby Downs
Roxby Downs
Coordinates 30°33′S 136°54′E / 30.550°S 136.900°E / -30.550; 136.900Coordinates: 30°33′S 136°54′E / 30.550°S 136.900°E / -30.550; 136.900
Population 4,500 est (2016 census)[1]
Established 1987
Postcode(s) 5725[2]
LGA(s) Municipal Council of Roxby Downs
State electorate(s) Giles
Federal Division(s) Grey
Mean max temp Mean min temp Annual rainfall
27.6 °C
82 °F
12.5 °C
55 °F
150.1 mm
5.9 in
Localities around Roxby Downs:
Roxby Downs Station Olympic Dam Andamooka
Roxby Downs Station Roxby Downs Andamooka Station
Roxby Downs Station Purple Downs Andamooka Station

Roxby Downs is a mining town in outback South Australia, 563 kilometres north of the state capital Adelaide. The town has a transient population of around 4,500 people with a large percentage of young people. Roxby Downs is often referred to as the most 'modern town of the outback' and it has many leisure and community facilities including aquatic, cinema, cultural precinct, community radio, shopping centre, schools, TAFE, cafes and sporting clubs and facilities. There are just two neighbouring towns in the area: Andamooka, an opal mining town about 30km to the east, and Woomera, 78km south of Roxby Downs. Roxby Downs offers a relaxed and family oriented lifestyle. Given the facilities, services, and opportunities available, it is Australia’s most highly regarded mining town.


Roxby Downs in the late 1980s

Roxby Downs was purpose built in 1987 to support the operations of the Olympic Dam mine, and was officially opened on 5 November 1988. The town was named after the cattle station on which it was built (which still exists today); at the time the site consisted only of desolate outback paddocks. A few workers were the first to arrive, some with young families, and they initially set up a caravan and tent city at the Olympic Dam settlement near the mine site. Conditions were tough, but the town’s growing population pulled together and forged a strong community spirit that still exists today.

Roxby Downs was purpose built to support the Olympic Dam mine. The mine was named after a livestock watering dam on the Roxby Downs pastoral lease under which the ore body lies. The dam became known as Olympic Dam as it was built during the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. BHP directly employs around 3,500 people for its Olympic Dam operations (some of whom work from BHP’s Adelaide offices), however thousands of other contractors and suppliers are supported through the mine’s operations. About four billion tonnes of copper has been exported globally from the Olympic Dam mine since operations began, contributing billions of dollars to the South Australian economy.

The town has a highly transient and young population. Over half of the population works in the mining industry. While the majority of people working in Roxby Downs also live there, around 30% of the town’s workers are on a fly-in fly-out (FIFO) or drive-in drive-out (DIDO) roster (2016 Census). Roxby Downs is a multicultural community, with people from around 40 nationalities living in the town.

Olympic Dam Mine[edit]

The Olympic Dam operation (including an underground mine and surface processing facility) was originally owned and run by Western Mining Corporation (WMC) and British Petroleum (BP), however WMC bought BP’s share in the late 1980’s. In 2005, BHP Billiton (now BHP) acquired Olympic Dam and has owned it since. The underground mine is one of the world’s most significant deposits of copper, uranium, gold, and silver. BHP has around 3,500 employees at its Olympic Dam mine, however this number is expected to grow in coming years. While many workers live in Roxby Downs, other employees work on a fly in fly out (FIFO) or drive in drive out (DIDO) basis.

Olympic Dam is the biggest contributor to Roxby Downs’ economy, with well over half of the town’s working population working in a mining-related field (2016 Census). When the operation flourishes, Roxby Downs benefits, and vice versa. When BHP cancelled a major expansion of Olympic Dam in 2012 due to falling commodity prices and slow economic growth, the township suffered, and many residents moved away. However recent investment announcements and major maintenance and upgrade works has increased the need for more workers at Olympic Dam, and consequently more people are moving to and/or working in Roxby Downs.

In 2017, BHP announced plans for a $2.8 billion expansion of Olympic Dam mine, and stated that there is so much copper at the site, “at current production rates, it would take 500 years to deplete it”.


Roxby Downs Council

The Roxby Downs municipality was established by WMC Resources in partnership with the State Government of South Australia in the 1980’s. The Municipal Council of Roxby Downs (known as Roxby Council) operates in a unique context that is quite different to other local government authorities, as it is guided by the Roxby Downs Indenture Ratification Act (1982) – an “Indenture” that governs the operations of the Municipality. Whilst Council operates with all the powers, functions, and duties of a traditional council in accordance with the Local Government Act 1999, there are some distinct variations which make the municipality unique:

  • Roxby Downs Council does not have elected Councillors
  • The Council functions by a state appointed Administrator who oversees all of the operations of council.
  • Roxby Downs Council has responsibility for town power and water/sewer facilities and operation.
  • The Council’s annual budget must be approved by the State Government and BHP – who also fund an annual operating deficit.
  • Many of Council’s construction maintenance, horticulture, and waste management functions are carried out by external contractors.

