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Local Government History

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Local History
Local Government History

The City of Canning has developed from its beginnings as the Canning District Road Board of 1871.


City of Canning (1979-)

  • By April 1978, Canning had a population exceeding 50,000 and was handling $10 million in revenue. The Council applied for City status – this was granted in 1979, which was also the 150th year for the State of Western Australia. On 1 March 1979 the Governor, Sir Wallace Kyle officially proclaimed the City of Canning at a ceremony in the Council Administration Centre.
  • Ernest Clark, who had led Canning since 1964, retired as Mayor in 1982 and was succeeded by Eelco Tacoma.
  • In 1991 an inquiry into the Canning Council resulted in the council's dismissal. Charles Gregorini was appointed as Canning's Commissioner.
  • A new Civic and Administration Centre opened in 2006.
  • In late 2012, an inquiry against the Canning City Council resulted in the suspension of the Council, with Linton Reynolds appointed to replace it as City Commissioner. In September 2014, it was reported that the State Government had sacked the four remaining Canning Councillors, to be replaced by a panel of three new Commissioners upon the end of Commissioner Reynolds' tenure.
  • ​Canning survived the State Government's failed Local Government Amalgamation in 2015. Under this plan, Canning would have been abolished and split between Gosnells, Melville and South Perth-Victoria Park.
  • New Council elections were held in 2017.
  • The Canning Council now is made up of a directly elected Mayor and ten Councillors. Ordinary local elections are held every two years and Councillors are elected for a term of up to four years. 

Canning District Road Board (1871-1907)

  • In 1871, the Canning Road District was one of the original districts gazetted under the Roads Board Act. The district was "bounded on the North and East by the York District; on the South by a line from Mt. Dale to South West corner of Kelmscott townsite; thence by a line to Bull's Creek; thence following the Rivers Canning and Swan to South West corner of Swan District, exclusive of Perth and Guildford Road to junction of Swan District."
  • The first meeting of the Canning Road Board took place on 8 February 1871 at the Canning Court House (on what is now Kenwick Cemetery land). Fifteen people elected the first Board members:   T. Buckingham, John White, G.S. Watts, Francis Bird (Chair) , E.B. Powell, William Lacey Gibbs and E. Marsh. The District was granted £300 from Public Funds for 1871.

Queens Park Municipal Council (1907-1915)

  • In 1907, the Canning Road Board was abolished and divided to form the Queens Park and Gosnells Road Boards. Additional land was transferred to the Belmont and Darling Range Road Boards.  The Queens Park Municipal Council  was gazetted on 25.1.1907. The land south of the Canning River – the Riverton district – was part of the Jandakot Road District.
  • The first elected Mayor was George H. Wilson. The elected councillors were W.E. Cockram, G.C. Shaw, B. Collins, J. Retchford, U. Bertoli, W.A. Caporn, A.H. Williamson, W.J. Mason and W.B. Fletcher.
  • The Council moved into Municipal Offices adjoining the newly-built Town Hall in 1909.

Queens Park Road Board (1915-1921)

  • Due to labour shortages affecting local industry as a result of World War I, the Municipality reverted back to Road Board status. Three wards were established - East, West and Central, with three members for each ward. In 1920, the Riverton Ward of the Jandakot Road District was transferred to the Queens Park Road Board.

Canning District Road Board (1921-1961)

  • The Board's name was changed to the Canning District Road Board in 1921. 
  • In 1923 the area west of the centre of Nicholson Road to the Gosnells Road District (previously part of the Jandakot Road District) were transferred to Canning, becoming the South Ward.
  • New Board offices were added to the front of the Town Hall in 1926.
  • George Wilson continued (for the most part) as Chairman until 1946.
  • This era saw much development in Canning, especially after World War II - new suburbs (Riverton, Bentley, St James, Wilson),  road construction, street lighting, drainage and recreational facilities.
  • In 1955, the part of West Ward known as Manning Park and Salters Point was transferred to the South Perth Road District. The District now measured approximately of 25 square miles, covering Cannington, Queens Park, East Cannington, Welshpool, Bentley, Wilson, Riverton and Canning Vale. 
  • Noel Dawkins was appointed Secretary of the Canning Road Board in 1955, and went on to hold this Chief Executive position until 1986.
People inspecting road works

Shire of Canning (1961-1971)

  • A new Local Government Bill changed all Road Boards to Shire Councils. The Shire of Canning came into being on July 12, 1961 with J.W. (Bill) Cole as its first President.
  • Ernest Clark, who had been involved in Local Government since 1951, became President of the Shire of Canning in 1964. 
  • The growth of Canning continued, with the development of suburbs such as Shelley, Lynwood, Ferndale and Willetton. The Canning Swimming Centre in Bentley opened in 1969.
  • Canning's first library opened in Bentley in 1967.

