General issues: British colony 1854-1890, British colony/Self government 1890-1901, Australian state 1901-1913
Country name on general issues: Western Australia, West Australia
Currency: 1 Pound = 20 Shilling, 1 Shilling = 12 Pence 1854-1913
Population: 13 400 in 1856, 282 100 in 1911
Political history Western Australia
Western Australia comprises the western third of the Australian mainland. Prior to colonization, Western Australia was inhabited by Aboriginal peoples who lived in small bands. The first Europeans to explore the west coast of Australia were the Dutch in the 17th century, coming from the Netherlands East Indies. British and French explorers followed in the 18th century. The first European settlement was established near modern day Albany by a New South Wales contingent in 1826 – mainly to forestall possible French settlement in the territory. This first settlement was a penal colony – as were most of the early settlements in Australia. In 1829, a free settlement was established on the Swan River near modern day Perth – the Swan River Settlement. The Swan River Settlement colony was established the same year and the territory that is now Western Australia was claimed for Great Britain. The settlement in Albany was transferred from New South Wales to the Swan River Settlement colony in 1831, and the Swan River Settlement colony was renamed Western Australia in 1832.
The colony was slow to develop. The coastal regions and the interior were gradually explored and sheep farming, and later wheat production, were gradually developed. In the 1880’s, gold was discovered and, although on a much smaller scale than elsewhere in Australia, boosted the number of immigrants coming to Western Australia. The increasing land claims by the settlers brought them into conflict with the Aboriginals – a conflict that would last throughout the 19th century, until the last Aboriginal resistance was quelled in 1897. Politically, self government was granted in 1890 and in 1901 Western Australia became a state within the federal dominion of Australia – officially the Commonwealth of Australia – which it is until today.
Economically, the gold rush was over its peak by the early 20th century and Western Australia reverted to being a predominantly agricultural state. Significant change came, in the 1960’s, with the discovery of a range of mineral resources – iron ore being the most important. Mining thus became an important sector, accounting for 25% of the GDP of Western Australia. In the late 20th century services developed to become the most important sector of the Western Australia economy, that, today, ranks fourth of the Australian states in terms of GDP.
The population grew slowly in the early years of settlement – immigrants mainly coming from other Australian colonies. In the late 19th century the gold rush resulted in a rapid increase of the population. Immigration from the British Isles became a significant contributor to population growth in the early 20th century. Immigration surged again after WWII – immigrants now also arriving from other European countries and, since the 1970’s, from Asian countries and New Zealand. Currently, 33% of the population of Western Australia was born overseas – the highest percentage of the Australian states. The population is highly concentrated in the southwestern part of the state, more specific in the Perth metropolitan area, where 77% of the population resides. It is interesting to note that, while Perth has a population of 1 700 000, the second largest city in Western Australia has a population of 64 000. The Aboriginals, today, account for 3% of the population.
Postal history Western Australia
Western Australia issued its first stamps in 1854. The stamps show a black swan, the key feature of the Western Australia seal, that commemorates its origins as the Swan River Settlement colony. Please note, the watermark of the first issues is also a swan. The 4 pence denomination of the first issue, with an inverted frame, is one of the great rarities in Australian stamps collecting. The black swan is the signature design of Western Australia stamps, featured on most of the colony’s, and later state’s, issues in different designs and frames. Only from 1902 were stamps issued with the portrait of Queen Victoria – note that the Victoria portraits are inscribed West Australia. Revenue stamps were admitted for postal use in 1893 and 1899. The stamps of Western Australia were superseded by the issues of the Australian Commonwealth in 1913.