George Bennetts Interview, Part 1

Updated: Jul 29, 2018


Part 2 is currently under production. Subscribe to this site or YouTube to be notified when it is published.


Synopsis of interview

  • Born in South Australia he arrived in Fremantle in 1896 with his mother and siblings, to join his father who was working at the Great Boulder Mine. They came out on the steamship 'Innamincka'. He then details his journey by train to Kalgoorlie; the Cobb &​ Co. coach; Afghans and camel teams.

  • His father had contracted typhoid fever and his mother had to walk a distance through the bush to visit him.

  • Recollections of schooling at Reverend Collick's school in a tank in 1896 and then the Boulder school.

  • After leaving school at 14 he starting work with a building contractor; work with a bike shop, Alfred's Dairy and sandalwooding.

  • He describes his travels to the Whim Creek Copper Mine aboard the SS Koombana and the slave-like conditions he encountered at the mine.

  • Details his walk 69 miles to Roebourne; being caught by police and a night in gaol.

  • To return to Kalgoorlie he is employed as a cook for a cattle droving team and describes the poor treatment of aboriginal stockmen and working conditions.

  • He recollects a conversation he had with an employee of the SS Kombanna, and how the employee told him the ship was dangerous since it was re-plated, as it was top heavy. This man thought it would sink during a cyclone. The ship did sink during a cyclone on the 20th March, 1912 killing 150 people. This was the first time Bennetts had told this story. This section of audio is of lesser quality, so a transcript of this section will soon be available.

About George Bennetts


11 April 1890 - 27 March 1980


Born at Wallaroo Mines, South Australia. Came to Western Australia 16 January 1896.


Son of George Bennetts, Engine Driver, and Julia Ann Pope.


Married 30 January 1912, District Registry Office, Kalgoorlie, Alice Lillian King (born circa 1891), daughter of Fred and Alice Naomi Berry, Children: four sons and three daughters. Widowed 5 January 1977.

Educated at Reverend Collick’s School 1896, Convent School on the Horseshoe Lease, and South Boulder School, Left school at 14 years.

Employment History:

Started work as labourer with building contractor, then in bicycle trade.

Pulled sandalwood (1906) Joined Western Australian Government Railways (1911) as a porter, worked in Kalgoorlie and Boulder as acting conductor and ticket collector Worked on Ivanhoe mine From 1913 in Commonwealth Railways construction branch, then on trains, head conductor on first Trans-Australia train Retired to Perth

Labor Kalgoorlie Municipal Council 28 November 1935–November 1952

Source: http://www.parliament.wa.gov.au/parliament/library/MPHistoricalData.nsf/(Lookup)/09924F1907BB2CB5482577E50028A51D?OpenDocument



Photographs used in Video:


Not all of the images relate directly to Mr Bennetts, but are used to help portray the conditions or environment he is discussing.


Picture 1: George Bennetts, photograph on the Biographical Registrar of Members of the WA Parliament. Source: http://www.parliament.wa.gov.au/parliament/library/MPHistoricalData.nsf/(Lookup)/09924F1907BB2CB5482577E50028A51D?OpenDocument

Fremantle Harbour Source: http://www.sro.wa.gov.au/archive-collection/collection/harbour-and-shipping-records



Innamincka, Steel Screw Steamer with 2 masts. Built 1890 in Scotland for the Adelaide Steam Ship Co. Launched 1890. In 1921 renamed Seistan. Sunk 28/12/1949 by Japanese Air Attack in Manila Bay. Source: http://www.clydeships.co.uk/view.php?ref=18762. Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/29704

First train to Coolgardie. Photograph courtesy Battye Library. Battye Library number 001974D Source: http://www.rolian.net/learning_federation/5503.html


Exchange Hotel, corner of Hannan Street and Maritana St looking up towards Mt Charlotte. Several men and boys standing outside, Hocking (Kalgoorlie Miner) building in background. 1900 Image courtesy of WA Museum Source: http://museum.wa.gov.au/online-collections/object/gm03605



