Boroondara Road District

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Boroondara Road District
Established 11 July 1854 (proclaimed)
Abolished 17 November 1871 (reconstituted as the Shire of Boroondara)
Area 60km2
Chairman (as of 17 November 1871) George Taylor[1]
Footnotes First Board elected on 7 October 1856

The Boroondara Road District was the first iteration of local government in present-day Boroondara. It was one of the first road boards proclaimed under new legislation passed by the Parliament of Victoria and survived several challenges to its authority in its early years. After its tumultuous start, Kew and Hawthorn seceeded in 1860 to form their own municipal governments. The Boroondara Road District was eventually reconstituted as the Shire of Boroondara in 1871.

The Victorian Government Gazette of 11 July 1854 officially establishing Boroondara as a local government.


First proclamation

The Boroondara Road District was gazetted on 11 July 1854 after residents of Boroondara petitioned the state government. Following an act of the Victorian Parliament in 1853, road boards could be constituted in parts of the state where at least five landowners and five residents had petitioned a local Justice of the Peace to do so. The purpose of these organisations was to improve, maintain and manage roads and bridges throughout the state consisting of local elected members. Their activities were overseen by the Central Roads Board reporting directly to the Lieutenant-Governor of the day.[2]

Elections were subsequently held to determine the members of the Board. Overseen by the local justice of the peace, J. F. Palmer, the first meeting was subsequently held at the Red Lion Hotel in Hawthorn at 2pm on 2 September 1854.[3] However, historical records suggest that an election was either not held or no candidates came forward, as the first Board was not elected until 1856.[1] Thus, the District was not properly constituted and seems to have existed only in name until 1856.

Second proclamation

A public meeting held on 17 September 1856 was convened to discuss the formation and boundaries of the Boroondara Road District. As reported in the Argus, the gathering was well-attended and support for the creation of a district and board was generally present. This was despite some interjections and opposition from those concerned about the levying of rates on property owners, although this does not appear to have been a popular view.[4]

As a result of resolutions passed at this initial gathering, a second meeting was called at the Governor Hotham Hotel in Hawthorn in a second attempt to elect a Board.[5] Henry Walsh, a local Justice of the Peace and subsequently the first Chair of the Board, chaired the meeting, which was interrupted by a number of locals who opposed the creation of the District and proposed a resolution to reverse the decision of the previous meeting to establish a Roads District. The grounds of opposition articulated by one of the notable opponents of the proposition, Dr Sir James Frederick Palmer, included that it was preferable for Boroondara, as part of metropolitan Melbourne, to fall under the jurisdiction of the existing Central Roads Board to avoid the expense and inconvenience of separate administration and equipment for individual districts. This would in turn save local ratepayers money through the efficiencies of centralised government. However, many others rose in support of the creation of the District, arguing that it had been neglected by the state administration and necessitated a local government to ensure that the residents were able to more directly ensure that infrastructure was maintained to an acceptable standard.[6]

After lengthy debate, a vote was called on the resolution to prevent the establishment of the District. The show of hands was reported to be close and a division was called during which the Chair declared the motion lost. This caused an uproar from those opposed to the District's creation and the meeting was thrown into disarray. The first board was subsequently elected and constituted with Henry Walsh as its inaugural chair, although the meeting caused much debate in letters written to newspapers over subsequent weeks from those involved.[6][7][8]

Not giving up, those opposed to the formation of the District, including local members of the Victorian Parliament, held another meeting three weeks later on 28 October. They passed a resolution calling for the Governor of Victoria to rescind the proclamation of the Boroondara Road District.[9] However, they were not successful in their efforts and sparked yet more letter-writing to newspapers condemning their attempts. One anonymous resident wrote:

"Localise your Government : let each district have its representatives to improve, strengthen and protect its own interests, such institutions to be fostered by the central Government...Inhabitants of Boroondara, arouse from your lethargy, and show these sapient legislators, and would be legislator, that if they have had their roads made at the public expense, they shall contribute, if not a portion of their time, at least of their money to make yours."[10]


The Board began advertising for official positions in newspapers and held its first meetings.[11][12]. These were held every Friday night at 7pm at the Sir Robert Nickle Hotel in Hawthorn.[13]. The first funds for the Board of £4,000 from the Victorian Government was appropriated by Parliament on 12 December.[14] The first tenders advertised by the new District was published on 11 March 1857 by the newly-appointed secretary, John R. Withers.[15]

1857-58 opposition

Those opposed to the formation of the District continued in their attempts to frustrate the activities of the newly-elected Board. Opponents held a public meeting on 8 August 1857 to condemn the first collection of rates. This was part of general disquiet throughout Melbourne among some settlers who resented having to pay property rates.[16] They argued that residents had not been given enough notice and that the process did not allow any recourse or appeal. Dr Palmer, by now the inaugural president of the Victorian Legislative Council, addressed the meeting at length. According to reports in the Argus, he was philosophical about their cause and urged opponents to accept their defeat, despite his previous rigorous opposition. Several resolutions were passed at the conclusion of the meeting; most notably one that created a committee of five men to "watch over the proceedings of the road board" and raise money to fund their activities.[17][18]

