Pensioner Guards outside Government House

History of the Council


Whadjuk Nyoongar Land

The area of Whadjuk Nyoongar land on which the City of Perth (the City) sits today is just over 19 square kilometres in area (land only) and located on the northern banks of the Derbarl Yerrigan (Swan River) with over 11 kilometres of river frontage. The City is privileged to be home to sites of cultural and historical significance to the Whadjuk people including Gargatup (Kings Park), Matagarup (Heirisson Island), Pinjar (the lakes — location of the Perth train station and surrounds) and Byerbrup (ridge line linking Gargatup and Matagarup). Traditionally, the Whadjuk Nyoongar people sourced food from the Derbarl Yerrigan and the extensive system of freshwater lakes linking the coast with the escarpment, ensuring Perth played an important role for meeting, travel and trade.

Our City boundaries

Today the City includes the suburbs, or parts thereof, of Crawley, East Perth, Nedlands, Northbridge, Perth and West Perth. On 1 July 2016, the City of Perth local government area expanded to include Kings Park (400 hectares), the University of Western Australia, Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre, residential and commercial areas around Hampden Road and Broadway, and the Matilda Bay foreshore in Crawley and Nedlands. The City hosts international consulates, State Parliament of Western Australia and key federal and state judicial institutions, and has the largest concentration of jobs, services, education and cultural and leisure activities in Greater Perth. All of these places are home to a rich history, stretching back long before colonisation.

Residents and visitors

The City’s resident population is diverse in its cultures, household and family structures, which all contribute to an interesting and varied community. The City’s current population, which is approximately 26,268, includes approximately 193 residents who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. On a typical weekday, the City attracts around 205,750 workers and visitors to the CBD and over 25,000 to the University of Western Australia and Queen Elizabeth II. The City’s resident population is forecast to grow to 50,000 residents by 2050, representing an additional 25,800 residents in 16,000 new dwellings over the next 34 years. For these and many other reasons, the City plays a unique and important role in contributing to the economic prosperity and quality of life of many Western Australians.

Our staff

The City of Perth workforce comprises of 750 staff of which two identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. The City of Perth main office, Council House, is located at 27-29 St George’s Terrace, Perth, and is home to approximately 500 members of the City’s workforce. The remaining 250 members operate from the City’s community facilities, parks, carparks and depot. All employees have recently participated in an organisation wide culture change program which resulted in new organisational values. The City aims to work towards diversifying its workforce throughout the implementation of the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). Throughout the Reflect RAP, the City has committed to researching leading examples of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment and improving the internal culture of the organisation to ensure that the working environment is safe and supportive for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Our responsibilities

The City of Perth has a distinct leadership role as the capital city authority of Western Australia to ensure it continues to develop and flourish without compromising future generations. In 2016, the City of Perth Act was ratified. This Act brings the City of Perth in line with other Australian capital cities and empowers it, acknowledgeing its central role in tourism, business and economic development. The Act also provides the necessary structure and legislation to form partnerships with State and Federal Government and the private sector to meet the future needs of the city.

History of the Council


The Swan River Colony was established in 1829. 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 a Committee of 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 23 September 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 its name to the Perth City Council under its first chairman, Mr HC Cole. The first meeting of the Perth City Council was held on 10 December 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 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 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 2 December 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 2 January 1871, did the Perth City Council have a permanent home. On 6 January of that year the Perth City Council, with Mr Glyde as Chairman, held its first meeting in the Town Hall.


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 1890s. The population more than trebled between 1891 and 1902.

On 3 July 1925 the Council moved to the municipal offices in Murray Street and held its first meeting there 25 October. On 25 March 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 20 May 1963 and it was not until 29 July 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 8 September 1880, when Mr George Shenton was elected to take up this position.
On the Centenary of the Foundation on 12 August 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.

Wards and boundaries

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

In October 1993 the State Government announced the split of the City of Perth and three separate towns were created from the area previously known 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 Town of Vincent, Town of Victoria Park and 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.

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 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 1920s. 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 is 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 25 March 1963 and this is the reason why the design was personalised.

A historical overview of Council House

Quick facts

  • Council House is an 11-storey building that was officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 25 March 1963.
  • Council House was designed by two Melbourne architects, Jeffrey Howlett and Donald Bailey, who were awarded the commission after a nationwide design competition was launched.
  • The walls consist of floor-to-ceiling double-glazed sealed windows in aluminium frames.
  • One of the most distinctive elements of the building is the pattern of T-shaped sunshades placed uniformly against the four walls. They were put to stunning use when the building was colourfully illuminated in 2010.
  • The technicolour building is now acknowledged as one of the city’s most appealing night landmarks.
  • While Council House is now regarded by experts as the best example of modernist architecture in Perth, there were periods when its future was in serious jeopardy.
  • Public offices had been housed on the St Georges Terrace site from the 1840s until the original Perth Town Hall was completed in Barrack Street in 1870. Perth City Council was based there before moving to premises in Murray Street, opposite Forrest Place, in 1925.
  • Before construction began in 1961, on a site then home to the Department of Agriculture and the Australian Broadcasting Commission studios, there was a fierce campaign to move the building location to the waterfront.
  • In the 1990s, just 30 years after its grand opening, there was a push to demolish the building because it did not fit with the State Government of the day’s vision for Perth, in particular the notion that the area around Council House and Stirling Gardens should become a heritage precinct. The term heritage was being used to describe a certain historic style of architecture, rather than recognising that modern structures can hold heritage value.
  • In 1993, the building was vacated for a total refurbishment and removal of asbestos material.

