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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 41

Western Australia

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Western Australia.

Western Australia, though of greater extent than any of her sister colonics, has less to show of the effects of industry applied to natural productions; not, indeed, from any deficiency in the gifts which Nature has scattered with liberal hand, and not unequally, over the surface of this island-continent, but from the want of sufficiency of labour and money capital to utilise them.

Occupying the entire western portion of Australia, beyond the 129th meridian east from Greenwich—in length, from north to south, 1490; and in breadth, from east to west, 865 miles, with an area of 1,060,000 square miles, or 678,400,000 acres—the western colony has only a scattered population of some 28,000, or one to every 40 square miles. But that this is not the result of any natural inferiority will appear to those who take the trouble to inspect carefully the specimens of the products of her land and water in the Exhibition, and compare them, more especially, with the area of land in occupation by her sparse population, which is as follows:—
Land now held in fee simple 1,679,311 acres.
Do. leased for pasturage and tillage 34,423,466 acres.

As it is not from natural deficiency or want of industry that Western Australia is behind in the race for prosperity, the cause must be sought for in her, until lately, isolated position, the want of those stimulants which have elsewhere induced large immigration, such as the discovery of goldfields, and the influx of capital from the funds of emigration companies in England.

The following table gives the number of the population in each of the twelve districts into which the colony is divided, according to the census of March, 1871:—
Districts. Males. Females. Totals.
Albany 998 587 1,585
Champion Bay 803 494 1,297
Fremantle 1,758 1455 3,213
Greenough and Irwin 970 587 1,557
Murray 452 242 694
Perth 2,770 2237 5,007
Roebourne 143 29 172
Sussex 615 365 980
Swan 978 696 1,674
Toodyay 1,542 930 2,472
Wellington 1,345 826 2,171
York 1,531 962 2,493
13,905 9410 23,315
Prisoners 1,470 1,470
Totals 15,375 9410 24,785

At the end of 1877 the estimated population of the colony was 27,876.

The administration of Western Australia is vested in a Governor, who exercises the executive functions. There is, besides, a Legislative Council, consisting of seven appointed and fourteen elected members, the latter returned by the votes of all male inhabitants of full age assessed in a rental of at least £10. The qualification for elected members is the possession of landed property valued at £1000.

Rather more than one-third of the public income is derived from customs duties, and the rest mainly from licenses and leases of Crown lands, and land sales.

The colony has an imperial grant in aid, amounting to £15,324 per annum.

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The revenue and expenditure of the colony during the seven years from 1872 to 1878 were as follows:—
Years. Revenue. Expenditure.
1872 £105,301 £98,248
1873 134,832 104,270
1874 148,073 143,266
1875 157.775 169,230
1876 162,189 179,484
1877 165,412 182,159
1878 163,334 198,243

Western Australia had a public debt of £361,000 at the end of June, 1879, the total including a loan of 4½ per cent, raised in 1879 for the construction of a railway.

The valuable forests claim the first notice, on account of their extent and the variety and quality of their useful products. The most important portion of these is situated to the south and west, and is estimated by the Surveyor-General to cover an area of 30,000 square miles; and of this the areas occupied by six of the principal eucalypti are—
Square miles.
White gum (Eucalyptus viminalis) 10,000
Jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) 14,000
Karri (Eucalyptus diversicolor) 2,300
Tooart (Eucalyptus gomphocephala) 500
Bed-gum (Eucalyptus calophylla) 800
York-gum (Eucalyptus doxophleba) 2400

