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Collie, WA

Western Australia's most important coal mining town

Historically Collie has been Western Australia's most important coal mining town. It has grown to become a major centre with a population of 9,500 and wide range of services to meet the needs of a growing population. It has, for example, five primary schools. The appeal of the town lies in its historic role as a coal mining centre. It has a replica coal mine which allows visitors to experience what life was life underground (all the coal in the area is now mined by open cut) and there is a particularly interesting Steam Locomotive Museum beside the modern visitor centre.

Location

Collie is located 202 km south of Perth via Highway 1 and Australind.

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Origin of Name

In 1829 Captain Stirling led a party to explore the area south of Perth. Included in the party was a Dr Alexander Collie, a physician on the HMS Sulphur which had brought Captain Stirling to the Swan River colony. The town is named in his honour. The establishment of the town's railway station led to a naming problem. The station was called Collieville or Coalville, then Colliefields and finally Collie.

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Things to See and Do

Steam Locomotive Museum
Located beside and behind the Visitor Centre is an impressive collection of old Steam Locomotives and a bright yellow Mechanical Shovel. The Steam Locomotive Museum has 'F', 'V' and 'W' class locomotives all superbly restored. Each steam loco and the shovel have detailed descriptive panels.

V Class Steam Locomotive
The V class locomotive was utilised by WA Government Railways from 1955 until 1973 initially to haul coal between Collie and Perth. Only twenty four units were built under sub contract by Robert Stephenson & Hawthorn Ltd at their Darlington works. The locomotive was of a modern design with high superheat and large combustion chamber and had a rated load capacity of 1320 tonnes. This represented a significant upgrade in capacity on the S and F class locomotives." and

54RB Mechanical Shovel
The 54 Rushton Bucyrus (RB) excavator was purchased by Griffin Coal in September 1961 and worked in excess of thirty eight thousand hours in the Collie Coalfields during which time it moved approximately 9 million tonnes of coal. It was donated to the Collie Community by the Griffin Coal Mining Company in 1977. The original 4.5 tonne bucket is still attached."

Replica Coal Mine
The Replica Coal Mine is located next to the Collie Visitor Centre at 156 Throssell Street. It is a replica of an underground coal mine which was created in 1983 by the local Rotary Club. The volunteer guides provide an insight into the mining industry and the working conditions of the early underground miners. Tours usually last about 30 minutes. There is also a self-guided option with videos and interpretative panels. Tours can be booked through the Collie Visitor Centre, tel: (08) 9734 2051.

Coalfields Museum
Over the road at 161 Throssell Street  is the Coalfields Museum which is housed in the old Road Board office buildings. It is open from Thursdays to Mondays from 10.00 am - 3.00 pm and exhibits include vintage bottles, radiograms, phonographs, gramophones, wirelesses, a baker's cart, mining equipment, a Coolgardie safe, Icyball refrigerator, an impressive rock and mineral display, historical photos and military memorabilia. Some true rarities include a restored Italian barrel organ which was once used to entertain patrons at Fontana's Wine Saloon next to the Federal Hotel in Throssell Street. There is also public letterbox which was cast in the J & E Ledger Foundry in Perth in 1903. For more information tel: (08) 9734 1299.

Collie Mural Trail
Funded by the Western Australian government this is a remarkable project designed to turn Collie (traditionally a coal mining town) into a major tourist destination. There are 40 murals (including the huge mural on Wellington Dam (see below) all of which were painted by Western Australian artists - a mixture of men and women, indigenous and non-indigenous artists. There is an excellent website which provides a map as well as images of all the murals. It is important to check the site out at https://www.colliemuraltrail.com.

All Saints Anglican Church
Located on the corner of Venn and Mungalup Road, All Saints Anglican Church was opened in 1915 after it had been built with money provided by a Lady Noyes in England. Built in a traditional Norman style the church has superb brass candlesticks and an altar crucifix which reputedly date from the seventeenth century. The church uses local jarrah timber and has impressive stained glass windows. In the Sanctuary is a large mural by Philip Goatcher which took 8 months in 1922 to paint. It was painted on a large frame in Perth and attached to the sanctuary wall later. It is interesting to note the local subject matter at the extremities of the mural. On the far right are two miners framed in a pit tunnel while on the far left are two Aborigines sheltering under a tree. There are thirty individuals in the mural including religious figures, the Madonna, historians and pastoralists.