There was considerable public debate over the future of the building which brought on a strongly fought campaign by architects and the community to save Council House. Council House was saved from demolition and reopened, ironically by Premier Richard Court, in 1999. It was heritage listed in 2006.

Former Mayors and CEOs

  • Mayors
    Mayor Period of office
    George Shenton 1880
    S H Parker 1881
    George Shenton 1882—1884
    G Randell 1885
    George Shenton 1886
    Sir George Shenton 1887—1888
    Dr E Scott 1889—1891
    E Keane 1891
    E Keane
    S H Parker
    Alexander Forrest 1893—1895
    H J Saunders 1896—1897
    Alexander Forrest 1898—1900
    W Brookman
    S H Parker
    William T Loton
    Harry Brown 1903 —1905
    Sydney Stubbs 1906 —1907
    T G A Molloy 1908—1909
    R P Vincent 1910
    T G A Molloy 1911 —1912
    J H Prowse 1913 —1914
    John Nicholson 1915
    Frank R Rea 1916—1917
    William Lathlain 1918—1920
    Sir William Lathlain 1921—1923
    James T Franklin 1923—1927
    Hon James T Franklin 1928—1929
  • Lord Mayors
    Lord Mayor Period of office
    Lord MayorHon. James T Franklin Period of office1929—1930
    Lord MayorHon. Sir William Lathlain Period of office1931—1932
    Lord MayorHon. James T Franklin Period of office1932—1934
    Lord MayorJoseph J Poynton Period of office1934—1937
    Lord MayorCharles Harper Period of office1937—1939
    Lord MayorSir Thomas W Meagher Period of office1939 —1945
    Lord MayorJoseph Totterdell Period of office1945—1953 (Knighted 1953)
    Lord MayorJames Murray Period of office1953—1955
    Lord MayorHarold R Howard Period of office1955—1964 (Knighted 1961)
    Lord MayorCharles J B Veryard Period of office1964—1967
    Lord MayorThomas E Wardle Period of office1967—1972 (Knighted 1970)
    Lord MayorErnest Lee Steere Period of office1972—1978 (Knighted 1978)
    Lord MayorFrederick C Chaney Period of office1978—1982 (Knighted 1982)
    Lord MayorMichael A Michael Period of office1982—1988
    Lord MayorCharles F Hopkins Period of office1988—1991
    Lord MayorReginald G Withers Period of office1991—1993
    Lord MayorDr Peter Nattrass Period of office1995—2007
    Lord MayorLisa-Michelle Scaffidi Period of office2007—present
  • Town Clerks of Perth City Council — CEOs of City of Perth
    Town Clerk/CEO Period of office
    Town Clerk/CEOT Farrelly Period of office1858—1864
    Town Clerk/CEOJ G Flindel Period of office1864—1865
    Town Clerk/CEOT Smith Period of office1865—1869
    Town Clerk/CEOT Lazenby Period of office1869—1881
    Town Clerk/CEOW E Victor Period of office1881—1897
    Town Clerk/CEOHarry E Petherick Period of office1897—1900
    Town Clerk/CEOWilliam E Bold Period of office1900—1944
    Town Clerk/CEOW A (Allen) Mc Green Period of office1944—1966
    Town Clerk/CEOG O (Ossie) Edwards Period of office1966—1981
    Town Clerk/CEOReginald F Dawson Period of office1981—1994
    Town Clerk/CEOGarry Hunt, Chief Executive Officer Period of office1995—2002
    Town Clerk/CEOFrank Edwards, Chief Executive Officer Period of office2002—2012
    Town Clerk/CEOGary Stevenson, Chief Executive Officer Period of office2012—2016
    Town Clerk/CEOMartin Mileham, Chief Executive Officer Period of office2016—2018
  • Perth Town Trust 1838—1858
    Chairman Period of office
    ChairmanG Leak Period of office1838—1840
    ChairmanR Hinds Period of office1841
    ChairmanW B Andrews Period of office1842
    ChairmanThomas Helms Period of office1843—1845
    ChairmanJames Perkins Period of office1846—1848
    ChairmanThomas Helms, D Scott Period of office1849
    ChairmanH L Cole Period of office1853
    ChairmanGeorge Shenton Period of office1854—1855
    ChairmanGeorge Shenton, L Leake Period of office1856
    ChairmanGeorge Shenton Period of office1857—1858
  • City of Perth Council
    Chairman Period of office
    ChairmanH L Cole Period of office1858—1860
    ChairmanJ G C Carr Period of office1861—1863
    ChairmanJ G C Carr, A Hillman, G Hayson Period of office1864
    ChairmanJ G C Carr Period of office1865—1868
    ChairmanJ G C Carr, G Glyde Period of office1869
    ChairmanG Glyde Period of office1870—1873
    ChairmanG Randell Period of office1874
    ChairmanGeorge Shenton Period of office1875—1877
    ChairmanS H Parker Period of office1878—1879