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The Depression

Between the two World Wars there was a time of economic hardship labelled “The Depression “. One of the initiatives decided by the government was to set up camps for unemployed men at Blackboy Hill in Greenmount and later at John Forrest National Park. During the year 1930, large groups of unemployed single men would gather in the city near the Labour Bureau and this was seen as a growing problem with the onset of winter. The government decided the unused army camp at Blackboy Hill could be used as accommodation for the men who then could be employed at the nearby National Park

Group of unemployed single men waiting to go to Blackboy Hill

They found themselves living in conditions not unlike the army using greatcoats and blankets that came from the Army stores. They worked under strict regulations of behaviour regarding mealtimes, cleanliness, and no gambling or alcohol. They were required to work for 12 hours a week for which they received five shillings. As the men had quite a bit of spare time, they were soon organising football matches and boxing tournaments.

By the following year there were nearly a thousand men at the camp, and by then they had opened up gravel pits, built the scenic drive in the National Park and laid out the gardens using local rocks, built shelter sheds and the famous church of bush timber and thatch and built a small weir to make a swimming pool.

A second camp was established in April1931 in the National Park. 550 men were employed cutting up dead trees for firewood which was taken to railway stations in the city and suburbs for firewood for families on sustenance. These men were housed in tents and to this day various remains can still be seen where the blacksmiths forge was and terraces for the tents.

Later that year it was decided to disband both camps and the men were sent to work on other government projects such as Harvey River Diversion and Wellington Dam so in December 1931 the camps were closed.


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