Sarah Simic


Sarah Simic - Dating the Suburbs of Fair
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When were each of the 27 suburbs of Fairfield City Council officially proclaimed?


My project explores when each of the 27 suburbs of the Fairfield Council were officially established. The City of Fairfield, located in South West Sydney, covers a vast area and each of the suburbs have a distinct historical narrative.  Due to time constraints, my final research project provides a sample of the kind of information I have gathered on twelve particular suburbs. By encompassing both the older (and thus more historically complex) and younger suburbs in the region, it is apparent that establishing an official “date” is certainly not an easy feat, especially when certain townships developed over years or even decades.



The project has stemmed directly from a task given by the Fairfield Council to the Heritage Officers at the Whitlam Library, in Cabramatta. The Council have established large, flag-like banners in each suburb, stating the official date of establishment. However, some of these dates have been contested, and thus my role is to find primary and secondary sources which explicitly state the year each suburb was proclaimed.


To complement this task, I have kept my project format simple – a paragraph for each suburb explaining the date of establishment and a collection of primary sources which support these dates. This will provide the council with an easily referable document. The findings will also be made publicly available via the Whitlam Library website and thus, will be a useful tool for students of history and local historians.


For some suburbs, particularly those established in the late twentieth century, the date of establishment is explicit. For example, the suburb of Prairiewood was proclaimed in 1979 (as stated in Fairfield Council meeting records). By the late 1970s, the government was beginning to officiate each suburb’s name and locality and thus, newer areas were neatly established. However, older suburbs such as St John’s Park, Wetherill Park and particularly Old Guildford,  are complex because development occurred over years and sources are either scarce or hazy. Despite their complex histories, many were not officially listed as localities until the late 1970s.


Thus, what I subtly argue is that although the “date of establishment” is important, it should be contextualised within a greater framework of historical continuity. Suburbs do not appear overnight, but often require years of development. I have made an effort to not merely state the date of establishment, but to place it within a historical continuum. Sometimes, I contest the conventional dates that are usually given. For example, Smithfield’s proclamation is usually dated as 1888, when the Fairfield-Smithfield Council was formed. However, Smithfield existed long before. By exploring the development of the township in the early 1840s, I have argued that the date of establishment was in fact, 1841. Indeed, dates are important – particularly for the Council’s purpose – but they are not the be all and end all. What is perhaps most fascinating is understanding how townships and settlements came to existence and the developmental process this entailed.



Both primary and secondary sources have been used as evidence in my project. Secondary sources are mainly used to contextualise certain dates or primary sources. On the odd occasion, when little primary sources were available, secondary sources are cited. Although there are only handful of local history books, they provide a good foundation for understanding key developments. Vance George’s Fairfield: A History of the District and Steven Gapp’s Cabrogal to Fairfield City have provided the foundations necessary to understanding each suburb and also provide clues as to the type of primary sources which will be useful. Newspaper articles and Fairfield Council Minutes records are the main primary sources used.  Newspaper articles - found on the Website Trove and microfilms from Whitlam Library - provide an insight into how suburbs have developed. They are particularly useful when a suburb does not have any preconceived date of establishment. Wetherill park, for example, has numerous articles on the local post-office, schools and land subdivisions. These factors are often key indicators as to when the suburb was established. The precise wording in newspaper articles can also provide hints. In its early days, Wetherill Park was a region of Smithfield – often written as “Wetherill Park of Smithfield” - but eventually became its own suburban entity in the early 1890s.


Although the project is specifically made for the Fairfield Council, I hope that by making the information electronically available, it will continue to inform the Fairfield community. The Whitlam Library is currently revamping their archival material by making it all digitally available, which will hopefully bring more interest to the field. Although local historians like George and Gapps have explored the Fairfield region, there has been no attempt at trying to pinpoint when each suburb was established. Thus, the work is not only important for local historians, but also for a public which might not be clear about the history of their area – a date is always a good start!


 In one respect, the banners created by the Council bring local history to the forefront of community living. The Fairfield region is an extremely multicultural area and often, individuals do not mix with those outside their own community, due to either language or culture. Local historical initiatives can become powerful uniting tools, bringing together people from different cultures and countries. The suburbs we live are often the only factor that unite us to our neighbours. By focusing on the history of our local area, we can begin to see that we are in fact part of a greater historical – and contemporary – framework.



Indeed, I am certain that several of the dates are contestable. I truly hope that local historians and students come forward and offer their knowledge to the field. The work I have done – and the banners provided by the Council – is only the start of an exciting historical discussion. This project will continue to have a life “beyond the classroom” because it will open up a conversation to the general public and encourage Fairfield’s citizens to engage with their local history.




Sarah Simic - Project Diary.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 75.7 KB


Sarah Simic, "The Shady Origins of our Suburbs,History Matters, (8 November 2015)


Thank you to 


for being a Community Partner on this project.