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Roads links to the east

Tourist brochure, 1976

It was not until September 1976 that the final section of the Eyre Highway was sealed with bitumen. Building a road to link Western Australia with the rest of the Commonwealth had never been a national priority for the federal government.

After John Eyre became the first European to cross the Nullarbor Plain in 1841, 50 years elapsed before more regular traffic followed. During the 1890s' gold rush, hopeful diggers travelled the rough, slow tracks made by bullock and camel teams which built the overland telegraph in the 1870s and 1880s.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, a new road connecting east with west was hastily carved out of the desert. It was little more than a track which handled a sprinkling of civilian traffic.

Until the completion of a new gravel highway in 1968 and the provision of water and petrol stations along its route, only the most adventurous people ventured along a poorly maintained and sometimes dangerous route. Travelling by car across Australia used to be a dirty and difficult enterprise.

With the sealing of the Eyre Highway not only did road transportation rapidly increase, but the Australian landscape became democratised. Many more individuals and families were able to drive across country. They set out to explore their nation. In many ways the completion of the road link helped reduce the Western Australian sense of isolation.


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