Coordinates: 33°56′17″S 118°00′29″E
The agricultural town of Gnowangerup is 140km north-east of Albany and 354km south-east of Perth with a population of approximately 1,370 (Australian Bureau of Statistics, June 2010). The town’s name is derived from the Goreng-Noongar word for mallefowl, (a stocky ground-dwelling indigenous bird about the size of a domestic chicken that occupies semi-arid mallee scrubland) and translates as the ‘place where the mallee hen nests’. There is much evidence to show the Goreng-Noongars occupied the Gnowangerup plains for thousands of years – their stone implements can still be found in and around local creeks. The last full-blood Goreng-Noongar died in 1965 but descendants still reside in the area.
In the 1840s sandalwood cutters played an important role in the shire’s history, when they established a camp called Poilyenum (Noongar for sandalwood) in nearby Borden. Scotsman George Cheyne was the first European settler, acquiring land on the fertile slopes of the Palinup River in the 1850s. Cheyne emigrated to WA in 1831 at the age of 40 and was instrumental in setting up a trading depot at Cape Riche in the south of the Great Southern region.
Further settlement proved slow until the completion of the railway line from Katanning in 1905. A branch line from Tambellup reached Gnowangerup on July 1, 1912 and was extended to Ongerup on January 6, 1913. Railway services east of Gnowangerup ceased on October 13, 1957. When the townsite was gazetted in 1908 it was written Ngowangerupp, but local dissatisfaction with this spelling led to it being changed to Gnowangerup in 1913.
The close-by Mineral Springs bubble water from the ground at around 1litre per second and from 1936 to 1968, fed the local swimming pool, the second built in country Western Australia. Today, crops including wheat, lupins and barley with canola, clover seed, peas and oats, cover a large part of the shire – Gnowangerup is also the heart of Western Australia’s stud merino sheep industry.
An 1889 steam tractor called Juggernaut, used for land clearing in the area, stands outside the shire’s office in Yougenup Road. The Gnowangerup Aboriginal Corporation is currently in the process of collecting aboriginal memorabilia, photographs and artwork for display at the recently renovated Noongar Centre situated on Aylmore Street. The town has a number of facilities including a supermarket, bank, service station, hotel, public house and caravan park.
For further information, contact The Shire of Gnowangerup on 08 9827 1007 - http://www.gnowangerup.wa.gov.au/