A project from the National Trust of WA
A self-guided drive trail between the Perth Hills and Western Australia’s Eastern Goldfields. Go with the Flow. Follow the water to discover more about the audacious goldfields water supply scheme and Engineer CY O’Connor.
“Future generations, I am quite certain will think of us and bless us for our far seeing patriotism, and it will be said of us, as Isaiah said of old, ‘They made a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert”
Venture to the top of Kellerberrin Hill to take it a view that encapsulates the story of this part of Western Australia, of water and of wheat.
The view from Kellerberrin Hill is as telling as it is striking. As far as the eye can see, the land is open, cleared. It is a patchwork of paddocks, each separated from the other by a wire fence. Crossing the land is a network of roads, railway and pipeline. Like an island within it is the town of Kellerberrin. How is it that within the space of only two or three decades this landscape replaced that of native forest and scrub which had existed for tens of thousands of years?
During the 1880s the government began a program of encouraging the development of farming land. The program was accelerated in 1903 in response to the economic downturn following the crash of the 1890s goldrushes and the increasing number of unemployed miners living in camps near Perth. This accelerated program was assisted by the completion of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme making water available to the new agricultural areas.
The government’s program made land available to settlers with limited money. The purchase price was deferred and credit made available on condition that the settlers made certain improvements to the land within a specified period. Those improvements invariably included the construction of a house, the clearing of land, fencing and the planting of crops.
The new settlers began by clearing the bush. They cut down the trees and then burned them together with the undergrowth, leaving the land ready for ploughing and planting with wheat. As the land was cleared and cultivated, as fences and houses were built, the farmers met their conditions of purchase and were eligible for further credit. This enabled them to clear even more land and plant even more wheat. In the 10 years from 1903 the area under wheat grew tenfold to 567 000 ha. The landscape was irreversibly altered.
Towns such as Kellerberrin grew to service the new settlers. They provided the essential services such as shops, schools and medical facilities. But they were more than that. They were where people gathered to meet — to talk, to dance, to conduct their sports days and agricultural shows. They were a focus for community pride arising out of the hard work involved in ”pioneering” the land.
Click on any map section or place below to discover The Golden Pipeline.