A Commonwealth Festival Perth 2011 Event
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"The Prawn Cocktail is now an Irony Free Zone" (1)

Western Australia celebrates the first million of its population

Since the 1890s Perth has been transformed by several resources booms. Very little of its 19th century built environment exists. The few original buildings that do remain from that period are physically small in comparison to those in the Eastern capitals. Perth was small. Both Melbourne and Adelaide were far larger in 1900, even though they were settled after Perth.

WA had ‘arrived’ statistically when it finally reached a million people in 1971, and this was a reason to celebrate. Its prosperity was worth noting. “It is expected that the population of the State will reach its first million in the first quarter of this year (1971). With a view to recording this significant event in the appropriate manner, the Government … propose holding two dinners in Government House Ballroom in March this year (1971).

The first is a State Dinner, with approximately 500 guests to be held on Thursday 4 March 1971 … the second function is a Youth Dinner for 300 guests”. 2

There are 10 files in SRO which deal with planning for the differing ways this milestone could be marked, which included ‘Youth Pageants’ and a commemorative medallion. The dinner was first discussed in 1969, but it wasn’t until well into 1970 that preparations commenced in full. Mr W.S. Lonnie was appointed Chairman of the First Million Celebration Committee and a quote from caterers was sought, with Hollywood Caterers of 434 William Street Perth winning the tender. Their contemporary menu featuring Turtle Consommé, King Prawn Cocktail, Deep Fried Fillets Jewfish (sic) Tartare, Beef Anglais, with ‘Bombe Vesuvius’ for sweets was an obvious choice.

The State Dinner was scheduled for 3 March 1971. However, a State Election was called for 20 February which saw a change of Government. After 12 years, Sir David Brand’s Liberal/Country Party government lost this closely fought election. The new Premier was the Labor Party’s Mr John Tonkin.

A file shows that apart from a very slight change in the guest list and speakers, this change of government did not alter the arrangements for the State Dinner. Many community leaders were invited along with business, Industry, religious leaders, MPs, representatives of municipal governments and top public servants.

The event was widely covered in the media including being recorded for broadcast by TVW Channel 7.




Image Courtesy of State Library of Western Australia (599B)

The State Records Office invites you to pick up your fork and join us in Eating the Archives - an online exhibition and event that forms part of the Commonwealth Festival Perth 2011.

Witness history come alive on Friday 28 October at 12.00pm in the Perth Cultural Centre as celebrated WA chef Hadleigh Troy of Restaurant Amusé interprets and reinvents menus from the State archives collection using fresh, local produce with a modern twist. 

Twenty lucky West Australians will join State Archivist Cathrin Cassarchis and some well-known guests to experience Hadleigh Troy’s take on these historic menus.

Eating the Archives is a partnership with the Department of Agriculture and Food; and the dishes presented will reflect a Buy West Eat Best ethos, showcasing premium West Australian produce.

The online exhibition will take you on a culinary journey to experience food fashions of the past and gain an insight into how these events have shaped today’s food culture and informed WA’s identity. This exhibition will be served up in three courses; Appetiser, Banquet and Dessert. Come back and sample more food related offerings from the State archives collection and follow us on our journey.

Eating the Archives is an event for all to celebrate as chef Hadleigh Troy pays tribute to a bygone culinary era, bringing a small part of WA’s history alive through food.

See and hear Hadleigh begin his journey...

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