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Cottesloe council members inspecting their new rubbish tip truck, 1950.

Photo: Cottesloe council members inspecting their new rubbish tip truck, 1950. Courtesy SLWA ref SLWA 8292B/24696-1-3

Although most of us are aware of local governments’ commitment to ‘roads and rubbish’, it wasn’t until 1906-07 that the then road boards were collecting rates. 

In 1970-71 the Shire of Roebourne had the lowest rates collection in the State, at about $3,000. Now the City of Karratha levies more than $40 million. 

The Equal Opportunity Commissioner embarked on a project at the start of the 1990s, reviewing by-laws to identify sections with unlawful discrimination. Unwittingly, many female bathers in Mosman Park were breaking the law — as a by-law still required them to wear ‘a skirt extending from the hips to a point halfway between the hips and knees and of wool and cotton mixture’.

Meanwhile, Northam had comprehensive by-laws on a range of topics, including the keeping of pigeons and licencing of chimney sweeps (with a schedule of charges). To protect urban sensitivities, there was even a by-law regulating the copulation of stock in the town; it was only allowed in premises that were entirely screened from public view. 

The community was rocked by the hatpin panic of 1912, following reports of injuries caused by women’s hatpins of up to 12 inches or more. 

There were reports of people losing eyes and even dying as the result of blood poisoning from relatively minor nicks. Some councils including Perth introduced municipal by-laws to restrict the wearing of these ‘dangerous’ hatpins in public spaces, with council inspectors on the lookout for offenders in the city streets.

Despite inevitable changes in fashion choices, the Shire of Boulder’s hat pin panic by-law of 1912 was not repealed until the year 2000. 


Page reviewed 06 May 2022