To the rest of Australia, Western Australia was long known as the Cinderella of the Australian colonies. For sixty years she had no apparent attractions to offer to immigrants. She was poor; she had been under the control of the Colonial Office years after the five other Australian colonies had enjoyed responsible government. Yet Western Australia as a colony was founded earlier than South Australia, Victoria or Queensland. The largest in area of the Australian states and comprising one-third of the continent, Western Australia was first colonised in the early part of the last century. It was in June, 1829, that Captain (afterwards Sir James) Stirling arrived in the transport Parmelia with the first party of settlers—sixty-nine all told, including men, women and children. Other vessels with settlers arrived soon after, and the Swan River Settlement was founded. Three towns, Perth, Fremantle and Guildford, were established. Thus, six years before the founding of Melbourne, the western capital and its principal port were laid out. By March, 1830, fifty ships with 2,000 immigrants, with property amounting to £1,000,000, had arrived before more than a few dwellings had been built or the land surveyed.

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Many of the first settlers, from their previous habits and work in life, proved unfit for the rough work of colonisation. Several were landed gentry who brought with them their servants and their carriages, their furniture, pianos, four-poster beds and family pictures. The little community had a hard struggle for existence. Some returned to the Old Country or left for other Australian colonies, and the place languished. Those that remained struggled on, finding a healthful climate and a soil favouring fruit and vegetables whilst their stock grazed in the more open and distant quarters, but still their difficulties were great.

In 1848, when the population was but some 5,000, settlers were compelled to seek help from the British Treasury and offered to accept convicts. These came in 1850, but transportation ceased in 1868 in consequence of loud protests from the other colonies. The population was then about 20,000.

For more than twenty years the colony was in a state of stagnation. The people were scattered; they held to antiquated methods. They had little communication with the outside world and lived a narrow unprogressive existence. With few exceptions they were content to exist at ease rather than prosper at the expense of effort. Pearling was carried on in the north; sandalwood and timber were exported, and a beginning was made with the pastoral industry. To most of the inhabitants, however, it was a case of “The world forgetting, by the world forgot.”

In 1890, when responsible government was at last granted to West Australia, the population was still only 46,000.

In the small isolated community that then existed

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there were marked class distinctions. The inhabitants had brought with them their old-world ideas. There were the officials headed by the Governor and some well-to-do settlers with aristocratic associations. These people formed a sort of oligarchy. They were exclusive, were slow to admit strangers within their charmed circle, and were known as “The Six Families.” The truth is that there were more than six families. There were the Burts—the first of them was Sir Archibald Burt, who was Chief Justice in the sixties. There were the Lefroys—O'Grady Lefroy, C.M.G., was Colonial Treasurer for thirty-six years in the Crown Colony days. There were the Cliftons—the first of them, Marshall Walter Clifton, F.R.S., came to the Colony with his sons to found the ill-fated Australind Colony in 1841. There were the Wittenooms—the Rev. J. B. Wittenoom was first chaplain. There were the Roes—John S. Roe arrived on the Parmilia, was first Surveyor-General and a noted explorer. Then there were the Leakes, Parkers, Sholls, Stones, Steeres, Hamersleys, Clarksons, Burgesses, Barlees, Drummonds and others. Many of the old settlers had their children educated at English Public Schools and the cultural standards of England were well maintained amongst them. They were worthy people who upheld the best traditions of the old British families from whom many of them had come, but they led a quiet, sleepy sort of existence.

Photograph facing page 46: Dry Blowing With Dishes. The most primitive form of gold-mining. It was in great use among alluvial diggers in early days on the West Australian goldfields, where the earth was very dry and water was not available to wash it. Above: the “Golden Eagle” nugget found by a boy a couple of feet under the surface at Larkinville in January, 1931. Sold for £6,000.

About two hundred and forty miles almost directly east of Perth there was a gold-mining centre, Southern Cross. Various gold finds, none of them of much importance,

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had been made in the locality, but the population was small. Development work was going on, in a half-hearted way, and a number of men were employed on Fraser's mine, which was considered the most promising and most valuable of the local properties. A difference arose between the employers and employees. There was a strike. No work was done. Men lay in their camps or collected in small groups and talked. Time hung heavily on their hands. Employers were not anxious to restart working. The wage-earners did not like to acknowledge defeat and go back to work. There was a general feeling of despondency and depression. That was the state of affairs in September, 1892.

One evening in 1892 a dusty, travel-stained horseman arrived from the east. The new arrival was known to be a prospector who had used Southern Cross as a base from which he and a mate of his made expeditions into the unknown interior. The two were reported to be hardy and experienced, accustomed to rough living and to the hardships and dangers of the bush. Some weeks previously they had come to Southern Cross, purchased a couple of months' provisions, and then one morning early turned their faces towards the rising sun as they followed their tracks back. Prospectors were common about Southern Cross. Now and again they reported gold finds, but these had proved nothing sensational, and mostly they resulted in disappointment. As Arthur Bayley rode by, one of the men who was lounging about expressed wonder that he was alone, and remarked, “Where is his mate, Bill Ford?”

The solitary horseman passed on to the warden's

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office, reported the discovery of a new rich goldfield one hundred and twenty miles east of Southern Cross, and in proof of his accuracy produced between 500 and 600 ounces of almost pure gold. He had left his mate to guard the find, as there was a reef of dazzling richness from which tons of gold remained to be extracted.

The news spread. It created wild excitement. Instead of listlessness there was feverish activity. Next morning Bayley left on the return journey. He was accompanied by the warden, Mr. J. M. Finnerty. Practically every man in Southern Cross also departed for the new find. Some of them had horses; others had only hand-carts carrying their belongings; the vast majority walked.

There was no road, only a bush track, rough, dry and dusty. A sand plain had to be crossed. Mostly the country was flat and monotonous; there was much scrub and in places timber. Scanty supplies of water were procurable at widely separated outcrops of rocks where there were catchments for the rain and “soaks” and gnamma holes. Happily, it was August—the weather was cool. When Coolgardie was ultimately reached most of the new arrivals were well rewarded. There was no lack of either alluvial gold or rich reefs. It was not only Southern Cross that awoke from its lethargy, but also Perth and Western Australia generally.