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”
The town of Northam, with a population of 7 000 people, is situated on a bend of the picturesque Avon River in the heart of the Avon Valley.
The townsite was set aside in November 1830 — along with those of York and Toodyay, also in the Avon Valley — but it was not until the demand for new agricultural land in the 1850s that an actual settlement was established in Northam. Initially overshadowed by York, Northam achieved prominence with the extension of railway to the Goldfields in 1894. It became an important centre for the provision of public services such as railways, roads, and water supplies, as well as a regional centre for the surrounding agricultural lands.
Large army training bases were established at Northam in both World Wars and in 1941 the 118th Battalion Military Hospital was opened, many wounded troops, both Australian and American, being nursed there. In May 1949 the hospital became the Holden Commonwealth Departmental Immigration Accommodation Centre, while in August that year the Northam Army Camp became the Department of Immigration Reception and Training Centre, Northam. Over the next few years thousands of refugees were accommodated in these camps, many later settling in Northam giving the town a population mix quite different to most other rural towns. A number of them worked on the water supply scheme.
At Northam, the sojourner quits civilisation and plunges into the desert. The town is the borderline between the new and the old – between the patrimony of the ploughman and the miner.
Albert Calvert, 1897
As a regional centre Northam today provides health, education, shopping and commercial services, as well as recreation facilities to its own citizens as well as to the larger surrounding population. It boasts a well-equipped regional hospital, a senior high school and, appropriately, a campus of the CY O’Connor College of TAFE.
Northam may be a relatively small rural town, but its citizens have exercised considerable political influence in Western Australia. Five of the State’s Premiers have come from Northam – George Throssell (1901), Sir Hal Colebatch (1919), Sir James Mitchell (1919-24 & 1930-33), Albert (Bert) Hawke (1953-59) and Dr Carmen Lawrence (1990-93).
Visitor Information Centre:
2 Grey Street
Tel: (08) 9622 2100
Fax: (08) 9622 5490
Open daily from 9 – 4
Click on any map section or place below to discover The Golden Pipeline.