In and Around Perth

We visited Perth as the final part of a three week trip which had taken in Singapore, Melbourne and Sydney.

Township of York

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Drever on May 31, 2009

The township of York sits 97 km east of Perth. The first inland European settlement in Western Australia it dates from 1831. It is a fine example of colonial architecture and renowned for its heritage prescient. With its range of interesting historic buildings, York will appeal to all history enthusiasts.

York Town Hall built in 1911 is an example of Edwardian opulence, with its elaborate corner entry, feature clock, and extensive use of columns, ornate facade and significant fanlight over the main entrance. It is well worth a visit to appreciate the creative design excellence in the Federation Free Classical style.

With the Tourist Bureau offices located on the ground floor of the town hall it is a good starting spot for a walking tour of historical York. Straddling the Avon River there are many tracks and trails that wind in and around the town. Wildflowers and bird life abound. A tree I spotted was so heavily laden with white cockatiels that it looked as though they had sprouted them from its branches.

Avon Walk Trail encourages visitors to discover the unique wonders of the Avon River-its history and heritage. During this walk you will cross the Swing Bridge opened on 26th February 1988. It swings back and forth as you cross it.

Marwick Barn a giant building used to store fodder for the merchandise and cartage business to Coolgardie until the completion of the Southern Cross Railway in 1894 still stands and is on the trail.

The York Motor Museum is a must for vintage car lovers. You can also consider a visit to the Mill Gallery if you like wooden furniture.

For history and architecture buffs, buildings of note include the Railway Station (1856), the Imperial Inn and Settler's House, the Old Hospital (1896). Residency Museum and Old Gaol & Courthouse. These are all well worth a visit.

York courthouse complex is a colonial relic with a rich and dark past. Between 1852-1910 York grew into a thriving town and in the process replaced the makeshift huts originally here with a solid brick and stone building in 1895. This building remained in use for 130 years as York's police station and goal, law courts, government offices, police stables and staff homes. The Old Goal and Courthouse designed by George Temple-Poole, built of local stone still finds use by the Court of Petty Sessions.

York Residency Museum occupies an 1856 heritage building built as a Convict Hiring Depot before it became the official home of York's early magistrates. Locally made jarrah wood furniture mingles with oil paintings, samplers and photographs from the mid to late nineteenth century. One chair has been made entirely without the use of screws or nails.

The Museum shows civic and religious life in the emerging town and uses leisure time, schooldays and health as selected themes plus displays of personal possessions, ceramics and silverware. The faces, full of character, of three ex-convicts greet you in an unusual photographic portrait hanging above displays of Aboriginal artefacts- poignant reminders that settlement did not please everyone.

By the time you get around all the sights and attractions in York you will be glad of some refreshments at one of the cafes in the town as you reflect on your walk through history.

The Perth Mint

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Drever on May 31, 2009

Fortune smiled on Western Australia at the end of the 19th century. On 17th September 1892, Arthur Bayley discovered gold at Coolgardie, 560 kilometres east of Perth, and rode into Southern Cross with 540 ounces in his saddlebags.

Change occurred at breathtaking speed. Towns thrived and faded at prospectors discovered new goldfields which and in turn they left for richer pickings elsewhere. Regular coaches appeared for carrying mail, passengers and gold. Commerce flourished, railways arrived, telegraph lines extended and the authorities built a new harbour for the many ships arriving. The newly rich indulged in riotous spending. They made fortunes and often as quickly lost it. Perth Mint tells the stories of dreams shattered and dreams fulfilled.

A Hugh Corbet praised the old prospectors with these words:

‘What a wonderful man he was! Assailed by thirst, hunger,
weariness. He never admitted defeat. Something of a
hermit, he shunned his fellow men – something of an
ascetic, he despised the shelter of towns- something of a
mystic he walks beneath a rainbow nobody else could
see, secure in the faith that he would presently find the
crock of gold.’

In the arid conditions water was at a premium. More and larger condensers arrived to extract freshwater from salt, with more and more trees felled for fuel. A revolutionary water pipeline received the go-ahead.

