Denmark is a town and local government area located 363 km south-south-east of Perth, Western Australia on the banks of the Denmark River. According to the 2001 census, the area’s population was 2,431, of whom 24 (0.6 per cent) were Indigenous. 3,107 persons (71.5 per cent) were Australian-born. 603 persons (13.9 per cent) had been born in Britain, 81 (1.9 per cent) had been born in New Zealand and 55 (1.3 per cent) had been born in Germany.
Originally founded in 1895 as a timber mill town, today’s main local industries include tourism, viticulture, horticulture, agriculture, dairy farming and cottage industries. The area is a popular holiday destination due to its coastal and forest location. Denmark has a year-round mild climate with an average daytime temperature in summer of 25C and 16C in winter. Average annual rainfall is 1135mm. Denmark was awarded the title of “Australia’s Tidiest Town” in 1998.
Denmark really became established as a town in 1895 when the Millar brothers built a number of timber mills on the banks of the Denmark River to process the giant karri trees which were felled inland and exported to Britain, China, India, Africa and South America where they were used for everything from paving blocks to wharf piles and telegraph poles. The town grew rapidly to handle the large labour force required to run the mills which, at their peak, were employing 750 men and producing 90 000 super feet of timber a day. At that rate of consumption the timber industry was bound to be short-lived. The mills only lasted from 1895–1905.
A few mill workers (probably no more than two or three families from a population of over 2000) stayed on after the mill closed. In 1907 the Western Australian government bought out all Millars interests in the town – the buildings, the mills and the railway. By 1911 dairying had taken over as the major industry in the area and in 1922 Denmark became part of the Group Settlement Scheme. It was far from successful with some of struggling group settlers actually marching to Albany to protest at their poor conditions.
Today the town’s economy is sustained by a combination of tourism, timber, dairying, beef cattle and fishing. Tourism has become increasingly important since World War II. During the war American soldiers stationed in Albany would often make day trips to Denmark and this encouraged the establishment of tea rooms and souvenir shops.