Northam, on the banks of the scenic Avon River, in the heart of the Avon Valley, is an hour’s drive from Perth. It is the largest regional town between Perth and Kalgoorlie and the commercial hub for the surrounding agriculture district. There are numerous attractions, cafes and restaurants, plenty of shopping opportunities and a multi-screen movie theatre.
The longest pedestrian suspension bridge in Australia spans the river. The grassed river bank is an ideal spot to picnic or to feed the white swans. In August each year it is the starting point for the exciting Northam Avon Descent, Australia’s white water classic, 133 kms of fast boat racing.
From Northam’s humble beginnings in 1836 the town became the bustling departure point for prospectors pursuing dreams to the goldfields in the 1890s. Northam’s historic buildings can be appreciated on a town walk.
The Flour Mill, built in 1871 is still in operation. Morby Cottage, an early settler’s cottage is open Sundays 10.30-4.00. The Railway Station Museum displays railway stock and memorabilia - open Sundays 10am-4pm.
Mount Ommanney Lookout offers panoramic vistas.
Or create lifetime memories with a birdseye view from a balloon. There are scenic drives and wildflowers in spring. Relax on an informative Bus Tour of the District.
The Migrant Exhibition at the Avon Visitor Centre captures the stories of Northam’s post war migrants.
For further information see:
Northam Visitor Centre.
2 Grey Street, Northam
Phone (08) 9622 2100
Settling in a New Land
After WWII, Australia began accepting large numbers of migrants, many of them displaced from their homelands. Between 1949 and 1963, the wheatbelt town of Northam hosted 30,000 newcomers. They were Displaced Persons (DPs) from the Baltic States, Eastern and Central Europe and migrants from Western and Southern Europe.
Migration is a stressful process. It involves uprooting the past and confronting an unknown future in a strange land, often very different from the culture and society people know. In the new country migrants often need to learn a new language and adopt different customs and values.
In Northam, DPs were housed primarily at the Department of Immigration, Reception and Training Centre on the Great Eastern Highway (Army Camp). Other migrants and DPs’ dependants were housed at the Holden Immigration Camp, formerly the 118th Battalion Military Hospital. Holden Camp's initial residents were women and children, the dependants of DPs who were away in isolated areas working to discharge their debts for assisted passages.
The largest ethnic groups among the DPs were Polish, followed by refugees from Yugoslavia, Latvia, Hungary and Lithuania. There were were Estonians, White Russians, Czechoslovakians, Romanians, Bulgarians and Italians.
Between 1949 and 1954 the European-born in WA increased by nearly 45,000. Northam benefited as many migrants who had not been at the camps were attracted to the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the township.
Since 1954, more than 33 million migrants have arrived on Australian shores. About a quarter of Australia’s 20 million people were born overseas, changing the social mix of Australia to a cosmopolitan multi-cultural society.
Northam’s Multi-cultural Festival celebrates with artistic displays, music, song, dancing and food.
See the Migrant Display at the Visitor Centre For further reading:
Milk and Honey But No Gold by Nonja Peters