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History of Council

The District Council of Robe was proclaimed on 28th October 1869. After rapidly progressing to be an important and busy sea port in the 1850's-60's Robe declined to become a remote and quiet village, still with many of its early buildings standing. It appears that in spite of its decline, Robe has always been popular as a place of beauty and relaxation.

During the 1960's there was some concern that Robe's charm would be lost, and indeed, a few colonial buildings were demolished, some even by the Council of the day.

After discussions lasting many years, with various authorities and private consultants, a town plan was agreed upon. As Robe is now a major tourist town and in recent years a popular retirement centre, it is increasingly important that we adhere to that plan and not destroy the very things that attract people here.

"The little township of Robe, founded as an English Village on the shores of Guichen Bay is unique in the southern seas ......."

Robe's distinctive charm - a rare combination of old fashioned town, dense bush, wild ocean and quiet lakes - has long been appreciated but is not yet fully recognised nor properly preserved.

Robe's coastline was explored by Captain Matthew Flinders and Nicolas Baudin in 1802, and Robe was founded by the South Australian Government as a seaport and village in 1846. The Province of South Australia itself had been first settled only ten years earlier.

Age alone and that unique blend of town, bush and water makes Robe worthy of preservation, but Robe is more than simply an old town. It was the first town of any significance to be established in the south eastern portion of the colony. Greytown on Rivoli Bay had been surveyed a few months earlier and was the site of a small settlement but, Robe as the first centre of administration, was the focus of public and commercial life in the region.

 Customs House  

Robe was the major shipping service of the South East for the first twenty years of its existence, serving a hinterland that extended as far as Tatiara and the Victorian border. Most of the wool produced in the district left through its harbour and most imports entered in Guichen Bay which was also the site of numerous shipwrecks.

It was the first active port in the South East. During this period Robe became an international port: at a time when most other ports in South Australia exported through Port Adelaide, Robe was trading directly with London. Great prosperity and the erection of many buildings occured between 1857 and 1863 when 17,000 Chinese landed at Robe and walked to the Victorian Goldfields, bringing an estimated 16,000 pounds into the Robe economy.

The port declined rapidly after the 1860's. Fortunately this decline and a poor economy, has ensured that a large portion of the old town has been preserved so that 84 historic buildings and sites remain. In terms of the number of historically important buildings recognised by the National Trust, Robe ranks foremost in South Australia. Robe is also listed as one of the State's historical towns in the Heritage Conservation Branch's Master Interpretation Plan. Had the town continued to thrive, it is possible that re-development would have destroyed or obscured the remains of its early history.

It is also fortunate and probably unique that the old town has preserved its integrity to a large extent. However, re-development, particularly since the 1960's has destroyed some of the town's historical character and natural features and has made it imperative that the remainder is properly defined and appreciated by the public.


1869, part of 1870  W McLean

Part of 1870           James Trego Williams

1871                     Charles Gell

1872                     J Law

1873                     Henry Wylie

1874                     Charles Gell

1875                     J Law

1876                     Arthur Banks

1877                     Charles Gell

1878                     J Hoston

1879, 1880            WH Young

1881                     Thomas Pickett

1882                     H Giles

1883                     J Hoston

1884                     S Reid

1885                     J Hoston

1886                     Charles Savage


1888                     Arthur Banks





1893                     Andrew Munro

1894                     Levi Cooper

1895-1898             William Moule

1899                     Thomas Brigland

1900, 1901            James Nunan

1913, 1914            Charles Savage

1915, 1916            Henry James McConville

1916, 1917            Samuel Fletcher

1919, 1920            Samuel Fletcher

1920-1922             Benjamin John Davidson McBain

1922, 1923            Andrew Robinson





1928, 1929            Andrew Robinson




1933, 1934            James Nunan


1936, 1937            Eric James Banks



1940, 1941            Eric James Banks

1941-1943             Ronald Keith Stewart

1943-1946             Eric James Banks

1946-1948             John Hoctor Ryan

1948, 1949            Herbert Daniel Flint



1952, 1953            Herbert Daniel Flint

1953, 1954            George Francis Gough

1954, 1955            Eric Ronald Cawthorne


1957, 1958            Eric Ronal Cawthorne

1958-1960             Alfred Stanhope

1960, 1961            Robert George Powell







1968, 1969            Robert George Powell

1969-1971             William John Quinlan-Watson

1971-1973             Brian James Thompson

1973, 1974            William John Quinlan-Watson








1982, 1983            Patrick Raymond Enright



1986, 1987            Patrick Raymond Enright

1987, 1988            John Desmond Sale Rudd


1990, 1991            John Desmond Sale Rudd

1991-2000             Kenneth John Hurst


2000-2003             Anne Hayes

2003-2006             Peter Darr

2006-2010             William Peden

2010-current           Peter Riseley