Camel team, Coolgardie, 1895-1896. In front of Alfred McKenzie, Auctioneer, Stock and Share Broker, Mining and General Business Agent. Image Courtesy of WA Museum. Image 025795PD. Source http://purl.slwa.wa.gov.au/slwa_b2256341_001




Afghan Camaleers. Photograph courtesy of the State Library of South Australia. SLSA: B 14808 Source: https://www.cameltreksaustralia.com.au/camel-history

Cobb & Co Booking Office, Coolgardie. Photograph courtesy Battye Library, Battye Library number 000696D.

Afghan Guard of Honour at opening of Coolgardie Railway. Image courtesy State Library of Western Australia 000737D Source: http://museum.wa.gov.au/explore/wa-goldfields/rush-gold/on-track

Bayley Street Coolgardie. Source: http://www.janesoceania.com/australia_goldfields/index.htm

Bricknell store Hannan Street with delivery horses and carts and storemen lined up outside. Image courtesy of the WA Museum Source: http://museum.wa.gov.au/online-collections/object/gm01038


Large Street Crowd getting on Trams - Racecourse Specials, Hannan Street and Maritana Street Junction. Australia Hotel in background. Image courtesy of the WA Museum Source: http://museum.wa.gov.au/online-collections/object/gm01295

Great Boulder Mine, surface view with main shaft headframe, corrugated iron buildings, smoke stacks. Rail tracks and stacks of timber in foreground. 1905. Source: http://museum.wa.gov.au/online-collections/object/gm02010

Great Boulder Mine showing two large store tanks, large corrugated shed in background. http://museum.wa.gov.au/online-collections/object/gm01661

Great Boulder Mine http://museum.wa.gov.au/online-collections/object/gm01439

Great Boulder shaft, 1600 foot level, with workers, ore bins and kibble. Photo courtesy of WA Museum. http://museum.wa.gov.au/online-collections/object/gm01337

Miners celebrating Christmas with a beer, 1895. Source: http://www.beatentrackbrewery.com.au/Regional_History.htm

Staff in front of Coolgardie Hospital, 1894 Courtesy State Library of Western Australia 009368D. Source: http://museum.wa.gov.au/explore/wa-goldfields/dangerous-life/typhoid-fever-raging-epidemic

Nurses outside their quarters in Coolgardie, 1890s Image courtesy State Library of Western Australia 009380D Source: http://museum.wa.gov.au/explore/wa-goldfields/life-on-fields/nursing-on-goldfields

(Edward Mallan (Henry) Collick was born 4.11.1868, son of Charles and Rosetta.) who was the only 26 years of age. Almost a hundred years after his arrival he was made a local saint and hero of the Anglican Church in Western Australia and this arose out of his utter commitment to god and the people he served over many years in Coolgardie, Menzies, Kalgoorlie, Boulder and finally Fremantle. He retired in 1950. During all those years he has also served as a chaplain in the Civil Military Force in WA. Source http://www.outbackfamilyhistoryblog.com/2016/08/06/canon-collick-hero-saint/

Reverend Robert Henry Moore (1872-1964) at the Mount Morgan's Police Station around 1899. Was archived as "Rev.M Collick, famous for the annual Christmas Party for aborigines in Kalgoorlie" Source http://policewahistory.org.au/html_pages/Priest_&_Policeman.html

The Tank Church, Boulder was built in 1902 as a meeting place for the swelling numbers of devout Welsh and Cornish miners attracted to the Goldfields in the 1890s, the ‘Tank’ or Circular Church built near the Boulder Block. Source: http://www.outbackfamilyhistoryblog.com/2016/02/21/the-tank-church-boulder/

Kaballie Train Station. Source: http://www.outbackfamilyhistory.com.au/records/record.php?record_id=195&town=Kamballie

