Northam, Western Australia

Last updated

Western Australia
Northam Town Hall.jpg
Northam Town Hall
Australia Western Australia location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Coordinates 31°39′11″S116°39′58″E / 31.65306°S 116.66611°E / -31.65306; 116.66611 Coordinates: 31°39′11″S116°39′58″E / 31.65306°S 116.66611°E / -31.65306; 116.66611
Population6,548 (2016 census) [1]
Postcode(s) 6401
Elevation170 m (558 ft)
Location96 km (60 mi) from Perth
LGA(s) Shire of Northam
State electorate(s) Central Wheatbelt
Federal Division(s) Pearce
Mean max tempMean min tempAnnual rainfall
25.2 °C
77 °F
10.9 °C
52 °F
429.3 mm
16.9 in

Northam ( /ˈnɔːrðəm/ ) is a town in the Australian state of Western Australia, situated at the confluence of the Avon and Mortlock Rivers, about 97 kilometres (60 mi) east-northeast of Perth in the Avon Valley. At the 2016 census, Northam had a population of 6,548. [1] Northam is the largest town in the Avon region. It is also the largest inland town in the state not founded on mining.



The area around Northam was first explored in 1830 by a party of colonists led by Ensign Robert Dale, and subsequently founded in 1833. It was named by Governor Stirling, probably after a village of the same name in Devon, England. Almost immediately it became a point of departure for explorers and settlers who were interested in the lands which lay to the east.

This initial importance declined with the growing importance of the nearby towns of York and Beverley, but the arrival of the railway made Northam the major departure point for prospectors and miners heading east towards the goldfields.

A number of older buildings have heritage significance and still serve the community.

Camps and centres

Northam Migrant Accommodation Centre

During the 1940s and 1950s in Northam there were extensive camps for displaced persons and immigrants from continental Europe.

The Northam Migrant Accommodation Centre closed in September 1951. It had been the first place of residence in Western Australia for approximately 15,000 immigrants from the Baltic states, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Belarus and Bulgaria. [2] During the peak immigration period, Northam had the largest immigrant receiving facilities within the State and the third largest in Australia. [3] By 1950, the camp housed 4,000 people and two new blocks of huts were built to accommodate them all. [4] By May 1954, 23,000 migrants had passed through the Northam Camp once the Accommodation Centre had closed. A significant number of these post-war arrivals eventually settled in the Northam area.

Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre

On 18 October 2010 the Yongah Hill (YHIDC) centre was announced as being established at the former Northam Army Training Camp. [5] [6] [7] [8] It was not opened until early 2012, however, and, after it was downsized from the original 1500 expected occupancy, talk of expansion has been happening.

It is run by Serco for the Department of Home Affairs. [9]

Australian Border Force officers are also present at the centre. [10]

In September 2018 a riot broke out at the centre and some buildings were set on fire, after a detainee was reportedly found in his cell injured after a suicide attempt. [11] The detainee, who was a refugee, later died. [12]

Also in September 2018, a guard was alleged to have sexually assaulted a detainee. [9]


The town and hinterland of Northam are located in the Avon Valley - so named after the river the Avon River. It has been periodically flooded, and man-made banks protect the town from inundation. The Avon is a name commonly used by organisations, newspapers and sporting groups.

The river is spanned by a pedestrian suspension bridge; at 117 metres (384 ft), [13] it is the longest such bridge in Australia. [14]

Burlong Pool a pool just south of the town was known as the Burlong swimming pool, and in the 1890s the location of the source of water for the Goldfields Water Trains [15]


Northam has a Mediterranean climate (Köppen Csa) with hot dry summers and cool wet winters.

Climate data for Northam
Record high °C (°F)46.2
Average high °C (°F)34.2
Average low °C (°F)17.1
Record low °C (°F)7.3
Average precipitation mm (inches)10.4
Average precipitation days1.
Source: [16]


A severe thunderstorm lashed the town and surrounding areas on 27 January 2011 resulting in roofs being ripped off, trees being uprooted and power lines being brought down. [17] About 50 houses were damaged in the town as a result of the storm but no injuries were reported. [18]


For many years Northam consisted of the Town of Northam and Shire of Northam. After 53 years of debates and attempts, these two councils merged on 1 July 2007 to form one new council called the Shire of Northam.

