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    Copy of Warrant served to William Barrett, 17 August 1843, courtesy of Public Record Office Victoria, Victorian Archives Centre.

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    Letter from M Fairfax to Council, 8 April 1843, courtesy of Public Record Office Victoria, Victorian Archives Centre.

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    Letter to chairman of assessment committee , 5 October 1843, courtesy of Public Record Office Victoria, Victorian Archives Centre.

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    Letter to Chairman of Council from Town Clerk, 15 September 1843, courtesy of Public Record Office Victoria, Victorian Archives Centre.

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    Letter to Chairman of Public Works Committee from Charles La Trobe, 8 July 1843, courtesy of Public Record Office Victoria, Victorian Archives Centre.

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    Letter to council from George Cole, 25 April 1843, courtesy of Public Record Office Victoria, Victorian Archives Centre.

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    Letter to Council from James Cain, 23 April 1843, courtesy of Public Record Office Victoria, Victorian Archives Centre.

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    Letter to council from John Dickson, 14 February 1843, courtesy of Public Record Office Victoria, Victorian Archives Centre.

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    Letter to council from Joseph Byrne, 8 February 1843, courtesy of Public Record Office Victoria, Victorian Archives Centre.

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    Letter to council from M Howe, 28 February 1843, courtesy of Public Record Office Victoria, Victorian Archives Centre.

Melbourne City Council

The Melbourne City Council (MCC) is the City's oldest and best-known institution of municipal government, representing and serving Central Melbourne for more than 150 years. Boundaries, the franchise and number of councillors have changed since 1842 when the MCC was Melbourne's first representative institution of note. The creation of new suburban municipalities from 1855 meant it could no longer represent the whole metropolitan area but it became the largest, wealthiest and most powerful of Melbourne's many municipalities, with an extensive bureaucracy. In recent decades its influence has declined with increased suburbanisation and restructuring. The MCC has been involved in politics and has had an uneasy relationship with the central government. Administrations of different political allegiance have intervened in its affairs to benefit one group of constituents or another, or to remove powers. Its role is now as much ceremonial, symbolic, promotional and supervisory as practically administrative.

Melbourne, like Sydney, gained its town council in 1842. For electoral purposes the town was divided into four wards on the intersection of Bourke and Elizabeth streets: Bourke to the north-west and, proceeding clockwise, Gipps, La Trobe and Lonsdale wards. Each returned three councillors who retired annually in rotation in three-year cycles. Ward councillors chose an alderman, who was more senior than councillors, had a seven-year term, and presided over the voting rolls. The franchise was based on property. Voting rights were attained by 'burgesses', aged 21 or more, male occupiers of rateable property having an annual value as rent of £25. A burgess, or his wife, who had property of £1000 or who occupied rateable property of £50, could stand for Council. Women ratepayers were not given the vote until 1896, and were not entitled to stand for Council until 1938.

The Council's act of constitution drew on innovative English legislation. It outlined responsibilities relating to justices, butchers, markets, roads, police and sewerage, and gave power to make by-laws and to regulate nuisances. But foundation and early Melbourne was a primitive place, with the economy in depression and funds short. The Council did little more than oversee the market, but nevertheless became a focus for politics. Electoral contests reflected community and individual aspirations, sectarianism and Freemasonry. The MCC was a vehicle for opposition to the transportation of convicts and support for Separation.

Melbourne was made a City by an Act of the New South Wales legislature in 1849, the term 'burgess' being replaced with 'citizen'. In 1851-54 the first Melbourne Town Hall was built on Swanston Street. In 1850 the area then known as Collingwood was constituted the MCC's Fitz Roy ward and later took that name. Subsequent wards were Hotham (1855), Macarthur (1856) and Smith (1856), centred on the areas of North Melbourne, Port Melbourne and Carlton respectively.

