1860 - 1936
Alf Canning was born in Melbourne on February 21st 1860 (one source
says 1862) to William Canning and his wife Lucy, (nee
He was educated at Carlton College, Melbourne and after graduating joined the Lands Department of New South Wales. He worked at Cooma, Bathurst and Bega and in 1884 married Edith Maude Butcher.
He moved to Western Australia in 1893 where he joined the Western Australian survey department.
One of his first assignments was to survey the route for a rabbit proof fence (from Starvation Bay on the south coast to Cape Keraudren on the north coast.) In 1906 he was given the job of surveying a stock route from the east Kimberley to the eastern gold fields.
Aboriginal guides were recruited to show the men where to find water and were then chained up at night to stop them from running off. This was a wide spread practice but later, complaints made by a cook who had been sacked by Canning led to an inquiry into the treatment of the natives but Canning was exonerated.
The party was looking for water supplies every 25 kilometres or so and if no natural source was available they sank wells.
Early on Canning decided to give local aboriginal names to the water sources as he reasoned that this would make it easier for the drovers coming through to inquire about the location of water.
After reaching Halls Creek they returned along the same route
sinking more wells as they went.
The track was to continue in use to move stock until 1959.
The expedition sets out from Wiluna