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 Rabbit Proof Fence, the State Vermin Fence, the Emu Fence and now the State Barrier Fence – under its many names, the fence has been responsible for protecting Western Australia from numerous potential threats.
Thomas Austen of Geelong, Victoria, introduced rabbits into Australia in 1859 as something to hunt. They soon multiplied and spread throughout the eastern colonies and South Australia. By 1894 they had crossed the Nullarbor Plain.
The threat to Western Australian agriculture was so great that a physical barrier was proposed. Explorer and surveyor Alfred Canning surveyed the line for the No 1 Rabbit Proof Fence. It was built in two stages with Burracoppin as the starting point. The first leg, started in 1901, ran from Burracoppin to the south coast. The second leg, started three years later, ran to the north west coast. When completed in 1907, the fence was 1827 km long.
Burracoppin was the main depot for the Rabbit Proof Fence, with gates and wells along the fence being numbered from the town.
Two other fences, completed in 1905 and 1907, were constructed to the east of the No 1 fence, giving a total fence length of 3255 km.
The fences were constructed of timber posts and wire netting buried six inches (16 cm) below ground. The eastern side of the fences was cleared to a width of 12 feet (3.7 m) to provide an access road for maintenance. An 8 feet (2.4 m) firebreak was cleared on the western side. Gates were provided approximately every 3 km.
Fence runners were employed for £213 per annum to constantly inspect the fence, repair any damage and keep the tracks clear. Their camps were located about 30 km apart at bores, wells or anywhere that the smallest amount of water could be found.
Since 1948 some sections have been abandoned, sold to local farmers or transferred to local authorities. As rabbits are now more readily controlled by myxomatosis and poisons, the fence has where necessary been modified and realigned to provide a barrier against other vermin such as emus, foxes and goats.
A Rabbit Proof Fence line runner called Arthur Grundy was sitting alone in his small hut one day in 1904 when he saw the sun reflected on a silver watch chain. He was reading the Children’s Corner of the Western Mail at the time and was inspired to write to “Aunt Mary”, the journalist Muriel Chase, suggesting the establishment of a society to be called “The Silver Chain”. The paper’s young readers would be invited to join the society, contributing money to be used to help people in distress or perhaps support a sick child. Silver Chain, with its domiciliary nursing, home help services, health centres and hospices, owes its origin to this reflective moment.Back to See & Do
Click on any map section or place below to discover The Golden Pipeline.