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The first people known to have inhabited the area were the Bindjareb people of the Bibbulmun Nation.
These people lived well off the land, which abounded in fish, game, berries and fruits. The locality then was known as Mandjoogoordap, which translates as 'meeting place of the heart'. After European settlement the name was adapted to Mandurah.
In 1828 'Swan River Mania' inspired Englishman Thomas Peel to bring a number of workmen, equipment and stores to Western Australia in exchange for a grant of land. The contract stipulated that Peel must arrive in the colony by 1 November 1829, however the ship Gilmore carrying Peel and his followers did not arrive until mid-December and Peel's original land grant was forfeited.
Peel built a small settlement named Clarence, at what is known today as Woodman's Point to await the arrival of two other ships the Hooghly and Rockingham which carried settlers, equipment and stores also belonging to Peel. After many mishaps and plagued by ill health Peel eventually brought his remaining settlers to the area known today as Mandurah.
At that time, Mandurah was a day's journey by sea and two or more days by horse and cart, travelling across very rough country. The area remained isolated until 1850 when a road was built and a ferry punt constructed across the estuary.
Up to that time Mandurah was under the jurisdiction of the Murray Roads Board. During the 1940s, growth in the Mandurah area and a feeling of neglect by the farming oriented Murray Roads Board made Mandurah residents examine the possibility of Secession. Secession from the Murray Road Board was not without its opposition however, and Mandurah faced its very first referendum to decide the issue.
In April 1948 the then Minister for Local Government gave the Mandurah Progress Association a number of points to consider prior to the establishment of its own local authority. Among the needs to be met by the community, the Minister listed that rates would increase and the old Mandurah Hall would be needed for one day a week to serve as an office. A full time inspector was to be engaged for six months of the year and would work in conjunction with a health inspector who would visit Mandurah once a week in order to arrange camping permits and sanitation requirements.
By mid-1949, with all conditions stipulated by the Minister and agreed by the Progress Association, Mandurah's Roads Board was established controlling an area ‘between the sea and the estuary and Mandurah itself’. The inaugural meeting of the Board was held on 1 September, 1949 and Mandurah headed into the second half of the 20th Century as a separate Local Government entity.
Following a period of direct management from July 1956 under commissioner Richard Rushton, the Mandurah Road Board was reconstituted on 26 April 1960. Almost a year later on 1 July 1961 the gazettal of the Mandurah Shire Council was effected in accordance with the new Local Government Act, 1960.
During the 1970s and 1980s Mandurah grew rapidly and on 1 July 1987 Mandurah was upgraded to Town status. Yet another historic milestone was forged when the former President, Cr. Bruce P. Cresswell was elected by Council to become the first Mandurah Mayor.
From a very slow beginning, events for Mandurah have certainly moved very swiftly, and the continued growth culminated on the 14 April 1990, in a celebration of the attainment of City status. Today, it appears difficult to reconcile the meteoric progress experience in the latter half of the 20th Century to the wretchedness of the group that initially disembarked at Clarence. Mandurah is now one of the top tourist destinations in Western Australia, with a performing arts centre of international standard, cinema complex, spectacular waterways, first class holiday accommodation and overall a proud community spirit.
The railway line from Perth to Pinjarra was completed in 1893, and Mandurah's reputation as a favoured holiday destination was quickly made. Mandurah continued to prosper with the fishing and canning industry and a timber mill, established in approximately 1911, providing jobs for local people.
The mill closed in approximately 1926, and as the canning industry declined after the death of Charles Tuckey in 1912, due in part to the high costs associated with transportation and competition from canned fish imports from overseas, the main industry in Mandurah became tourism. History records that 'goldfields' people and later 'wheatbelt' people patronised Mandurah largely because of its huge catches of fish. At this point, Mandurah was estimated to have not more than 150 permanent residents.
This was built from local limestone and iron in 1913 for early Mandurah fisherman, Louis Dawe his wife Emma and their six children. The house was built looking over the estuary and the family canning factory. It had six large rooms with an adjoining kitchen, bathroom, laundry and a separate cellar. The building is considered rare as it has survived relatively unchanged since 1913.
This five-roomed, single-storey stone building dates back to 1833. Initially it was the home of Henry Hall and family, early settlers in Mandurah, but went on to be associated with many others involved in the formation of Mandurah. It is considered the only intact example of an early settler's cottage in the Mandurah area. Open on Sunday’s 10am - 3pm.
This consists of a homestead (1881), single men's quarters (1870) and barn (1870). Initially, it was the home of Eleanor and John Sutton, who arrived on the Hindoo in 1839. They are considered prominent settlers in the Mandurah area from the first decades of the colony. Their nephew Henry Sutton took over the farm in the 1860s when Eleanor was widowed and her son had died. It operated as the town dairy and was one of the few regular places of employment in the late nineteenth century.
Under the Heritage of Western Australia Act of 1990, all local authorities are required to prepare an inventory of sites which possess, or which may come to possess, cultural heritage significance. The Mandurah Municipal Heritage Inventory (1999) complies with this statutory requirement
The Department of Aboriginal Affairs has compiled and maintains a list of registered Aboriginal Heritage Sites.