Samuel Clifford, 'Brighton Township' (in fact Pontville), c 1873 (W.L. Crowther Library, SLT)

The Brighton–Pontville area, originally the home of the Moomairremener Aboriginal people, was early used by Europeans for hunting kangaroo. In 1821 Governor Macquarie selected the site for a town, and named it Brighton. The site lay on the main north-south route, and Brighton developed into a small military post. In the 1830s, Pontville was laid out nearby on the Jordan River, and with its church, police station, courthouse, barracks, inns and imposing private houses soon overtook Brighton in size and importance. However, the names Brighton and Pontville were used interchangeably.

With the end of the convict system, and faster travel on the main road, both towns declined into small country centres, though the municipality of Brighton was set up in 1863. Most people lived by primary industry – raising sheep, growing crops and from the 1880s, particularly in the Bagdad valley, orcharding. Brighton remained important for its position, with the main north-south road and railway, and river traffic until the Second World War. Bridgewater became a (small) business centre, with a railway junction and the largest stock sales in the south.

Brighton began to develop in the twentieth century, with the south's first aerodrome in 1931, and a major army camp in the First and Second World Wars and afterwards. From the 1970s, many commuters moved to Brighton, and large Housing Department suburbs were built at nearby Bridgewater andGagebrook.

The modern municipality of Brighton has gained national fame for several reasons: it is the only municipality in Australia to reuse all its waste water, it welcome Kosovar refugees, and mayor Tony Foster led a fight against poker machines.

Further reading: Alison Alexander, Brighton and Surrounds, 2006.

Alison Alexander