The public sector is a large employer for many residents of Northam and surrounding areas. With many state government departments operating out of the town. [19] [20] [21]

Services Australia operates a Centrelink office in the town. [22]


Northam has a number of tourist attractions, including hot air ballooning, wineries, cafes & restaurants, museums, hotels and motels.


Northam is connected to Perth via coach services N3 and N5, and rail services Prospector and MerredinLink provided by Transwa.


Northam is a major railway junction, and serves as the commercial centre for much of the western Wheatbelt. The dual gauge Eastern Railway terminates here and becomes the standard gauge Eastern Goldfields Railway. Narrow gauge radiates both south of the town to York and beyond (Great Southern Railway), and north to Goomalling, another rural railway junction.

Current railway station

Northam railway station is served by Transwa's AvonLink, MerredinLink and Prospector rural train services, and Great Southern Rail's Indian Pacific to Sydney. [23]

Original railway station

The original station on Fitzgerald Street was opened in 1900 and closed in 1966 when the new Eastern Railway route became operational. [24]

Old Northam Railway Station Old Northam Railway Station.jpg
Old Northam Railway Station

The layout of the pre-1966 narrow gauge railway also had a busy junction at East Northam; this was removed on the completion of the new standard gauge railway. [25]

Avon Yard

The Western Australian Government Railways originally created it as the Avon Marshalling Yard, and more recent operators in the yards such as Australian Railroad Group have named it the Avon Yard.

Airport and roads

Northam airport, at the junction of Great Eastern Highway with Route 115, near the bridge over Mortlock River North Northam Airport 2009-03-05.jpg
Northam airport, at the junction of Great Eastern Highway with Route 115, near the bridge over Mortlock River North


Northam has a senior high school that conducts classes from Year 7 to Year 12. It also has 3 public primary schools Northam Primary School, West Northam Primary School and Avonvale Primary School that conduct classes from kindergarten to Year 6.

Northam has a private Catholic school, St Josephs, which provides an alternative to public schools. St Josephs conducts classes from kindergarten to Year 12.

Central Regional TAFE has a campus located near the senior high school. [26]


Association Football (Soccer) has been played in Northam since just after World War Two. Due to the many European immigrants living at the Holden Camp a league was formed comprising nine teams from Northam and one from Wundowie. Many of the teams were based on ethnicity such as: Italian; Dutch; Polish; Hungarian; Romanian; Yugoslav; Austrian; German and Bulgarian. In recent years, Northam United FC was a men's team whilst Northam Springfield FC is a children's football club in its tenth season (2021). Springfield play in the winter against their rivals Toodyay Junior Soccer Club.

Northam has some very committed sporting teams. Australian rules football is an obsession with many of the people of Western Australia. Northam has two teams that play in the Avon Football Association competition, Federals and Railways.

Field and indoor hockey, cricket, and netball also attract significant numbers of players and spectators. Individual sports such as tennis and cycling including BMX are also popular.

The BMX State Championships were held in Northam in 2003 with 3,000 competitors and spectators attending the event for over a week with Northam competitors showing their dominance in the sport in the state. Three local riders who participated in this event (Dale Reynolds - then ranked 3WA for 18 Men's, Chris Marris - then ranked 1WA for 18 Men's, and Kyle Martin - then ranked 4WA for 18 Men's) have subsequently completed cross country rides from Adelaide to Perth demonstrating the interest in cycling in Northam.

Steve Fossett became the first person to fly around the world alone, non-stop, in a hot air balloon when he launched from Northam on 19 June 2002, and returned to Australia on 3 July, landing in Queensland. [27]

Between 1952 and 1956 several motor racing events were held using streets within the town. [28] The first circuit used was on the south side of the Avon River, but this was considered too dangerous, so a new circuit was built in 1956 on the north side of the river. [29]

Thoroughbred horse racing is held at Northam Racecourse by the Northam Race Club. [30] The track held its first race in 1863 and has about 22 race meetings [31] during the year.

