The Harvey River Diversion Drain (also known as the Harvey Myalup Diversion Drain) was built to reduce flooding across the Harvey agricultural region. This impressive infrastructure achievement was constructed largely by hand by a 2,500-strong workforce mainly using shovels and wheelbarrows. Built between October 1931 and December 1932, it provided much-needed jobs during the Great Depression.
At 25km in length on completion, the Diversion Drain stretches from Harvey to Myalup. On average, it is 10m wide at the top and between 6-8m deep.
It was officially opened on 12 August 1935.
BUILDING THE DIVERSION DRAIN
Some 2,500 men working on the project camped west of Harvey and, at times up to 3,500 lived in camps at Myalup and the nearby Stonehouse.
A mechanical drag operated at the Harvey end where the earth was heavy clay, but further west shovels and wheelbarrows were used to move the sand.
Each man worked two days a week for a ‘sustenance wage’. They paid out one shilling per week for tent hire and about one pound and fifteen shillings for food, leaving them with perhaps ten or fifteen shillings.
Workers cooked for themselves on an open fire and with a lot of idle time on their hands, many took up fishing to augment their food supply. Others joined the constant gambling that flourished in the camps.
The scheme, funded by the Federal Government, was under the control of the Public Works Department.
The Harvey Scheme was just one of many undertaken by the Government through the Depression years, in an attempt to create employment. In 1931, the site was cleared for the Canning Reservoir and the necessary roadworks completed into the catchment area for what would be part of the metropolitan water supply. The pipeline carrying the Goldfields water supply was repaired and constantly maintained and more men were employed on the Waroona Dam.
All these works were of benefit to the State’s South West; more good agricultural land was drained in winter and irrigated in summer. The dairy industry expanded as an estimated 76,000 acres was irrigated.
When work began on schemes such as these, an estimated one-third of the State’s breadwinners were unemployed. Of the remainder, many worked only part-time. Officially, unemployment stood at 11% in 1929 and rose to 30% by 1932. In the years 1931, ‘32 and ‘33 most of the State’s budget was spent on public works as a way to ease unemployment.
A memorial to the men who worked on the Harvey Diversion and Drainage Scheme stands in Stirling Park, close by the Diversion on which they laboured.
Harvey Diversion Enhancement Project
In 2014, the opening of the public artwork and interpretive shelter commemorated the history of the diversion drain. The impressive artwork by Alex and Nicole Mickle is made from 190 shovels welded together in two separate panels with 95 shovels in each panel. The shape of each panel represents the winding nature of the diversion from Harvey to the sea at Myalup.
They recreated a replica of a photograph taken on Uduc Road Bridge at the first official opening in 1935 at the 2014 official opening.
29 Uduc Rd, Harvey WA 6220, Australia