A council's story

In 1842, Sydney was incorporated as a city, a little over half a century after Europeans first arrived in Australia.

The oldest municipality in Australia is Adelaide, created in 1840 just 4 years after the settlement of South Australia.

Since its establishment, the City of Sydney has grown and contracted as state governments redraw boundaries, often to the advantage of the governing party.

The City has had powers taken from it and acquired new responsabilties.

Councillors first met in pubs and other buildings around town, now they meet in one of Sydney's most recognisable buildings.


Sydney's Aldermen

The making of a City

Sydney has transformed from a penal colony in 1788 to today's global city. Along the way it has been governed by London appointees, landed gentry and, since 1842, by a council that has been either elected or imposed by the state government.

In that time, the City of Sydney has expanded and shrunk as authorities tinkered with its borders. The City has had powers taken from it, and gained new responsibilities as the city's society evolved.

These new responsibilities ranged from policing the city to looking after:

  • markets
  • roads
  • lights
  • waste, sewerage, rubbish and rats
  • health
  • city planning.

You can download a longer version of the History of Sydney City Council as a pdf document below.

Heading illustration shows Hyde Park with the Australian Museum under construction, Darlinghurst Gaol and Sydney Grammar School in 1842 in an illustration by J.Rae.

Last updated: Thursday, 21 May 2020