‘Bubonic Plague in Western Australia 1900-1906’ - Dr Michelle McKeough

When: 05:30pm - 17/07/2019

Location: Stirling House 49 Broadway Nedlands

This paper outlines the plague’s course within Western Australia and the social impact of the plague’s visitation to the state. During the final years of the nineteenth century, an international pandemic of bubonic plague was carried throughout the British maritime trading world. This pandemic took only a few years to spread to every continent, reaching Australia via Sydney in January 1900, then Western Australia only a few months later.
Between 1900 and 1906 Perth and Fremantle experienced repeated outbreaks. In both places each outbreak occurred in a single area distinguished by over-crowding and poor sanitation. In Fremantle, each victim of plague either lived or worked in the West End. In Perth, most plague victims were diagnosed from the area bounded by Wellington, Hay, Pier and King streets. By 1906, Geraldton also had one outbreak in which six people died in ten days and Kalgoorlie had a single case, but these experiences did not mimic the contributing factors seen in Fremantle and Perth.
Throughout the State’s experience of bubonic plague, only thirty-three lives were lost to the disease. Western Australia’s experience of plague was not about the swathes of dead bodies it left behind. Rather, the experience highlighted a crisis in health and sanitation whilst at the same time revealing our socio-cultural frailties, including some of the worst of our post-colonial prejudices.
Michelle McKeough’s doctorate was titled ‘A Community and its Crises: Challenge & Response in Fremantle during three times of crisis: The Black Plague; The Great War and Depression Era’. She has since published in academic journals and collaborations, and is currently conducting post-doctoral research into the presence of bubonic plague in Western Australia, 1900-1909.

Event information: ‘Bubonic Plague in Western Australia 1900-1906’ - Dr Michelle McKeough

Booking information

Refreshments available from 5.30pm; Bookshop open until 6pm.

Cost $5.00 at the door