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Henderson is named for Sir Reginald Henderson, the British Admiral who recommended a naval base be built in Cockburn Sound in 1910. 

Early use

During the 19th century the land along the Cockburn coast - stretching from Fremantle south to Henderson and beyond - was largely used to hold the vast herds of cattle brought down by ship from the Kimberley to be slaughtered at the abattoirs around Robb Jetty. Without the freezing and refrigeration facilities that came later, the cattle had to be kept alive until their meat was needed, and so Henderson was for many years a large-scale cattle holding pen.

Sea defence

Things began to change by the 1900s, when Australians began to see the need for defence from the sea. Until early in the 20th century, Australia had no navy and little naval defence from Britain. Amidst a growing fear of international conflict and a rising spirit of nationalism, Admiral 
Offical opening of Henderson Naval Base, 7 May 1913
Henderson’s suggestion for a Fleet Base at Cockburn Sound was resoundingly supported, despite the enormous leap in scale that it proposed.

Coogee land boom, 1910

When Admiral Henderson visited in 1910, the extent of the Navy in Western Australia was 14 men, four sailboats and a boatshed. The new proposals for a fleet base included 17 armoured ships, nine submarines and 7500 men. The Fleet Base would be Britain's naval fortress in the Indian-Pacific region, and would have spelt out a drastically different history for the Cockburn area had it come to pass.

Land prices around Woodman Point and Coogee soared, a whole new town was planned out to support the new base, and the works were officially opened in May 1913 with speeches from the Premier and Australian Admiral Creswell, a military band and a trainful of invited guests who travelled from Fremantle.

Failure of the Naval Base

This vast scale, and the fact that construction began in 1913, less than a year before the outbreak of the First World War, meant that trouble followed the naval base from the beginning. Unexpected delays in dredging the harbour, labour shortage and political wrangling all played their part, and the development was officially abandoned by 1920, replaced in the British naval scheme by the fleet base at Singapore. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that the current fleet base on Garden Island began to be designed and constructed.

Wartime use

During the Second World War the beaches around Woodman Point, known locally as Naval Base, were frequently used for military training, both by recruits in the Second Australian Imperial Force about to be sent overseas, and by the local Volunteer Defence Corps and other militia units. The camp that was on Cockburn Road housed many hundreds of Western Australian soldiers over the early war years, and later became a convalescent home for returned servicemen. After the war, the camp was decommissioned and used to house families during Perth's desperate post-war housing shortage.

Post-war Henderson

Apart from a scattering of 1950s holiday shacks at the southern tip of the suburb that still operate today, the Henderson area was relatively quiet until the 1970s, when industry began to grow along the coastline. In 1973, the name Henderson was approved for the new suburb. In the 1990s the wetlands and bush that make up the majority of Henderson were formally recognised as a Regional Park, and the Australian Marine Complex began to grow early in the new millennium. 

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City of Cockburn
Whadjuk Boodja
9 Coleville Crescent,
Spearwood 6163

Po Box 1215, Bibra Lake DC,
Western Australia, 6965

Visit the City of Cockburn homepage

Cockburn Nyungar moort Beeliar boodja-k kaadadjiny. Koora, yeyi, benang baalap nidja boodja-k kaaradjiny.
Ngalak kaditj boodjar kep wer kaadidjiny kalyakool yoodaniny, wer koora wer yeyi ngalak Birdiya koota-djinanginy.

City of Cockburn acknowledges the Nyungar people of Beeliar boodja. Long ago, now and in the future they care for country.
We acknowledge a continuing connection to land, waters and culture and pay our respects to the Elders, past, present and emerging.