Local history

The Shire of Augusta Margaret River would like to acknowledge that we are on Wadandi and Pibelmen country whose ancestors and their descendants are the traditional owners of this country.  We acknowledge that they have been custodians for many centuries and continue to perform age old ceremonies of celebration, initiation and renewal. We acknowledge their living culture and their unique role in the life of this region. The Shire is committed to Indigenous Australians sharing fairly and equitably in the shire’s cultural, environmental and economic future.

An impressive local history collection is maintained at the Augusta and Margaret River Libraries. The Shire welcomes contributions to the collection by local residents and via any historic documents.  The Augusta Historical Museum is also a source of history information.

 Augusta Margaret River historical timeline

This was compiled from the Oral History report, written records and input from residents.  In constructing the timeline a range of sources was consulted, including oral history participants, the publication “The Light of Leeuwin” by Gail J. Cresswell, members of Historical Societies, community members, and various printed and electronic documents.

50,000 BC to present day Wadandi and Pibelmen people are custodians and perform age old ceremonies of celebration, initiation and renewal.  


1621 Dutch vessel ‘Leeuwin’ makes first sighting of south west coast of Western Australia  


1772 Geographical observations recorded by the ‘Gros Ventre’, anchored in Flinders Bay 1800-1830  


1801 The explorer Mathew Flinders was instructed to survey unknown sections of New Holland. Flinders arrived off Cape Leeuwin in the ‘Investigator’ and nominates Cape Leeuwin as the south-western, most projecting part of Australia

 Explorer Captain Nicholas Baudin arrived at Hamelin Bay from Isle de France (Mauritius), naming many places along the (now AMR Shire) coast before making landfall at Geographe Bay and continuing the length of the west coast of Australia. Baudin and Flinders later met (1802) at Kangaroo Island SA during the latter part of their separate explorations

1827 WA Lieutenant-Governor Stirling sights and sails around Cape Leeuwin

1830 A group of white settlers are persuaded by the WA Lieutenant-Governor to settle near Cape Leeuwin, forming the town of Augusta.


The advantages of Jarrah is noted when the severely damaged hull of HMS Success was repaired using jarrah and successfully sailed back to England

Town of Augusta is surveyed by A Hillman

1834 Relationship between Aborigines and settlers deteriorates.

1839 Whaling off the coast of Augusta had become an established industry.



Two of the Leeuwin Naturalise Ridge caves are discovered north of Augusta.

1849 Last of the original settling families leaves Augusta.  Settlement seen as a failure due to inexperience, the hardwood timber, and lack of government assistance.  Area remains relatively dormant for nearly 20 years



A party of convicts cuts the first Jarrah timber for export from Augusta. Work takes so long, due to difficulties with Jarrah, that no profit is made and convict party recalled.

1857 “Ellensbrook” homestead built on site that is to be recognised as the potential (Margaret River) town site.



Only four families or individuals left in Augusta district by early 1860’s due to land grant restrictions and difficulties with land clearing

1861 Sleeper cutting commences in Augusta area.

1864 Second wave of Augusta settlers take up land.



Timber Industry potential begins to be realised
WA Government grants long term leases and “Special Timber Licences” to stimulate timber industry.

1879 Ellensbrook Home Farm for Aborigines established by Church of England.



European disease epidemics (venereal, influenza, and measles) cause decline in Aboriginal population.

Timber industry grows througout the 1880s. Timber industry supports infrastructure and commercial growth in the region: a number of mills (Kudardup, Karridale, Boranup and Jarrahdene), two long jetties (Flinders Bay and Hamelin Bay) and the foundation and growth of the company town of Karridale

1887 Depression.

1888 Karridale School opened.



Demand for timber steadily growing in second part of 1890’s, majority of orders from SA.

1891 Augusta District Road Board was formed.

1895-1896 Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse constructed 1895 .



1907 Timber industry workers go on strike for 14 weeks, requesting a reduction in working hours from 9 to 8 per day, and increased pay.