The town is also home to Harness Racing and greyhound racing.

Events in Northam

The annual Avon Descent river race starts in Northam. [32]

The Northam Flying 50's, a historical car racing event, is held each year in early April, attracting around 5,000 spectators. [33] [34]

The Northam Agricultural Show is held annually on a Friday and Saturday in mid-September. [35] [36]

The Kep Ultra running race is held each year on the Foundation Day long weekend in early June. The race starts in Northam and includes 100 km and 75 km events finishing at Mundaring Weir. [37] [38]

Military history

During World War I, Wilberforce, an area on the Spencers Brook to York Road was the area set up for the breeding and selection of horses to be transported to overseas theatres of war involving Australian horseman in particular the iconic 10th Light Horse Regiment. [39]

Also in November 1920, an area at Noggojerrring was purchased by the Federal Government for £7,000. It was an area of 875 acres(350 hectares) of farming land and was located four miles (6.5 kilometres) north of Northam on the Northam - Pithara Road. Of that area, 860 acres (344 hectares) were cleared and divided into 11 paddocks. The property was well watered, and carried a wind mill, two dwellings, three sheds, and a stable. The Goomalling railway bisected it. The Federal Government's purpose was the settlement of tubercular soldiers. The place was christened Anzac Farm. [40]

During World War II, Northam was the location of a number of important strategic military camps, depots and installations being the most concentrated of military activity areas in Western Australia. Due to its strategic geographical location and being close to water, the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme, close to strategic railway junction, [41] as it was close to the coast but inland, Northam became an important military hub.

The installations, camps, and depots were some of those developed in the Wheatbelt during 1939-1945, located within the Shire of Northam, some of which still exist today.

Notable people

Northam is the birthplace of the following people:

