In 1914 local Indigenous community members lived either in designated camping grounds or on settler’s farms feeding their families from bush foods, money earned by selling kangaroo and possum skins or by helping to clear the ever- decreasing bush areas that had been their home.
Kojonup’s young men were involved in military training, some going to Katanning to be part of the 18th Light Horse Brigade, while others joined the rifle cadets in Kojonup. Some wanted to follow in the footsteps of their grandfathers who had come to the town as military men and stayed to be the town’s earliest farmers. Others listened to the stories of ex-Boer War veterans in the local hotels called the Royal Hotel and the Commonwealth Hotel – formally known as ‘Semblance of Old England’. Income from building the railway line or selling mallet bark had dried up, so the hard physical work of clearing, cropping and handling sheep or cattle or road building was needed. It was tempered on the weekends when they joined district cricket teams or tennis gatherings or attended a locally run dance.
For the women, meagre incomes meant many worked alongside their husbands and there were few luxuries. Occasional visits to town to shop or gossip outside the newly built Post Office helped ease the isolation. While Methodists still met in family homes, the Anglican and Catholic Churches were recent constructions. The latter was of great importance to the growing Italian community – further isolated by the language barrier. However, they too were moving from working on other people’s farms to buying their own land and building their own homes. Some built homes for others – using their competent stone masonry skills and others owned sawmills.
Children needed to be educated – either in one of the small one- teacher schools, in Kojonup’s State School or attending colleges in Perth, Albany or Adelaide. If there was no school within reach, the children were home schooled – at times intermittently.
Although cars and the occasional tractor could be seen, most people still relied on their horses for farm work, travel and entertainment. The race meetings and the Kojonup Show were popular events where all the community could gather. One of the first effects on the community was the cancellation of the 1914 Show, as the usual Government assistance was unavailable – with money needed for the War effort.
It was into this town that the rumours of war became a reality and before the year was over fourteen of its young men had joined the forces and many were preparing themselves to follow.