1900-1914 Approximately 17 million railway sleepers were cut from Augusta Margaret River region.



1910 Margaret River officially declared a townsite.

1912 Only three houses in Margaret River.

1913 Forests are decimated from the timber industry push. Remaining forest is not economically viable. Three of the regions timber mills have closed



1921 The beginning of group settlements. These occurred at numerous localities in the region including Karridale, Kudardup, Nuralingup, Forest Grove, Cowaramup, Rosa Brook, Witchcliffe and later at Margaret River.

Commercial and community development in Margaret River grows to support group settlements includes a bakery, fresh food (fruit, vegetable, meat and milk) shop, Post Office, Hospital

1921 Population of Augusta Margaret River increases more than 10-fold in ten years (1919 – 1921) from around 200 to 2400 people
A number of schools are established during the 1920s to support Group Settlements – Forest Grove, Rosa Brook, Rosa Glen, Osmington, Kudarup, Glenarty, McLeod’s Creek School, Nillup.

1924 WA Jarrah Forest Ltd forms from two companies (Adelaide Timber Company and JF Pilgrim) tendering for government sawmill contract. Begin operations in 1924 supplying sleepers to South Africa and timber for Group houses. Important income supplement for many of the group settlement.


The railway line from Busselton to Margaret River is completed in the early 1920s, Busselton to Flinders Bay railway opened.

The first agricultural show is held at Karridale.

1926 The last group settlement to the area.

1929 The Bunbury Butter Company buys 10 acres to build a factory in Margaret River. The factory is built by Wesfarmers and in 1933 it is purchased by South West Co-operative Dairy Farmers Ltd.



Large number of CWA’s formed in region – Rosa Glen / Witchcliffe, Rosa Brook, Margaret River, Karridale. Also beginnings of other clubs: Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Red Cross, RSL’s

Last Quokka seen in region.

1933 First pines planted in region. Extensive planting took place till 1941, when wartime restrictions brought about the curtailment of the program.

1937 Electricity is supplied in Margaret River, although not on a 24 hour basis.



Salmon fishing established at Hamelin Bay during 1940s
The war created an increase in demand for tobacco. In 1940 exploratory crops were established in the AMR Shire from Cowaramup through Rosa Glen, Rosa Brook, Margaret River to Karridale and Warner Glen. By the 1950s it had become unviable to grow tobacco and farmers diversified to vegetable and fruit growing or dairy farming
Italian Prisoners of War worked as farm labourers in and around the district in 1943
Following World War II, a number of displaced Europeans, seconded to the Forests Department for the mandatory period of two years bonded to the government, are sent to Margaret River where they hand felled about 300 acres.
War Service Land Settlement is established, with new settlers arriving to the Augusta Margaret River area. This settlement scheme proved more successful than the Group Settlement Scheme allowing for greater areas of cleared pasture and an improved standard of housing


Main road from Vasse to Margaret River is sealed in 1950
Pine planting resumed in the area in 1951. Planting continued to 1957 when policy change caused the cessation of all soft wood plantations
The volunteer fire brigade is formed in Margaret River in 1951 as a separate identity to the volunteer Bush Fire Brigades that were already in operation throughout the area.
The butter factory in Margaret River (South West Co-operative Dairy Farmers Ltd) is converted to a cheese factory in 1952. The cheese factory is closed in 1950s
Prevelly Caravan Park opens in 1953, marking Augusta Margaret River as a growing holiday / tourist destination
First stage of Sunny West Cooperative Dairies in built in 1953.
Margaret River District High School opens 1953. Many children now bus to major centres for school following closures of the small group schools
The Augusta Margaret River tourist bureau incorporated in 1956
The Bussleton - Flinders Bay railway is closed in 1957
The Jewel Cave is opened to the public on Boxing Day 1959


The Commonwealth Development Bank make long-term loans for farm development available
Electricity supplied to Augusta
Augusta hospital opens
The abalone industry begins, based in Augusta
Karridale is nearly completely destroyed during the year of devastating bush fires in WA in 1961
Gracetown is gazetted in 1962
First experimental plots of exotic eucalypts planted in 1965
Alexandra Bridge area – electricity switched on in December 1965
The Augusta Margaret River is reported as being eminently suited to commercial viticulture in 1965. The first commercial vines are planted in 1966.

