On 22 June 1883, the Geographical Society of Australasia started at a meeting in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. A branch was formed in Victoria in the same year. In July 1885, both the Queensland and the South Australian branches started.
In July 1886 the society became the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia. The New South Wales branch's new constitution in 1886 widened its scope to encourage interest in scientific, commercial, educational and historical aspects of geography. The Society sponsored several important expeditions, notably the New Guinea Exploration Expedition in 1885, whose members included zoologist Wilhelm Haacke, erstwhile director of the South Australian Museum.
The Victorian branch amalgamated with the Victorian Historical Society, while the New South Wales branch had ceased to function by the early 1920s. The South Australian and Queensland branches continue as the Royal Geographical Society of South Australia and Royal Geographical Society of Queensland respectively .
The South Australian branch was formed on 10 July 1885. In 1905 they acquired the York Gate Library, following the death of Stephen William Silver a prosperous London merchant who had branched out into publishing information for colonial settlers alongside clothes, furniture and other equipment for use in the British colonies.
The founding members were:
- His Honor the Chief Justice S. J. Way
- Sir Henry Ayers, KCMG. (President of the Legislative Council)
- Sir Samuel Davenport
- Sir Thomas Elder
- Hons. George W. Cotton
- David Murray
- Henry Scott
- Robert Alfred Tarlton, M.L.C.
- Bishop Kennion, D.D.
- Archdeacon Farr, M.A., LLD, Rev. F. Williams, M.A.
- Peter Egerton-Warburton
- F. E. H. W. Krichauff, M.P.
- Edwin Thomas Smith, M.P.
- William Bundey (Mayor of Adelaide)
- J. A. Hartley, B.A., B.Sc. (lnspector-General of Schools)
- James W. Jones (Conservator of Water)
- J. Langdon Bonython
- J. F. Conigrave
- T. Evans Jr.
- William Everard
- Tom Gill
- C. Hope Harris
- E. Holthouse
- A. T. Magarey
- C. M. McKillop F.R.G.S.
- C. J. Sanders
- Samuel Tomkinson
- W. H. Tietkens, F.R.G.S.
- W. B. Wilkinson
- Thomas Worsnop
- F. S. Wallis.
Later prominent members were:
- Simpson Newland (president 1895–1900 and 1920–1922)
- A. M. Simpson
- A. A. Simpson (president 1925–1930)
- John Lewis (president 1913–1920)
- A. W. Piper KC (president 1910–1913)
- Clive M. Hambidge (president 1944–1947).
- T. S. Reed (secretary 1903–1914)
- F. L. Parker (secretary 1922–1932; president 1934–1936)
- A. A. Lendon MD.
- "News of the Day". The Age. No. 8889. Victoria, Australia. 14 August 1883. p. 5. Retrieved 19 February 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
- "Royal Geographical Society of Australasia. New South Wales Branch", Trove, 2008, retrieved 19 February 2018
- Mann, John F. (John Frederick); Royal Geographical Society of Australasia. New South Wales Branch (1889), First report on New Guinea, Turner and Henderson, retrieved 19 February 2018 and Mann, John F. (John Frederick); Royal Geographical Society of Australasia. New South Wales Branch (1890), Continuation of Mr. Mann's report on New Guinea, Turner and Henderson?, retrieved 19 February 2018
- "Royal Geographical Society of Australasia. New South Wales Branch - Further records, 1883-192-". State Library of New South Wales. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
- Henderson, Kelly. "York Gate Geographical and Colonial Library" (PDF). www.icomos.org. ICOMOS. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
- "Geographical Society of Australasia". The South Australian Advertiser. Adelaide. 11 July 1885. p. 5. Retrieved 29 October 2014 – via National Library of Australia.
- "Chiefly Over The Week-end". The Chronicle. Vol. 89, no. 5, 045. South Australia. 29 August 1946. p. 22. Retrieved 22 August 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
- "Nearly a Centenarian". The Advertiser (Adelaide). South Australia. 27 April 1914. p. 15. Retrieved 1 March 2020 – via Trove.
- Royal Geographical Society of Queensland website
- Royal Geographical Society of South Australia website
- Royal Geographical Society of South Australia blog site