The Separation Movement

We do not forget the marked neglect we experience in every respect from your Perth Government, including the slight we have had with the Electric Wire, but thank God if gold is abundant we shall very soon be free of your Perth Government neglect altogether, and have a separate Government of our own.

The Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901); 17 August 1870; Page 1; Champion Bay

Perth newspapers seemed unconcerned by the claims made by a Champion Bay correspondent in August 1870. Talk in the community, however, continued. A little over a year later, in mid-September 1871, a writer mentioned the “separation scheme” but noted that the settlers did not mean anything by it. By the end of the month, the seriousness was apparent.

The Champion Bay district is doubtless the richest in natural resources of any part of the colony, and we trust that practical endeavours will be made before long to work and develop the valuable mines which abound there, as well as to offer greater facilities, by the construction of public works, for the advancement of agriculture and settlement.

The Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901); 11 October 1871; Page 2; Summary of the Mail
Geraldton circa 1880s. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia (209940PD).

Thirty-two settlers from the Victoria and Greenough districts signed their names on a letter addressed to the Resident Magistrate of the Greenough District. They requested a meeting “to take into consideration the advisability of memorializing Her Majesty the Queen, praying that she will grant a Charter for the formation of a separate territory…” The letter was printed as an advertisement in The Herald, headed by the words “Separation of the Champion Bay District.

The Inquirer and Commercial News reported on the story with the opening words, “The birth of a new colony is expected shortly…” They then latched onto the blank space left in the letter for the name and proceeded to make fun of the announcement. “Fancy a demonstration in favor of a ___ ___ colony; a meeting called to proclaim ___ ___ (what d’ye call him?) or a banquet given to drink health and prosperity to the young ___ (thing-me-jig.).

The settlers seeking to secede from the colony of Western Australia declared it was no laughing matter. They were serious. They were angry and had had enough of being neglected from receiving public funds. The Herald wisely advised that the Government should not treat the meeting as a joke. Some men probably did not expect to have their demands granted; they simply wanted to be heard. It was an action of last resort.

The district has been comparatively neglected to a shameful degree, and, if the voice of the people be honestly interpreted, it means that it is high time for the Government to seriously bethink itself of the expediency of devoting more attention to their claims…

The Herald (Fremantle, WA : 1867 – 1886); 18 November 1871; Page 2; No Title

On 18 October 1871, the meeting was held at the Hampton Hotel in Greenough. Mr Logue was in the chair. He advised everyone to give the question of separation serious thought and to discuss it carefully. He told the settlers present to consider whether the district could proceed as an independent colony and whether they would better or worse off if they left.

Sidney Davis stood up and formally called for the separation of the north. Reasons for separation included: the significant distance between Geraldton and Perth, the lack of community interest between the two places that should exist in a colony, the amount of revenue contributed by the district, the little return they were given, and that their requests were often ignored by the Government.

Thomas Burges seconded the motion and gave a long speech, pointing out that the districts contributed £20,000 to the colony while only costing £7,000. He was for separation as it was in the best interests of the district “to enjoy a government of its own.

Henry Gray was against separating from the colony. He moved an amendment stating it should not happen as the talk of separation was primarily amongst people motivated by personal reasons. They were not advocating for the public good and were simply obstructing the progress of the district.

Mr Pager represented the working men and stated that separation from the colony was not in their best interests. He was followed by Mr Crowther who stated that “all that had been said against “separation” went to prove its necessity.” As far as he was concerned, the sooner it happened, the better.

Mr Maitland Brown admitted that the district did not get a fair share of the revenue. There were issues with the previous Government, but he believed the current Government was doing its best to improve the situation. While separation was something he expected to occur in the future, for the time being, he felt it was best to hold back from making such a decision. He moved to refrain from seeking a separation, and Mr Gray seconded the amendment.

Those present at the meeting voted for the amendment, and it passed with a majority of two votes. The Champion Bay separation movement (for the time being) was no more.

Sources:

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