See also


  1. 1 2 Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "Northam". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 22 April 2019. OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
  2. See for example, a biographical account of a migrant at the Northam Accommodation Centre
  3. Peters, Nonja; Bush, Fiona; Gregory, Jenny (Jennifer Anne); Australian Heritage Commission; University of Western Australia. Centre for Western Australian History; Heritage Council of Western Australia (1993), The Holden Immigration Camp, Northam, Centre for Western Australian History; [East Perth, W.A. : distributed by the Heritage Council], retrieved 1 April 2013
  4. Development, Cadmium Design &. "Storylines / Migrant: Northam Accommodation Centre - Northam Army Camp Heritage Association (NACHA)" . Retrieved 28 March 2017.
  5. "Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection" . Retrieved 28 March 2017.[ dead link ]
  6. Proud, John (24 April 2012). "$1.4m sports grounds at detention centre" . Retrieved 28 March 2017.
  7. "The West Australian" . Retrieved 28 March 2017.
  9. 1 2 Davidson, Helen (18 September 2018). "Serco guard at Western Australia immigration centre accused of sexual assault". The Guardian. Guardian News & Media Limited. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  10. "Detention Facilities".
  11. Carmody, James; Meachim, Laura (2 September 2018). "Detention centre set alight during riot after young man taken to hospital with serious injuries". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  12. Davidson, Helen (6 September 2018). "Refugee who attempted suicide in WA detention centre dies in hospital". The Guardian. Guardian News & Media Limited. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  13. Avon River Suspension Bridge (Sign on the bridge). Northam: Shire of Northam. 11 March 2018.
  14. "Northam". Shire of Northam. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  15. "Northam". Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 - 1954) . Perth, WA: National Library of Australia. 17 December 1897. p. 24. Retrieved 15 November 2012.
  16. "Climate statistics for Northam". Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 25 June 2011.
  17. "Wheatbelt towns lashed by thunderstorms, but cyclone warning cancelled". The Sunday Times . 28 January 2011. Retrieved 24 April 2011.
  18. "Houses damaged in trail of destruction across WA". The West Australian . 31 January 2011. Retrieved 24 April 2011.
  19. "Regional offices: Department of Finance".
  20. "Contact Us | Main Roads Western Australia".
  21. "Department for Child Protection - Western Australia - District Office Locations - Country".
  22. "Northam Service Centre (Centrelink) - Find Us - Services Australia".
  23. Timetables Transwa
  24. Breath of life for old railway station Avon Valley Advocate 11 September 2006
  25. "H.O.W.A.R.A.S - East Northam Station". Archived from the original on 3 July 2016. Retrieved 28 March 2017.
  26. "Northam | Central Regional Tafe".
  27. Limited, Fubra. "Famous Balloon Flights - First Successful Solo Around the World Flight" . Retrieved 28 March 2017.
  28. Walker, Terry (1995). Fast Tracks - Australia's Motor Racing Circuits: 1904-1995. Wahroonga, NSW: Turton & Armstrong. p. 112. ISBN   0908031556.
  29. Galpin, Darren. "Northam". GEL Motorsport Information Page. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  30. Northam Race Club Website Northam Race Club Inc
  31. "About (Northam Race Club)". Northam Race Club. 2018.
  32. Australian Broadcasting Commission (1981), Australia's longest white water race, Australian Broadcasting Commission, retrieved 16 December 2016
  33. "Field For Northam 'Flying 50'". The West Australian . 68 (20, 506). Western Australia. 9 April 1952. p. 24. Retrieved 16 December 2016 via National Library of Australia.
  34. "S. Negus Wins "Flying 50" At Northam". The West Australian . 70 (21, 136). Western Australia. 20 April 1954. p. 4. Retrieved 16 December 2016 via National Library of Australia.
  35. "NORTHAM AGRICULTURAL SHOW". The Inquirer And Commercial News . LI (16, 431). Western Australia. 30 October 1891. p. 4. Retrieved 16 December 2016 via National Library of Australia.
  36. "Northam Show Will Be Bigger, Better". The Beverley Times . 2 (54). Western Australia. 29 August 1963. p. 11 (A DISTRICT NEWS SUPPLEMENT PREPARED FOR THE BEVERLEY TIMES). Retrieved 16 December 2016 via National Library of Australia.
  37. "National Trust of Australia (W.A.)". Archived from the original on 17 February 2009. Retrieved 28 March 2017.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  38. "Home - Kep Ultra" . Retrieved 28 March 2017.
  39. Hamilton, John (2013). The Triumph and Tragedy of a Gallipoli Hero, Hugo Throssell, VC. Pan Macmillan Australia. ISBN   9781742613369.
  41. The original Northam railway Station was a junction station for most of the state Gray, Laura; Heritage Council of Western Australia (2000), Northam Railway Station (fmr) West Northam : conservation works : final report, Heritage Council of W.A, retrieved 1 March 2017
  42. Base Facilities Report, Commander US 7th Fleet dated 15 September 1944 p32.
  43. Units of the Royal Australian Air Force - A Concise History ISBN   0-644-42792-2

Further reading

Related Research Articles

Toodyay, Western Australia Town in Western Australia

Toodyay, known as Newcastle between 1860 and 1910, is a town on the Avon River in the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia, 85 kilometres (53 mi) north-east of Perth on Ballardong Noongar land. The first European settlement occurred in the area in 1836. After flooding in the 1850s, the townsite was moved to its current location in the 1860s. It is connected by railway and road to Perth. During the 1860s, it was home to bushranger Moondyne Joe.

Wheatbelt (Western Australia)

The Wheatbelt is one of nine regions of Western Australia defined as administrative areas for the state's regional development, and a vernacular term for the area converted to agriculture during colonisation. It partially surrounds the Perth metropolitan area, extending north from Perth to the Mid West region, and east to the Goldfields-Esperance region. It is bordered to the south by the South West and Great Southern regions, and to the west by the Indian Ocean, the Perth metropolitan area, and the Peel region. Altogether, it has an area of 154,862 square kilometres (59,793 sq mi).

Spencers Brook is a waterway, locality and a district located within the Avon Valley in Western Australia.

