Margaret River’s history is alive at the Old Settlement

Everything about the Old Settlement is both charming and striking.  It is beautifully maintained, with restored bellows, farm ploughs and school tables. It is aesthetically striking, with the old Group Settlement buildings and new murals depicting long-ago scenes.  And it is touchingly relevant, filled with artefacts and tools that meant the very survival of locals’ ancestors.

“We’re celebrating those qualities of the early Group Settlers,” says Viv Halsall, President of the Margaret River Districts Historical Society, “Qualities like perseverance, determination, and sense of community”.  She has worked hard to make the 100-year celebration of Group Settlement a success.  While she’s not alone, with a good team of volunteers and an active committee, she is something of an engine – a steam engine – driving the many successes of the Historical Society. Since she took the reins five years ago, the Old Settlement site (across the river from Rotary Park) has gone from strength to strength.

We’re celebrating those qualities of the early Group Settlers…Qualities like perseverance, determination, and sense of community

The house and school buildings, complete with old artefacts from the area, have been complemented by a laundry, dunny, machinery shed, and recently completed farm shed.  Each building serves as a portal through time into life of the early settlers.  If you haven’t yet gone back in time yourself, perhaps your kids have on a school excursion.  When the Old Settlement is visited by school groups it becomes a living museum, with kids learning what it was like to live without electricity, baking scones in an old wood stove, hand washing laundry and pegging it on the line, and learning about the farm machinery and how butter and cream were made.

“We get so much good feedback from the teachers who say the kids never stop talking about it, and what stuck in their minds about what it was like in the old days. And they’re going to be the children of the future for this place…That was the idea behind it: they learn all about it, they appreciate it, they know the hardship of it, and I think it’s working.”

In an age where kids from rural Western Australia laugh at the same Snapchat memes as Singaporeans and Londoners, there’s something grounding about remembering this local history – remembering the particular and the specific to this place.  And while it’s not every resident’s history, and the Indigenous history is just as important, it is a significant chapter in the story of this unique place that we love.

The 100 Year Celebration Event is taking place Saturday 26 March, 10am-4pm, with exhibitions, demonstrations, music, movies, stalls and more!

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