“NO longer a town! A City! That is the State Government’s present to Parramatta on its 150th birthday…” proudly declared a Sydney newspaper.1 And what a timely gift it was for Parramatta, when in 1938, on the eve of Parramatta’s 150th birthday celebrations, the Parliament of NSW bestowed on Parramatta the status of City.
For Parramatta it was a coming of age, a symbolic event that elevated Parramatta from being a suburb to City. But even though the headlines claimed this was a “present” for Parramatta, its elevation was deserving and did not come without a fight. As if it was a test of the resolve of Parramatta’s character numerous requirements and red tape threatened to derail Council’s attempt to be declared a city.
The Cumberland Argus, a key agitator for Parramatta’s elevation to city status wrote;
Whatever red tape may have required, commonsense and justice demanded due recognition of Parramatta’s historic importance and of the great part it played in laying, as it were, the foundation stone on which this great Commonwealth has been built.2
Four months earlier, when momentum was building for a decision to be made, the Cumberland Argus had dared the state’s leaders to act when it declared;
When later in the year Parramatta celebrates its 150th birthday some of our politicians then will talk of ‘”the cradle of Australia,” and will literally swell with pride as they recall the glorious paste of this old town. But the sincerity of their, utterances will be judged by what they have done – or refused to do- in the meantime.3
In October 1938 the Bill to grant Parramatta City status was introduced to Parliament for a second reading, with expectations high of a successful result. Civic pride was already overflowing leading up the 150th Anniversary celebrations, but it was turned up a notch when on the 25 October news came that the Bill had been passed. Mayor Irwin, who worked tirelessly to ensure an eventful and successful two weeks of celebrations, could not contain his pride for the City. In his Mayoral minute, following the official declaration made by Lord Wakehurst,he announced;
It is my pleasing duty to formally report that on the 27th day of October last, from the Official Platform opposite this Hall at 12.8 in the afternoon, His Excellency, The Lord Wakehurst, stated that he had that day, as the Representative of His Majesty the King, signed the assent to an Act entitled Local Government (City of Parramatta) Bill 1938 passed by the Parliament of this State whereby the Municipality of Parramatta was proclaimed a City. 4
With that began the City’s 150th birthday celebrations. Congratulatory letters came from as far away as Dubbo Council which wrote;
The name of Parramatta occupying as it does, such an important place in the annals of this young Country and being so intimately associated with its progress and development over the past one hundred and fifty years render the honour of City ranking most richly deserved.5
Fifty years later, on Parramatta’s 200th birthday, Queen Elizabeth II, in response to a recommendation by the state government, elevated the title of Mayor to Lord Mayor.It was considered an “established practice that a Mayor of an important city is raised to a Lord Mayor only to mark some very special national or local event. Her Majesty is happy to approve the Premier’s recommendation that the Mayor of Parramatta should be raised to the dignity of Lord Mayor.”6
1. No Longer a Town!Truth (1938, October 30)
2. Successful Fight for City Status. (1938, October 26). The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, p.1
4. Letter from Municipality of Dubbo. 477/H. 4 November 1938. Parramatta Council Archives
5. Mayoral Minute. 535/H. 14 November 1938. Parramatta Council Archives
6. Ann-Marree Whitaker. Shaping a City. 150 Years of Parramatta City Council. 2012. p.57