Coolgardie, Western Australia

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Western Australia
Coolgardie Town Hall.jpg
Coolgardie Warden's Court
Coolgardie. Marvel Bar RSL.jpg
Coolgardie Marvel Bar RSL
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Coolgardie, Western Australia
Coordinates 30°57′11″S121°09′50″E / 30.953°S 121.164°E / -30.953; 121.164 Coordinates: 30°57′11″S121°09′50″E / 30.953°S 121.164°E / -30.953; 121.164
Population773 (SAL 2021) [1]
Postcode(s) 6429
LGA(s) Shire of Coolgardie
State electorate(s) Kalgoorlie
Federal division(s) O'Connor

Coolgardie is a small town in Western Australia, 558 kilometres (347 mi) east of the state capital, Perth. It has a population of approximately 850 people. [2]


Although Coolgardie is now known to most Western Australians as a tourist town and a mining ghost town, it was once the third largest town in Western Australia (after Perth and Fremantle). At this time, mining of alluvial gold was a major industry and supplied the flagging economy with new hope. Many miners suffered under the harsh conditions, but for a few, their find made the hard work worthwhile. Most men, however, left poorer than they had started off, with their hopes dashed.


Coolgardie School of Mines CoolgardieSchoolOfMines WEFretwellCollection.jpg
Coolgardie School of Mines
Coolgardie, Western Australia, 15 March 1928 (f16) Coolgardie, Western Australia.jpg
Coolgardie, Western Australia, 15 March 1928 (f16)
King of the West or Normandy Nugget, at 25.5 kilograms (820 troy ounces) the world's second largest existing nugget, found in a creek bed at Coolgardie, 1995 Gold mass (alluvial gold) (Kalgoorlie region, Western Australia) 2 (16992820417).jpg
King of the West or Normandy Nugget, at 25.5 kilograms (820 troy ounces) the world’s second largest existing nugget, found in a creek bed at Coolgardie, 1995

Coolgardie was founded in 1892, when gold was discovered in the area known as Fly Flat by prospectors Arthur Wellesley Bayley and William Ford. [5] Australia had seen several major gold rushes over the previous three decades, mostly centred on the east coast, but these had mostly been exhausted by the 1890s. With the discovery of a new goldfield, an entire new gold rush began, with thousands flocking to the area. The Municipality of Coolgardie was established in 1894. By 1898, Coolgardie was the third largest town in the colony, with an estimated population of 5,008 (3,151 men and 1,857 women). [6] At its peak, 700 mining companies based in Coolgardie were registered with the London Stock Exchange. The town also supported a wide variety of businesses and services, including the railway connection between Perth and Kalgoorlie, [7] a swimming pool (first public baths in the state), many hotels and several newspapers.

The value of Coolgardie to the colony in the late 1890s was so very significant that it was used as leverage to force Western Australia to join the Australian federation. Britain and the eastern colonies threatened to create a new state to be named Auralia around Coolgardie and other regional goldfields, such as Kalgoorlie, if the government in Perth did not agree to hold a referendum on federation. The Western Australian government reluctantly complied and a referendum was held just in time to become a founding state in the new federation. When federation did occur in 1901, Coolgardie was the centre of a federal electorate, the Division of Coolgardie. Soon after in November 1901, Alf Morgans from the state electorate of Coolgardie briefly became Premier of Western Australia. Albert Thomas, also of Coolgardie, was elected the first Member of Dundas, an electoral division south of Coolgardie.

However, the gold began to decrease in the early 1900s, and by World War I, the town was in serious decline. The federal electorate was abolished in 1913 due to the diminished population, as many of its residents left for other towns where the gold was still plentiful, and it soon ceased to be a municipality. The situation remained unchanged throughout the century, as its population slipped to around 200 and it became a virtual ghost town. An example of this decline is that, in March 1896, Coolgardie's main street was lit by an electric light, but by April 1924, the same street was lit by four hurricane lamps.

Despite this, many of the buildings from the town's peak were retained, which in recent years has helped start a small revival in the town's fortunes. The development of a tourist industry has once again created some employment in the town, resulting in a small increase in population. Coolgardie appears to be no longer in danger of dying.

