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    South Australia - Miscellany

    Local Government

    Also see under Adelaide - City Council and Allied Matters - Miscellany.

    The Coming of District Councils

    (Taken from Geoffrey H. Manning's A Colonial Experience)

    Editorial note: In this extract Mr Manning uses the voice of his fictional narrator of A Colonial Experience, which provides an imagined perspective from circa 1910.

    A District Council Act came into law in 1853 and by 31 December of that year twenty-two councils were constituted and, in 1854, ten more were added to the number. The earliest constituted was Mitcham which dates back to 10 May 1853. East Torrens, Hindmarsh and Onkaparinga are scarcely less venerable than Mitcham, these councils being constituted on 26 May 1853. Yatala and Angaston followed in June 1853; West Torrens, Highercombe, Clare and Kensington and Norwood on 1 July; Encounter Bay, Willunga, Talunga and Nairne in August; Echunga, Kondoparinga, Macclesfield and Mount Barker followed in October, whilst Brighton, Clarendon, Munno Para East and Morphett Vale were gazetted in November.

    During 1854 the following were created: Barossa West and Mudla Wirra in January; Yankalilla and Munno Para West in April, Strathalbyn in May; Barossa East, Mount Crawford and Para Wirra in June; the Upper Wakefield in October and Bremer in December. Three new councils were proclaimed in 1855, namely, Tungkillo and Walkerville in June and Tanunda in August.

    The question of the formation of district councils was, at the outset, an important one; indeed, it was scarcely possible to estimate, too highly, their usefulness and to most people they were worthy of public confidence. They were a sure guarantee against the exercise of arbitrary power, or of unchecked and unnecessary expenditure.

    In the early 1850s, if there was one institution amongst us that could be regarded as containing the germ of social and political freedom, it was the municipal institution. In every despotic country they were either ruthlessly suppressed or rendered the mere machines of the State. Indeed, those who affected to despise the position of municipal councillors could not have been aware of the historical importance of the institution they deprecated, nor the latent power of the situation they condemned.

    By 1859 there was a remarkable phenomena presented within our society, as evidenced by the neglect of that power of self-government which, theoretically, was ranked among our dearest rights. Having acquired the power to elect our own law makers, civic or national, we cared little or nothing about the exercise of that power.

    Perhaps no more bitter satire on the aspirations and labours of political reformers in the old country could be furnished than was afforded by the action, or rather inactivity, of their relatives and fellow-subjects in the new world of South Australia. There, to possess the electoral franchise was the summum bonum of political hope; here, to possess the franchise, but neglect to exercise it, was the common rule of political life. They strived earnestly and oftentimes painfully to obtain what we carelessly threw away.

    Municipal Elections

    (Taken from Geoffrey H. Manning's A Colonial Experience)

    The office of councillor should be regarded as an honourable one and should be conferred, not as an empty compliment, but as a mark of respect and tribute to the honour upon men of tried ability, proved integrity and who are fittest for the post. In my opinion, electors do not consider sufficiently the important nature of the functions devolving upon councils. Those functions include much more than the regulation of pounds and the issue of various licences.

    At the outset the legislature made them the responsible instructors of youth and the conservators of public peace and order, and their province included the establishment of schools and the organisation of police; and, so far from there being any disposition to abridge their powers, the tendency was clearly in an opposite direction. It was greatly to be desired that ratepayers took the trouble of voting, for when only a few electors voted, the circumstance operated in some places to deter the best men from presenting themselves, and in others to embarrass in the fulfilment of their duties those who were elected. Personally, in the early days at Norwood, I felt strongly that the public had themselves chiefly to blame for any disappointment experienced in connection with our council.

    An office, which should be regarded as an honourable post, was often virtually abandoned to any persons who thought fit to take it. But, if electors had, generally, appreciated the value of the institution, had they searched diligently for the best men, and been in larger number to make a point of recording their votes, nothing more would have been needed to render councils satisfactory in their working and popularity within the district.

    It is deplorable when civic corporations are composed of incapable men and, similarly, it is very deplorable when citizens, overlooking the immense utility of such institutions, send incapable men as representatives. I trust that electors will remember that they are choosing men in whose hands very important interests are placed and, as such, men will bring to their work all those personal and public qualities that are requisite to vindicate the dignity of the office and the credit of those who fill it.

    Municipal Seals


    Arms, or coats of arms, are hereditary marks of honour made up of fixed and determined colours and figures granted by sovereign princes as a reward for military valour or some signal service performed. These are intended to denote the descent and alliance of the bearer, or to distinguish States, cities, etc., civil, ecclesiastical or military.

    Men in all ages have made use of figures of living creatures or symbolical signs to denote the bravery and courage of their chief or nation, to render themselves more terrible to their enemies and to distinguish themselves as names do individuals. Thus, the Egyptians bore an ox, the Romans an eagle, the Franks a lion and the Saxons a white horse. A revival in heraldic designs has been manifested in Europe and has spread to Australia and there has been some talk in reference to such corporations in this colony as have adopted seals which are heraldic in character.