1967 Cardiologist Dr Tom Cullity planted the first Margaret River vines on the eight acres of land that he had bought for $75 an acre on Harman's Road south. He named his property "Vasse Felix".



Market Milk Quotas introduced
1970s sees ‘waves’ of people come to the Augusta Margaret River region, including the “orange people” and “surfies”. Some of these stayed to become long-term residents
1974 Molloy Island is purchased for sub-division and development. Barge starts operating – first vehicle on island in 1977
The first pro/am surfing competition is held in Margaret River
1979 Main road from Margaret River to Augusta is sealed.


Immense growth in the shire: population grows from 3054 to 5331 in the ten years from 1976 to 1986.

Farming areas are taken over with vineyards throughout the 1980s
Tourist accommodation and visitor numbers multiply
Fish industry, based in Augusta, stabilises
Agro-forestry introduced, intensifying use of plantations for grazing
Increase in eucalypt plantation in both commercial and private sector, with many farms being planted out with Tasmanian Blue Gums
A number of initiatives aimed at aged care and recreation start up in late 1970s and 1980s: Leeuwin Frail Aged Home opened 1978; Augusta and Districts Elderly Support Association formed in1987;
1982 – Blackwood River floods Warner Glen Bridge and sweeps away the old Alexandra Bridge
“Light of Leeuwin” published 1989
1985 Leeuwin Estate winery hosts the London Philharmonic Orchestra for their inaugural outdoor concert

1985 The first professional surfing competition, the Margaret River Thriller, is held.
1986 First Augusta Whale Rescue received world wide recognition as the most successful on record. Another whale rescue in 1987 and a dolphin rescue in 1989
1986 The Margaret River Cheese Company at Cowaramup is the first cheese company in the state to make Brie on a commercial basis.



1990 Beenup Mine opened
Population continues to grow –doubled between 1981 and 1996
1993 Cloverdene Dairy become the first sheep milk dairy for cheese and yoghurt in district
1996 Gracetown disaster. Nine people are killed and one injured in a cliff collapse
Slow decline in fishing industry
1999 Opening of Cape to Cape walk trail
Two submissions presented (1998 and 2000) for the secession of Augusta and districts from the Augusta Margaret River Shire


Dissolution of Shire Council (2000) with Commissioners appointed by the Minister for one year before elections for a full new council in September 2001.

Deregulation of Dairy Industry (2000)

Movement of vineyard ownership in area from family-owned to corporate-owned.
New Local Government elections
Release of Leeuwin Naturaliste Ridge Statement of Planning Policy, statutory document
Beenup sand mine closure and legacy of acid sulphate soils
New Margaret River Education campus opens 2004
Augusta Margaret River Land Release Plan 200-01 to 2004-05 (December 2000)
Masters World Professional Surfing competition conducted in March annually
Classic Professional Surfing competition conducted in November annually
Margaret River Wine Region Festival conducted annually in October



2011 Population in the Shire of Augusta Margaret River is approximately 13000

2011 Major bushfire sweeps through the Margaret River region.  A total of 39 homes were destroyed including the historic Wallcliffe House, and 26 damaged.  This is the second single biggest house loss in Western Australia to a single bushfire event, particularly one that resulted from an escape from a prescribed burn.

2014 Margaret River Pro becomes an international surfing competition



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PO Box 61
Margaret River WA 6285

Margaret River

41 Wallcliffe Road
Monday to Friday
Ph 08 9780 5255
Fax 08 9757 2512


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