A trip to Kojonup is a step back in time with its traditional country settlement of historic buildings and friendly people.
Kojonup is the gateway to Western Australia's rural great southern region. Its freshwater springs attracted European settlers in 1837 and the town still has the trademarks of a traditional country settlement, with historic buildings and friendly people.
Many country towns have faded into obscurity, but the Kojonup locals wanted their town to thrive, so they raised money and built Kodja Place to tell the story of their town. Its theme is "One Story, Many Voices" and includes the farm and reserve stories of early settlers. You can sit in a school bus, drive a ute and check out a snazzy shearing shed.
Built to strengthen reconciliation between the communities, Kodja Place has involved hundreds of locals. It shows black and white history side by side and reinforces an overall message of tolerance and unity. The building is shaped like the Noongar stone axe of the Aboriginal people and built from iron and earth.
It began when Penny Young wanted to set up a rose garden of purely Australian-bred blooms. Now there is a low rose maze divided into sections representing decades of the 20th century. The roses have great names, such as the Allies, Pacific Triumph, Onkaparinga and Babe. The maze follows the lives of three fictional women of the last century, one Aboriginal, one Italian, the other British. Their stories intertwine.
The Linear Gallery in the handle of the axe-shaped building features a 4m x 3m mural telling a story about the local land. Colours are symbolic: ochre stands for traditional Aboriginal beliefs, white means settlers, brown is for harvesting the land and green means replanting. Animal tracks which stop short show how settlers culled them.
Visitors can enjoy billy tea and damper made on a fire at a traditional Aboriginal campsite, complete with lean-to.
A replica of early government housing provided for Aboriginals is basically a tin shed which has no power, a wood stove and kerosene refrigerator. One ablutions block and one tap served the entire community. Conditions were grim. The last one was vacated in 1971 when some people had the luxury of running water and power for the first time.
Kojonup shire was the first in Western Australia to have a million sheep, so it is fitting that a shearing shed is represented.
One of the state's oldest surviving buildings overlooks the town spring. The military barracks were constructed in 1845 in the heart of town.
This joint venture between the local tourism association and Aboriginal community is a real success story and well worth a visit.