Laverton - Culture and History

Laverton once had the dubious reputation of being the wildest town in the west. The area, inhospitable land on the western edge of the Great Victoria Desert, was first explored by Europeans when John Forrest travelled through the area in 1869 searching for the remains of the Ludwig Leichhardt expedition.

There is some confusion about the origins of the town's name. Some sources suggest that Forrest named the area after his personal surgeon, Dr Charles Laver. While others, acknowledging that the town was indeed named after Dr Laver, suggest that the doctor actually arrived in the town on a bicycle and set up a local practice.

In the 1870s and 1880s sandalwood cutters, moving further westward, travelled through the area looking for supplies of the valuable aromatic timber.

The 1890s saw miners from Coolgardie arriving in the area hoping to find goldfields richer than the ones they had left behind. In 1896 gold was discovered and the first wild settlement was called British Flag after the first mine. Within a few years there was a population of 3500 and a number of large mines. By 1904 the railway had arrived.

Legend has it that, at this time, Laverton was like a true wild west town. It is claimed that the only person buried in the local cemetery as the result of natural causes was a six weeks old baby.

The area declined slowly. The last major mine in the area was closed in 1957 and it seemed that Laverton was heading for ghost town status when, in 1969, nickel was discovered at Mount Windarra, 28 km northwest of the town. This was part of the famous Poseidon share scandal. In early 1969 the full time prospector, Ken Shirley, pegged forty–one claims around Laverton for the Poseidon company. A report on one of the claims on 1 October 1969 claimed that a 3.65 per cent concentration of nickel had been found in ore samples taken from one of the Windarra claims. This led to the hysteria which saw the price of Poseidon shares rise from $1.20 to $280 on 5 February 1970.

Although the Poseidon mine was closed down in 1977, nickel had been discovered in the area.

This is marginal country where the average annual rainfall is only 220 mm. In recent times, apart from the growth of mining, Laverton has become the western starting point for the interesting 4WD drive across the Great Victoria Desert to Ulura. It is a journey which needs considerable preparation as there are no facilities available between Laverton and Docker River in the Northern Territory.