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1.1 The Road to Self Government

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Western Australia was not established as a British Colony until 1829, although a military garrison had been established at King George Sound (Albany) as early as 1826.

 The new Colony inherited the United Kingdom statutes in force in 1829 and the common law.  However, with the first Governor of Western Australia, Governor James Stirling, being given wide powers by the British Government,  the system of government was not democratic in the sense that we understand it today. The Colony had to wait until 1870 before there was any form of representative government in Western Australia.  From that time, 12 elected Councillors together with six nominated by the Governor, made up the Legislative Council which enacted laws for the Colony. It was not until 1890 that ‘responsible’ government (with a fully elected Legislative Assembly) was achieved. 

 During this evolutionary period in Western Australia, the British system of government, the Westminster system, was also developing. The franchise (the right to vote) was being expanded as the notion of government representing all the people, not just certain classes of people, was gaining acceptance.

 

When Western Australia was granted self government in 1890, the system established was based on the Westminster tradition.  However, unlike the Westminster system where the members of the Upper House (the House of Lords) were not elected but were appointed by hereditary right, the Upper House in Western Australia was, from 1893, elected.