But on this subject it may be sufficient to quote the opinions of Baron Yon Mueller, as given in his report on the forest resources of Western Australia. Of the spontaneous resources he writes thus:—44 The forest regions of extra-tropic West Australia occupy an area equal to the whole territory of Great Britain; and it is singularly fortunate for the colony that over this vast extent of wooded country a species of eucalyptus (the jarrah) prevails, which for the durability of its timber is unsurpassed by any kind of tree in any portion of the globe. Under such circumstances the timber resources must be regarded as among the foremost in importance throughout the wide tracts of Western Australia, even if the many other kinds of utilitarian trees occurring in the more southern portion of that colonial territory, and the more varied sorts of timber trees to be found within the intra-tropic regions of West Australia, were left out of consideration. It is furthermore of particular advantage to the colony that its highly valuable jarrah timber is obtainable through, at least, five degrees of geographic latitude, and this within so short and moderate a distance of shipping places as to render it easily accessible to foreign traffic." Again-—" The wood has attained a world-wide celebrity; when especially selected from hilly localities, cut while the sap is least active, and subsequently carefully dried, it proves impervious to the borings of the chelura, teredo, and termites. It is, therefore, in extensive demand for jetties, piles, railway-sleepers, fence-posts, and all kinds of underground structures, and it is equally important as one of the most durable for the planking and frames of ships." And again—"This much can be foreseen, that E. marginata is destined to supply one of the most lasting of hardwood timbers for a long time to come, at the least costly rate, to very many parts of the globe." But it is not only the jarrah which the Baron celebrates among the timber trees of Western Australia; for example, the karri (Eucalyptus diversicolor), sometimes styled E. colossea on account of its huge dimensions, stems having been "measured 300 feet long up to the first limb, and one particularly gigantic tree 60 feet around at the base." This wood, he says, is "elastic and durable, and particularly sought for large planks." Again, E. oleosa and others he notes for the value of the oil which can be extracted from their foliage—"It has proved the best known solvent for amber and other fossil resins, and of india-rubber, and unique in many technologic applications." Nor in considering the utile docs he forget the dulce, but records of one species—" Hardly anything more gorgeous can be imagined than the forest of E. ficifolia about the month of February, when brilliant trusses of flowers diffuse a rich red over the dark-green foliage of the whole landscape."

To the eucalypts must be added the acacias, as well for beauty as utility: A. acuminata, for its richly-scented and coloured wood, for the cabinetmaker and turner; A. saligna, the bark of which contains 30 per cent, of tannic acid; and A. microbotrya, for its enormous yield of superior gum. Of more than 150 acacias standing on record from the hitherto explored portions of Western Australia, he states "that the seeds of every sort would be acceptable for horticultural export trade, Australian acacias being always in request for European glasshouses." To these must be added the fragrant sandalwood (Santalum cygnorum), the banksias, yielding beautiful wood for ornamental work, and the cypress-pines of the north, valuable for their splendid wood and resin, and which we cannot doubt will soon be utilised for masts, yards, spars, and decks for ship-building, as they have been for rafters, joists, and flooring for houses. Of the value and beauty of West Australian woods for useful and ornamental purposes many examples will be found in this Exhibition.

With respect to the acclimatisation of exotic vegetation the Baron permits but small limitation. "In this respect," he says "West Australia is most happily situated; its wide page 121 territory, stretching through twenty-two degrees of latitude, admitting, in reality, of the culture of almost every kind of utilitarian tree in existence anywhere." And, indeed, even now the trees, shrubs, fruits, flowers, and edible vegetables of Europe, and very many of those of Asia, Africa, and America, are under profitable cultivation, and flourish in the gardens of the colony. "It would," he concludes, "need a volume to enumerate whatever foreign countries could contribute to the wealth of West Australia, which, so far as cultural capacities are concerned, excludes from its zones, in reality, only the Arctic and Alpine vegetable organisms, and which can afford apt space and shelter in select spots for every palm in existence." Of the exotic trees now naturalised in the colony, the more important are the orange, fig, mulberry, banana, and the vine; the cultivation of these, which some have placed among minor industries, is capable of development to a vast extent throughout the colony, as the specimens exhibited of the more important—the vine and mulberry—will sufficiently attest.

The wines of West Australia have already taken prizes and obtained honourable mention, and require only to be produced in larger quantities to ensure them a high place in the commerce of the world.

The silk produced from the mulberry plantations will compete with any produced elsewhere. The dryness of the climate in summer is highly favourable to the preservation of the grape, fig, and other fruits, as well as of cotton, tobacco, and coffee, for the cultivation of which the soil and climate of many parts of the colony are particularly well suited; as in the north, for sugar, rice, &c.