Following Separation many former City councillors entered the Parliament of Victoria. The gold rush placed additional demands on the MCC, which fell into disfavour, criticised for incapacity and for being dominated by Irish hotelkeepers grown rich on immigration. Although it lost power over water supply and sewerage, an inquiry found no proof of wrongdoing and helped the Council obtain necessary borrowing powers and the Gabrielli loan. It also recommended additional municipalities. Sandridge, Fitzroy, Hotham and Emerald Hill became municipalities, but Smith ward remained with the MCC. In 1851 only 31% of the city's population lived beyond the Council's boundaries but by 1861 the figure was 70%, a result of the combined effects of city growth and secession. Following an aggressively fought 'reform' campaign in 1861-63, the MCC became more representative of the City's business and professional elites. Amendments to its Act introduced secret ballots, a three-tiered property franchise and plural voting - less than £50 rateable property entitled the occupier to one vote, £50 to £150 two votes and more than £150 three votes. From 1870 new wards (Victoria and Albert) were based on North Carlton and residential land around the Royal Botanic Gardens respectively.

The town clerk from 1856 to 1891 was an Anglo-Irish gold generation immigrant and lawyer, Edmund FitzGibbon. Prominent in defence of municipal government, he believed in developing assets, extending services and reducing rates. Backed by the MCC, he opposed the government selling city parks for revenue and urged they be vested in the MCC, contrasting the conflict-ridden and often chaotic parliamentary politics with the smooth workings of the MCC's committee system. FitzGibbon was an early advocate of a metropolitan board of works to permit the municipalities to reclaim or develop common services, including water supply and sewerage, transport, gas and electricity supply and became first chairman of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW) in 1891.

The MCC increased its wealth in the period 1850-90. In addition to increases in the value of rateable property, from 1863 the Council was permitted to lease assets and rights, and build and obtain revenue from the markets. A substantial new town hall, completed in 1870, became the scene of civic balls, receptions and concerts, with a large pipe organ from 1873 the centrepiece. Growth had negative aspects as well. Crises in sanitation and sanitary reform and slums were most apparent in Central Melbourne. The MCC monitored the health of Melbourne and employed a medical officer of health and inspectors of nuisances. In the 1850s it had urged legislation to stem industrial pollution of the Yarra River, closed its own manure depot at North Melbourne in 1866, and in the 1870s acted against cesspits and promoted the pan removal system of the city's human waste. But it could undertake no comprehensive plan beyond encouraging a metropolitan board of works, which it advocated as early as 1873 and was successful in bringing about in 1891. Other special authorities, which included MCC nominees, were the Melbourne Harbor and the Tramways trusts. Having made the roads, the MCC claimed rights over transport. It licensed hackney cabs and defended the public interest when first a system of horse and then cable trams was established. The MCC introduced wood blocks into the streets, was a pioneer supplier of electricity and in 1901, hosted the Federation celebrations and royal visitors.

The MCC survived the 1890s depression better than most municipalities and by 1897 its rates remained at the low level of 1 shilling and 3 pence in the pound compared with 2 shillings or more elsewhere. The MCC declined giving representation to population on the grounds that financial strength was what counted and allowed ward populations to fluctuate, usually favouring the central business districts. In 1905 the municipalities of North Melbourne (formerly Hotham) and Flemington and Kensington became the MCC's Hopetoun Ward. But the MCC opposed the Greater Melbourne Movement, supporting instead an enlargement of the powers of the MMBW. The Council was active in recruiting and fund-raising during World War I, introduced a limit on City building heights in 1916, recruited special constables during the police strike in 1923 and sponsored the Metropolitan Town Planning Commission in the 1920s. Following the failure of legislation to create a Greater Melbourne Council in 1936 the government attempted to 'reform' the MCC. Aldermen were abolished in 1938 but the number of city councillors was increased with the creation of three new wards: Batman, Hoddle and Hotham.

In the era after 1945 the MCC accommodated the City Development Association and relaxed the restrictive height limit on city buildings. Its influence proved important in securing the 1956 Olympic Games. Although overt displays of party political sentiment were discouraged, councillors representing business interests formed a non-official party known as the Civic Group, which enjoyed a majority, their dominance backed by the franchise. Although the Australian Labor Party had been a strong influence in the Council since the 1940s, its numbers were diminished by the franchise and its councillors were isolated in the committee system.