The scarcity of water meant that prospectors could not use panning to separate gold panning from the dirt. Instead they used a dryblower, a machine that relied on motion and wind to isolate the gold. The clouds of dust created contributed to the respiratory disease from which many people died.

In the 1930s because of the world depression gold value soared and the gold mining industry, which had been stagnating, boomed again. The Australian government to help the unemployed offered them transport to the goldfields as well as food and prospecting equipment.

Many of the miners had experienced gold rushes many times before. Round a campfire one heard tales of Africa, New Guinea, New Zealand, Australia, America and other strange countries that would be a mine of information to a writer of books of adventure tales. Told in the quiet unostentatious manner of the habitual digger to whom poverty, riches and hardships, harsh conditions endured by prospectors seeking their fortunes comes in turn.

If you wish to rediscover the excitement of these earlier times the Mint is the place to visit. It is a lovely historic building built in the 1890s. The Mint, a branch of London’s Royal Mint, refined gold from Western Australia’s goldfields and struck gold sovereign coins for the British Empire.

Behind the majestic wrought iron gates locked to the public for more than 90 years, The Perth Mint now unveils a wealth of treasures. It is one of the world's oldest mints still working from its original building. Now it still produces legal tender precious metal coins and commemorative medallions for investors and collectors around the world, and trades in bullion.

The "Gold Exhibition" displays Australia's biggest collection of nuggets. You can watch the minting of gold coins, handle a 400-ounce gold bar, and engrave your own medallion. Tours start with a guided heritage walk on the half-hour, and lead on to a traditional gold pouring demonstration in the original Melt House– the highlight of the Gold Exhibition. The shop sells gold coins and nugget jewellery, and the Tea Garden provides a quiet spot to relax.

Admission: Adults AUD9.90; children AUD4.40; Concession AUD7.70; Family (2 adults, 2 children) AUD24.
Perth Mint
310 Hay Street
Perth, Australia, 6000
+61 (0)8 9421 7277

Penguin Island

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Drever on May 31, 2009

Penguin Island near Perth offers a good day out. It is a 12.5 ha island only 700 metres from the town of Rockingham, a few minutes in the regular ferry. The waters surrounding the island make up the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park. The marine park is home to bottlenose dolphins and rare Australian sea lions.

The island is home to the largest population of Little Penguins in Western Australia - the smallest species of penguin. This bird, which is about 43 cm (16 in) tall, lives on the coastlines of southern Australia and New Zealand – some sightings have been made in Chile. Birds nesting on the mainland have declined because of predation by foxes and cats, and colonies are now largely confines to offshore islands. At sea they are vulnerable to hazards such as discarded plastics and fishing line, oil pollution and sharks.

People can walk to Penguin Island at low tide; though they might end swimming as unpredictable tide rises can be dangerous. The island contains a picnic area with seating but bring your own supply of food and drink as you cannot buy any when over. Waterless composting toilets are available.

Penguin Island has many geographical features, such as cliffs, sea caves, headlands, beaches, coves, notches, natural bridges and many wave-cut platforms. There are walk trails and boardwalks around the island to ensure the safety of the breeding areas of the nesting birds. Apart from the penguins, The island has one of the largest pelican rookeries in Australia, the curious kings skink and over 16 species of seabirds. It is also one of the few places you can spot a quokka, an animal about the size of a domestic cat. It’s also a popular place for swimming, snorkelling, diving and picnicking.

You can go penguin watching at the Penguin Experience Island Discovery Centre. Their birds come from rejection by the mothers as chicks or through injury. In the former case the centre rears them and in the latter case nurses them back to health. In nature these birds spend most daylight hours at sea feeding or hidden away in their burrows. To ensure that everyone can enjoy a penguin experience, the Department of Environment and Conservation host three daily penguin feeding shows at the Discovery Centre at 10.30am, 12.30 and 2.30pm.

Quite a bond has developed between the girl feeding them and the penguins. She knew the habits of each bird minutely. Some preferred the food to be thrown to them in the tank while others liked being hand fed. One bird for some strange reason actively disliked her and preferred being fed by someone else.