As well as providing electricity, water, and sewerage services, Council also delivers a wide range of traditional municipal services including roads, streets, footpaths, parks and gardens, and waste management. To support community life, Council also manages various sport, recreation, and cultural facilities including the Roxbylink complex, community ovals and associated buildings, and providing significant community cultural development activities.

In February 2017, the State Government appointed Geoffrey Whitbread – who had been acting in the role since May 2016 - as the new Administrator (part time) for the Council. Roy Blight was appointed as Council’s inaugural Chief Executive Officer in July 2017. These appointments effectively separate governance and decision making from the day to day operations of the Council and lead to increased accountability.

Roxbylink manages the local auditorium, which hosts many of the town's events and functions.


Roxbylink is a Business Unit of the Roxby Downs Council which provides leisure, recreation, and cultural support and services to the community. Roxbylink manages the local leisure centre, splashpad, swimming pool, library, auditorium, cinema, gymnasium, Dunes Café, art gallery, indoor stadiums, squash courts, Community Youth Centre, and Visitor Information Centre. It also provides support to local sporting clubs and athletes, and manages sporting leases. Roxbylink is an important community resource, and it also generates revenue for local services and projects.

Community Board and Forums

The Roxby Downs Community Board is made up of representatives from the town, BHP, and Roxby Downs Council. The Board acts as a reference and advocacy group and aims to improve the quality of life for residents in Roxby Downs.

The local representatives on the Community Board are from the interest group subcommittees known as forums. Residents are encouraged to join the various forums to participate in shaping Roxby Downs. The current forums are Business, Sport and Recreation, Arts and Culture, Volunteering, Family, Multicultural, Women’s Network, Health, Alcohol and Substance Abuse, Environment, Roadsafe, Youth, Education and Child Development, and Community Garden.


Roxby Downs has a young demographic.

Roxby Downs has a young population. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics' 2016 Census the breakdown is:

  • An estimated resident population of 4,500
  • The average household size is 2.67 people.
  • 37% of its population under the age of 19
  • A high proportion of pre-schoolers and a low proportion of retirees
  • A high percentage of workers in the mining industry
  • A median weekly personal income of $1,547
  • A low unemployment rate
  • A thriving multicultural community

Arrival and Discovery[edit]

An aerial view of Roxby Downs.

Roxby Downs sits like a modern oasis in the middle of the desert. The town is situated on a sloping plain to the south of the mine, surrounded by the red dirt of the desert, and framed by blue skies. It is also well known for its stunning sunsets. It is a vibrant and modern town that has been described by locals as the 'gateway to the outback'.

For international tourists, the Aussie experience hits an all-time high with kangaroos and emus known to walk the town’s streets. Visitors will also notice the relaxed feel of Roxby, as well as the great sense of community in the town.


Like most of inland South Australia, Roxby Downs has a desert climate, with little rainfall all year round. Roxby Downs is in one of the driest areas of the state. Summers are hot, with temperatures up to 45°C, while winters can be cold, particularly in the morning and at night, where temperatures can get to zero.

Climate data for Roxby Downs
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 48.5
Average high °C (°F) 37.2
Average low °C (°F) 21.1
Record low °C (°F) 11.5
Average precipitation mm (inches) 10.8
Average precipitation days 2.2 2.9 2.8 2.8 3.3 4.4 4.2 4.0 3.8 3.8 4.1 4.4 42.7
Source: [3]

Water and Power Supply[edit]

Water for Roxby Downs, Olympic Dam and the mine site is sourced from the Great Artesian Basin near the southern and eastern areas of Lake Eyre. The water is pumped 200km south to a desalination plant on the BHP mining lease, after which it is cooled, desalinated and stored for later distribution. Water for the township is then pumped 10km to a covered water supply dam on the outskirts of town.

Roxby Water (a business unit of Roxby Downs Council) purchases water from BHP at a predetermined price set out in the Indenture. Council then distributes, checks the quality against water quality standards, and if needed, chlorinates the water at its pump station before pumping it to residents within the township via approximately 35km of pipe work.

Water is very soft, of high quality, has a small amount of natural fluoride and is low in dissolved solids. Water has been tested and compared against a range of other urban water supplies and bottled water with favourable results. Water quality is strictly maintained.

