History of the Council

When the Swan River Colony was established in 1829, the Governor was virtually a dictator - albeit a benevolent one. However, by 1838 it had become apparent that the spreading colony required some form of localised government and the system of British Local Government was introduced.  In 1838 municipal administration was vested in a body of trustees consisting of the Justices of the Peace and the proprietors of allotments held in fee simple in the town. At the time, the town had a population of 1,000. An act of 1842 established a Chairman and a committee of six as the Perth Town Trust. (WB Andrews as Chairman, and Committee:  George Leake, James Purkis (Treasurer) Peter Brown, WH Drake, Richard Jones).

The Trust met as a united body. It was not large enough to require splitting into committees. The Trust dealt with day to day problems, such as provisions of roads, lighting, footpaths, drainage and keeping stock off private property and roads. The trust also had the right to levy rates, the first one being for the purpose of a footpath in Hay Street. The owners or occupants of allotments on the north side of Hay Street paid twenty shillings and all other owners or occupiers in the area paid ten shillings.

The Trust had a difficult beginning as it was always short of funds. There is ample evidence in the records of the Council to show that it was often on the border of bankruptcy and perhaps a classic example of the financial difficulties was the instance of the trust's inability to raise £2,000 for public works.

The Perth Town Trust, however, progressed under able leaders, such as George Shenton, until September 23, 1856, when Perth was declared a Bishop's See by Queen Victoria. This automatically raised Perth to the status of a city, but it was two years before the Trust formally changed it’s name to the Perth City Council under its first chairman, Mr HC Cole.  The first meeting of the Perth City Council was held on December 10, 1858 (HC Cole as Chairman, and Councillors B Smith, T Smith, T Farrelly, C King and J Farmaner).

The Council was given legislative and administrative functions, which included town planning, control of water and lighting supplies, care of parks and reserves and supervision of the erection of buildings and in some cases their care also.

The new City Council still retained its financial problems, but due to the influx of convicts, many public works were completed during the period from 1856-79, notably the Perth Town Hall.

Meetings of the Town Trust and later of the City Council were held each month, the Chairman being elected at the annual ratepayers' meeting. These meetings had to be held wherever opportunity offered. They were held in turn at the Court House, the Commercial Hotel and the United Services Tavern. From December 2, 1853, they were held at the Mechanics Institute on the corner of Howick Street, later to be named Hay Street, and Pier Street.

Only when Perth was granted a municipality under properly constituted local government on January 2, 1871, did the Perth City Council have a permanent “home”. On January 6, of that year the Perth City Council, with Mr Glyde as Chairman, held its first meeting in the Town Hall. In 1971, the Council thought it appropriate, significant and perhaps symbolic, to return to the Perth Town Hall for the first meeting of that centenary year, the Local Government Centenary.

At this time, the population of the colony was 24,785; with the population of Perth being 5,244 (comprised of 3,007 males and 2,237 females). The population continued to increase very slowly until the gold discoveries of the 1890's. The population more than trebled between 1891 and 1902.

On July 3, 1925 the Council moved to the municipal offices in Murray Street and held its first meeting there on October 25. On March 25, 1963, there was a civic welcome for Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh during which Her Majesty officially opened Council House.  The first council meeting was held at Council House on May 20, 1963 and it was not until July 29 of that year that the Council's official staff moved into the building.

The title of Mayor was first conferred upon the Chairman of the Perth City Council on September 8, 1880, when Mr George Shenton was elected to take  up this position.

On the Centenary of the Foundation in August 12, 1929 in the Town of Perth, it was announced that His Majesty the King had granted that the status of Mayor of the City be raised to that of Lord Mayor.  The first Lord Mayor was the Hon. JT Franklin, CMG, MLC, JP.

In 1864, Perth was divided into three wards and again in 1897 divided into five wards.  Three small local authorities on the border of the Perth City Council amalgamated with the City Council to establish the PCC area.  North Perth and Leederville amalgamated on December 22, 1914 and Victoria Park on November 1, 1917, the city thus consisted of eight wards.  In 1963 the Council re-distributed the boundaries of the previous 8 wards and held its first election of three Councillors for each of the nine wards on May 29, 1963.

In October 1993 the State Government announced the split of the City of Perth and 3 separate towns were created from the area previously know as the City of Perth. The City of Perth remains the Capital City of Western Australia and the three Towns created in the split are the Town of Vincent, Town of Victoria Park and the Town of Cambridge.

The City of Perth, today, is one of 24 local authorities in the Perth metropolitan region. Eight of these authorities are classified as cities, eight as towns and eight as shires.

The field of local government influence has widened very rapidly - particularly in community welfare. The Council's main source of income is from rates which is a tax on property.  Other finance is available from the Commonwealth Government in the form of grants and from the State Government in the form of loans.

City of Perth Flag

The City of Perth flag is the red cross of Saint George on a white background with the City's Coat of Arms superimposed in the centre of the cross.

The flag was apparently designed prior to 1879, but unfortunately there is little record of its beginning. There is no name of the designer, and why the Saint George's Cross was chosen is equally wrapped in obscurity. However, it is significant that the Anglican Cathedral in the City is named after the Patron Saint of England and the main boulevard of the City also bears his name.

There have been some changes to the flag during the 143 years since the City was founded. Perhaps the most significant was the exclusion of the black swan from the top left hand corner around the mid 1920's.

It was supplanted by the Coat of Arms in the centre of the cross when these armorial bearings were finally approved in 1949. They were first granted in December 1926.     

City of Perth Emblem and Plaque

The emblem at the entrance to Council House was designed by Perth artist Geoffrey Allen, incorporating swans supporting a crown in copper, gilt and bronze, which was set on granite from London's old Waterloo Bridge.

A feature of the design are six symbolic crowns, the inclusion of which identify 'Queen Elizabeth II' as the sixth Queen Regent of Great Britain.

Council House was officially opened by Her Majesty the Queen on the 25th March 1963 and this is the reason why the design was personalised.