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A Little Local History

Settlement of the South-West

Portions of the following historical information are condensed from the book 'Busselton "outstation on the Vasse" 1830 - 1850' by Rodger Jennings (published 1983 by the Shire of Busselton).

The West coast of Australia is known to have been visited by the ships of various nations long before settlement by the British. Cape Leeuwin, the meeting place of the Indian and Southern Oceans at the South-West corner of the Continent gained it's name from the Dutch ship 'Leeuwin' (Lioness) which sighted it in 1622 on a voyage from Holland to the East Indies.

In 1801 the French ships 'Geographe' and 'Naturaliste' of Nicholas Baudin's scientific expedition explored part of the coastline northwards from Cape Leeuwin during which Baudin discovered and named many of the geographical features of the area. Significant among these were Cape Naturaliste and just around it's tip the wide expanse of Geographe Bay. He named the river which empties into the bay after Timothée Vasse of Dieppe, a sailor from the 'Naturaliste' who was lost when a longboat was wrecked during a storm at Geographe Bay. Subsequently, the region around the bay was known simply as "the Vasse."

After the Napoleonic Wars, the French resumed their explorations. The British who had maintained a Colony on the East coast since 1788 were suspicious of the French motives and to circumvent any attempt at settlement by them deployed a party of troops and convicts to claim the whole of the Western part of the continent for Britain. This they did on Christmas Day, 1826 at King George's Sound, the location of the present day city of Albany.

In 1829 the Swan River Colony was established and grew rapidly with an influx of immigrants from Britain. Other colonies were also established and in 1830 the tiny settlement of Augusta was founded. It comprised a total of some sixty men, women and children headed by the Bussell brothers - John, Charles, Vernon and Alfred, Mr. James Turner with his wife Maria and seven children and the Government's Resident Magistrate, Captain John Molloy and his wife, Georgiana. Various servants/retainers and their children, and a number of troopers accompanied them, several subsequently becoming successful landholders in their own right.

The Augusta settlement struggled for survival. The area was heavily timbered. The tall trees being of a very hard wood proved difficult to fell and the soil was of poor quality. This led to exploration of the surrounding areas and in 1831 the open grasslands of the Vasse some seventy miles to the North was reached. Realising the potential of the district, John Bussell obtained a grant of land there in 1832. He founded the first actual settlement at the Vasse in 1834.

By mid-1835 the Vasse townsite was being officially referred to as Busselton in recognition of the first settlers. In 1871 it became two separate entities, the Busselton Municipal District, governing the town of Busselton and the Sussex Road District, governing the surrounding rural area. The two merged in 1951 to become the Busselton Road District. On 1 July 1961, the Road District became a shire. On 21 January 2012 the Shire of Busselton gained city status to become the City of Busselton. Thus did the tiny settlement of 1835 subsequently evolve into today's vibrant community of some 35,000 inhabitants.


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