The Rabbit Proof Fence, the Longest Fence in the World, the State Barrier Fence.... the many names of a fence which bisects the West Australian state from south to north, a length of 1,822 km.
In 1901 the WA government commissioned Alfred Wernam Canning to survey a fence which would, supposedly, put stop to the oncoming rabbit invasion from the East. Mr Canning was assisted by Hubert Trotman and Afghan cameleer Hassan with eight camels to survey a possible route for The Fence.
Finally, it was Richard Anketell, with 400 men in labour gangs who completed the actual building project in 1907, from Starvation Boat Harbour on the Southern Ocean in the Shire of Ravensthorpe to Eighty Mile Beach on the state's north coast.
Unfortunately, it was already too late: the first rabbits were sighted near Cordingup Gap, about 8 km east of Ravensthorpe in December 1904, before The Fence was even finished.With the rabbit population exploding, Ravensthorpe farmers, like others in the country, were driven off their land.
Today, the section of The Fence south of Highway 1 has been discontinued. Negotiations however are ongoing (2013) for a west-east side-shoot of The Fence to protect farms north of Highway 1 towards Condingup, east of Esperance from the predation of wild dogs.
In 1930 The Fence featured in one of WA's more sensational murders at the 183 mile gate known as the Rabbit Proof Fence Murder. Snowy Rowles who perpetuated the murder took the idea from a former fence boundary rider, Arthur Upfield's book, The Sands of Windee.
More information on The Fence is available at the Ravensthorpe Historical Society museum. Also recommended is the book The Longest Fence in the world by FH Bromhall, and The Beckoning West, by Eleanor Smith. The film The Rabbit Proof Fence also makes interesting viewing.Back to History