Bibbulmun Track

In July 1972 Geoff Schafer walked into the office of the then Minister for Forests, H.D. Evans, with an idea designed to prompt urban people to 'go bush'. The Minister listened, liked what he heard, and sent Geoff and his idea to the Forests Department with a green light to go ahead - and thus the Bibbulmun Track was born.

Geoff, then an active member of the Perth Bushwalking Club, was a former Victorian, and used that State's 'Alpine Way' as inspiration for his proposed Perth-to-Albany walk track. His idea, however, was cause for some consternation in the Forests Department, which at the time had only a very small recreation budget, and little or no knowledge of long-distance trails.

Fortunately, within the Department were several officers who seized on the inspiration Geoff's idea provided, and set about the considerable challenges it posed. Foremost among these were Peter Hewett and Ross Gobby who were to play significant parts in transforming the idea into reality, a process which was to take almost two years.

By September of 1972 the enthusiastic planning team had designed on paper a Lancelin-to-Albany walk, via the Leeuwin-Naturaliste ridge, but in ensuing months it was realised this was unrealistic, and this rather grand proposition was abandoned in favour of a shorter Kalamunda to Northcliffe proposal. With this change of route the early name 'Perth to Albany Track' was abandoned, and the search for a new name began.

Many options were considered until a suggestion was made by Kirup forester Len Talbot, that the Track be named to recognise the pre-European inhabitants of the area, the Bibbulmun. This suggestion was adopted as both unique and appropriate, even though the Track did not follow Aboriginal travel routes - rather it recognised the Bibbulmun peoples' practice of walking long distances for ceremonial gatherings.

Early planning of the alignment was plagued by concerns over public access to domestic water catchment areas, and the possible impact of bauxite mining, which was at the time going through a rapid expansion. Nonetheless, the first alignment of the Track was marked on the ground in March 1974. For the next four years this route was subject to a range of modifications as various parties sought to ensure that their interests were preserved.