By the 1970s ward boundaries remained the same as in 1938, with big voter discrepancies. A Hoddle ward vote was worth four in Hopetoun. Plural voting was abolished in 1969 - effectively, done away with by inflation - and residential and Labor interests were gaining ground. Late in 1980 the Council was dismissed, a scandal due to alleged corrupt practices in the Council's nursery providing the spark. However, it was reinstated after the defeat of the Liberal government in 1982, with six wards, each with three councillors. All resident taxpayers were allowed to vote, a move which disenfranchised non-resident owners and occupiers (most business people). In 1985 when the government extended the MCC franchise to all Victorian local governments, the Legislative Council amended the bill to restore automatic enrolment of non-resident (business) voters but left it optional for companies to enrol individual voters. The division of Labor and non-Labor interests remained even, with the balance of power held by independents and the test of power being the annual election for mayor. Seven wards were drawn, with the central area and North Melbourne having their own wards and roughly equal numbers of voters. More far-reaching was the assumption by the outgoing Liberal Minister for Planning in 1982 of planning-approval powers over major building developments, a move that was sustained by subsequent administrations.

In 1991 the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, arguing that 75% of rate income was contributed by central city ratepayers, advocated a smaller sized MCC with the residential districts removed. In 1993 a compromise was reached with the severance of some residential areas but most of North Melbourne, Carlton, Parkville, East Melbourne and South Yarra stayed and Southbank, with the Docklands and part of Flemington racecourse were added. Four commissioners replaced the councillors to implement the restructure and in 1995 the government accepted recommendations for four single-member wards and five councillors to be elected for the City as a whole, making for a nine-member Council, with companies compelled to enrol two voters instead of one and postal voting introduced. Powers were also given to the Minister to supervise the allocation of rate expenditure in the central city. In elections held in the following year the business-backed Melbourne First group gained only two of the nine positions. Following the defeat of the Kennett Government in 1999 Labor leader Steve Bracks indicated that the Docklands would become fully part of the MCC's jurisdiction before the 2008 election.

1842-1843Henry Condell
1843-1844Henry Condell
1844-1845Henry Moor
1845-1846James Frederick Palmer
1846-1847Henry Moor
1847-1848Andrew Russell
1848-1849William Montgomerie Bell
1849-1850Augustus Frederick Adolphus Greeves
1850-1851William Nicholson
1851-1852John Thomas Smith
1852-1853John Thomas Smith
1853-1854John Hodgson
1854-1855John Thomas Smith
1855-1856John Thomas Smith
1856-1857Peter Davis
1857-1858John Thomas Smith
1858-1859Henry Swallows Walsh
1859-1860Richard Eades
1860-1861John Thomas Smith
1861-1862Robert Bennett
1862-1863Edward Cohen
1863-1864John Thomas Smith
1864-1865George Wragge
1865-1866William Bayles
1866-1867William Williams
1867-1868James Stewart Butters
1868-1869Thomas Moubray
1869-1870Samuel Amess
1870-1871Thomas McPherson
1871-1872Orlando Fenwick
1872-1873Thomas O'Grady
1873-1874John McIlwraith
1874-1875James Gatehouse
1875-1876Alexander Kennedy Smith
1876-1877James Paterson
1877-1878John Pigdon
1878-1879Joseph Story
1879-1880George Meares
1880-1881George Me.ares
1881-1882Cornelius Job Ham
1882-1883James Dodgshun
1883-1884Charles Smith
1884-1885Godfrey Downes Carter
1885-1886James Cooper Stewart
1886-1887William Cain
1887-1888Benjamin Benjamin
1888-1889Sir Benjamin Benjamin
1889-1890Matthew Lang
1890-1891Matthew Lang
1891-1892Matthew Lang
1892-1893Arthur Snowden
1893-1894Arthur Snowden
1894-1895Sir Arthur Snowden
1895-1896William Strong
1896-1897William Strong
1897-1898Malcolm Donald McEacharn
1898-1899Malcolm Donald McEacharn
1899-1900Sir Malcolm Donald McEacharn
1900-1901Sir Samuel Gillott
1901-1902Sir Samuel Gillott