Roxby Power (a business unit of Roxby Downs Council) is the distributor and retailer of electricity for the Roxby Downs township under conditions set out in the Indenture. Roxby Power operates under a Distribution Licence issued by the Essential Services Commission of South Australia (ESCOSA) and also reports to the Technology Regulator’s Office. Roxby Power is exempt from holding a Retail Licence under the National Retail Energy Law. However the Exemption Notice, which is issued by the State Minister, imposes a range of conditions that closely reflect the terms of a Retail Licence.

This situation also applies to BHP who is the sole licensee for retail and distribution of electricity to Olympic Dam. BHP owns 256kV and 132kV power lines that transmit electricity from the national grid at Port Augusta to Olympic Dam. A 33kV line then serves the Roxby township where Roxby Power takes control.

LPG gas and solar are also power/energy options in Roxby Downs.


Roxby Downs is well equipped for local and tourist populations. The township is a 10 minute drive from Olympic Dam Airport, which has multiple flights daily to and from Adelaide. The flights are operated by Alliance Airlines. In recent years, there have been between 4,000-5,000 tourists visiting the town each year.

The town boasts several parks and playgrounds and an upgraded water play area, called a splashpad, which was built in 2016. It forms part of the Roxby Downs Leisure Centre which includes indoor/outdoor pools, a skate park and fitness centre. The town also has a motel and a caravan park.


Roxby Downs' Visitor Information Centre

The Olympic Dam Discovery Tour is a major drawcard for tourists and is offered once a week. It is a three-hour public tour of the mine’s surface operations and includes a DVD presentation with a virtual underground tour. The tour also visits the Arid Recovery Reserve, a wildlife reserve 20km north of Roxby Downs. Tours run between March – October with entry proceeds going to the Arid Recovery Reserve.

As well as the Olympic Dam Mine Discovery Tour, there are also Sunset Tours and Dinner by Starlight Tours, where tourists can interact with threatened species in a natural environment at the Arid Recovery Reserve. The town also boasts a three kilometre Emu Walking Tour which winds its way around residential Roxby, then over sand dunes and into nature reserves. The upgraded walking tour allows for tourists to enjoy a close look at native trees and animals.

Roxby’s Visitor Information Centre has details on these tours, and is also a good one-stop-shop to research trips on nearby Andamooka, Woomera and the Oodnadatta Track. Roxby Downs is about 30km from Andamooka and 75km from Woomera. The Visitor Information Centre provides maps, brochures, tour information and bookings, community information and free Wi-Fi.

Arid Recovery[edit]

Established in 1997, Arid Recovery is a not for profit conservation organisation that manages a 123 square kilometre wildlife reserve and aims to restore native wildlife. Staff have managed to remove feral cats, foxes, and rabbits from their 60 square kilometre core conservation zone, where they now protect five threatened mammal species. The remainder of their land is dedicated to science and researching the best ways to protect vulnerable animals so they can survive outside of fenced reserves along with feral animals.

Arid Recovery offers tours, educational visits and special events to residents and visitors.

Sport and Recreation[edit]

Roxby Downs has many quality sporting facilities, including outdoor netball courts.

Roxby Downs is a tight-knit community with a friendly, country-town feel. Its remoteness and the transient nature of its FIFO workers brings this young population together. Like many regional towns, the lifeblood and social connection comes largely through sporting clubs.

Roxby Downs has four clubs competing in the Far North Football League (for seniors), and two junior Aussie Rules clubs. AFLW (women’s Aussie Rules) is also growing in popularity. The outdoor senior’s netball competition has four clubs, as well as a junior netball competition. Four local sporting clubs compete in the Roxby Districts Cricket Association’s 40 over and T20 competitions. Roxby Downs has one team – the Olympic Dam Barbarians – competing in the Spencer Gulf Rugby League competition. The club has both men’s and women’s teams. Basketball and dance are also popular sports particularly for juniors, and there’s also a soccer competition. The town also has tennis and squash courts, an 18 hole greens golf course, and a bowling green. Other popular local sport and recreation clubs and organisations include the Roxby Downs Soccer Club, Roxby Downs Golf Club, Roxby Downs Darts Club, Roxby Downs Motocross Club, Desert Dirt Kart Club, Roxby Downs Riding Club, and Roxby Downs Scout Group.

In 2017, the Roxby Junior Sports Academy (RJSA) was launched. The RJSA is a pilot program that gives talented young local athletes specialised training to help them reach the elite level.

Shopping and Other Pursuits[edit]

Shopping essentials are covered with a large supermarket, a newsagency, hardware store, bakery, hotel (and bottle shop), as well as cafes, restaurants, a community club, tavern, and takeaway options.

Roxby Downs has a number of cultural facilities, including a small art gallery and a Community Youth Centre. Public art is also on display in and around Richardson Place’s cultural precinct, including a community mural, multicultural quilt, Sturt desert pea sculpture, and a time capsule installed in 2013 to celebrate Roxby Downs’ 25th birthday.

