The town’s name was initially spelt Waigerup or Waigeerup, derived from an Aboriginal name meaning “the place of the emu” (waitch), and was applied to a brook in the area. The same spelling was used when the railway station opened in 1896. However, by 1899, when the townsite was gazetted, the current spelling had been adopted (according to local legend, the man who painted the sign for the railway station misspelt the name).
In the mid 1970’s serious community concern about impending mining in Jarrah forests saw considerable protests about the construction of the Wagerup refinery. The Campaign to Save Native Forests and South West Forests Defence Foundation challenged the planned mining venture, and the conditions under which Alcoa was to be mining.
In September 2006, Alcoa obtained permission from the Western Australian government to expand the size of the refinery to become the biggest such refinery in the world, with production capacity increased from 2.6 million tonnes per year to around 4.7 million tonnes per year, although very strict conditions have been imposed on the expansion by the Health and Environment departments. Residents in nearby Yarloop subsequently announced plans to fight the decision in the Supreme Court.