By Laws and Motions

Minuting Maitland’s Early Council Meetings

These leather-bound ledgers have sat silently on dusty shelves for over 100 years, but those who choose to open their covers and read their pages will hear a rowdy multitude of voices coming forward from 1862 to 1912 – of those who lived in and governed the Maitland region for 50 years. 

Diligently transcribed by each town clerk’s careful hand, the light blue pages of each book record the motions, votes, discussions and decisions made at the meetings of three of the regions’ governing bodies, from East Maitland, West Maitland and Bolwarra. They detail many of the municipal decisions that affected the region and the lives of its residents during five decades. Some are as significant as the need to compile a report about the Water Works for High Street. Others are simple, such as the 1862 motion: ‘That the clerk be authorised to purchase a supply of stationery.’ That motion was carried, and the proof is in the numerous subsequent ledger books that were filled up with the clerk’s writing.

The evolution of councils in NSW was messy and changes and amalgamations were common. Before the Maitland City Council came into being in 1945, the region was governed by various municipalities and shires. The first council in the region, Maitland District Council was proclaimed in 1843, but that scheme was unsuccessful. In the early 1860s, the East Maitland, West Maitland and Morpeth Councils were established, and Bolwarra Shire came later, in 1905. Later government acts brought compulsory voting, amalgamations, and independent decision-making for councils. 

These surviving minute books are a unique record of the development and provision of services and facilities for the Maitland community in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.