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The First Years

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James Stirling R.N.

James Stirling R.N. 
National Library of Australia

The first Legislative Council, 1832

The first Legislative Council 1832
The first Legislative Council met on February 7, 1832, and passed a Bill presented by Governor Stirling. These men were all government officials. From 1839 some leading settlers also were appointed to the Council.
Courtesy Battye Library 409B

In 1829, the British settled the Swan River Colony. Captain James Stirling was appointed Lieutenant Governor and became the most powerful man in the colony. His authority to draft laws and decide day-to-day affairs was supreme. He was answerable only to London.

From 1832, the Governor appointed a Legislative Council of four government officials to assist him and, in 1839, four leading colonists also were appointed. Those appointed usually supported the views of the Governor.

Later, more colonists were appointed to the Legislative Council and it developed a more independent voice. Eventually, some of these members were elected but only by the very small number of colonists who qualified to vote.

By 1859, all other Australian colonies had their own parliaments. Colonists in Western Australia began demanding the right to have a greater say in the affairs of the colony. They argued for the right to govern themselves.

The British Government was against the move to establish a parliament in Western Australia because of its slow rate of growth and the presence of convicts. In 1865, and again in 1869, the citizens of the colony petitioned the British Government to ask that they elect representatives to some of the positions on the Legislative Council.