- 1831-03-12 - (Creation)
- 1831-03-12 - 1970-12-10 (Accumulation)
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The Governor of Western Australia is the personal representative of the sovereign in the State and exercises the powers of the Crown in State Matters. He is the titular head of the Government and performs the official and ceremonial functions attached to the Crown.
The first Governor of Western Australia took office as Lieutenant-Governor, his only authority being a letter of appointment from the Colonial Office dated 30 December 1828. On 14 May 1829, "An Act to provide until the thirty-first day of December 1834 for the Government of His Majesty's Settlement in Western Australia, on the Western coast of New Holland" (10 Geo.IV. No. XXII) received the Royal Assent, but Stirling's Commission as Governor and Commander-in-Chief, with the accompanying Royal Instructions, was not issued until 4 March 1831 and only reached him in Australia at the end of that year.
Although Executive and Legislative Councils were formed at the beginning of 1832 to assist the Governor in the administration of the Colony, the powers of those Councils were restricted. The Governor was subject to the instructions of the Colonial Office and had to report continually, however he was all powerful within the Colony itself. He presided at meetings of both the Executive and Legislative Councils until 1870.
After 1870, by virtue of 33 Vict. No. 13, the Legislative Council became partly elective, and it was presided over by a Speaker. Finally in 1890, Western Australia was granted Responsible Government, and the first Ministry was sworn in on 29 December, 1890.
The last Governor of Western Australia as a Colony was Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Gerard Smith KCMG, whose term of office expired on 29 June 1900 and the first Governor of the State was Captain Sir Arthur Lawley, KCMG, who was sworn in on 1 May 1901.
The first regulations with regard to the conduct of the official business of the Governor's Office were published, with similar regulations for other sections of the Civil Establishment, in August 1834 following the Governor's return from Great Britain.
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Despatches have been exchanged between the Governor of Western Australia and the Secretary of State for the Colonies, later the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs and later for Commonwealth Relations. Despatches were numbered in succession, commencing annually from 1. Where a change took place during the year, either in the office of Governor or of Secretary of State, the numbering re-commenced at 1. Despatches with their enclosures were sent in duplicate, and a third copy was kept in a letterbook in the office of origin. This series is the copy in the letterbooks retained in the Governor's office.
Included in these despatches are general reports by the Governor on the progress of the Colony; annual reports by the various departmental heads, and other periodical returns and accounts, with a covering letter by the Governor giving his comments; reports of proceedings of the Legislative Council, with copies of Acts or Ordinances for the Royal Assent; such queries as may arise in connection with appointments to the Civil Service and the administration of the Colony generally; petitions to the Queen, or the Queen in Council, and letters and memorials to the the Secretary of State from individuals, accompanied by such reports from the Governor as may be necessary; formal acknowledgements of the numbers and dates of despatches received. As the role of the Governor changed, with Responsible Government, Federation and subsequently, so the nature of the despatches has changed over the years.
The letterbooks contain copies of despatches which were sent to the Secretary of State, but no copies of enclosures. They are arranged chronologically and from 1834 they each contain an index.
The series was only kept formally in this manner from September 1834 after the Governor's return from England. An earlier volume contains copies of despatches from March 1831 - June 1832 (Consignment 390/1), but there are no copies of despatches sent by the Lieutenant Governor from July 1832 to July 1834, during the Governor's absence from the colony, nor of despatches sent before March 1831.