Of more present importance even than the forest trees are the shrubs and grasses which grow on the extensive plains and lower ranges of hills of West Australia, over an area, the limits of which are at present unknown, but which is every year being largely opened up for occupation. Of these particular districts, two alone—those of the north-west coast, and the upper valleys of the Murchison river—will afford sufficient space for all the stock that can be put upon them for many years to come. The area of land already leased for pasture is far in excess of the requirements of the stock upon it—viz., 24,000,000 acres to 980,000 head of all stock, or about 25 acres per head.

For want of capital in labour and in money, the agricultural lands in the colony have been partially neglected for the pursuits of pastoral industry; but the experience of the past year, which has given a supply of corn far beyond the wants of the colony, proves their capability for supplying an increased demand. The quality of the produce has already competed favourably with that of the other Australian colonies, and although the agricultural lands are generally of comparatively small area, it is a great advantage that they are scattered over its entire surface.

Wheat may be cultivated as far north as the river Murchison, and Indian corn throughout the colony. As hitherto breadstuffs have been largely imported, it is evident that the agricultural capabilities of Western Australia may be largely developed with advantage.

There were only 45,933 acres of land under cultivation at the end of 1877, out of a total of 626,111,323 acres.

The live stock consisted, at the same date, of 33,502 horses, 54,050 cattle, and 899,494 sheep.

The pastoral districts of south-west coast of the colony are particularly adapted to dairy-farming, and are capable of supplying its products—butter and cheese—not for the possible wants of the colony only, but largely for exportation.

It should be noted that so well suited are the climate and its vegetable productions to the life of domestic animals, that horses and cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and poultry, if permitted to run wild, increase so rapidly that a special Act of the legislature has been passed to regulate their destruction.

Sandalwood has for some years past contributed largely to the productive industry and profit of the colony; but unless new plantations are found it cannot very long continue to do so, as the distance which even now it has to be carried to the ports of shipment raises its price so much as to leave no great margin of profit.

The following table will show what are the present results of the utilisation of the vegetable products of West Australia:—
Principal Exports during the Year 1879.
Gum £3,581
Sandalwood 4,666¾ tons
Timber 12,545 loads
Wool 3,505,688 lb.
Guano 12,041 tons
Pearl-shells (northwest)) 603¾ tons
Pearl-shells (Shark's Bay) 470 tons
Lead ore 2,775 tons

The total value of the exports of 1878 was £427,268; and during last year (1879) they amounted to the sum of £492,707.

The exports of the colony to Great Britain consist almost entirely of wool and lead ore. The wool exports were of the value of £146,202 in 1878. Of lead ore the exports to Great Britain amounted to £14,890 in 1878.

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The value of the commercial intercourse of Western Australia with Great Britain is shown in the following table:—
Years. Exports from Western Australia to Great Britain. Imports of British Home Produce into Western Australia.
1873 £162,085 £167,368
1874 181,862 202,896
1875 221,324 161,881
1876 170,152 197,398
1877 177,277 145,430
1878 204,061 141,360
The total value of the imports and exports, including bullion and specie, of Western Australia, in the six years from 1873 to 1878 is shown in the following statement:—
Years. Imports. Exports.
1873 £297,328 £265,217
1874 367,418 398,901
1875 349,840 391,217
1876 386,037 397,292
1877 362,706 373,351
1878 379,049 428,491

The mineral wealth of West Australia is very great naturally, and may be assumed to be distributed over its entire area, as with two exceptions (to be hereafter noted) the same geological formations are found throughout it. Hitherto only lead and copper have been raised for exportation, and then only from one district, because that alone is sufficiently near to a port to make it profitable to work the mines. The rocks in which tin is found in the other colonies are, however, widely distributed in this, and quartz reefs known to contain gold invite in many places the expenditure of capital and labour upon them. Gold, as yet, has been found by surface-washing, in one place only (Peterwangy, on the Upper Irwin), and then not in sufficient quantity to pay for working; but even that has not been sufficiently tested. Other minerals will not be found wanting, of which two may be noted—plumbago, and a brown hœmatite iron-ore of the richest quality, which abounds in many places in the colony.