Town of Canning (1971-1979)

  • On 24 January 1971, with a population approaching 35,00, Canning was proclaimed as a Town, with Ernest Clark as its Mayor. 1971 also marked the Centenary of Local Government in Canning.
  • In May 1971, the number of wards in Canning increased from four to six, with the number of Councillors increasing from eleven to sixteen.
  • A new Council Administration Centre, costing $600,000 was built on 20 acres of land adjoining the old Town Hall. The land was previously part of the Wilson & Johns Nursery. The centre was officially opened by R.H.C. Stubbs, M.L.C., Minister for Local Government, on 2 May 1971.
  • Canning continued growing, with major developments such as Carousel Shopping Centre and the Canning Vale Industrial Area.
The Canning Crest, adopted during the Shire of Canning era.

The Canning Crest

The Canning Crest was adopted in 1962. The crest coat-of-arms in the left-hand corner, and lion support are part of the coat-of-arms of the British Prime Minister George Canning, from whom Canning’s name derives. The bridge at the top indicates that Canning is cut in half by a river. The swan supporting the shield is identical to that on the City of Perth’s coat-of arms, reflecting that Canning is part of Perth. The swan in the centre depicts the state of W.A. The Southern Cross symbolises Australia. The motto “Above all – Service” was submitted by the Shire President, Ernest Clark.

Honorary Freemen

The City of Canning may confer the title Freeman of the City on an outstanding member of the community in recognition of their achievements in service of the community.

George Harmston Wilson

George Wilson was the owner of Wilson & John’s Nursery, which was established in 1898. His nursery covered the area between Wharf Street, Manning and Chapman Roads and Albany Highway.  Wilson joined the Canning Road Board in 1903, and became the first Mayor of the District in 1907. He went on to be Mayor and Chairman of Canning for 29 years. He was a member of the Canning Agricultural Society for 52 years, and President for 50 years. Wilson was awarded the King's Medal for services to Canning in 1937 and  the suburb Wilson was named after him. The title of Honorary Freeman had not yet been instituted in Canning. However his service to the Canning District was recognised at a Presentation dinner at the Canning Agricultural Hall in 1946.

Ernest Clark

Ernest Clark was born in England in 1900, arriving in Australia as a child. He went on to work in the newspaper industry and was heavily involved in sporting, community and welfare organisations. He became involved in trotting as an owner/trainer and reinsman, and became President of the Trotting Breeders and Trainers Association. Clark was a member of the Canning Agricultural, Horticultural and Recreational Society for over 40 years. He was elected to the Canning Road Board in 1951, eventually becoming President of the Shire of Canning from 1964-1971, Mayor of the Town of Canning 1971-1979 and Mayor of the City of Canning 1979-1982.  In 1960, Clark also became the District Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, a post he held until 1976. In that time he had married more than 2500 couples, operating from his Cannington home.  Ernest Clark was proclaimed an Honorary Freeman of the Municipality of the City of Canning in 1979, and In 1980, he was awarded the O.B.E. for services to the community.

Noel Dawkins

Noel Dawkins was appointed a Secretary of the Canning Road Board in 1955. He remained in the Chief Executive position for 31 years, during which time Canning grew from a semi-rural Road Board of 9000 people to a City of 80000. He became an Associate Member of the W.A. division of the Institute of Local Government Administration in 1957, eventually becoming the W.A. Divisional President in 1967. Dawkins was extensively involved in many community organisations, and with the Greyhound Racing Association.  He was made an Honorary Freeman of the City in 1986, and appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 1989 for service to Local Government and to the community.

Dr Michael Lekias

Dr Michael Lekias opened his first practice in his Bentley family home in 1955. He was a very popular local GP, delivering many local babies. Always heavily involved with sporting and community organisations, he nominated as Mayor of Canning and was elected in 1992with an overwhelming majority. He held this position from 1992 to 2008. During his time as Mayor, Dr Lekias was awarded a Bicentennial Medal and in 2006 he became a Member of the Order of Australia. He was awarded Freeman of the City of Canning in 2013.

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