Once formed, this committee began holding further meetings to drum up support for their cause throughout Boroondara. After a number of people refused to pay their rates, the committee resolved to assist in the defence of anybody summoned before a court for the failure to pay rates if that person also agreed to oppose the entire legality of the Board and its existence.[19] The failure of nine residents to pay their rates was brought before the District Court, the first time that such a case had been presented in Victoria.[20] The defence successfully argued that the court had no such jurisdiction in the matter and that it should be referred to the Supreme or County Courts.[21] These events coincided with the convening of the Board's annual general meeting which was held on Saturday 3 October. It was thrown into disarray when members of the residents committee took control of the meeting and refused to appoint any auditors or board members.[22]

After the throwing out of the case by the District Court, the matter was heard by the County Court on Monday 7 December 1857. Newspapers reported large numbers of people gathering to watch the proceedings as the case had transformed from a comparatively simple case of debt collection to a determination on the validity and legitimacy of the Board itself.[23] The case continued in another sitting on 30 December[24] On the following day, the justice presented his findings, ruling in favour of the Board.[25][26]

1860 secessions



Following the separation of Hawthorn from the Boroondara Road District, residents of Kew began to agitate for their area to do the same. A petition was prepared throughout June and formally presented to the Governor of Victoria on 16 July 1860.[27]

The proposal was initially opposed by the Board of Land and Works when the delegation from Kew was first received on 28 September 1860. The Board did not believe in the efficiency or effectiveness of small road districts and did not wish for Kew to be constituted over such a small geographic area.[28]

A fortnight later, a second delegation visited the Board and asked for a decision to be made. The representative from Kew stated that although they had "no quarrel" with the way in which the Boroondara District was being managed, the division in half of Boroondara by the secession of Hawthorn made administration of Kew from Camberwell very difficult. Despite the delegates' best efforts, the president of the Board of Land and Works reiterated the earlier statements. However, he suggested that Kew be incorporated into the new Hawthorn municipality or subsumed by the Bulleen Road Board, with Camberwell then forming part the Nunawading Road Board instead. The Kew delegate indicated his approval of such a plan.[29]

Kew was formally declared a separate municipality on 18 December 1860.[30]





  1. 1.0 1.1 Blainey, Geoffrey (1980). 'A History of Camberwell'. Melbourne:Lothian.
  2. Victorian Government Gazette. No. XL - An Act for making and improving Roads in the Colony of Victoria. Australasian Legal Information Institute. 8 February 1853., accessed: 3 December 2016
  3. The Argus Advertising - Boroondara Road District. 23 August 1854., accessed: 3 December 2016
  4. The Argus. Boroondara Road District. 17 September 1856., accessed: 21 December 2016
  5. The Argus. Meetings - Boroondara Road District. 19 September 1856., accessed: 21 December 2016
  6. 6.0 6.1 The Argus. Boroondara District Road Board. 7 October 1856., accessed: 21 December 2016
  7. The Argus. Boroondara Road District - to the editor of the Argus. 8 October 1856., accessed: 21 December 2016
  8. The Argus. Boroondara Road District Board Meeting. 10 October 1856., accessed: 21 December 2016
  9. The Age. Boroondara Road District Road Board. 28 October 1856., accessed: 21 December 2016
  10. The Argus. Boroondara Road Board - to the editor of the Argus. 1 November 1856., accessed: 21 December 2016
  11. The Argus. Wanted - a secretary for the Boroondara Road Board. 8 December 1856., accessed: 21 December 2016
  12. The Argus. Boroondara Road District - Wanted, Valuer and Surveyor 19 December 2016., accessed: 21 December 2016
  13. The Argus. Boroondara District Road Board. 10 December 1856., accessed: 21 December 2016
  14. The Age. Parliament of Victoria - Legislative Assembly. 13 December 1856., accessed: 21 December 2016
  15. The Argus. Boroondara District Road Board - Tenders will be received until Friday. 11 March 1857., accessed: 21 December 2016
  16. Wehner, Volkhard. Old Hartwell - the life and times of the village that lost its name. 2012: Glen Iris.
  17. The Argus. Boroondara Road Board. 10 August 1857., accessed: 22 December 2016
  18. The Age. The Boroondara Road Board v. its Inhabitants. 13 August 1857., accessed: 22 December 2016
  19. The Age. Boroondara Road Board. 30 September 1857., accessed: 22 December 2016
  20. The Argus. Road Board Rates. 1 October 1857., accessed: 22 December 2016
  21. The Age. Boroondara Road Board. 3 October 1857., accessed: 22 December 2016
  22. The Age. Boroondara Road Board. 7 October 1857., accessed: 22 December 2016
  23. The Age. County Court of Bourke - Billyeld v Johnston. 9 December 1857., accessed: 22 December 2016
  24. The Age. County Court of Bourke - Billyeld v Johnston. 31 December 1857., accessed: 22 December 2016
  25. The Argus. County Court of Bourke - Boroondara Road Board Case - Billyeld v Johnston. 1 January 1858., accessed: 22 December 2016
  26. The Age. The News of the Day. 1 January 1858., accessed: 22 December 2016
  27. The Argus. Gazette. 18 July 1860., accessed: 5 October 2017
  28. The Argus. Deputations to the Board of Land and Works. 29 September 1860., accessed: 5 October 2017
  29. The Argus. Friday 12 October. 12 October 1860., accessed: 5 October 2017
  30. The Argus. Gazette. 20 December 1860., accessed: 5 October 2017

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