History of the Rabbit Proof Fence

The Rabbit Proof Fences Nos.1, 2 and 3 stretch 3,200 kms across the West Australian landscape. The first, the No.1 fence goes from Cape Keraudren in the north near Port Hedland to Starvation Boat Harbour near Hopetoun in the south. East west the No.3 fence stretches from Red Bluff south of Kalbarri to meet the No.2 fence in the Murchison District and the No.1 fence south east of Meekatharra. It is the longest continuous fence in the world and represents enormous endeavour and determination to achieve under the most testing conditions, a barrier against the spread of rabbits that could have destroyed the agricultural industry of the state.

dCompletion of the No.3 Rabbit Proof Fence (RPF) in 1907 reminds us that over a century ago the rabbit plague was considered such a threat to agriculture that the state government constructed a series of barriers to prevent the spread of these introduced pests to the food producing areas of WA.


Of national significance, this use of public works to protect the expanding agricultural and pastoral industries of the new nation from the threat of invasive vermin is a long-standing part of West Australia’s rural psyche. The need was perceived as being of such importance that a thousand mile long barrier was constructed. This was undertaken by workers, with very basic support, but charged with an enormous determination to get the job done under very difficult circumstances including the climate, environment, long support lines, and basic technology.


As the rabbit invasion overtook the first fence construction, it reinforced the rapidity of the advance of the vermin. So alarmed was the Government that a further two fences were constructed. The more glamorous development of the Eastern Goldfields Water Supply Scheme of engineer C Y O’Connor overshadowed the vermin fences at the time.


Increasing Interest

In recent years the three rabbit proof fences have been underlying elements of a major heritage project in WA. The Galena Mining Heritage Area of the Shire of Northampton commenced in 1994 and recently was reviewed in conjunction with the Department for Planning and Infrastructure. The presence of the No.3 fence through the location of the Galena project reminded the study that there are many forgotten or overlooked major public undertakings carried out by the young but exuberant State and Commonwealth Governments.


The film Rabbit Proof Fence attracted international attention and raised the awareness of Australia of the physical and social impact of fences. Most West Australians are unaware of the Dingo Fence from South Australia across New South Wales and on to Queensland. Equally the eastern states community is unlikely to be aware of the three vermin fences of WA. There are five locations on national highways plus 34 local authorities with fence remnants within their boundaries. For visitors to Western Australia the Rabbit Proof Fence Memorial project will provide a new focus at a large number of locations to see and learn about the challenges facing our early rural settlers and how communities with scarce resources but limitless determination tackled these problems.