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The Land

When Western Australia joined the Federation in 1900 the colony was more prosperous than at any other time in its previous seventy years, thanks largely to the boom sparked by the discovery of gold in 1892. By 1900 the population had soared to 180,000, up from 50,000 in 1890.  Gold had brought people to Western Australia, yet most colonists outside the arid mining districts still lived in the towns dotted along the southwestern shore, and along the western coastal farming districts. Despite the rapid increase in agricultural area under cultivation which began during the 1890s, in 1900 the colony could still not grow enough food to meet its own needs. It would rely on imported produce during the first decade of the twentieth century.

 

 

Until the discovery of gold the economy of Australia's western colony relied on its small agricultural and pastoral industries. Most farming was done in the south-west and around the Champion Bay district near Geraldton, although a pastoral industry began in the remote Kimberley in the 1880s. Great distances separated fertile areas within the colony, and the local commerce and coastal shipping needed to support it only began to flourish towards the end of the 19th century. 

 

 

The story of the land in Western Australia is the story of farming and forestry. The first part of the twentieth century saw a massive expansion of the area of land under cultivation through a range of land clearing programs. Most newly cleared land was put to use in the cultivation of wheat and other crops. This boom in farming was the result of scientific and techological innovations in agricultural practices. Similar improvements in farming techniques contributed to the development of other rural industries such as the market garden industry, supplying the State's fruit and vegetables, as well as the establishment of wine, tobacco and dairy industries.