    Corporate Seals in South Australia

    The term 'coat-of-arms', when applied to the seals and badges used by corporations, is certainly erroneous. Though many of the seals used by these bodies are armorial in their character, they have not received the necessary authority from the Heralds' College in England to use them and are, consequently, destitute of heraldic value.

    The Corporation of Kensington and Norwood has an artistic and pretty seal - a mural crown through which four javelins or arrows are pierced, points downwards beneath which a scroll bears the words 'United We Prosper'.

    The City of Adelaide armorial seal was designed by William Wyatt, who met with a terrible death in Waterfall Gully some years ago. He was a son of the late Dr Wyatt, one of the earliest medical men to settle in the colony. William Wyatt, although an excellent artist, had an indifferent knowledge of heraldry, and so made an egregious blunder in designing the seal by putting a red cross over a blue shield - a colour upon a colour - which is in direct opposition to the rules pertaining to heraldry.

    Outside the City of Adelaide, Gawler, Kapunda and Hindmarsh are the only towns whose seals have any pretensions to heraldic bearings. Gawler has adopted the arms of Governor George Gawler. The origin of the coat of arms is derived from his crest and has been secured to the corporation by the enterprise of a townsman. The motto 'Sans Gawler Point de Fruit', literally interpreted, refers to a custom of ancient date, namely, 'the pulling down of fruit from the trees', but another and newer translation appears more applicable and is suggested thus: 'Without Gawler There is no Fruit.'

    Kapunda has assumed the arms of Captain Bagot who, for over forty years, exercised a powerful influence on matters connected with the well-being of the colony. He first engaged in pastoral pursuits and to himself and his son the honour of discovering the extensive copper mines in that locality.

    The town of Hindmarsh has adopted the crest of Rear-Admiral Sir John Hindmarsh who was born in 1786 and entered the navy when only seven years old. He was the first governor of South Australia and was knighted in 1851, received a good service pension and a war medal with seven clasps for the seven actions in which he had been engaged. He died in 1859.

    The corporation seal of Glenelg is armorial only in the sense that it is constructed in the shape of a shield. The design represents the Old Gum Tree in the field of the shield and is surmounted by the ship 'Buffalo' as a crest.

    The seal of the town of Port Adelaide is heraldic in design and an endeavour has been made to bring the details into keeping with the town as a shipping place. I have seen two prints of the seal which, however, do not quite agree one with the other. The one may be described as follows: The first quarter is charged with a wool bale, the second with a steam launch, the third with a wheat sheaf and the fourth with three bags of flour. The supporters are: On the dextral side an Aboriginal, holding in his dexter, or right hand, a spear, a woomera and a waddy.

    On the sinister side a Jack Tar holding a palm branch in his right hand and the Union Jack in his left. Motto - 'Hand pluribus impar' and suspended from the centre of the scroll an anchor. Above the arms is inscribed 'Port Adelaide' and beneath, 'Incorporated 1856.'

    The other copy of the seal has the quarterings blazoned azure (blue) and gules (red) and the charges are quite different. The first is charged with the golden fleece, the second with a wheat sheaf, the third with a ship and the fourth with an anchor. It may be said that the town of Port Adelaide has two distinct designs for seals, which is an unusual circumstance.

    The Corporation of Saint Peters has adopted a simple little picture showing the front elevation of St Peter's College, while the seal of the Unley corporation is a work of art - it is apparently the illusion of some visionary. So far as I can interpret the designer's idea, it is intended to represent a pick, a spade and a pen tied together in their centres.

    The seal of Port Augusta is armorial and is shaped like a shield, in the chief of which there is a sailing ship; a spade and a miner's pick occupy the base. There are two quarters placed in the centre on which are blazoned on the left side a sheep and on the other a bull's head. As supporters the design has on the dexter side a unicorn and on the sinister side an emu. The crest presents some incongruity - a mailed arm holding a pair of shears. The motto is 'Pro Res Publica.'

    General Notes

    "The District Councils Bill" is in the Observer,
    1 January 1853, page 6a,
    "District Rates" on
    17 December 1853, page 1a (supp.),
    "District Councils" on
    11 February 1854, page 1b (supp.).

    "District Councils - Small Districts" is in the Observer,
    24 June 1854, page 9a; also see
    7 October 1854, page 7c.

    "Local Government - Its Genesis in South Australia" is in the Observer,
    1 September 1923, page 53a.

    "District Councils and Scotch Thistles" is in the Observer,
    9 December 1854, page 6g.

    "The Power of Levying Taxes" is in the Observer,
    9 December 1854, page 8c,
    "The District Councils Act" on
    6 January 1855, page 5b.

    "District Councils and the Labour Market" is in the Observer,
    21 April 1855, page 6a,
    "District Councils" on
    5 May 1855, page 6b.

    A report on the Association of Chairmen of District Councils is in the Observer,
    29 March 1856, page 2g (supp.).

    An article on district councils, including their dates of incorporation, is in the Observer,
    10 May 1856, page 5d.
    9 May 1856, page 2d.

    "District Councils" is in the Observer,
    7 June 1856, page 6f,
    "The Value of Municipal Government" on
    21 June 1856, page 6d,
    "Municipal Institutions" on
    29 November 1856, page 6b.