Little penguins usually live for 10 years but some survive for 20 years. About 15% of adults die each year. They begin breeding at the age of three or four. They are monogamous and remain faithful to their partner over successive years, though they will find another mate if their current one dies. They also display site fidelity to their nesting colonies and nesting sites over successive years.

During a two to three week period in December or January, new feathers grow and the old fall out. Penguins cannot go to sea during this period as their feathers must be watertight to survive at sea. While moulting they often stand in the open to cool and are vulnerable during this time.

They are fantastic swimmers. Little penguins can swim 8 km an hour and dive to 60 metres to catch pilchards, whitebait and other small fish. The wings of these flightless birds have evolved into flippers while their feathers form a waterproof insulating coat, which streamlines them in the water. Before coming ashore they assemble close by in small groups or 'rafts' before landing on the island an hour or so after sunset.

Just as well the Penguin Experience Island Discovery Centre is there for otherwise people would be wondering why this island holds the name Penguin Island as these little birds seldom appear being away at sea or hidden in their burrows.
Penguin Island
Mersey Point
Perth, Australia, 6169
+61 (0)8 9592 3464

Kinks Park & Botanic Garden

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Drever on May 31, 2009

Kings Park & Botanic Garden is an area of 400 hectares of which 270 hectares is natural bush land. The Garden displays about 2000 of the State's 13000 plant species. The park is a place for recreation and celebration of the State's rich flora. Its position gives it an spectacular elevated view over Perth.

The Lotterywest Federation Walkway is one of Kings Park newest additions. A 52-metre steel and glass arched bridge spanning the Water Garden Valley is the central feature of the Walkway. At its peak it is 16 metres above the ground. Stretching over 620 meters and taking about 40 minutes return, the walk takes you along the Swan River through many of the parks newly added gardens, Swan River lookouts, and finally though the treetops of the Mari Woodland forest.

A thoughtful touch is the tree-lined Honour Avenue. Each tree has a plaque dedication to individual soldiers who fought in the wars. There are also the War Memorial and Flame of Remembrance to see.

A favourite spot for families is the Western Power Parkland. With its mixture of water, playground areas for children of all ages, shady lawns, discovery trails and - on summer evening – outdoor-cinema it provides enjoyment for all the family. If you want to make a day of it, you can bring a picnic, make use of one of the free barbecues or choose to eat at the Zamia Cafe that overlooks the Parkland.

There are many interesting plants, especially when fitted into the Aboriginal context.
Of note is the Gija Jumulu (Boab Tree). After travelling 3200km from Telegraph Creek, northern Western Australia, the Gija Jumula arrived here on July 2008. The Aboriginal Gija people of East Kimberley gifted the tree to the people of Western Australia.

The Balgas supplied the most resources of all plants used by the Aboriginal Nyoogar people. Flowering stems provided both edible nectar and supports for shelters. Dry stems made useful fire sticks. The trunk exuded a resin, which they made into glue by combining it with charcoal and kangaroo dung. Leaf fronds provided thatch for shelters and bedding The leaf base could be eaten.

Marri trees played a significant role in Nyoogar culture. The red gum oozing from the tree contains tannin, which had antiseptic properties. They powdered it and sprinkled it on to open wounds to prevent bleeding or added to water it made a mouthwash. When mixed with clay and water it made a traditional medicinal drink for dysentery.

The stately tuart in the park is an example of the largest tree on the Swan Coastal Plain growing up to 40 metres in height. The tough timber made strong wagon wheels and tool handles. Its flower buds are distinctive having swollen bud caps and look like small ice cream cones.

The park also describes some of the beliefs held by the Aboriginal peoples. In the Aboriginal Dreamtime, the Waugal serpent meanders through the landscape, creating rivers, waterways and lakes on its journey from the hills to the ocean. The rainbow serpent is an ancestral 'deity' of the Nyoogar community.

The garden also celebrates Women in Western Australia. A limestone wall features a sculptured bas-relief mural depicting women in various stages from infancy to maturity. The mural symbolises the part women played in developing Western Australia. Throughout the garden the theme of celebrating women appears.

