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Public Works

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Mundaring Pipe Sealing
Pipeline Men working on sealing the section of the pipeline to the Kalgoorlie. Courtesy Battye Library 001284d.

Prior to the coming of convicts in 1850, the progress of public works in the colony was slow due to the lack of labour. The influence of the convicts on WA's landscape can be seen in such buildings as Government House, the Perth Town Hall, the Supreme Court building, and the old Fremantle mental asylum, now the Fremantle Arts Centre. By the time the transportation of convicts ceased in 1868, Western Australia's public works were in a good state.

John Forrest embarked on an ambitious program of public works during his term as Premier. He moved to raised more than a million pounds for a range of railway, telegraph and harbour projects, wanting to promote projects that would boost the State's economic development.

He appointed Charles Yelverton O'Connor to oversee the government works program, which included a new harbour at Fremantle and the building of a rail link between Perth and the Goldfields, Bunbury and Geraldton.

C Y O'Connor
C Y O'Connor. Image Courtesy of Battye Library.

O'Connor's most ambitious project though was his scheme to bring coastal water to the Goldfields by constructing what was then one of the longest pipelines in the world. Tragically he bore the brunt of political criticism over the project and committed suicide in 1902, one year before the Goldfields pipeline was completed.

175th TRIVIA

Water finally flowed into the reservoir at Kalgoorlie in 1903, and Premier Sir John Forrest drank the first glass of water while quoting Isaiah from the Bible. They had, he said, made 'a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert'.

Public Works