The original inhabitants of Bunbury and the Western Australian south west are the Aboriginal Noongar people. The people hunted and fished throughout the area prior to the first European settlement in the 1830’s.
Many Noongar names and travel routes are still widely used today. The Noongar (which means "man") people have occupied the south west area of Western Australia for around 38,000 years and their traditional stories tell of the Waagle (or Rainbow Serpent) giving life and sustenance to their people who in return were the caretakers of the land. If you are interested in Bunbury history, when visiting the city you can visit the lovely little museum King Cottage, just a short drive east of the Bunbury CBD.
In Noongar Aboriginal culture, Boojar (or land) is of the utmost importance. Each tribal group had their own kaleep or favoured camping locality, which held a special significence to them. The culture has a complex relationship to the land and pays respect to the seasons and the bountiful supply of food.
The first discovery of the Western Australia coastline was quite unintentional. Dutch East Indies ships were blown off course by the Roaring Forties trade winds from the 1600’s and many of these ships as well as search and rescue ships launched from Batavia, frequented the Western Australian coast. Willem de Vlamingh travelled along much of the Western Australian coast in 1696.
In 1791 French admiral D’Entrecasteaux was searching the south west coast for the missing French explorer La Perousse. His name and that of the ships he commanded, the Récherche and Espérance are remembered along the WA south coast with towns, parks and beaches around the WA coast being named after both French and Dutch seamen and explorers.
The first recorded mapping of what is now Koombana Bay and the eventual City of Bunbury, was in 1803 by the French explorers Nicolas Baudin and Louis de Freycinet, from their ships the Geographe and Casuarina. Lieutenant Freycinet named the area Port Leschenault after his botanist, Jean Baptiste Leschenault de la Tour.
In 1831, threatened by the interest of the French in the area, there was a temporary English military settlement established with the first settlers moving to the area named after Lieutenant Henry William St Pierre Bunbury in 1838. A growing port serviced the settlers and the subsequent local industries that developed.
Perhaps the only visible remains from this early era is the historic Leschenault Homestead, situated near Bunbury’s Inner Harbour. Built between 1854 and 1874 by William Pearce Clifton, the then Bunbury Magistrate, the home was constructed by the “wattle and daub” method or timber, wattle lathes and mud.
The homestead has been the focus of much discussion in recent years as it sits on land required for the expansion of the Bunbury port. It is likely that the house will be shifted to a new site where it will be operated as a museum.
In 1840 the central area of Bunbury was officially surveyed and the settlement had its first magistrate, George Elliot, appointed. At the same time a settlement at Australind, a few miles to the north was growing steadily and by 1841 there were 400 people living in Bunbury.
By 1842 Bunbury was home to 16 buildings including an Inn. Thereafter, a growing port serviced the settlers and the subsequent local industries that developed.
In particular whaling plays a vital part in Bunbury’s early white history and meant that it was not only Europeans that were inhabitants in the early years but also whalers from the USA east coast.
One of the other major industries to open up the south west and cement the importance of Bunbury as a port was the timber industry. In North American fashion, timber logs would be floated down the Collie River to be loaded aboard ships headed to the northern hemisphere or to South Africa and India where the hardwood timbers were used for railway sleepers. Trade through the port was increased further by the completion of a railway in 1891.
In 1903 a breakwater to further protect the bay and port area was completed and today the Bunbury port is one of Australia’s major ports servicing mainly the minerals industry that has become such a major part of the local economy.
Throughout its history Bunbury's port has been central to its economy, with exports of mineral sands and alumina being shipped from Bunbury. The WA Government property arm Landcorp is presently negotiating relocation of much of the existing port facilities that will enable the freeing up of existing port areas for recreation, tourism and housing.
Bunbury became a city on 8 October 1979 and today has a population of 52,000 with 123,000 people living in the south west area of Western Australia.
Index - Keywords - Pages copyright 2004 content © Bunbury Online