Gawler Thematic History - Local Government

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Fast Facts
Type of thing Government
Date made or found 2020

Local Government

South Australia’s earliest citizens began agitating to be able to make decisions locally and independently of the British-run Colonial government within the first four years’ of settlement. In this regard, the Colony was extremely progressive, with Adelaide City Council becoming the first municipality in Australia in 1840, following a petition of residents seeking the rights and privileges of their own Council.

From that point onwards, the history of municipal councils in South Australia mirrors that of the development of the State as they attended to the governance and principal needs of the colonists – roads, markets, sanitation, health, welfare and economic prosperity.

In June 1852, the Districts Councils Act was passed and municipal government was first established in the area in 1853 with the creation of the District Council of Barossa West which covered the western half of the Hundred of Barossa and locally governed the eastern half of the Gawler township. Gawler is seated at the intersection of four different cadastral divisions – Mudla Wirra, Nuriootpa, Barossa and Munno Para.

From 1854 the western half of Gawler township was governed by the District Council of Mudla Wirra and the southern outskirts of the township were administered by the District Council of Munno Para West.

The municipality of the Town of Gawler was proclaimed on 9 July 1857 after petition by ratepayers in as a result of dissatisfaction over this governance by three separate district councils. The boundaries of the new municipality followed the original town plus Gawler East, totalling 487 acres. The area was divided into three wards – North, South and East and Council soon prioritised upgrading Murray Street to improve gradients, creation and maintenance of roads and footpaths, fencing parklands, improved drainage works and bridge construction. 111

Under new constitutional arrangements in 1855 Gawler became the principal polling place for the District of Barossa. 112

Ongoing discussion from 1868 included the need for a town hall, but the location and source of funding were much debated. A final poll resulted in a site in Murray Street being selected and the foundation stone was laid in April 1878.

By early 1893, ratepayers in the District Council of Munno Para West (which included Gawler West, Bassett Town, Evanston and Gawler South) voiced great discontent with their Council’s approach to civic responsibilities. In August 1894 the Town of Gawler motioned to approach the District Council of Munno Para West to discuss extending Gawler’s boundaries to take in Gawler South. Eventually the District Council of Gawler South was proclaimed as a separate council in September 1899.

Amalgamation with Gawler did not occur until 1933. At the same time, large areas of Willaston and Gawler East were also added.

Recognition was given to the enlarged community comprising Gawler and sustaining its commercial centre by the formation of the Greater Gawler Council in 1933. This reinforced the established distribution of residential, commercial and industrial settlement and helped to ensure that the growing southern residential areas remained oriented toward the Gawler town centre and its services rather than other growing townships within the Munno Para District Council.

With the incorporation of Willaston into the enlarged Gawler Corporation considerable areas capable of sustaining small-scale industry were also acquired, and a number of premises connected with building materials were established in Willaston during the 1940s.

It was not until 1985 that the remaining parts of Willaston, Evanston Park and Evanston Gardens became part of Gawler Council. 113


This report has been prepared by the following people:

• Nancy Cromar (Flightpath Architects)

• Deborah Morgan (Flightpath Architects)

• Kate Paterson (Flightpath Architects)

• Douglas Alexander (Flightpath Architects)

The study team would like to acknowledge the assistance of the following people:

• David Petruzzella (Strategic Planner; Town of Gawler)

• Jacinta Weiss (Cultural Heritage Centre Coordinator; Town of Gawler)

• Jane Strange (Senior Development and Strategic Policy Officer; Town of Gawler)

Gawler History Team thanks: Flightpath Architects, Ryan Viney and the Town of Gawler for allowing us access to this important document of Gawler History.

Related Articles


  • 111 SMEC p. 32.
  • 112 Whitelock D. p. 66-67
  • 113 SMEC p. 32

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