The first inhabitants of Australia arrived from the north approximately 40,000 to 60,000 years ago. Over thousands of years they eventually spread across the whole landmass. These Indigenous Australians were well established throughout Western Australia by the time of European explorers began to arrive in the early seventeenth century.
The first European to visit Western Australia was a Dutch explorer, Dirk Hartog who on 26 October 1616 landed at what is now known as Cape Inscription, Dirk Hartog Island. For the rest of the 17th century, many other Dutch travellers encountered the coast, usually unintentionally. By the late 18th century, British and French sailors had begun to explore the Western Australian coast.
The origins of the present state began with the establishment of a British settlement at King George Sound in 1826 (later named Albany from 1832). The settlement was founded in response to British concerns about the possibility of a French colony being established on the coast of Western Australia.
In 1829, the Swan River Colony was established on the Swan River by Captain James Stirling. By 1832, the British settler population of the colony had reached around 1,500. The two separate townsites of the colony developed slowly into the port city of Fremantle and the state’s capital, Perth.
Population growth was very slow until significant discoveries of gold were made in the 1890s around Kalgoorlie.
In 1887, a new constitution was drafted, providing for the right of self-governance and in 1890, the act granting self-government to the colony was passed by the British House of Commons. John Forrest became the first Premier of Western Australia.
In 1896, the Western Australian Parliament authorised the raising of a loan to construct a pipeline to transport five million gallons of water per day to the Goldfields of Western Australia. The pipeline, known as the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme, was completed in 1903. C.Y. O’Connor, Western Australia’s first engineer-in-chief, designed and oversaw the construction of the pipeline. It carries water 530 km (330 miles) from Perth to Kalgoorlie, and is attributed by historians as an important factor driving the state’s population and economic growth.
Following a campaign led by Forrest, residents of the Swan River Colony voted in favour of federation, resulting in Western Australia officially becoming a state on 1 January 1901.