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  • Hannan Street Kalgoorlie © Tourism Western Australia

Kalgoorlie History

Kalgoorlie-Boulder is a Western Australian city located 595 kilometres (370 mi) east-northeast of Perth located in the Eastern Goldfields.The city was founded in 1893 during the Yilgarn-Goldfields gold rush, and is located close to the so-called "Golden Mile".

Kalgoorlie-Boulder officially became a city with the amalgamation of the Town of Kalgoorlie and the Shire of Boulder in 1989. It has a population of 28,246, making it the largest urban centre in the Goldfields-Esperance region and the fifth-largest in Western Australia. However these figures are quite regularly disputed by the local city council who claim the population is well in excess of 30,000, and that census figures generally do not take into account the transient nature of the population.

The name Kalgoorlie is derived from the Wangai word Karlkurla, meaning "place of the silky pears".

In June 1893, prospectors Patrick (Paddy) Hannan, Tom Flanagan, and Dan O'Shea were travelling to Mt Youle when one of their horses cast a shoe. During the resultant halt in their journey, the men noticed signs of gold in the area, and decided to stay put. On 17 June 1893, Hannan filed a Reward Claim, leading to hundreds of men swarming to the area in search of gold and Kalgoorlie, originally called Hannan's, was born. 

The mining of gold, along with other metals such as nickel, has been a major industry in Kalgoorlie ever since, and today employs about one-quarter of Kalgoorlie's workforce and generates a significant proportion of its income. The concentrated area of large gold mines surrounding the original Hannan find is often referred to as the Golden Mile, and is considered by some to be the richest square mile of earth on the planet. The town's population was about 30,000 people in 1903 and began to grow into nearby Boulder.

  • Gold Prospector © Tourism Western Australia

Kalgoorlie after the 1934 race riots

The narrow gauge Government railway line reached Kalgoorlie in 1896, and the main named railway service from Perth was the overnight sleeper train The Westland which ran until the 1970s. In 1917, a standard gauge railway line was completed, connecting Kalgoorlie to the city of Port Augusta, South Australia across 2,000 kilometres (1,243 mi) of desert, and consequently the rest of the eastern states. The standardisation of the railway connecting Perth (which changed route from the narrow gauge route) in 1968 completed the Sydney-Perth railway, making it possible for rail travel from Perth to Sydney—and the Indian Pacific rail service commenced soon after. The Goldfields area boomed as a whole, with an area population exceeding 200,000, mainly prospectors. 

  • Indian Pacific Train © Great Southern Rail

The area gained a notorious reputation for being a wild west with bandits and prostitutes. This rapid increase in population led to a proposed new state of Auralia but with the sudden diaspora after the Gold Rush led to plans falling through.

Places, famous or infamous, that Kalgoorlie is noted for include its water pipeline, designed by C. Y. O'Connor, which brings in fresh water from Mundaring Weir near Perth; its Hay Street brothels (the street itself was apparently named after Hay Street, Perth); its two-up school; the goldfields railway loopline; the Kalgoorlie Town Hall; the Paddy Hannan statue; the Super Pit; and Mt Charlotte lookout. Its main street is Hannan Street, named after the town's founder. The View On Hannans is located on this street. One of the infamous brothels also serves as a museum and is a major national attraction.

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