Northam (31°38'S 116°40'E) is a town in Western Australia, situated at the confluence of the Avon and Mortlock Rivers. It is the birthplace of Shirley Strickland, Frederick Henry Piesse and Carmen Lawrence. Home to around 7000 people, it is the largest town in the Avon region. It is also the largest inland town in the state not founded on mining.
The area around Northam was first explored in 1830 by a party of colonists led by Ensign Robert Dale, and subsequently founded in 1833. It was named by Governor Stirling, probably after a village of the same name in Devon, England. Almost immediately it became a point of departure for explorers and settlers who were interested in the lands which lay to the east.
This initial importance declined with the growing importance of the other nearby towns of York and Beverley, but the arrival of the railway made Northam the major departure point for fossickers and miners who headed east towards the goldfields.
A notable scandal occurred in 1933 when the town's entire Aboriginal population were rounded up by police and dumped in the Moore River Settlement. The Northam Shire Council said they had scabies and were a health risk.
Steve Fossett became the first person to fly around the world alone, nonstop, in a balloon when he launched from Northam on 19 June 2002, and returned to Australia on 3 July, landing in Queensland.
The Northam Aero Club
In 1971, the NorthamTown and Shire Councils purchased land on the edge of town for the Northam airport, and leveling of the proposed airstrip was well in hand by June, 1971. The Northam Aero Club originally held a twenty-one year lease from the Northam Town Council and the Northam Shire, which was renewed for a further twenty-one years in early 1991.
The Northam Airport was officially opened by the Regional Director of the Department of Civil Aviation on the 14th November, 1971. A little over eight years later, airstrip lights were commissioned on the 12th April, 1980, and in 1984, the VHF automatic switching was commissioned.
The Northam Aero Club (NAC), the West Australian Balloon and Airship Club (WABAC) operate on the field. A maintenance organisation (Northam Air Services) and an agricultural operator (Taurus Aviation) are also located on the field, along with several privately owned aircraft.
The Northam Airfield has seen the start of many Aviation
Records in balloons and in fixed wing aircraft.
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