Court House
Located on the corner of Wittenoom and Pendleton Streets and built in 1913 in Federation Free Style architecture, the Collie Court House is a single storey red brick building with a Marseilles tiled roof. The street facade features an embossed coat of arms flanked by two decorated arches leading to the entry porch.

Collie Post Office
Located on the corner of Throssell and Pendleton Street, the Collie Post Office is impressive with its facade of five arches. It was designed and built by Hillson Beasley, the Government architect, in 1905. Additions were added in 1908 and 1925.  It operated as a Post Office until the early 1990's.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Wellington Dam Mural
Located 30 km west of Collie on the wall of the Wellington Dam is a remarkable 8,000 square metre mural painted by Guido Van Helten. It is part of a $1.5 million mural art trail which was funded by the WA government. Reporting on the mural the local ABC noted: "The mural is inspired by local stories and photographs, including a picture of Liam Cain and his sister playing at the Wellington Dam site as children." Van Helten, a Brisbane artist, has done similar giant portraits in Ukraine, Norway, Italy, Denmark and Iceland. His most famous work is the wheat silos at Brim in western Victoria. The mural was created using abseiling equipment and suspended platforms. The work is titled 'Reflections' and was completed in February, 2021. The dam wall is 34m high and 367m wide and was finished in 1960. It forms the second largest dam in Western Australia, after Lake Argyle. Writing about the process of choosing the images, the RAC in WA explained: "Van Helten was selected from a pool of 47 Australian and international applicants, whittled down to six. Unlike the others, he refused to present a mock-up of what he planned to paint.
“Guido was the only one to come back and say, ‘Without talking to the community, seeing the site and getting a feel for place, I can’t give you a concept design. It’s not about me just coming in and painting something’,” says project director of the Collie Mural Trail, Travis Robinson.
"The committee chose Van Helten, who then had to isolate in a hotel for a fortnight, after flying in from the United States during COVID-19. He spent the downtime researching and hit the ground running.
“Guido came and spent three weeks talking to individuals in the community, such as members of the Collie Retired Miner’s Association and he had three nights at Roelands Village (a former Aboriginal mission for stolen generation children),” says Robinson.
“He had lots of interest groups vying for their own representation on the wall. Guido met with them all and found what they had in common: use of the waterway and reflections on the Collie River.
"Van Helten sorted through countless photographs, stories and pieces of memorabilia before selecting six images to paint in dizzying scale. Looking at the dam wall, on the far left are two of the migrant workers who built the dam, posing as it overflows in the background. Beside them are a couple of local kids playing in the sand; they’re now in their 20s.
"The wide, central image is of a handful of Aboriginal children on a picnic day out from Roelands mission; they play in the water with a little girl with blonde pigtails. To the right, a boy handles a fish; he’s now a 20-year-old apprentice at one of the local power stations.
"Beside him, a picture of a dad with two kids; the girl to his left, Ashlinn Cain, is now grown up and helped Van Helten on the project. She, and the artist’s friend and fellow artist, Ian McCallum assisted with installing the mural.
"The final image on the far right-hand side is of an Aboriginal couple; the original photograph is believed to be from the 1890s." Check out https://rac.com.au/travel-touring/info/wellington-dam-mural for more detailed information.

Minninup Pool
Located 3 km south of Collie on the Mungalup Road this is a beautiful picnic spot beside the Collie River which is popular with locals. It is ideal for swimming, canoeing and fishing.

