Kwinana, on Cockburn Sound, is 23 km. south of Fremantle. Its name came from that of a State Shipping Service vessel, Kwinana, which was anchored at Careening Cove, Garden Island, which forms the western landmass of Cockburn Sound. The vessel had been damaged by fire and lay at anchor. When it was driven ashore by storm in 1922 at Kwinana, its resting place was given its name buy visitors and holiday cottage owners.

Kwinana is thought to be Aboriginal for “young women” in the Kimberley region.

The industrialisation of Kwinana began in 1951 when British Petroleum decided to build an oil refinery there. The refinery began operation in 1955. Broken Hill Proprietary (BHP) began building a steel rolling mill and further investment followed with reciprocal investment by the State Government. A Government railway was built to carry iron ore from Koobyanobbong, 430 km. east of Perth, for refining at Kwinana (1954-67). A railways marshalling yard and terminus occupying 12 ha. was built at Robbs Jetty in 1970. Other major industrial plants included the Western Alumina aluminium refinery (1964), Cockburn Cement (1965), fertiliser works (1969), the Western Mining nickel refinery (1971) and the State electricity generation station adjoining the aluminium refinery. Most large industries are at Kwinana Beach.

The Kwinana township is 4 km. inland from Cockburn Sound. It has been planned in segments, the first suburbs being Medina, Calista, Parmelia and Orelia. The Kwinana town centre is surrounded by the suburbs, and it contains the civic centre, arts centre, indoor recreation facilities and the Hub shopping area.

The development of Medina began in 1953 and on 15 February, 1954 the Kwinana Roads District was established. Housing was begun in 1954 by the State housing authority and a cinema, shopping centre and community hall were built by 1955. By the end of the decade there were a high school, a maternity hospital and a new railway line to Fremantle. Kwinana was proclaimed a shire in 1961, and an elected council replaced the Roads District Commissioner. In 1977 Kwinana was proclaimed a town.

A large proportion of the immigrants attracted to Kwinana were British. In the 1971 census 5,210 of Kwinana’s 12,224 residents were born in the United Kingdom.

The development of housing sites was controlled by the State Housing Commission, and the slow release of sites caused new residents to settle on freehold land outside Kwinana. The policy was modified in 1977 by the release of land at the Leda suburb, with involvement by private enterprise. Subsequently, older State housing has been refurbished by private developers.

The heavy industrial component of Kwinana has created a concern for ground water conservation, wetlands and community parklands. Equally, though, there is a concern for the preservation of employment opportunities in the region.

Kwinana has several pre-primary and primary schools and a state high school.

Kwinana’s census populations have been 2,801 (1954), 4,663 (1961), 12,224 (1971) and 17,278 (1991).

Further Reading:

  • Kwinana, Government of Western Australia, 1968.
  • Russell, Laurie, Kwinana “Third Time Lucky”, 1979.

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