Western Australia history
As a young city, Perth is in the ideal position to preserve its irreplaceable heritage for future generations. Many of its links to the past still exist and serve as valuable assets to the city’s built form.
Captain James Stirling founded Perth as part of the Swan River Colony in 1829. Stirling thought the natural environment around Perth was “as beautiful as anything of this kind I had ever witnessed” and advocated that a colony be established there. The British Government agreed to found the colony as the first free settlement in Australia, and the first settlers arrived in Western Australia in June 1829.
On 12 August of that year, the felling of a tree a few metres from the present site of the Perth Town Hall marked the official foundation of the City of Perth. Although the territory was claimed on behalf of Britain, explorers from nations including Holland and France had been visiting the Western Australian coastline since the early 1600s and the land had been populated by Indigenous people for approximately 50,000 years.
Transport of convicts to the Swan River Colony began in 1850 to address a labour shortage that was restricting the growth of the colony. The convict period, which lasted to 1868, saw approximately 10,000 male convicts arrive in Western Australia. As a result, some of Perth’s most significant buildings including Government House, the Perth Town Hall and St Mary’s Cathedral were constructed during this period. In 1856, Queen Victoria proclaimed Perth a City.
In the 1890s Perth underwent great structural changes, due to the influx of population following the discovery of gold in the eastern Goldfields. This prosperity brought about the construction of many fine buildings, reflecting the opulence of the Victorian period.
In 1901, Federation saw Western Australia transform from an independent colony to a State of the Commonwealth of Australia, with the City of Perth gaining increased importance as the capital of the new State.
During the 1920s the appearance and character of Perth was confirmed with many single and two storey buildings, although late in the1930s the construction of several multi storey buildings along St Georges Terrace forecast the dramatic changes of the 1960s.
The population of Perth changed in size and character after World War II as immigration brought new cultures and traditions to the city. A major phase of development spurred on by the mineral boom of the1960s and 1970s saw skyscrapers built and the city take on a more modern character.
During the entrepreneurial 1980s and more temperate 1990s, the city continued its transition from a “large country town” to a dynamic and progressive city.
In more recent times, Western Australia is again enjoying another population boom, as more and more people are attracted to the State for its exceptional climate, buoyant economy and relaxed lifestyle – making Western Australia one of the fastest growing regions in the country.
Western Australia has many legislative requirements for special licences for example; owning a gun, owning animals and pets, recreational fishing, owning and driving a boat and driving cars, bikes or trucks.
Your local shire (council) website or office should have all the up to date information regarding licences and application processes for obtaining the correct licence to be able to fulfil the requirements. There can be significant differences between shires and it is always best to check prior to purchasing a new pet or boat, for example. To find your local shire details, search on the Western Australian Local Government Association website.
If you want to drive a vehicle in Western Australia, visitors including people working temporarily in Western Australia, can drive on their overseas licence for as long as it remains valid in the country of issue.
Permanent residents may drive on their overseas licence for up to 3 months but must then apply for a Western Australian driving licence.
For more information on driving and transport in Western Australian, see the section 'Transport and Maps'.
The Australian Government
There are three areas of government in Australia, the Federal Government, the State and Territory Government and Local Government. The Australian Government is regarded as being very stable throughout its history and to be of a low sovereign risk.
The Australian Government operates under a supreme law called the Constitution of Australia. It consists of several documents but the most important being the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia. The history of the Constitution of Australia began with moves towards federation in the 19th century, which culminated in the federation of the Australian colonies to form the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. However, the Constitution has continued to develop since then, with two laws having particularly significant impact on the constitutional status of the nation.
The Federal Government, also known as the Australian or Commonwealth Government is responsible for:
- national economic management;
- immigration and citizenship;
- postal services and the communications network;
- social security (pensions and family support);
- airports and air safety; and
- foreign affairs (relations with other countries).
Find our more about the Australian Government by taking a tour around the website.
Each of the six states and the two territories, Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, have their own government. The State laws are there to complement those of the Federal government, which relate specifically to the residents of that State.
The roles and responsibilities for the State Government of Western Australia are extensive and explained in greater detail on the Government of Western Australia website. The areas they have responsibility for all residents of Western Australia are:
Use the website to find out more about all of the above areas as well as the Western Australian Parliament, more about all of the Government Departments and agencies that service Western Australian residents in the above areas, and how you can interact with the Western Australian Government. Find a school, find a job with local Government or search out your route on public transport.
The Western Australian Department for Local Government provides leadership, support and advice to local governments throughout Western Australia. Local Governments operate as Shires, Councils, Cities and Towns across the State.
The powers of a Local Government are determined by State Government but they have their own level of responsibility for:
- roads and infrastructure;
- waste control;
- maintenance of recreational facilities such as parks and playgrounds;
- community health services;
- building services such as licensing and inspections of pools etc;
- planning and development approval;
- administration of ports, airports, cemeteries and parking facilities;
- cultural services such as libraries and museums; and
- community safety, licensing of pets and recreational vehicles.
Search for your Local Government office on the Department of Local Government website.
The Western Australian Local Government Association is the representative body for the 141 Local Governments across the State of Western Australia. If you visit their website it will offer more in-depth information regarding how the Local Governments across the State are set up and supported by them.