Laverton is a town in the Goldfields-Esperance region of Western Australia, and the centre of administration for the Shire of Laverton. The town of Laverton is located at the western edge of the Great Victoria Desert, 957 kilometres (595 mi) north-northeast of the state capital, Perth, and 124 kilometres (77 mi) east-northeast of the town of Leonora with an elevation of 461 m.
About a third of the population are of Aboriginal descent. The area is extremely arid, with a mean annual rainfall of just 230 millimetres (8 inches). It is also quite warm, with mean daily maximum temperatures ranging from 17 °C (62 °F) in July to 36 °C (97 °F) in January.
Recent mining activity in the area has seen the re-opening of the old Windarra Mine by Poseidon Nickel and the re-opening of the old Sons of Gwalia Barnicoat Mine by Crescent Gold.
Laverton is the westernmost town on the Outback Way – a proposed highway which goes through the Northern Territory to Winton in outback Queensland.
A number of early explorers travelled over the Laverton area, including John Forrest, David Carnegie and Frank Hann. Gold was discovered in the area in 1896 and many prospectors and miners moved into the area. Among them was Dr Charles W. Laver, who became an enthusiastic supporter and promoter of the region.
One of the most successful mines was Craiggiemore, and by 1897 a residential and business area had sprung up on the west side of the mine. This area came to be known as Laverton, in honour of Laver. In 1899, the residents sought to have a townsite surveyed, but by then the original location had become unsuitable, so a new site was chosen about three kilometres from the original lots. The site was surveyed in July 1899 and the town of Laverton gazetted in July 1900.
By the late 1960s, Laverton was in decline, mainly because of the very low price of gold. But in 1969 a prospector named Ken Shirley discovered a huge nickel deposit in the area, prompting the famous Poseidon bubble. This deposit was developed into the huge Windarra Nickel Project, which mined and processed nickel for over 20 years.
Laverton, with over 100 years of fascinating gold rush history, is the starting point of the Outback Way which links Kalgoorlie and the Northern Goldfields with Alice Springs and Winton in Queensland. It lies at the western edge of the Great Victoria Desert and is also the start point for the Anne Beadell Highway leading to Coober Pedy in South Australia.
The Great Australian Gold Rush
Originally established as the British Flag Mine in the gold rush era, Laverton was gazetted in 1900, in recognition of Dr Charles Laver who rode into town on a pushbike from Coolgardie in 1896 and remained as the town’s doctor. A statue in the main park stands as a tribute to his contribution to the town.
The town’s people suffered many hardships following the end of the gold rush, not least the removal of the train line in 1956 and the depression in the 1930s. But when nickel was discovered at nearby Windarra in 1969, the town gained a new lease of life and today is a fascinating mix of modern mine operations, history and Indigenous culture.
Laverton Explorers And Pioneers
In the mid to late 19th century, several heroic explorers, including John Forrest and Ludwig Leichhardt, led expeditions through the areas in and around Laverton. Leichhardt’s expedition vanished and Forrest followed in search of the explorer’s remains and his large gold deposit.
The fearless explorers and pioneers of the region are honoured in a splendid state-of-the-art exhibition, aptly named The Great Beyond – Explorers’ Hall of Fame. Here you can step back in time, listen to the explorers’ personal stories of hardship and discover what it was like for the early pioneers living and working on the Goldfields during the Australian gold rush.
This innovative centre also houses the Laverton Visitor Centre.
Other Laverton attractions
- See the wonderful exhibition of local Indigenous art and artefacts for sale at the Laverton Outback Art Gallery. Silk scarves by the local Aboriginal group, Malukurukuru Enterprises, are also displayed. Silk dying demonstrations can be organised by prior arrangement.
- Check out the historic Police Station Complex, which features the refurbished, original Police Sergeant’s House, police station and gaol.
- Explore the rugged surrounding countryside, home to the historic sites of former outback towns such as Burtville. With a reputation as one of the wildest settlements in the goldfields, it is claimed that the only person buried in the local cemetery as a result of natural causes is a six-week old baby.
- Look to the skies above Laverton and the road to Leonora to see wedge-tailed eagles soaring majestically.
- Head out to the scenic Giles Breakaway for some great photo opportunities.
- Gold mines in the Leonora – Laverton region
- Laverton is primarily a mining area. There are two major gold mines in the shire: Granny Smith, owned and operated by Barrick Gold, and the Sunrise Dam Gold Mine, owned and operated by AngloGold Ashanti. Both open pit and underground mining is conducted at these mines. Smaller gold mines, like the BrightStar and the Laverton Gold Mine are also in the area. The Murrin Murrin laterite nickel project is also located nearby, just over the shire border in Leonora. The area is too arid to support agriculture, but very low density grazing of sheep and cattle is feasible, and a substantial area of land is used in this way.
According to census results from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the population of the Laverton statistical local area fell from 2,078 to 730 in the five years from 2001 to 2006. Over this same period, the proportion of indigenous people in the area increased from 19% to 40%.
Laverton has a semi-arid climate with hot summers and mild to cool winters.