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History of democracy in NSW

History of democracy in NSW

The Parliament of New South Wales is Australia's first and oldest Parliament, and its complex of buildings includes the oldest building surviving in the Sydney Central Business District (CBD).

Sydney was founded as a convict colony by the British in 1788. Limited provision was made for infrastructure, convict labour being the main source of public building. When Governor Lachlan Macquarie (Governor of New South Wales from 1810-1821) arrived in the colony, he found there were no permanent hospital facilities. With no provision of funds from the distant British government, he managed to have Sydney's first permanent hospital, completed in 1816. To fund the building, he allowed the building contractors to import and sell 60,000 gallons of rum. As a result the hospital was known as The Rum Hospital. Two of the Rum Hospital's original buildings survive today: the southern wing which was The Mint building and the northern wing, now part of the parliament of New South Wales. Both were essentially residences for surgeons, the Chief Surgeon occupying the building now part of Parliament House. A large ward block in between these two buildings was replaced in the late nineteenth century with the present buildings of Sydney Hospital.

In 1823, bowing to the desires of an increasingly free society, the British Government legislated for a Legislative Council to be established in New South Wales to assist the Governor in the legislative process. This was the first step towards a democratic system of government in NSW. The new Council first met in 1824 and consisted of five government officials, but by 1829, when it had expanded in size, it began to meet in the northern or Chief Surgeon's Wing of the Rum Hospital. From that time on, the story of Parliament House was determined by the development of democracy in New South Wales. As the role and complexity of the legislature expanded, it took over and expanded the building itself.

Highlights of this development include: