A Short History of Busselton - Undalup

The City of Busselton sits on the part of Nyungar country called Wadandi Boodja. The Wadandi people are the Traditional Custodians, and have lived and breathed off this ancient land for over 40,000 years.

The region was visited by various explorers and merchants beginning with the Dutch navigators who rounded the cape in 1622 naming the land mass Leeuwin’s Land. Matthew Flinders named Cape Leeuwin to recognise this in December 1801 at the start of his circumnavigation of Terra Australia. The French Baudin Exhibition rounded the coast in 1801. They named Hamelin Bay, Cape Naturaliste, Geographe Bay and Cape Leschenault.  One of their sailors, Thomas Timothee Vasse, was lost overboard and the area became known as The Vasse.

American Whalers were hunting along Western Australia’s coast near King George Sound in Albany reportedly for many years before 1829. In the 1840’s after European settlement, they came regularly trading supplies and bringing or taking mail.

Captain John Molloy led the initial south west settlement in Augusta in 1830. However the land was difficult to clear as it was heavily timbered, making progress slow. John Garrett Bussell spent time looking in the north of the region and found flat green fields that reminded him of England. He applied for and received a land grant in the Vasse area in 1832 as did Captain Molloy; George Layman; James Turner; and brothers, James and Henry Chapman. Four groups moved to The Vasse in 1834 including the Bussell brothers John, Vernon, Alfred and Charles, George Layman and servants Elijah Dawson and Phoebe Bower; the Chapman brothers and two soldiers.

The relationship between the European settlers and the Wadandi people became strained as the traditional lands were fenced and cultivated. The concept of ownership was vastly different for each culture. This lead to disagreements, fighting and death. The impact of settlement on Aboriginal people was dramatic and there are documented stories of the deaths of Aboriginal people. There is a lot of work to do with regards to this area. More information can be found on the University of Newcastle Colonial Frontier Massacres Map Australia, 1780 to 1930, which you can access here

From 1835 the Vasse was referred to as Busselton by the people in Perth. It was laid out as a town in 1839 and in June 1847, the Vasse settlement was gazetted as “Busselton.”

Places to Visit

There are many historic houses spread around the district. The Rotary Club of Busselton Geographe Bay have produced a book with map that is sold at the Courthouse on Queen Street. There is also an interactive heritage trail (view the link below) that can be purchased.

Busselton Jetty (view the link below) is a multi-award winning iconic West Australian attraction with a long history. Take time to walk the 1.8kms out to the end.

The Busselton Historical Society have an extensive collection of artefacts exhibited in the main building and grounds of the Butter Factory Precinct. Allow a couple of hours for visit and there is an entry fee that helps the volunteers maintain the upkeep of the collection. Also at the location is the Pottery Club and Woodturners. Both are operated by volunteers and their craftwork is available for sale.

Further out there is Wonnerup House which is owned and managed by the National Trust (view the link below). The Trust is continuing to develop interpretation around two perspectives which acknowledges the tragic events that occurred there in 1841.

Related Information

Aboriginal Culture

Busselton Museum at the Butter Factory

Busselton Heritage Trail

Busselton Jetty

National Trust WA - Wonnerup House

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