The park and gardens not only a place for recreation and celebration of the State's rich flora it is also a place of education.
Kings Park and Botanic Garden
Fraser Avenue
West Perth, Australia, 6005
+61 (0)8 9480 3659

Fremantle History Museum

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Drever on May 31, 2009

Fremantle was the first settlement of the Swan River colonists in 1829. It was declared a city in 1929, and has a population of approximately 26,000. It still serves as the chief general seaport for Western Australia. Its History Museum showcases the social history and heritage of Fremantle and Western Australia. Located in the Colony's first lunatic asylum, built by convicts in the 1860's, it shares the building with the Arts Centre.

In World War II the museum building became a base for the US Navy. The war heightened Australia's sense of vulnerability and isolation. Its wide-open spaces made the country an easy target for invasion. Australia needed to be able to defend itself. Industrial production had to expand and defence spending increased. Above all Australia needed a bigger population. World War II in creating these influences changed Australia forever. I followed the story of how this happened through the displays in the museum.

The Australian's embarked on a mass immigration campaign. The aim was to increase the population from over 7 million to 20 million within the lifetime of most Australians. Half of the increase they expected to come from natural growth and the other half from immigration. This meant accepting around 70,000 migrants each year.

At first the campaign sought to attract British subjects. However Britain was unable to provide all the labour needed for heavy industry, houses building and public works. Australia then turned to Europe, favouring those from northern Europe and later southern Europe. Migrants needed to be young, fit, healthy and willing to work wherever needed. Immigration assisted schemes and sponsorship programs helped to attract 'desirable types' of people. Australia also accepted wartime refugees. Just over 19,000 displaced persons came to Western Australia - the first group from the Baltic States.

Children from orphanages in Britain also boosted the number of British migrants. The children had little choice about what happened to them and scant protection from exploitation. In some ways this was little better than the ruthless separation of Aboriginal children from their parents, which also occurred.

Conditions on-board ship varied depending on who was migrating and when. Displaced Persons conditions were poor. Often hundreds crowded into a large cabin into bunks stacked three tiers high. Separation of men from women and children occurred. Food supplies were barely enough. Men and single women worked on-board to reduce the cost of passage and to increase the number of refugees in each transport by cutting down on the number of crew needed.

In the first few years of mass migration there was little space assigned for possessions in the hold. This contrasted sharply with pre-war conditions. By chance a friend handed me an account of an outward journey of a local man to Australia just before the start of the war. It compared well with a luxury cruise nowadays. Fortunately from the 1950s assisted migrants received much more space in the ship's hold for their possessions.

Australia in many respects was not ready to receive the large numbers of people arriving in the post-war period. A Bulgarian migrant arriving in Fremantle in 1949 described it as a ghost of a place. The houses covered with corrugated iron. On arrival only those under the assisted passages schemes received temporary accommodation. The types of accommodation provided were austere being often in disused wartime camps. I believe this was when the expression winching POMS (Prisoner of her Majesty’s Service) came in existence. A throwback to when Britain sent convicts out to Australia. The ‘POMS’ had reason to feel homesick! Others unless sponsored had to compete for scarce rental accommodation and government housing.

Displaced Persons and assisted passage migrants had to sign a two-year work contract. Only the British could receive permanent residency before its completion. Speak about two classes of citizen!

The authorities paid scant regard to the qualifications of many non-British migrants, especially Displaced Persons and Italians. Most of these they assigned to labouring and domestic duties. In the early years timber mills, brick and cement works, the building industry, on road and rail construction, and farming and forestry absorbed many of the men. By the 1960 the expanding alumina, iron ore and oil industry made its demands for labour.

During the 1960s immigration controls relaxed. Small numbers of migrants from the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East and South America began to arrive. Finally in 1972, the country abandoned the White Australian Policy. Selection changed to economic considerations, such as occupational skills, and social and humanitarian considerations, such as family reunion and refugee status.

Australia nowadays is multicultural. It has travelled a rocky road from bigotry to a country at ease with itself. In sports it wins cups in numbers out of proportion to its population. Winning the America’s Cup yacht race put Fremantle on the world map.
Fremantle History Museum
1 Finnerty Street
Fremantle, 6160
+61 (8) 9430 7966

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