In the Mines district about Northampton, and on the lower course of the Murchison river, sufficient ores of lead and copper have been raised to show that they exist in abundance, and under such advantageous conditions as offer every inducement to work them for a fair market. Hitherto the cost of carriage to the place of shipment has reduced the profit to a minimum; but the opening of the Mines railway between Geraldton and Northampton has considerably lessened that burden. The unexpected delay in providing this means of transport, and the expenses consequently incurred, have, however, seriously affected the mining interest; and these operating in combination with want of sufficient capital, in some cases, and with the depression in the price of the mineral in the general market, have proved a temporary discouragement to this industry. The specimens of ores exhibited will satisfactorily attest the quality of those minerals in Western Australia.

The colony also possesses abundance of rock and stone for architectural purposes, whether granitoid, arenaceous, or cretaceous. Some of the latter may be classed with the best freestones; while some of the sandstones are micacious, and consequently bissile, and make excellent paving-stones. There is also good slate; clays for brick-making and pottery are common, as are pipe-clay and fire-clay, and ochres for pigments of various colours.

Lime is abundant, and of various qualities. Salt is found in lakes and lagoons in almost every part of the colony, some of which requires little preparation for domestic use. Gypsum is also found in many places.

The contents of the cabinet of rocks, fossils, and minerals exhibited, when compared with accompanying illustrative map, will not only explain generally the geology of the colony, but also show the distribution of mineral-bearing rocks over its surface.

Western Australia may be conveniently separated into five principal geological divisions, viz.:—First, the central table-land; secondly, the surrounding mountain ranges which form its supports and buttresses; thirdly, the coast districts; fourthly, the oolitic formations of the south-east coast; fifthly, the districts of fiords, inlets, and river valleys of the north-east.

The first is formed on a base of granitoid rocks, having superficial deposits of sandstone and limestone upon it over its eastern area; and when these have suffered much denudation, lakes, some of which are of considerable extent, are found on the west. It may be safely assumed that wherever the clays which now form the basins of these lakes have been deposited from the disintegration of the sandstones and limestone rocks, the water is salt; but when from the granitoid, or erupted rock, it is fresh. The same rule will be found to obtain generally throughout the colony in reference to natural springs and artificial wells.

The granitoid masses of the second division, which surround the central table-land, are frequently broken by elevated peaks of erupted rocks, quartz or metamorphic and schistose page 123 having usually at their bases ranges of sandstone and limestone, and are in many places capped with magnetic and hœmatitic iron ores. These erupted rocks are apparent in the granite floor throughout the colon)'. In the south-west, basalt, both columnar and amorphous, has been erupted.

The third district—that of the coast—presents, like the interior table-land, superficial deposits of aqueous rocks, which in the north-west form terraces, and in the west inferior ranges of hills; and the disintegration of these has resulted in extensive sand plains about their bases. On the south-west the granitoid masses are more largely developed, and approach the shore, in many places forming bold, rocky headlands; but where these do not present themselves the coast-line is formed by a range of low hills of concretionary recent limestone. The central portion of the south coast has, as also some portion of the west, like the interior tableland and under the same conditions, numerous lakes; and here the loftiest elevations in the colony present themselves in ragged ranges and detached peaks of massy quartz and schistose rocks, culminating in the Stirling range, 3640 feet above the sea.

The fourth district—that of the oolites—has not been sufficiently examined for accurate knowledge, but there is no doubt that the rocks are related to the greater and older formations of that class, and that they are several hundred feet in thickness. They afford stone for all uses, whether ornamental or structural, and present a bold escarpment of some 200 feet in height to the sea. This is, in regard to Western Australia, an exceptional formation.

