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All About Bibra Lake
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   Home      Local History      History of Bibra Lake
Bibra Lake as a community
Bibra Lake as we know it has a very long history dating back many thousands of years.  The last 150 years has seen the greatest speed of change by far.  We hope to add much more information to this page in the future as we become aware of further history.
Pioneers Memorial - Prospect Rd (near Adventure World Overflow Carpark )

More history ? 
If you have more history that we can use on All About Bibra Lake, please drop us a line.  We would love to share your information and build a much fuller picture of the local history.  Please drop us an email here
Aboriginal History 
Bibra Lake has significant Aboriginal heritage with both Bibra Lake and North Lake being traditional major camping areas for the Beeliar dialect Aboriginals.  This is due to the availability of food, shelter and fresh water found in the area.   The Beeliar group of Aboriginal people inhabit the area south of the Swan and Canning Rivers.   Coolbellup and Walliabup are the Aboriginal names for North Lake and Bibra Lake.   Findings and records in the area suggests that camping has been undertaken around Bibra Lake for at least 5000 years (Polglaze, 1986).  Bibra Lake is part of the Eastern Beeliar chain of wetlands which was on a major trade route between the Swan and Murray River areas for Aboriginal people.   

To Nyungar people (local Aboriginal people) the whole wetland chain which includes Bibra Lake has spiritual importance.   According to Nyungar tradition, the wetlands were formed by the Waugal. The Waugal is the dreaming ancestor and water-creative spiritual force with serpent-like physical manifestation; it inhabits North and Bibra Lakes and maintains the flow of the springs (Drake and Kennealy, 1995).

A Noongar Elder has said that the first people here believe that if this lake (Bibra Lake) is disturbed or destroyed, it will stop raining.
European Settlement 
The history of the area has been documented in the book “Cockburn – The making of a community”, written by Michael Berson and published in 1978 by the then, Town of Cockburn. 

First Pioneers :

European pioneers quickly became aware of the significance of Bibra Lake during the earliest years of the Swan River Colony.  Both George Robb and Benedict Von Bibra were early pioneers of this area, taking up land awards of 2,000 sections in 1830 and  320 sections bordering the lake in 1843 respectively. 
 
It was Benedict Von Bibra (a carpenter from whom the suburb & the lake are now named) in 1843, who assessed from the stringyback trees, that the basin would become a lake in winter of a depth of seven to eight feet.  As we know, he was quite accurate with his assessment.  Von Bibra, recorded the name of the lake as Walliabup which was used on early maps for nearly 50 years.

Other early pioneers :

Annois, Aubin, Bassett, Bondini, Bracewell, Bray, Brown, Currie, Cook, Dixon, Fortini, Gadd, Gwilliam, Hankinson, Hatch, Ingvarson, Lucken, Marchant, Meller, Pearce, Robb, Stone, Tapper, Tetlow and Von Bibra are some pioneering family names associated with the Bibra Lake area, many of which are reflected in todays street names in the area.

Between 1850 & 1870 development and settlement continued with smaller 10-40 acres lots being the normal size to the East of the lake.
Joseph Meller took up 100 sections of land of area amid 1887 and secured business arrangements and vineyards. The first mud block home he based on Hope Road remains and has been changed over to a family home. Joseph Meller alongside different pioneers spearheaded dairying in the region. 
In 1849, Samuel Caphorn took up an area of land, north of Hope Road, which he later sold in 1855 to James Baker. From 1855 to 1859, a number of additional small holdings east of Bibra Lake were acquired by the White and Tourner families and James Baker sold 11 acres of his block to George Cooper in 1859. Cooper built a four room house of white stone to the north east of the Planning Area (west of Baker Road), which was demolished in 1961.
In 1895, Mary Ann Tapper, with her son Daniel, purchased what had originally been Von Bibra’s land, built two houses and cleared 20 acres for market gardens and an orchard, and later started a dairy.  Since then, this homestead site became the centre of the local community with a petrol pump, telephone exchange and post office.  The Tappers leased part of the land to the Currie brothers who also bought land south of this lease and they also established a dairy enterprise. Around this time, a large community of Chinese market gardeners also established in the vicinity of Bibra Lake, leasing land from the owners of the day.  

In 1899, George Robb’s original land awards was subdivided into 42 lots. The land between North Lake and Bibra Lake was purchased by John and Robert Dixon. The Dixons established a market gardening enterprise and sold firewood sourced from the upland areas.

Development of Bibra Lake:

Spurred on by the gold rush, extensive land division happened by 1890. During this period plantations of wheat, oats & maize crops were common with a variety of other farming sources such as dairy, vineyards, horse and cattle grazing developing alongside.  Particularly, Chinese market gardeners were very successful through land leasing until they were forced to return home.  The nature of wetland behaviour of changing water levels resulted in higher areas being developed with wheat and oats and lower lying areas with maize and vegetables once water levels dropped back each season.  

It was during this period that Bibra Lake also became popular to visitors for picnics and sporting activities and soon tearooms were established on the western shore of the lake.  It was during this period that the Fremantle District Roads Board declared the Western side of the lake a reserve for recreational use in 1902 and land leasing was effectively ceased.  At the time Chinese were not allowed to buy land in WA resulting in most moving away or returning home.

After the First World War dairy farms were the main activity in the region until motorised transport allowed farming to move to further afield areas where soils were much richer and offered better opportunities.  The resulted in financial depression during the 1930’s with Bibra Lake being less attractive due to its poorer soils, distance from the main market areas, lack of power and transport links also.

In 1940 suburban advancement started to infringe into the region, the land was finally fully acquired for residential development.   Even at this point of history, the lake was referred to as Lake Walliabup but the connection with von Bibra was frequently recalled locally by referring to it as Bibra’s Lake.  The name Bibra Lake was fully adopted in 1967 in favour of the original Aboriginal name.  In 1977 the creation of 1350 lots saw the beginning of the 2300 homes & 6,500 individuals who now live in the area.

Acknowledgements:

Other than the direct quotes listed in the text, my thanks to the following groups / people for background information :

Bibra Lake Residents Association
Luba Kambourakis 
Cockburn Wetlands Education Centre
Day of Archaeology