Goomalling is an Aboriginal word which means “the place of the silver-grey possum”. Goomal (or koomal) is the Noongar word for this possum which inhabited Goomalling in abundance when European settlement began in the Wongamine area in the 1830s.
The signs along the Oak Park walk trail reveal some history about the Indigenous people of Goomalling, the Balardong.
You can trace the history of European settlement through various places in Goomalling: the Museum, Slater Homestead, Shepherd’s Grave, Mumberkine Hall and the Konnongorring and Jennacubbine townsites. The heritage walk in the Goomalling townsite takes about an hour at a leisurely pace.
The district was first explored by a European in 1854 by Assistant Surveyor Austin, and the Benedictine Monks of New Norcia held extensive grazing rights in the area. The earliest white settler in the district was George Slater and his homestead, Slater Homestead, still stands about 3km north east of town.
Initially settled by pastoralists, shepherds and sandalwooders, Goomalling later became a stopover for prospectors on their way to the eastern goldfields during the late 1880s and 1890s. Their need for accommodation, food and provisions spiked an increase in settlement in the area and a stimulus for broad scale agriculture and clearing of land.
In 1895 the Goomalling Road Board was formed and not long after Goomalling was gazetted as a townsite in August 1903, following the opening of the railway line from Northam in 1902.
Between 1949 and 1955 Goomalling was home to an annual motor racing carnival, as retold and pictured in the book ‘Goomalling Classic Racers’ by Graeme Cocks (2012). The money from the races went towards building the Goomalling War Memorial Pool as so many men lost their lives in the War because they couldn’t swim. A revival of these classic races in 2012 and 2013 were a great success.
Over the years industrialisation has impacted on the landscape with labour intensive practices replaced by automated machinery. Larger paddocks and farms resulted in fewer farms and a decline in population from the 1970s to ’90s.
For history buffs
‘Goomalling – A Backward Glance’ by Barbara Sewell (1998) gives a detailed account of Goomalling’s history, including personal stories of early settler families of which many descendants still reside in Goomalling.
The history book is available for perusal at the CRC or can be purchased from the Shire Office for $33; postage can be arranged by ringing (08) 9629 1101.