City of Cockburn History
City of Cockburn, PO Box 1215, Bibra Lake DC, Western Australia, 6965
Telephone: (08) 9411 3444

Cockburn's History

Cockburn's original inhabitants were a Swan River tribe of Aborigines who made their campsites along the City's central chain of lakes to avoid the salty waters of the lakes nearer to the coast. Fresh water, good vegetation and abundant wild life along the lakes sustained their undemanding way of life.

Sixteen Aboriginal campsites have been found in Cockburn, most of them located on the fringes of North Lake and Bibra Lake. With the commencement of European settlement the rights of Aboriginal inhabitants to their traditional lands were not understood or accepted, and the boundaries of their sites have had no place on our maps.

The first European settlement in Cockburn was Thomas Peel's short lived settlement at Clarence, now Woodman Point Reserve, and was dogged by bad luck and indifferent management. The settlement showed that a sense of community is an elusive quality and that it could not simply be transplanted from the settler's homeland.

In the 1880's a small group of pensioner guards from Fremantle settled around Lake Coogee. They built a compact village and to eke out their military pensions established small vegetable gardens and orchards. Sadly, the community failed to take root as the settlers remained firmly tied to the barracks at Fremantle.

During the late 1890s two further settlements were established, one failing and one surviving to the present day. The discovery of gold in Western Australia and the rapid growth of Fremantle and Perth attracted experienced vegetable gardeners and orchadists to the Cockburn region. The grey sands at Jandakot were made to bear rich yields of garden produce and to support a large influx of population.

The forced growth of the settlement at Jandakot only lasted while boom prices for the settlers products were obtained. But during this time Jandakot served as a model of effective community effort in satisfying the needs of the settlers.

At South Coogee another, smaller settlement was formed at the same time on the site of the deserted village of the pensioner guards. South Coogee grew to become the nursery of market gardening in Cockburn as new settlers learnt their craft from the established gardeners. Historical prominence of the area has been maintained by the City's heritage inventory and the by descendants of the original settlers.

Nearer to Fremantle new settlement at Hamilton Hill and Spearwood grew to meet the demands of the metropolitan area for building materials and food.

The improvements made to the district, in particular Spearwood, were achieved as a result of the early settlers banding together with a strong sense of community spirit.

By 1930 these new settlements scattered throughout Cockburn were established.

Further development of Cockburn was stalled during the Great Depression in the 1930s and then again with World War II. Beginnings of re-settlement of the district commenced in the post war years. This time housing developments instead of market gardens and dairy farms were established.

Today, Cockburn is one of the fastest growing areas in the metropolitan area of Western Australia, and is only between fifty and sixty per cent fully developed.

Modern day Cockburn is renowned for its ship building industry, as well as the dying breed of market gardens. Large national ship building companies including Austal Ships, sell their products to many different countries throughout the world, these companies are all located in the Cockburn suburb of Henderson, the ship building mecca of Australia.

 

The Naming of Cockburn Sound

Named in 1827 by Captain James Stirling, probably after Admiral Sir George Cockburn. Cockburn was born in London in 1772 and was a renowned British naval officer. It was he who took Napoleon to exile on the island of Saint Helena after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

(excerpt from "Cockburn - The making of a community" by Michael Berson)

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