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‘The fire flickered in the darkness on the river bank on that morning of September 6th 1861. Shadowy shapes moved around it as the first signs of approaching daylight appeared in the east. As the last stars faded the first pale streaks in the sky illuminated the bearded faces of the men breakfasting around the campfire, reflecting off the surface of the waterhole behind them. The men ate hungrily and quickly.
Thick slabs of damper bread with rashers of bacon were washed down with tea – hot, sweet and dark – from fire-blackened quart pots. They finished by the time it was light enough to see the outline of the hills around them.
The horses were already watered, and now the men set to work two at a time to swing the prepared loads up on to the backs of the pack horses. Bridles jingled as the riding horses were saddled, each one grunting in standard protest as the girths were tightened.
It was all done with practiced efficiency. This was the 116th day of the “North West Australian Exploring Expedition”, and by now the morning routines of breaking camp were so well-established that no orders were needed. Each man knew his part.’
Gold Dust and Iron Mountains. Hugh Edwards
Why learn about history? Someone once said; 'Those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.' So perhaps we should pay a bit more attention to history and stop making the same mistakes over and over again.
Welcome to the living guide to Western Australia, past and present. We refer to this as a living guide because it continues to be updated and corrected and unlike a book (that always remains the same) this guide is constantly changing.
Western Australia's history is not just about dates, facts and figures. History is the story of how we got to where we are today. It is about events ‘writ large’ and it is about the unknown, unsung heroes, who lived anonymous, but never-the-less important lives and who all contributed to making life in Western Australia possible for people unaccustomed to its harshness.
Today we live in a world of computers, refrigerators, air-conditioning, cars, clean drinking water and electricity. We are (in most cases) quite disconnected from nature and if we were placed in the same position as the early pioneers, few of us could survive. How many people today could head off into the outback with some basic tools, a few bags of flour, tea and sugar and not only survive, but build a home and work the land? This is what the first settlers had to face, not only a harsh environment, but also the threat of being attacked by angry Aborigines whose land was being taken from them.
This website is an attempt to bring some of our history to life and to get new generations interested in finding out more about the past development of Western Australia. It is our hope that this will become a project that lives on and that someone who is dedicated to recording our collective story will take over after us and continue to update this site and continue to make it easily available to anyone who is interested.
This site is not an important history work in it’s own right. We have researched no facts that are not already contained in numerous books. We have added nothing new to the sum of knowledge about Western Australia but what we have tried to do is bring together all the major information and combine it with personal glimpses of life in the early days of exploration and put it in a form that is easily accessible to the modern world which relies so heavily on computers.
More than just our history
There is much more than just our history included in this guide. There are all sorts of interesting and useful information pages on everything from how to hire a motor home for just a dollar a day, to our amazing flora and fauna. There is a fishing section for those who enjoy dropping a line in the water and information and photos of caravan parks and campsites across the state. We are gradually adding information on National Parks and other places of interest and as we travel we are including photos and short videos of many areas.
There are currently over 12,000 photographs and many video clips from all round the state included on this site.
Teachers please note
We encourage teachers to get their students interested in our history and we would be very happy if schools wanted to research information for their particular area to add to this guide. Full credit plus pictures of the teachers and students can easily be added as due to the format we have decided on, we have virtually no restrictions or size limits to what can be added. Anyone sending in digital photos for the guide please ensure they are adequately labelled so we know exactly what the pictures are of. We can accept any digital images that can be read by an MS Windows based computer. Please ensure to include written permission for the photos to be included in this guide.
This guide is continually changing. Errors are removed and new information is added all the time. If you find any errors in this guide please let us know via our mailing address.
It has taken many hundreds of hours research, not to mention much expense in travel, to compile this guide and we hope you find it both useful and entertaining. While there are hundreds of lengthy and very detailed books on the history of local towns, they are usually difficult to come by and contain far too much information for many people to be able to digest. While these lengthy volumes are an essential repository of Western Australian history, they tend to be a bit of a ‘dry read’ (Having read many more than I can count, I should know!) In this guide we are trying to combine all the most useful and interesting pieces of information without boring everyone senseless with reams of information.
Our history (that is, European history in Australia) is still so fresh and new that it amazes me that so few people seem to care about it. People who saw this land before any real development had taken place were still alive in the 1970s! Much of their knowledge and memories are now lost forever but where we can we are collecting their stories and adding them to this guide.
We are lucky that much of the development of Western Australia coincided with the development of photography and that we can see in the old photos what the land and towns were like from the mid 1800s. We can also look into the faces of those who explored and opened up the land and see that they too were ordinary people living their lives as best they could - just like us.
We have been working on this guide since 1997, hope to continue to make it available and will update it as new information comes to hand. We welcome submissions for inclusion by any individual or group and are specifically interested in entertaining anecdotes about localities in W.A.
