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The Twentieth Century: 1901-1925

1909 Reaper binder harvesting on Reuben Carter�s at Three Springs.
1909 Reaper binder harvesting on Reuben Carter's at Three Springs. Three Springs Historical Society. Courtesy of West Australian Newspapers uncredited images from archival and contemporary sources.

Even after Forrest's departure to the Federal Parliament, the State kept up his developmental policies of the 1890s. Between 1905 and 1911, the State's wheat acreage trebled and marked the beginning of a major new export industry. After the Scadden government was elected in 1910, government lending terms were liberalised and by 1916 the area sown had trebled again, while production in 1915-1916 was also three times the level in 1910-11. [David Black Party Politics in Turmoil 1911-1924]

The government also pushed ahead with the building of railway lines with a fervour unequalled in the State's history [ibid].

The Scadden government made the expansion of farming its major priority. Gold mining was on the decline and there was no dispute that the development of the agricultural industry was the key to the WA's progress.

Loading Timber from the South West.
Loading Timber from the South West. Courtesy of West Australian Newspapers uncredited images from archival and contemporary sources.

The first settlements of the State were developed along the coast primarily because they could be accessed by ship when no other form of transport was available. Organised shipping services date from 1912 when the State Shipping Service started to serve our northern ports.

Long jetties such as those at Fremantle, Busselton and Geraldton marked the coastline where shipping was active. Today these have been replaced with land-backed wharves to provide safer berths and higher capacity.

Rail also played a major vital part in the State's economy. The first private railway lines were constructed for the timber industry in 1871 and 1872 from the forests of the Darling Ranges to Busselton, Rockingham and the Canning River. The first government railway was built from Northampton to Geraldton in 1879.

Prior to the First World War, railway constructions largely associated with the development of the wheatbelt, was the dominant [60 per cent of the total] form of State government expenditure. By the 20s [and late 30s] this had declined to 30 per cent and by the mid-40s had dropped to 16 per cent. [ibid]

The Depression broke the government's preoccupation with rural development when it was forced to realise that the limits of closer settlement had been exceeded, and that the drift to the cities was a permanent feature of future development. As a consequence, investment in urban facilities - particularly water, sewerage, and roads - became the major focus of government capital formation. By the late 30s, expenditure on water and sewerage facilities and roads involved up to one-half of total State government investment. [ibid]

The development of the State's manufacturing industry occurred in three main periods. It grew by 7.3 per cent per annum in the 20s, the same in the second half of the 30s, and during the Second World War by 4 per cent per annum. The three main industry groups were woodworking, metals and food. During the 20s woodworking activities dominated but by the late 40s they played a small role whereas the share of the metals industry doubled, and food increased by 57 per cent. [ref GD Snooks Development in Adversity - A New History of Western Australia, Edited by CT Stannage]

The 1920s saw the first regular air services begin in WA, with flights from Geraldton to Broome in 1921. The first regular interstate flights began to Adelaide in 1929. By the late 1940s, regular air services to the Eastern States and intrastate were well and truly established.

The Empire Settlement Scheme and the Group Settlers

Soon after the 1910 Gold rush, Western Australian Bank Bullfinch. Courtesy of West Australian Newspapers uncredited images from archival and contemporary sources.

By 1920, the population of WA had risen to almost 350,000. Between 1919 and 1922, approximately 38,000 British ex-servicemen came to WA under the Empire Settlement Scheme. Other Britons were admitted to the country under the Group Settlement Scheme. The new settlers were brought in to pioneer a dairy farming industry in the jarrah and karri forests of the South West, but in many instances their efforts met with failure. Many disillusioned settlers returned to England.

The Depression and the Second World War stopped immigration altogether, and in some years, the State actually recorded a net migration loss.

175th TRIVIA

'Happy Jack' Scadden as he was known was at 35 the youngest member of the Ministry and the youngest Premier in the history of the State.


Acknowledgement of Country

The Government of Western Australia acknowledges the traditional custodians throughout Western Australia and their continuing connection to the land, waters and community. We pay our respects to all members of the Aboriginal communities and their cultures; and to Elders both past and present.