Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are warned that this website may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

Building Coolbellup, 1960s

The area of Hamilton Hill resumed by the State Housing Commission (SHC) in 1954 roughly corresponded to modern-day Coolbellup, but that name wasn’t decided on until 1957, and wasn’t used commonly until the early 1960s when people started to move into the area in earnest. The earliest modern suburban developments took place in East Hamilton Hill, which bordered Coolbellup and grew slightly earlier and with less SHC involvement.

Suburban social housing experiments

As an almost entirely SHC-built suburb, Coolbellup was home to several new experiments in social housing: the Native Welfare Department bought up dozens of houses to give Aboriginal families suburban homes; new migrants were housed in transitory accommodation while they adjusted to a new country; many hundreds of young families from all over the state and the country applied for social housing when they could not afford to buy, but soon made arrangements to buy their properties from the SHC; large blocks of flats were built to increase the housing density and cater for various economic and family situations.

Aboriginal population

It was during the mid-1960s that Aboriginal people began to move into the Coolbellup and Hamilton Hill areas. A complex network of laws and unspoken rules had largely prevented Aboriginal people from living amongst white people in rural areas and in Perth until then, and with the relaxing of those laws and rules came the Native Welfare Department, taking up the option of the SHC housing at Coolbellup and buying up houses for Aboriginal families.

As so many Aboriginal people lived in Coolbellup by the end of the 1960s, there were several Aboriginal social enterprises developed and administered from the area, run by the Coolbellup Aboriginal community. A pre-primary and daycare for Aboriginal children, a women’s sewing group helping young mothers to save money by making household necessities and clothes by hand, Aboriginal health clinics, and the Southern Suburbs Progress Association were all found in the houses and community spaces of Coolbellup.

New migrant housing

In 1967 Coolbellup became the site for the nation’s first transitory migrant flats. These were a new type of accomodation specifically designed for the influx of post-war migrants flocking to Western Australia, which had a severe lack of any migrant residences. They were ‘furnished and self-contained and will complement hostel-type accommodation available to migrants’, and would be intended as temporary living quarters offered to new migrants while they adjusted to life in a new country.
Yaralla flats (later Juliet Court) at Coolbellup, 1969


A large proportion of people moving into the new SHC houses were young families, and the houses were ‘literally bursting with children… [In 1966 Coolbellup had] a population of 3800 and with the completion of another 500 homes, 1500 to 2000 people will be added in six months’.  Nowhere can the astronomical growth of these new suburbs be seen more clearly than in the explosion of schools and students in Hamilton Hill and Coolbellup in the early 1960s.

Primary schools

Coolbellup Primary School was opened on 8 February 1965, with 212 pupils, four teachers, and Principal Lawrence Barker. But the suburb was growing so rapidly in size that by the end of 1965 there were 325 students, rising to 661 students and thirteen teachers by the end of 1966. 

In those first two years the school was constantly adding classes and buildings to its grounds, and by the end of 1966 a second primary school, East Coolbellup (later North Lake Primary School), had to be opened. Its initial enrollment was another 150 students who were housed on the Coolbellup Primary School grounds while their school was built.

High schools

Hamilton High School opened in 1963, with 1964 its first year with a full set of classes - first, second, and third classes, corresponding to years eight, nine, and ten. At its official opening in late 1964, which had been delayed until emergency additions to the 1-year old building and school grounds were made, the enrollment was nearly 1000 students. The government was already talking about building another high school ‘between Fremantle and Hamilton Hill… necessary to cope with the expansion in home building proceeding in the district’.

Shops and entertainment

Coolbellup shopping centre was officially opened in 1967, and by 1970 fashion shop S.W. Clarke was advertising in the Australian Women's Weekly as a Coolbellup stockist for nationally-recognised brands.  Coolbellup Hotel was opened in 1969.


Print Form

Submit information about this article

All fields are required except where indicated




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 kaadatj dayin boodja, kep wer malayin. Ngalak kaadatj koora koora wer yeyi ngalang birdiya.

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.