    "District Council Expenses" is in the Observer,
    21 November 1857, page 6g,
    "Government Aid to District Councils" on
    20 March 1858, page 6d,
    "The New District Councils Act" on
    16 October 1858, page 6c,
    "Municipal Government" on
    22 January 1859, page 6c,
    "Municipal Institutions" in the Chronicle,
    26 January 1861, page 4c.

    "Corporations and District Councils" is in the Register,
    9 December 1857, page 3e.

    "The East Torrens District Council" is in the Register,
    26 January 1859, page 2d.

    "District Council Auditing" is in the Observer,
    15 February 1862, page 6b,
    "District Councils and Squatters" in the Express,
    11 July 1864, page 3a.

    "Municipal Elections" is in the Register,
    25 November 1862, page 2g,
    23 November 1863, page 2f,
    3 December 1895, pages 4h-6c.
    "Corruption at Municipal Elections" is in the Register,
    13 December 1866, page 2c.
    "Municipal Elections - Party Politics Introduced" is in the Observer,
    9 December 1911, page 44a; also see
    5 December 1912, page 12d,
    2 December 1916, page 8d.

    "Local Government and Destitution" is in the Observer,
    31 July 1869, page 12a.

    "Corporations and the Central Road Board" is in the Observer,
    14 September 1872, page 3b.

    "Country Institutes" is in the Observer,
    21 September 1872, page 13f.

    "District Councils and Local Taxation" is in the Register,
    6 July 1883, page 4e.

    "Subsidies to Corporations and District Councils" is in the Observer,
    2 August 1884, page 31c,
    "Abolition of Grants-in- Aid" on
    20 and 27 September 1884, pages 24d and 31d.

    "Local Government on Its Trial" is in the Register,
    20 November 1884, page 4d.

    "Local Government" is in the Register,
    5 January 1886, page 4f,
    "The Cost of Local Government" on
    29 December 1885, page 4e.

    "Municipal Assessments" is in the Register,
    18 February 1886, pages 4f-7a.

    "The Local Government Bill" is in the Register,
    12 and 27 August 1886, pages 4e and 4d-6d,
    2 September 1886, page 4e,
    "Municipal Corporations Gas Bill" on
    20 October 1886, page 4f.

    "The New District Councils" is in the Chronicle,
    28 January 1888, page 22f.

    "The Municipal Nominations" is in the Register,
    26 November 1894, page 4e,
    3 December 1894, page 4f.

    "Local Government in SA" is in the Register,
    29 February 1896, pages 4e-6b.

    A District Clerks' Association picnic is reported in the Express,
    15 October 1897, page 2d,
    18 November 1898, page 2c.

    "Local Rating" is in the Observer,
    20 June 1891, page 25a,
    "Municipal Seals" on
    18 March 1899, page 33e.

    "Local Government" is in the Register,
    4 August 1899, page 4g,
    16 July 1900, page 4d.

    A district clerks' picnic is reported in the Observer,
    3 November 1900, page 46c.

    "Local Government Association" is in the Register,
    21 May 1903, page 6a.

    "Municipal Corporations" is the subject of editorial comment in the Register,
    30 July 1903, page 4c,
    5 August 1903, page 4c and
    "Local Government" on
    18 October 1904, page 4b,
    "Progress Associations" in The Mail,
    14 April 1928, page 3e.

    "Municipal Elections" is in the Register,
    1 December 1903, page 4d,
    2 December 1905, page 4d,
    20 November 1906, page 6e,
    29 November 1907, page 6d.

    A meeting of the Municipal Association is reported in the Express,
    1 March 1906, page 2d,
    8 September 1908, page 1g.

    "Local Government" is in the Observer,
    30 November 1912, page 33e.

    "What Becomes of Ex-Mayors?" is in the Register,
    7 December 1907, page 8f.

    "Honouring Eminent Citizens" is in the Register,
    23 October 1911, page 6d.

    Local government is discussed in the Observer,
    28 October 1911, page 34e under "Honouring Eminent Citizens"; also see
    30 November 1912, page 33e.

    "Municipal Elections - Party Element Introduced" is in the Register,
    8 and 9 December 1913, pages 8d and 6d.

    Biographical details of A.L. McEwin are in the Register,
    21 September 1920, page 7a.

    "Municipal Contests" is in the Register,
    4 December 1920, page 8e.

    "Municipal Elections" is in the Register,
    5 December 1921, page 6e.

    The efficacy of small of large district councils is discussed in the Observer,
    24 July 1926, page 5a.

    "Municipal Borrowings" is in The Mail,
    9 June 1928, page 3a.

    "Maintenance of Police - Extra Levies on Municipal Bodies" is in The Mail,
    30 June 1928, page 12d.

    "Municipal Rating' is in The Mail,
    15 September 1928, page 10a.

    "Dignity and Convention Demand Coats On [During Hot Weather]" is in The News,
    18 January 1934, page 6e.

    "Will Women Enter Councils?" is in The News,
    18 December 1937, page 4d.

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