We do not touch on Aboriginal history in Western Australia prior to European settlement in this guide in any great detail. It is my belief that it is for the Aborigines to tell their own history in their own way.
NEW! Tall tales and true
Tall tales are anecdotes associated with a specific area. They may be true, or they may just be plausible but most are entertaining stories that add character to a specific town or region. Where we find these tales we are adding them to the guide to help preserve aspects of our history that may otherwise be lost. If you have any anecdotes that are at least reasonably believable about towns in W.A., please send us a copy to include in this guide.
More information on famous local sons and daughters, also information on a calendar of events for all regional towns.
We are not academic historians and this guide is a labour of love. Please accept it for what it is. Because the world is becoming so litigious we have to put in that: We accept no responsibility for the contents of this guide even errors or omissions.
Copyright and copying
This guide and all the colour photographs not otherwise credited and MPG or WMV video clips remain the property of Marc Glasby, Rosabelle Glasby, Dorothy Loader (c) 2015 unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.
Western Australian State Libraries and Western Australian State High Schools are granted permission to make copies of this site for loan and study purposes only.
When reading history books or visiting museums beware of 'Facts'
Anyone interested in history (and especially those who take up the subject academically) should be more than aware that history books are not always right. We are constantly making corrections to this site as new information is uncovered. Just because something is written down in a book does not necessarily mean that it is correct. We have found all sorts of inconsistencies, errors and omissions during our own research. Even such lauded institutions as the State Museum can get things terribly wrong at times.*
* This refers to the Museum's display concerning the 'massacre' at Forrest River for which there is no corroborating evidence. (Rod Moran's book 'Sex, Maiming and Murder' gives an in depth view of how badly this particular event has been misrepresented by eminent historians.)
Unfortunately for serious students of history, oral traditions of recording history such as those used by the Aborigines are inherently unreliable. Folk lore tends to become mixed with fact and in many cases even the facts can become wildly exaggerated as they have been with the Battle of Pinjarra. Even European written records may not always tell the whole story about some incidents as it may not have been politically acceptable to record some of the dark deeds that occurred in the state's history.
My only advice is to read as many sources as possible to confirm the things that happened in our past and to never take anything you read at face value - including what is contained in this guide.
A note on names, spelling and dates.
Many town names are taken from the Aboriginal dialect of tribes who lived in the particular area. As the Aboriginal people had no written language there are often several alternate ways of spelling a particular word. To avoid confusion, waste of space and even worse, boredom, I have selected what seems to be the most often used spelling and interpretation of the original Aboriginal word.
In the course of researching this site I have come across many conflicting dates for exploration and gazetting of towns. Where no clear correct answer can be obtained an alternate date appears in brackets.
Many details list areas as first being settled on certain dates. It should be remembered that this information only applies to European settlement and that Aboriginal tribes have inhabited most areas of W.A. for thousands of years. What was seen as settlement by the Europeans was a full-scale invasion to the Aborigines.
You will note that many towns have names ending in the letters ‘up’, as in Dwellingup, Yallingup etc. This comes from the Aboriginal language and is said to mean meeting place. We have located another possible explanation and that is that ‘up’ means belonging to or place of. For example Gnowangerup. Gnow meaning bush turkey (mallee hen) becomes place of the mallee hen. The usage of 'up' is from one specific dialect but from other Aboriginal groups the suffix, ‘ing’ and ‘arra’ as in Meckering or Meekatharra, are said to mean the same thing.
Uncountable hours of research have gone into the production of this guide. I hope the information contained here is useful and will enhance the experience of travelling through one of the most diverse and wonderful places in the world.
HEMA Map References
We have chosen to include HEMA map references for towns in W.A. as HEMA maps are reasonably priced and widely available across Australia. This is not meant as any particular endorsement but HEMA maps are reasonably detailed and we use them ourselves to navigate around W.A. The references used are taken from the Australia Road Atlas. Some towns may not be included on the maps but the reference given shows where they are located. On most pages we are now also supplying a GPS reference for each site. This can be copied and pasted to programs like Google Earth or Google Maps to easily find the location.
Statistics and Services in subject pages
Km from Perth - Number of kilometres by the quickest route from the GPO in Perth.
Population - Where possible these figures are from the 2011 census and may indicate shire population if the town population data is not available.
Rainfall - Average yearly rainfall and the figure in brackets if provided, is the highest daily rainfall.
Max Temp - Average maximum temperature and the figure in brackets if provided, is the highest daily temperature.
Min Temp - Average minimum temperature and the figure in brackets if provided, is the lowest daily temperature.
Under ‘SERVICES’ the title ‘Medical’ may refer to a hospital, nursing station or doctor's surgery. Also if services are not available in the town then a phone number of that service in the nearest town may be supplied instead.
Climate data was obtained from the Bureau of Meteorology's web site at www.bom.gov.au