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History of Council

City of Adelaide was the first municipal authority to be established in Australia.

Municipal elections were held on 31 October 1840 for 19 ‘Common Councilmen’, one of whom, James Hurtle Fisher, was elected as the City’s first Mayor.  The first Council meeting was held on 4 November 1840 in premises off Hindley Street.

Unfortunately the new Council experienced serious financial difficulties and collapsed in 1843, after which the City was managed by the colonial government until 1852 when the Council was re-established under new legislation that significantly widened its powers to raise revenue and make by-laws.

Anyone who paid rates for properties in the City was entitled to vote in municipal elections, including women, well before they were allowed to vote in other political elections anywhere in the nation.

Council meetings continued to be held in rented rooms in Hindley Street until the building of a Town Hall in King William Street was completed in 1866.

During the late 19th century the Council was responsible for a great many civil engineering and other civic improvements: creation of the Torrens Lake, establishment of a City Market, City Baths and City Refuse Destructor, a system of city-wide deep drainage sewerage and horse-drawn tramways, that were later electrified.

By 1901 major improvements in public health, parks and gardens and road making had been introduced along with the regulation and licensing of a host of urban activities, including all privately-owned building construction work.

In 1919 the Office of Lord Mayor was conferred upon the City in recognition of its considerable advances.

The Council played a leading role in alleviating the plight of the City’s population during the 1930s Great Depression, and the introduction of wartime civil defence measures during the Second World War.

After the war the Council embarked on an ambitious program of public works that changed much of the City’s appearance, while retaining the essence of its unique character and cultural heritage.  A City of Adelaide Plan was adopted in 1975 as a blueprint for the future development of Adelaide.

By the start of the 21st century the Council had presided over the governance and development of the City for more than 160 years, ensuring the emergence of Adelaide as a modern, progressive, world-class City.

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