Heritage trail reveals the hard life of early foreign migrants

by Ray Clancy on August 15, 2011

in Australia Travel

Heritage trail new rage Down Under

Nowadays, the main difficulty facing new arrivals in Australia is completing their visa application but new heritage trail attractions tell the story of migrant settlers who survived harsh conditions to open up the land in the south west of the country.

The Working Life Heritage Trail is described as an incredible part of the story of the Great South West Edge National Landscape.

The trail includes steam engines, working lighthouses and tales of pioneers, many from England and Scotland, as it meanders through farms, forests and country towns showcasing examples of early working life in the southwest corner of Western Australia.

Visitors can watch a sheep shearing demonstration, explore a replica mine and walk the longest wooden pier in the southern hemisphere at the 140 year old Busselton Jetty; as well as meeting some interesting characters who’ll happily spin a yarn of how pioneers shaped the Great South West through blood, sweat and tears.

The towns of Albany and Augusta are two of the three oldest settlements in Western Australia and are significant for their whaling, timber and shipping industries.

In Albany, Australia’s dramatic convict history can be retraced through the jails, old taverns, whaling ships, settlers’ cottages and preserved Whale World museum.

The Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, built in 1890 near Augusta remains an important working lighthouse, keeping its sentinel at the most south westerly point of Australia as it has for almost 120 years.

However, it is the Northcliffe Pioneer Museum that poignantly tells the story of Western Australia’s ‘Group Settlement Scheme’ and of the migrant settlers, mostly foreign, who survived harsh conditions to bravely open up the land.

The town of Northcliffe was established in 1923 as part of the Group Settlement Scheme, which required the State Government to settle migrants in the South West. Some 1,400 people arrived to open up the timber industry in the area that has many of the tallest trees in the South West to this day.

At first trees were felled to build homes for the migrants and then the land was cleared for dairy farms. Settler families allocated blocks of land to clear each of which was described as being covered with ‘heavily untouched timbered areas with a creek or swamp land on each block’.

Each family was granted 160 acres and paid a sustenance wage of 10 shillings a day. Nevertheless, life was so tough that many gave up and it was not until the arrival of the railway in 1932 that the settlement became more permanent.

The government issued instructions on the method of forest clearing and each settler was given an axe and a crosscut saw. Each family was given six to eight cows to milk, although the cost was to be repaid in time. A dairy, separator and chaff cutter were also provided.

Barbed wire, which had been invented in America in 1873, was provided for the fencing but the fence posts had to be prepared. A good fence was important because there were plenty of kangaroos and wallabies and the settlers’ pasture was precious.

Bushfires were a constant threat in the summers. There were no fire trucks, dozers or tractors so instead settlers used wet sugar bags and green bushes to beat out the flames or make firebreaks.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

sally1233 August 31, 2011 at 2:10 pm

I really hope I could make another trip to Ireland, by next 2 months, but I don’t think I can make it. Maybe I just pay a visit to those nearby countries like those destination recommended in http://www.evisaasia.com. does anyone try this website before? Is it reliable?

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