Wiluna, located on the edge of the Western Australian desert, was first explored by Lawrence Wells in 1892 while passing through the region. It was another four years before prospectors Woodley, Wotten and Lennon ventured further north from Kalgoorlie discovering gold and establishing the township of Weeloona, the original spelling of the town thought to derive from a native word meaning 'Place of Winds' or the sound of the cry of some native curlew birds in the area.
In 1906, the commissioning of a route by Alfred Canning opened an area of inaccessable, remote and harsh terrain spanning 1500kms from Wiluna to Halls Creek. Taking 4 years to complete, the Canning Stock Route still remains one of the most challenging 4WD tracks anywhere in the world.
With the discovery of gold and a stock route running through, the town prospered and by the mid 1930's the population had grown to over 9,000. At the height of the towns prosperity, Wiluna boasted a regular railway service to Perth, four hotels and an array of amenities and facilities. However the onset of war impacted on the population and its demographics resulting in the closure of the towns underground mine and gold operations and by the early 1960's the towns population was less than 100.
The development of the Gunbarrel Highway, explored and surveyed by Len Beadell, was completed in 1958 and was the first east-west road to run across the centre of Australia. Connecting many isolated but popular tourist destinations, the road traverses many unpopulated and desolate areas in outback Australia, with towns and fuel stops few and far between.
Gold mining is once again flourising in the region, with the town now home to over 1500 people comprising of a large population of Indigenous Australians and 'fly-in fly-out' mining workers.
For further information on Wiluna:
Shire of Wiluna - www.wiluna.wa.gov.au/