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History of The Fence

 

The State Barrier Fence, originally called the Rabbit Proof Fence, has played a major role in protecting Western Australia from the incursion of wild animals for more then 100 years. Firstly Rabbits then Emus, Wild Dogs and various other feral animals which threatened the destruction of the multi-billion dollar agricultural industry and thereby the livelihood of so many families dependant on their farms.

 

The threat began when rabbits, which had originally been introduced into Victoria by Thomas Austin, when he imported 24 rabbits from England for hunting sport, spread across the Nullarbor plane, to reach WA in 1894. They caused enormous damage to crops and pastures and threatened to overwhelm the important Agricultural land of WA: a virtual invasion of the State. To deal with this problem, A Royal Commission was held in 1901 and surveyor Alfred Canning was appointed to study the area, resulting in the setting up of a survey line for the first Barrier Fence at Burracoppin east of Merriden.

 

In 1901 this mammoth task began with the employment of 400 men under private contractors to begin the building of the longest fence in the World. Although building materials and their transportation were a major obstacle in this difficult terrain, 8,000 tonnes of material were eventually carried firstly by ship, then by rail and finally transported over land by horse, camel and donkeys to some of most remote and almost impossibly inhospitable areas in the World! These materials consisted of four wires and the wire ‘netting’ with a Hexagon weave which is the ubiquitous symbol of this commemorative project and upon which the design concept is based. ( It took millions of hexagons to keep out millions of rabbits). Hot coal tar and kerosene were essential also, in which to dip the wire, to prevent it rusting underground. It should not be forgotten that a 1 foot deep trench had to be dug first for the wire to be buried in. The timber fence posts themselves were sourced locally, wherever possible, but if not available, steel had to be used. There were also gates and yard traps set at intervals.

 

Problems abounded in spite of all these efforts and in 1904 and 1906 two more fences were added to the original .The Fence finally ran from Starvation Boat Harbour on the Great Australian Bight, 70 miles ( 110 Kms) west of Esperance, due North, reaching the Indian Ocean, about 20 miles, (30 Kms) north of Condon on the North West Coast of WA. The total length of the three fences amounted to 3,250 kms. Thus the Rabbit Proof Fence of Western Australia became the longest continuous fence in the World.

 

Today, the W.A. Dept. of Agriculture maintains a large section of the fence which runs from north of Kalbarri to Jerdacuttup in the Shire of Ravensthorp. This is now called the State Barrier Fence. Thus, the Fence has played a huge part in protecting the W.A. agricultural region for more then 100 years

 

Find out more, please visit the Dept of Agriculture Western Australia

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Shires Along The Rabbit Proof Fence

 

To view rthe shires with the rabbit Proof Fence

 

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