Cunderdin is a town located in the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia 156 km east of Perth, on Great Eastern Highway. According to the census in 2001 it had a population of 1,416. By the official census of 2004 the population had dropped to 1,305. The ABC reported on this phenomenon as reflecting global demographic changes within agricultural areas, since less people are needed using modern day farming methods.
Cunderdin like many small towns in the area developed as a stop off town during the gold rush in the Western Australia Goldfields. Significantly in 1894 the railway arrived signalling the earliest settlement in the town. Later in 1901, the Goldfields Water Scheme designed by C. Y. O’Connor led to a renewed increase in population of the town.
The first European through the area was Charles Hunt who arrived in 1864 and the following year returned to blaze the track which became known as ‘The Old Goldfields Road’. He was followed by sandalwood cutters and itinerant shepherds. In 1865 one of the early settlers, E. J. Clarkson, was killed by Aborigines and it was decided to establish a police outpost at Youndegin 19 km south of the present town.
The police outpost, which is still standing, was built out of stone and mud with a thatched roof and a nearby York gum tree was used as the lockup. A Constable Allerly was the first police officer in charge of the outpost. In 1880 Constable Alfred Eaton arrived to take up duties. The goldrush of 1888 saw miners pouring through the area on their way to the goldfields. Eaton, always the entrepreneur, built the Youndegin Arms to cater for the passing trade. Among the food it offered was parrot pie – which was considered something of a delicacy.
It looked at this time as though Youndegin would be the major centre in the area. The arrival of the railway stopped all that. The railway passed to the north of Youndegin and by 1894 (the year the railway arrived) the pub had closed down and Mr Eaton had left the force, taken up land, and become the first farmer in the Cunderdin district.