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Karlkurla Gold: New exhibition uncovers the little known stories of the Women of Western Australia’s goldfields

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Date: 11 February 2013

Karlkurla Gold: A History of the Women of Kalgoorlie-Boulder explores the experiences of the women of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, a town with a unique role in the development of Western Australia, both as a centre of mining and for its place on the edge of the Nullabor Plain. The exhibition is part of the Australian Women’s Archives Project a collaboration of the National Foundation for Australian Women and the University of Melbourne.

Despite historical claims that the eastern goldfields district of Western Australia was ‘a man’s world’, women have always been part of Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

“It’s important and inspiring to understand the critical role that women have played over time in establishing Kalgoorlie-Boulder as the success it is today.” said Ruth Medd, Director National Foundation for Australian Women.

The exhibition contains over 30 individual women’s stories depicting the breadth of employment and activity in the town are exhibited. The entries draw upon archival research and include original audio interviews.

The exhibition and research was generously funded by the Western Australian Department for Communities – Women’s Interests, Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines and Kalgoorlie-Boulder City Council.

In launching the online exhibition Minister for Women’s Interests, Robyn McSweeney said, “The Liberal-National Government is proud to recognise and celebrate women and the role they play in advancing our state.”

“Spanning the past 175 years, these real life stories offer some unique insights into the sacrifice, creativity and hard work the pioneer women of the Goldfields contributed toward the progress of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, the engine room of Western Australia’s prosperity,” said Mrs McSweeney.

Women included in the exhibition include Michelle Berryman, employee of Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines since 1993; Carmel Galvin, brothel owner; Pantjiti Mary McLean, Award winning indigenous artist; and Savia Patroni a former Milanese tailor turned market gardener.

The City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder is now Australia’s largest outback city. It has a population of over 30,000 people and is a dynamic and sophisticated regional centre. White women were present in Kalgoorlie-Boulder from the beginning of the gold rush. They made the arduous journey by sea, train, camel or horse and buggy enduring the long journey, often months, with their husbands. Many brought their children.

The goldfields towns exploded into life as lively, cosmopolitan places to live. Women were important to that process, not only for the labour they provided, but for the role they played in developing social and cultural institutions such as schools, churches, hospitals and welfare associations. And, given that the town’s development coincided with the rise of women’s suffrage and the debate about federation, the white women of Kalgoorlie-Boulder were not backwards in coming forward to express their political views.

Karlkurla Gold: A History of the Women of Kalgoorlie-Boulder is an online exhibition at http://www.womenaustralia.info/exhib/wikb/wikb-home.html

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