THE Southern Forests region is in the beautiful southwest corner of Western Australia about 300 kilometres south of the state’s capital, Perth. It covers more than 7000 square kilometres that includes 140km of pristine southern coastline and is officially known as the Shire of Manjimup. The name ‘Manjimup’ derives from an Aboriginal word ‘manjin’ – a special edible reed – and ‘up’, meaning meeting place.
Our shire is the largest municipality in the southwest, first settled by wadjela – Europeans – in 1856. We have four main communities with several other settlements that, together with outlying farms, make up a population of 10,000. Since the region was established, people from 53 countries have come here to live and work, the majority from the north and south of Italy, Macedonia, Greece, the former Yugoslavia, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, The Philippines and Germany.
Our region begins just outside the largest town, Manjimup, where picturesque agricultural land is dotted with tall stands of magnificent karri trees. Karri can grow to 90 metres, making it one of the tallest species in the world, and only occurs within the high rainfall zone of the South West Botanical Province of Western Australia.
Further south is the timber town of Pemberton where the forest is more established, with many karri trees well over 300 years old. Towards the southern coast lies the small town of Northcliffe, also surrounded by towering forests and previously rich coastal plains and wetlands.
On the south coast of the region is the idyllic town of Walpole, which adjoins The Walpole Wilderness. This is a unique group of world-class conservation reserves that together with the entire eco-region of the southwest is in one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots: meaning it contains at least 0.5 per cent or 1500 species of vascular plants as endemics, and has lost at least 70 per cent of its primary vegetation.
The Southern Forests has a temperate climate with an average rainfall of 1100 mm. The main industries include timber, dairy and beef cattle production, and potato, cauliflower, broccoli, pome and stone fruit horticulture. The pink lady apple was created in Manjimup by John Cripps. Aquaculture produces marron – a fresh water lobster which is indigenous to the south west of Western Australia – and trout. Many native species of fresh and salt-water fish are also found in rivers, streams and the adjacent Southern Ocean.
In the past, hops and tobacco were successfully cultivated and, more recently, avocadoes (Pemberton is the largest avocado growing region in the state), olives, highly-prized cultivated black truffles (Manjimup is the leading Australian-mainland producer of black truffles) and development towards establishing a green tea industry. The first vineyard was planted in 1982 and is ours is now the third largest wine region in Western Australia.
Our region is distant from urban centres, geographically large with a small population spread out with enormous natural, agricultural and cultural diversity that is yet to discover itself.