150th Anniversary of Local Government in Keilor
Keilor Historical Society celebrated 150 years of local government in Keilor over the weekend of 1-3 March 2013. The proclamation of the Keilor District Road Board was made on 3 March 1863 by Governor Sir Henry Barkly. District Road Boards were established in 1862 as the final stage in the organisation of local government by the new state of Victoria and were responsible for the administration of local affairs in country areas and for local roads and their maintenance with income derived from rates on property. In 1871 Keilor was proclaimed a Shire and in 1961 a City. In the early 1990s the Victorian Government felt that fewer and larger councils would achieve economic reform and provide more efficient services than the existing councils and in 1994 the amalgamation of councils took place with the City of Brimbank formed from parts of Keilor and Sunshine. Our commemorative weekend began on Friday, 1 March 2013 with an exhibition in the Old Shire Hall of material from previous Open Days which when shown together provided a comprehensive history of Keilor in the 19th and 20th centuries. Later in the day Shirley Brown, a KHS member. unveiled a plaque at the Sports Club renaming the Oval the Joseph Brown Memorial Oval in memory of her late husband. On Saturday 2 March our annual Open Day, with its theme of 150 years of Local Government in Keilor, was held at Harricks Cottage with a bus running between the cottage and the exhibition in the Old Shire Hall. The exhibition remained open on the Sunday when a bus ran between the Old Shire Hall and Overnewton where the gardens were on view. A dinner at Overnewton completed the celebratory weekend when descendants of former councillors were among our many visitors.
The last 150 years
In 1803 Charles Grimes, Surveyor General of New South Wales led an expedition to assess the environs of Port Phillip Bay. They explored the upper reaches of the Maribyrnong River (Saltwater River). Twenty one years later Hamilton Hume and William Hovell set out on an overland expedition from Lake George near the present site of Canberra to Westernport Bay in order to assess the agricultural potential of the land en route. Their faulty calculations took them in a more westerly direction than they had intended to the Keilor area.
In 1835 John Batman came from Tasmania in search of land suited to sheep grazing. After exploring the area around Keilor on foot, he described the Keilor Plains as "the most beautiful sheep pasture I ever saw" Soon pastoralists from Tasmania were settling in the Port Phillip District, and as news of its potential spread, settlers came from overseas. Circa 1840 Alexander Hunter and James Watson, agents for a Scottish pastoral company investing in Australia. established a property in Keilor with the intention of sheep farming and training horses but by 1843 the company was bankrupt and Hunter and Watson were forced to move away from Keilor.
In 1850 both the New South Wales Government Gazette and the Port Phillip District Gazette had an announcement that meant Keilor was officially "on the map" :-
"Notice is hereby given that a site has been fixed upon for a Village at the undermentioned place and that a copy of the approved plan may be seen at the Office of the Surveyor-General Sydney or at the Survey and Police Offices at Melbourne ,viz KEILOR in the district of Port Phillip" and just a year later gold was discovered in Bendigo and Ballarat with the result that Keilor, located on the main road to the goldfields, became a very busy village with numerous people passing through it daily.
The Keilor District Roads Board was set up the 3rd March in 1863. On the 11th November 1871 There was a Petition to the Governor for Shire status. On the 27th December 1871 Shire status was granted and William Taylor was elected as a Councillor and he became President in 1874 and held that office till 1882. The total time he was Chairman for was twenty two years in total. On the 29th April 1961 Keilor became a City. The population was 33,000. There were City of Keilor Centenary celebrations held in Keilor in 1963.