Wickepin - Culture and History

Settlement in the area was slow. People were unwilling to live far from the major access routes through the area. It is likely that the first settler was an ex-convict, William Justin Smith, who took up land east of Harrismith in 1868. Inevitably the area saw the sandalwood cutters and shepherds move through it but few were interested in settling permanently.

Like so many of the towns in the Great Southern region, Wickepin came into existence as a result of the construction of the Great Southern Railway line which joined Perth and Albany in 1889.

Wickepin started as a watering point named Yealering. The area was opened up for settlement in 1893 and by 1906 the town was starting to develop. The arrival of a branch line from the Great Southern Railway in 1909 resulted in the building of a police station and the establishment of a Road Board.

The highlight of the area is Albert Facey¹s House. The success of Facey¹s autobiography A Fortunate Life (1981) is one of the remarkable events in recent Australian publishing history. Originally published by the local Fremantle Arts Press in 1981 the book was subsequently published by Penguin and enjoyed such success that it sold over a quarter of a million copies and was made into both a play and a successful TV mini-series.

Facey was born in Victoria but grew up on the Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie goldfields. After his father¹s death the family moved to the area around Wickepin. It is this area which he describes so vividly in his book.

As a young man Facey served at Gallipoli and upon his return he became a farmer under the Soldier Settlement Scheme. It was as a result of this scheme that he returned to the area south of Wickepin in 1922. He worked as a wheat farmer for the next twelve years before the Depression forced him to simply walk off the land and return to Perth where he was employed on the Perth tramways.