Merredin, Western Australia Town in the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia

Merredin is a town in Western Australia, located in the central Wheatbelt roughly midway between Perth and Kalgoorlie, on Route 94, Great Eastern Highway. It is located on the route of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme, and as a result is also on the Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail.

Eastern Railway (Western Australia)

The Eastern Railway is the main railway route between Fremantle and Northam in Western Australia. It opened in stages between 1881 and 1893. The line continues east to Kalgoorlie as the Eastern Goldfields Railway.

Cunderdin, Western Australia Town in the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia

Cunderdin is a town located in the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia 156 km east of Perth, along the Great Eastern Highway. Due to it being on the route of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme it is also on the Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail. It is a rural community consisting of a district high school and an agricultural college.


The AvonLink is a rural passenger train service in Western Australia operated by Transwa between Midland and Northam.

<i>The Prospector</i> (train service)

The Prospector is a rural passenger train service in Western Australia operated by Transwa between East Perth and Kalgoorlie.

Kellerberrin, Western Australia Town in Western Australia

Kellerberrin is a town in the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia, 205 kilometres (127 mi) east of Perth on the Great Eastern Highway. The town serves as a stop on the Prospector and MerredinLink rural train services. It is also located on the Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail.

Doodlakine, Western Australia Town in the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia

Doodlakine is a town 220 km (140 mi) east of Perth, Western Australia. It is within the Shire of Kellerberrin along the Great Eastern Highway. The town has a crossing loop for trains on the Perth-to-Kalgoorlie railway and serves as a stop on the MerredinLink rural train service.

Eastern Goldfields Railway Railway line in Western Australia

The Eastern Goldfields Railway was built in the 1890s by the Western Australian Government Railways to connect Perth with the Eastern Goldfields at Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie.

Boulder, Western Australia Suburb of Kalgoorlie, Western Australia

Boulder is a suburb in the Western Australian Goldfields, 595 kilometres (370 mi) east of Perth and bordering onto the city of Kalgoorlie in the Eastern Goldfields region.

Rail transport in Western Australia

Railways in Western Australia were developed in the 19th century both by the Government of Western Australia and a number of private companies. Today passenger rail services are controlled by the Public Transport Authority through Transperth, which operates public transport in Perth, and Transwa, which operates country passenger services. Great Southern Rail operates the Indian Pacific.

Shire of Northam Local government area in the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia

The Shire of Northam is a local government area in the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia, beyond the northeastern fringe of the Perth metropolitan area centred on the town of Northam itself. The Shire covers an area of 1,431 square kilometres (553 sq mi). In 2007, it merged with the Town of Northam, almost tripling its population in the process from a previous size of 3,794.

Merredin railway station

Merredin railway station is located on the Eastern Goldfields Railway in Western Australia. It is in the town of Merredin.

Clackline, Western Australia Town in Western Australia

Clackline is a locality in the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia, about 80 kilometres (50 mi) east-north-east of Perth.

Burlong Pool is a section of the Avon River in Western Australia between Spencers Brook and Northam.

West Toodyay

West Toodyay was the original location of the town of Toodyay, Western Australia. It is situated in the Toodyay valley, 85 kilometres (53 mi) north east of Perth. The Toodyay valley, discovered by Ensign Robert Dale in 1831, was opened up for settlement in 1836. The original site for the town of Toodyay was determined in 1836 and its boundaries were finalized 1838. The first survey of the town was carried out in 1849. After several serious floods, the decision was made to move the town of Toodyay to higher ground. In 1860, the new town of Newcastle was established 3 miles (4.8 km) further upstream. Newcastle was renamed in 1910 to Toodyay, and the original site became known as West Toodyay.

Public Transport Centre Public transport terminal in Perth, Western Australia

The Public Transport Centre is a terminal and administration building for public transport in Perth Western Australia. It is the centerpiece of East Perth Terminal, a standard gauge railway station and coach terminal adjacent to East Perth station on the Transperth narrow gauge suburban rail network.

Northam railway station, Western Australia

Northam railway station is located in Northam on the Eastern Railway route in Western Australia. It is the second and more recent railway station in Northam.