Moving a house near Kalgoorlie. Photo by William E. Fretwell (1874 - 1958) - W.E. Fretwell Collection Photographs of William Edward Fretwell https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camel_train#/media/File:CamelTrainKalgoorlie_WEFretwellCollection.jpg

Lakeside/Lakewood town map. Source: http://www.outbackfamilyhistory.com.au/records/record.php?record_id=731

The Scougall Family House at Lake Side a wonderful picture of a hessian house - painted with whitewash to keep the wind and the heat out, which didn't work very well and which probably had an earth floor. The Family with their essential bicycles and faithful horse   Source: http://www.outbackfamilyhistory.com.au/records/record.php?record_id=231&town=Lakeside

Sandalwood Harvest Source: https://wikivisually.com/wiki/Narrogin,_Western_Australia

View across golden mile and Boulder from Ivanhoe Mine 1905. Photo courtesy of the WA Museum Source; http://museum.wa.gov.au/online-collections/search/site/ivanhoe

Men of the Lake View & Star Mine Source: http://www.outbackfamilyhistory.com.au/records/record.php?record_id=841

Whim Well Copper Mine 1910. Photo by Ernest Lund Mitchell Source: <https://thewest.com.au/news/pilbara-news/north-west-photographers-rise-in-focus-ng-b88488806z

SS Koombana Sank 1912, 150 died By Allan C. Green (1878–1954) - State Library of Victoria – Accession Number: H91.250/1542 Image Number: b41089 Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4682464

Koombana 1909 Source: http://koombanadays.com/ch03/idx/kd03lc0.html

Koombana at Port Headland, By Unknown - Royal Western Australian Historical Society collection - State Library of Western Australia, call number 024282PD., https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18325755

Point Samson Jetty. Source: http://koombanadays.com/ch03/idx/kd03lc0.html

Cossacks Source: http://koombanadays.com/ch03/idx/kd03lc0.html

Whim Creek Head Frame Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Old_Whim_Creek_Headframe.jpg

Whim Creek Hotel 1937 Source: http://www.whimcreek.org.au/history/

Whim Creek Hotel 1959. Source: http://purl.slwa.wa.gov.au/slwa_b2806520_001

Roebourne Tram Image courtesy of the WA State LIbrary. Source: http://purl.slwa.wa.gov.au/slwa_b1980048_1

Roebourne Horse Tram. Image courtesy of the State Library. Source: http://purl.slwa.wa.gov.au/slwa_b1980048_2

Roebourne Jail 1918. Image 5795B/16 courtesy of the WA State Library. Source: http://purl.slwa.wa.gov.au/slwa_b4773261_1

Aboriginal prisoners at Roebourne Jail in head chains. Source: http://nationalunitygovernment.org/content/aborigines-question-1905-report-charges-against-police

Aboriginal Prisoners off to work chained together with head chains. Source: http://nationalunitygovernment.org/content/aborigines-question-1905-report-charges-against-police

Information plaque at Roebourne Jail

Chain ring Roebourne Prison. Source: http://nationalunitygovernment.org/content/aborigines-question-1905-report-charges-against-police

Prisoners in chains at Roebourne. Source: http://nationalunitygovernment.org/content/aborigines-question-1905-report-charges-against-police

Drovers Source: https://www.australiantraveller.com/qld/outback-qld/city-slickers-the-outback-muster-to-end-them-all/

Stockmen 1935 Source: http://www.territorystories.nt.gov.au/jspui/handle/10070/25424

Stockmen Source: https://wikivisually.com/wiki/Stockman_(Australia)


Source: http://amusine.typepad.com/journeys/droving.html

1949 Wyndham Stockmen National Archives of Australia: A1200, L11712 Source: https://www.britannica.com/place/Western-Australia/Government-and-society

Cattle at Billiluna Pool, 1940. Photo Courtesy State Library of Western Australia, The Battye Library From <http://www.canningstockrouteproject.com/history/droving/>



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