Muslim Afghan cameleers

Camel team, Coolgardie c. 1900 Camel team Coolgardie.jpg
Camel team, Coolgardie c.1900

When the Coolgardie gold rush occurred in 1894, the Afghan cameleers (so-called, although some of them did not originate in Afghanistan) were quick to move in. The goldfields could not have continued without the food and water they transported. In March that year, a caravan of six Afghans, forty-seven camels and eleven calves, set out across the desert from Marree to the goldfield. It arrived in July with the camels, carrying between 135 and 270 kilograms (298 and 595 lb) each, in good condition. Another fifty-eight camels for Coolgardie arrived by ship in Albany in September. [9]

By 1898 there were 300 members of the Muslim community in Coolgardie and 80 on average attended Friday prayer. Coolgardie held the main Muslim community in the colony at that time. There was not one Muslim woman amongst them, no marriages were performed and no burials, reflecting a relatively young and transient population.

Similar to the other structures, simple mud and tin-roofed mosques were initially constructed in the town. All of the Afghan Muslim population eventually relocated from Coolgardie generally to Perth, the new capital of Western Australia. Racism was very common towards the Afghan cameleers. There were reports of unsolved murders, and torture of Afghan-owned animals. [10] [11]


Great Eastern Highway (National Highway 94) runs through the town as Bayley Street. Just to the town's east, Highway 94 turns south onto Coolgardie-Esperance Highway, which heads towards Norseman, the starting point of the route east across the Nullarbor Plain.

Originally the narrow gauge railway to Kalgoorlie, the Eastern Goldfields Railway passed through Coolgardie, until 1968, when the new standard gauge line was built to the north on a new route.

The Transwa Prospector train stops 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) north of the town at Bonnie Vale. There is a very limited public bus service to the town on the Kalgoorlie to Perth route, although school bus services are more frequent.


In the 1890s four goldfields were gazetted with Coolgardie as reference point:

Despite the changes to the Kalgoorlie region, Coolgardie still has a Mining Registrar.

The Denver Hotel was the setting for the 2016 documentary "Hotel Coolgardie" while the town itself was used as the setting for the fictional town of Jardine in the 2022 mini-series, "Mystery Road: Origin."

See also

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  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (28 June 2022). "Coolgardie (WA) (Suburb and Locality)". Australian Census 2021 QuickStats. Retrieved 28 June 2022.  OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "Coolgardie (L) (Urban Centre/Locality)". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 5 January 2018. OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
  3. "Our biggest nugget arrives in time for Gold Week". The Courier . Ballarat, Vic. 15 April 2004. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  4. "Class B objects refused an export permit - Prior to 2013". Movable Cultural Heritage Prohibited Exports Register. Canberra, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia Department of Communications and the Arts. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  5. Ford, Lyall (2001). Poorhouse to Paradise: The Adventures of a Pioneering Family in a North Queensland Town. Freshwater, Queensland: Taipan Press. p. 14. ISBN   0646332546.
  6. "Population of Western Australia", Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 - 1954), 22 April 1898, p. 23
  7. Morris, Bernie & Milne, Rod (2008) Coolgardie's Railway Days Australian Railway History, June; July, 2008 pp183-196; 219-234
  8. Reid, Arthur. Those Were the Days. Perth: Hesperian Press, 1986. ISBN   0-85905-101-3, p. 97
  9. A History of Islam in Australia Archived 30 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine accessed: 27 May 2010
  10. Simon Adams (2009). The Unforgiving Rope: Murder and Hanging on Australia's Western Frontier. UWA Press. p. 178. ISBN   978-1-921401-22-0.
  11. Christine Stevens (2002). Tin Mosques and Ghantowns: A History of Afghan Cameldrivers in Australia. Paul Fitzsimons. p. 109. ISBN   978-0-9581760-0-2.
  12. "Proclamation of Coolgardie Goldfield". Western Mail. Perth, WA. 14 April 1894. p. 4. Retrieved 17 February 2020.
  13. "Government Gazette - Perth Friday September 21st". The West Australian. Perth, WA. 22 September 1894. p. 7. Retrieved 17 February 2020.
  14. "News and Notes". The West Australian. Perth, WA. 23 May 1895. p. 4. Retrieved 17 February 2020.
  15. "Mining Appointments". The Inquirer and Commercial News. Perth, WA. 6 March 1896. p. 5. Retrieved 17 February 2020.