The knowledge of the fifth district—that of the north-east coast of the colony—is at present confined to the valleys of the Glenelg and Fitzroy rivers. Here also the superficial sandstones and limestones are known to be present; but the disintegration of the trap and basalt rocks, which prevail in the valleys, appears to have left deposits unequalled for richness in any other part of the colony. Here also, as on the south-west coast, the running waters are perennial.

The natural productions of the waters of West Australia, if properly utilised, would be scarcely less valuable than those of the land. The abundance of fish in the sea round her coasts, and in the estuaries and mouths of her rivers, is so great as to appear inexhaustible. Although less numerous than formerly, both the right and the sperm whale are still to be found, as are seals. The dugong is plentiful from Shark's Bay round the northern coast, as are several species of turtle, beche-de-mer, and many other valuable fish. Crayfish are common both in salt and fresh water; prawns are plentiful, as also are oysters in many places. These would afford sufficient supply for a numerous population, as well as for export, and profitable employment for many. Already the preserving of one class of fish has been tried successfully, as will appear from the specimens exhibited.

The fisheries for pearl-shells and pearls are at present the most productive, and, as the supply remains constant, seem likely to continue so. This is the more advantageous, as latterly these fisheries have been carried on almost entirely by native divers. The pearl-oyster is found from Shark's Bay northward, but those of the south are greatly inferior to those of the north. Shells to the value of £39,400 were exported during the year 1879, and the total export to the end of that year since 1867 amounted to £368,819 in value.

Guano deposited by sea-fowl, now such an important item of colonial produce, was first discovered in, and exported from, Shark's Bay as early as the year 1840. The exportation from the Lacepede Islands, off the north coast, began in 1876; but guano is now obtained from other localities also. Chemical analysis shows that this manure belongs to the class of phosphate guano, and in addition to phosphate of lime, contains organic matters yielding nitrogen; but it is free from oxide of iron, alumina, and carbonate of lime, and therefore takes its place among the best phosphatic guano of commerce. The quantity exported in 1878 was valued at £66,095, and in 1879 at £54,184.

There were 78 miles of railway open for traffic at the end of 1878.

In 1876 there were 58 post-offices; and 846,075 letters were despatched and received.

The length of the telegraph lines was 1159 English miles; the length of wire being 1159 miles also.

According to the blue book for 1875, the receipts of that year for telegrams were £2251 18s. 6d.

There were 330 ships entered inwards and outwards at Western Australian ports in 1876, averaging 154,126 tons.

The expenditure on account of volunteers during the year ending 31st December, 1875, was £559 3s. 2d.

In 1875 there were 62 free schools supported by Government, with a total of 2539 scholars of both sexes. The assisted schools received a grant of £1331 19s. 9d. from public funds in 1875. They numbered 21, having an average attendance of 1328 scholars.

With so small a population as Western Australia has at present, there can be no very considerable manufactures; yet colonial wine and beer are fast superseding those imported; and for the beer, barley (the produce of the colony) is now malted. Besides those of the domesticated animals, the skins of the kangaroo, wallaby, boodie, dalghite, and dugong are tanned for use with native bark. Salt is carefully prepared by native prisoners at the Convict Establish- page 124 ment on Rottnest Island; but much salt is used throughout the colony in its natural state without preparation. Dried fruits, olive oil, whale, dugong, and fish oil are also prepared, of excellent quality, but mostly for the colonial market. Yet all these and other similar industrial resources—for example, the oils of the eucalypti, as shown by Baron Yon Mueller—are capable of development to any required extent.

The large collection of native weapons must not be taken as evidence of any serious antagonism on the part of the aborigines of the colony to the settlers. In the more settled districts they are too few to be dangerous, and are, in fact, dying out; and in the outlying pastoral districts they find their advantage in making themselves useful to the settlers as shepherds, stock-keepers, teamsters, &c. The weapons of the natives are now somewhat difficult to obtain, and their implements and utensils are being rapidly superseded by those of European manufacture. On this account the collection has been made as full as possible. The textile fabrics exhibited will show that there are indigenous plants which produce fibre suitable for many purposes, and which, accordingly, might be utilised to much advantage.