Wellington National Park
Wellington National Park is located 18 km west of Collie and comprises 17,0009 ha of jarrah, marri and blackbutt forest. The centrepiece of the park is the Collie River Valley and the Wellington Dam with the dam's picnic area being 29 km from Collie. The park is ablaze with wildflowers (there are over 300 varieties in the park) in the spring and the Collie River, which forms deep pools and tumbles over granite boulders, is ideal for swimming or canoeing. Two places of particular appeal aare Honeymoon Pool and Potters Gorge both of which are ideal for picnics. The park is home to rare and unusual native animals including the chuditch, quenda, quokka, brushtail possum and woylie, a brushtailed bettong - most of whom are nocturnal.
One of the most interesting areas in the park is around Honeymoon Pool which is situated on the lower Collie River. It is a popular camping and picnic area where visitors can go swimming, bushwalking, picnicking, canoeing, fishing and camping. Facilities include wood and gas barbecues, picnic tables, toilets and a viewing platform. There is a 9.5 km (or 5 km return to the lookout) loop walk (or mountain bike ride) known as the Kurliiny Tjenangitj Trail. Check out the map and details at https://trailswa.com.au/trails/kurliny-tjenagitj-trail.

For more details on the park check out http://www.collierivervalley.com.au/collie-visitor-centre/wellington-national-park and https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park/wellington.

Wellington Dam
The Wellington Dam was created in 1933 and enlarged in 1955 and stores water to power a hydro power station which generates 2MW of electricity. Today it is mostly used by visitors who enjoy the picnic and swimming facilities; fish in the lake; and, in the brief time when they are available, attempt to catch marron in the dam and Collie Creek waters. 
The main attractions include:

Honeymoon Pool 
From Honeymoon Pool to Wellington Dam there is the Jabitj Trail, a 12 km return trail (1-3 hours) that follows the Collie River and provides delightful views of the rapids and pools along the way.  

Lennard Drive 
Located along the Collie River downstream from Wellington Dam, the Lennard Drive offers picturesque views along the Collie River Valley and provides a number of sites suitable for swimming, canoeing, white-water rafting, bushwalking and picnicking at places known as the Rapids, Big Rock, Little Rock and Long Pool. 

Potters Gorge 
Located on the shores of Wellington Dam, Potters Gorge is a popular camping and picnic area where visitors enjoy fishing, canoeing, boating and bushwalking. Wellington Dam is open for trout fishing all year round.

The Quarry/Kiosk 
The Quarry is a popular picnic, rock climbing and abseiling (you have to book through Department of Parks and Wildlife - tel: (08) 9735 1988) site. The Quarry provides information about the dam’s construction and a history of the area. Nearby the café, the Kiosk at the Dam, serves light refreshments. The Kiosk is open Thursday to Sunday from 9.00 am - 4.00 pm and hires mountain bikes. Check out http://www.kioskatthedam.com.au or tel: (08) 9734 7521.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area around Collie was home to Wilman people of the Bibbulmun Nation.

* The area around Collie was first explored in 1829 when Captain Stirling led a party into the area as part of a general reconnaissance of the area to the south of Perth. He was accompanied by Lieutenant Preston and Dr Alexander Collie. 

* In 1830 the Surveyor General John Septimus Roe travelled through the district as part of his general exploration of the south west. 

* There seems to have been little interest in the area until coal was discovered in 1883.

* In 1883 coal was discovered along the Collie River. 

* It is now accepted that coal was found by George Marsh, a shepherd in the employ of Arthur Perrin. Perrin announced the discovery in 1889 when he took out a coal mining lease of 300 acres. 

* The following year the Collie Commercial Coal Mining Company was formed. It was clear that the area's supplies of coal were sufficient to justify the development of a town. 

* In 1895 a railway line to the coalfields was commenced and the following year Collie was declared a township.

* In 1897 the town of Collie was surveyed and gazetted.

*  By 1899 Collie had a population of 600 and the mines in the district were producing over 55 000 tonnes per year. 

* By the beginning of this century coal from Collie was being used extensively throughout Western Australia. 

* The production level had increased to over 170 000 tonnes by 1910.

* The town was flooded in 1915.

* in 1931 the first coal fired power station was built at Collie.

* In December, 1943 it was announced that, as part of the war effort, Collie would be the location of a power alcohol distillery which would produce 3-4 million gallons (13.6-18.2 million) of alcohol from 1.25 million bushels of wheat. The alcohol would be used to improve the octane rating of petrol and was essential to munitions manufacture.

