The original inhabitants of Bunbury and the Western Australian south
west are the Aboriginal Noongar people. The people hunted and fished
throughout the area prior to the first European settlement in the
Prior to this, the first unintentional discovery of the coastline were
by the Dutch East Indies ships blown off course by the Roaring Forties
trade winds from the 1600’s. In 1791 French admiral D’Entrecasteaux
was searching the coast for the missing French explorer La Perousse.
His name and that of the ships he commanded, the Récherche and
Espérance are remembered along the WA south coast with towns, parks and
beaches around the WA coast being named after both French and Dutch
seamen and explorers.
In 1803 by the French explorers Nicolas Baudin and Louis de Freycinet,
from their ships the Geographe and Casuarina, made the first recorded
mapping of Koombana Bay and the Bunbury area. Lieutenant Freycinet
named the area Port Leschenault after his botanist, Jean Baptiste
Leschenault de la Tour.
Today the historic Leschenault Homestead is situated near Bunbury’s
Inner Harbour. Built between 1854 and 1874 by William Pearce Clifton,
the then Bunbury Magistrate, the home was constructed by the “wattle
and daub” method or timber, wattle lathes and mud.
The homestead has been the focus of much discussion in recent years as
it sits on land required for the expansion of the Bunbury port. It is
likely that the house will be shifted to a new site where it will be
operated as a museum.
By 1831, threatened by the interest of the French in the area, a
temporary English military settlement was established with the first
settlers moving here in 1938. At the same time the settlement was
given the name of Bunbury, after Lieutenant Henry William St Pierre
In 1840 the central area of Bunbury was officially surveyed and the
settlement had its first magistrate, George Elliot, appointed. At the
same time a settlement at Australind, a few miles to the north was
growing steadily and by 1841 there were 400 people living in Bunbury.
By 1842 Bunbury was home to 16 buildings including an Inn. Thereafter,
a growing port serviced the settlers and the subsequent local
industries that developed.
In particular whaling plays a vital part in Bunbury’s early white
history and meant that it was not only Europeans that were inhabitants
in the early years but also whalers from the USA east coast.
One of the other major industries to open up the south west and cement
the importance of Bunbury as a port was the timber industry. In North
American fashion, timber logs would be floated down the Collie River to
be loaded aboard ships headed to the northern hemisphere or to South
Africa and India where the hardwood timbers were used for railway
sleepers. Trade through the port was increased further by the
completion of a railway in 1891.
In 1903 a breakwater to further protect the bay and port area was
completed and today the Bunbury port is one of Australia’s major ports
servicing mainly the minerals industry that has become such a major
part of the local economy. The south west area is home to one of the
world’s major sources of various mineral sands and alumina.
Bunbury became a city on 8 October 1979 and today has a population of
51,000 with 123,000 people living in the south west area of Western