Roxby Downs has a local Uniting Church, Catholic Church, Christian Community Church, New Life Church, and Lutheran Church.

The town also has a war memorial. Each year there are local ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day services which sees hundreds of attendees pay their respects.

Major Events[edit]

Roxby Downs Community Christmas Pageant

The Roxby Downs Community Christmas Pageant, held in Richardson Place, has been running for more than 20 years and has been coordinated by the Rotary Club of Roxby District since 2009. The night begins with a float procession, which sees businesses, sporting clubs, community groups and organisations, as well as individuals dress up and either drive a decorated vehicle or walk around Richardson Place to deliver festive cheer. Many families reserve their spot on the grassed street area, set up picnic tables and chairs and plan their whole day around the event. In 2017, around 3,500 attended the Roxby Downs Community Christmas Pageant. It was named ‘Community Event of the Year’ at Roxby Downs’ 2014 and 2017 Australia Day Awards.

Roxby Downs Races

The Roxby Downs Racing Club was formed in 1991 and held its first unregistered meet the following year. Officially titled the Outback Cup, the annual event held on the first Saturday in August features local, metropolitan and interstate races. A highlight of the day is the popular ‘Fashion on the Field’ competition. The Roxby Downs Races often attract jockeys from across the country and has well over 1,000 patrons.

Roxby Night Meet

The Roxby Night Meet has been running for 10 years and brings hundreds of people to town. Organised by the Roxby Desert Motocross Club, the event often has over 100 local, state, and national entrants racing in their respective classes. The Night Meet is held at the local motocross track on Opal Road and attracts thousands of spectators.


Roxby Downs was home to the Northern Sun (18 January 1988 – 13 December 2002), a community newsletter for the Olympic Dam settlement area published by The Transcontinental (from 1991, under the management of Fairfax Media) in Port Augusta, and replacing the earlier Dam News newsletter.[4][5] In 2003, with the renaming of the area, the publication became known as the Roxby Downs Sun[6] which ran from 24 January 2003 to 27 August 2015.[7]

The Monitor was a community owned weekly print newspaper that launched in 2003, and ran until February 2018. The not-for-profit paper was forced to close down due to economic pressures (similar to other print media).

Roxby Downs has a 24 hour community radio station called RoxFM. The station was established in 2003 and its music caters for the town’s demographic. RoxFM also has a number of locally presented programs. It is the only broadcast media produced in Roxby Downs transmitting to the township and surrounding areas.


To accommodate for the high number of young families in town, Roxby Downs has two schools, one kindergarten, and two not-for-profit community based long day care centres. There is also a local TAFE campus. Roxby Downs Area School, the largest in South Australia, is a public school catering for about 750 students in Years Reception to 12. St Barbara’s Parish School is a Catholic school for students in Foundation through to Year 10. Roxby Downs Child Care Centre and Roxby Early Learning Community Group both implement early learning curriculums for pre-school aged children. Roxby Downs Kindergarten offers learning opportunities for children aged 4-5.

In late 2016, the South Australian government together with BHP announced plans to develop a $4.5m children’s centre in Roxby Downs by refurbishing Roxby Downs Kindergarten. The new centre will offer health and family services, and community development activities. The children’s centre is expected to open in late 2018 and will be another fantastic facility in Roxby Downs.

Town Amenity[edit]

Access to reliable medical care is imperative in a town as remote as Roxby Downs. There are two doctors’ surgeries as well as the modern Roxby Downs Health Services hospital. A number of specialists regularly visit the town, including an optometrist, dentist, and gynaecologist, and there are several privately owned businesses offering services such as physiotherapy, podiatry and chiropractic, as well as a local pharmacy.

Roxby Downs has a modern police station in the town. The Port Augusta Magistrates Court sits in Roxby Downs bi-monthly to deal with local matters. The town has a low crime rate.


Roxby Downs is in the state electoral district of Giles and federal Division of Grey.


  1. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics (25 October 2007). "Roxby Downs (State Suburb)". 2006 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 25 May 2011.
  2. ^ Roxby Downs Postcode Australia Post
  3. ^ "Climate statistics for Roxby Downs (Olympic Dam Aerodrome)". Bureau of Meteorology. April 2014. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  4. ^ Laube, Anthony. "LibGuides: SA Newspapers: M-N". Retrieved 2018-08-17.
  5. ^ "Northern sun". Retrieved 2018-08-17.
  6. ^ Laube, Anthony. "LibGuides: SA Newspapers: O-R". Retrieved 2018-08-17.
  7. ^ "Roxby Downs sun [newspaper]". Retrieved 2018-08-17.

External links[edit]