* In 1948 there was a three week strike at one of the mines because miners claimed it was unsafe to work underground with a cantankerous horse named Red.

* The Muja Power Station was opened in 1966.

* Underground mining around Collie stopped in 1994. It was replaced entirely by open cut operations.

* In 1997 the Baarnimarr Reconciliation Park was established.

* The Collie Power Station commenced operations in 1999.

* In 2006 Collie won the Australian Tidy Towns competition.

* In 2021 the impressive mural of Wellington Dam was completed.

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Visitor Information

Collie Visitor Centre, 156 Throssell Street, tel: (08) 9734 2051, Open 9.00 am - 4.00 pm Monday to Friday, 10.00 am - 3.00 pm Saturday and 10.00 am - 2.00 pm Sunday.

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Useful Websites

There is two useful websites. Check out https://collierivervalley.com.au and https://www.australiassouthwest.com/destination/collie.

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Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

10 suggestions
  • Hi there, I volunteer at the National Anzac Centre in Albany and am curious about whether Collie supplied the huge amount of coal required by the first convoys in World War I or was it still being barged from Newcastle? Cheers Pj

    Trish
  • Hi, are there any pictures of the distillery before it was demolished .

    Sue
  • Do you have things like Bingo , CWA, we are thinking of moving to Collie in the near future and would like to get involved in the community I’m in my late 50s and hubby is 62

    Carmen Bassett
  • My name is Susan McMullen. I’m Aboriginal, born, bred and schooled in Collie. My mum Sima Khan [nee; Kelly], Grandparents Bessie Millen [nee; Hart] and elders were born in the Collie, Williams, Narrogin, Boddington areas. Words can’t describe how proud I am to say I’m a Collie gal. My Grandfather Simon Kelly used to work as a Leading hand Muster for the original
    Max Cowcher out on Williams Road. Back then Aboriginals weren’t allowed in any pubs. After a period of time, they permitted Aboriginals to go to the back door of the Colliefields Hotel and purchase either 2 x bottles of Swan Draught or a Flagon of wine provided they had a signed ticket from their Cockie [farm boss who they were employed with at that time]. My Grandfather was the first Aboriginal man to knock on the back door of the Colliefields Hotel with his ticket. Shortly after he passed away and my Grandmother remarried to a local white gentleman by the name of Kenneth Millen. He worked at Muja Power Station underground for many years till he retired. My original Grandfather passed away before I was born so I only knew Ken Millen as my Grandfather. Because he married an Aboriginal lady he was disowned by his entire family up to the day he died. I loved him. He was my pop. Growing up in Collie I rode my horses every day, built bush bombs, cubby houses, swam and fished and camped in all the surrounding rivers. I have many, many happy joyful memories of my home town Collie. And heaps of good yarns.

    Susan Mcmullen
    • Good Day Susan, Heard a story from my uncle who lived in Wittenoom St, (vernacular of the time). A blackfella went into the Coalfields Pub. The word went through the bar. “Looks like rain black clouds about,” one fool said to the blackfella. And he said in return “And some clouds got thunder in them,” and dropped him out cold. I played with aboriginal kids over behind the court house on the river, swimming and fishing, when we had enough of that we played football alongside where I lived. There was a wide street. The police tried to shoo the kids away but my grandmother told them to nick of.

      Fred Luff
  • I live in Kilbirnie in Ayrshire Scotland and I am researching the Wilson family from Dalry in Ayrshire. I have discovered that my father in law deceased was the great nephew of Arthur Alan Wilson who was a member of the Western Australia Legislative Assembly from 1908 until 1947. It would be very helpful for my research if you could send me information about his family and life in Australia.

    Mrs M McCallum
  • I am doing research on the history of The Value House on Steere Street owned by Albert Coombes. They specialized in clothing, boots, fabric and linens. Can anyone help? Especially when were they in existence?
    Was Albert the son of Collie’s first mayor?
    Thank you from Chicago!

    John prohl
  • what can we eat here

    lisa
  • What about night life or night events?

    The manager
    • Way too complex. Those kinds of events change all the time and when we are dealing with over 1325 towns the task is impossible to keep accurate and up to date.

      Bruce Elder