Lord Mayors
1902-1903Sir Samuel Gillott
1903-1904Sir Malcolm Donald McEacharn
1904-1905Charles Pleasance
1905-1906Henry Weedon
1906-1907Henry Weedon
1907-1908Sir Henry Weedon
1908-1909James Burston
1909-1910James Burston
1910-1911Thomas James Davey
1911-1912Thomas James Davey
1912-1913David Valentine Hennessy
1913-1914David Valentine Hennessy
1914-1915Sir David Valentine Hennessy
1915-1916Sir David Valentine Hennessy
1916-1917Sir David Valentine Hennessy
1917-1918Frank Stapley
1918-1919William Whyte Cabena
1919-1920The Hon. John George Aikman MLC
1920-1921John Warren Swanson
1921-1922John Warren Swanson
1922-1923Sir John Warren Swanson
1923-1924William Brunton
1924-1925William Brunton
1925-1926Sir William Brunton
1926-1927Stephen Joseph Morell
1927-1928Sir Stephen Joseph Morell
1928-1929Harold Daniel Luxton
1929-1930Harold Daniel Luxton
1930-1931Harold Daniel Luxton MLA
1931-1932Harold Gengoult Smith VD, FRCP
1932-1933Harold Gengoult Smith VD, FRCP
1933-1934Sir Harold Gengoult Smith VD,FRCP
1934-1935Alexander George Wales
1935-1936The Hon. Alexander George Wales MLC
1936-1937The Hon. Sir Alexander George Wales MLC
1937-1938Edward Campbell
1938-1939Arthur William Coles
1939-1940Arthur William Coles
1940-1941Arthur William Coles (resigned October 1940)
1941Frank Beaurepaire (elected October 1940)
1941-1942The Hon. Sir Frank Beaurepaire MLC
1942-1943Thomas Sydney Nettlefold
1943-1944Thomas Sydney Nettlefold
1944-1945Sir Thomas Sydney Nettlefold
1945-1946Francis Raymond Connelly
1946-1947Francis Raymond Connelly
1947-1948Sir Francis Raymond Connelly
1948-1951The Hon. James Stanley Disney
1951-1952Oliver John Nilsen
1952-1953William John Brens
1953-1954Robert Henry Solly
1954-1955Francis Palmer Selleck MC
1955-1956Sir Francis Palmer Selleck MC
1956-1957Sir Francis Palmer KBE, MC
1957-1958Frederick William Thomas
1958-1959Sir Frederick William Thomas
1959-1960Bernard Evans DSO, ED
1960-1961Bernard Evans DSO, ED
1961-1962Maurice Arnold Nathan KB
1962-1963Sir Maurice Arnold Nathan KBE
1963-1964Edward Leo Curtis
1964-1965Sir Edward Leo Curtis
1965-1966Ian Francis Beaurepaire
1966-1967Ian Francis Beaurepaire CMG
1967-1968Reginald Thomas Anthony Talbot
1968-1969Reginald Thomas Anthony Talbot CMG
1969-1970Edward Wallace Best
1970-1971Edward Wallace Best CMG
1971-1972Alwynne Rowlands OBE,VRD
1972-1973Alan Douglas Whalley
1973-1974Alan Douglas Whalley
1974-1975Ronald Joseph Walker
1975-1976Ronald Joseph Walker CBE
1976-1977Donald George Osborne JP
1977-1978Irvin Rockman
1978-1979Irvin Rockman
1979-1980Ralph Angelo Bernardi
1980-5/5/81John William Woodruff JP 459
1982-1983John William Gardner JP
1983-1984Kevin Francis Chamberlin JP
1984-1985Edwin John Beacham JP
1985-1986Thomas Simon Lynch JP
1986-1987Trevor Huggard JP
1987-1988Alexis Ord JP
1988-1989Winsome McCaughey
1989-1990William Deveney
1990-1991Richard Wynne
1991-1992Richard Meldrum
1992-1993Desmond Clark
1993Alan Watson
1996-1999Ivan Deveson
1999-2001Peter Costigan
2001-John So

Chief Commissioners
1981-1982Peter Francis Thorley
1993-1996Kevan Gosper

Town Clerks
1842-1851John Charles King
1851-1856William Kerr
1856-1891Edmund Gerald FitzGibbon
1891-1915John Clayton
1915-1923Torrington George Ellery
1923-1936William Valentine McCall
1936-1955Harold Samuel Wootton CMG
1955George James Dean OBE
1956-1980Francis Henry Rogan JP
1980-1990Desmond Norman Bethke
1990-1994John Young

David Dunstan

Dunstan, David, Governing the metropolis: Politics, technology and social change in a Victorian city: Melbourne 1850-1891, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1984. Details