This Aboriginal name means “the place for stone axes.” The town was declared on 4 May 1900. It started as a parish in 1884 and a decade later became part of the Katanning parish and did not become independent again until 1951. Kojonup was settled in 1837 as a military outpost on the new road between Albany and York. Sheep farmers soon followed the soldiers, bringing the first white families to the area. The spiritual needs of these people were served by Anglican and Catholic clergy, on their travels between Perth and Albany. In 1885, one keen Catholic mother walked to Fremantle with her 12 year old daughter, so she could attend boarding school!
In 1860 the Kojonup Colonial Mixed School as opened, along the lines of the Irish National System. Although opened by the General Board of Education, the first headmistress, Ann Loton, was a devout Catholic and five of the six families were Catholic, so there would have been some “passing on of the Faith”! On 18 February 1872, Bishop Griver from Perth confirmed 16 people. The first church bazaar was held on 2 January 1883. All this long before we had a resident priest. That same year, on the other side of the world in Moravia, Fr Joseph Chmelicek felt called to volunteer for missionary work and was accepted by Bishop Griver, who happened to be in Rome at the time. He brought him to WA, and he celebrated his first Mass at Kojonup, as our first Parish Priest, on 3 February 1884. Fr Chmelicek was a man of many talents and established himself on a small farmlet which he purchased from the Noonan family, growing vegetables for sale to support himself. His herbal remedies and his kindly understanding nature were known and respected throughout the district he served, between Williams and Tenterden. It is said that he would read while traveling in his cart, allowing his horse to wander from side to side nibbling the roadside plants at will. Tragically, in the 1890s, malicious gossip was spread about this kindly man and he received a letter from Bishop Gibney, requesting a meeting with him to discuss the matter. Fr Chmelicek was so upset that his Bishop could suspect him of immoral behaviour, that he withdrew from his public life and lived as a hermit in a small mud brick hut. A crushed and broken man, he was found dead with his Rosary beads in his hands at the age of 76, in 1909. He had never been rejected by the church and was regarded as a retired priest, respecting his with to be left alone.
St Bernard’s Church was built in 1913, at which time we were part of Katanning Parish Religious instruction for the children was provided by the Bushie’s Schools, run by the Sisters of St Joseph throughout the Great Southern. In 1952 St Bernard’s School was opened by the Sisters of Mercy, who staffed it until 1987. Since then it has been staffed by lay people.
In 1955 George and Mary Jeffs purchased a beautiful marble statue of Mary Immaculate and mounted it on a rock on their farm at Jingalup. They initiated the Rosary Rally, which has been held on the alst Sunday of October every year since. The statue now resides at the school, since the Jeff’s farm has been sold. Kojonup was made a Parish by Archbishop Prendiville in 1951, the PP being Fr Martin Brennan. Fifteen Diocesan Priests have followed him until 1998, when we will again share a priest with Katanning, whilst remaining a separate parish.
St Bernard’s is entering a new era s part of the Multi Parish Team, of St Patrick’s Katanning, St Michael’s Tambellup and Broomehill parish. It will be a steep learning curve for all of us, but hopefully a challenge that will bring growth to our parish community, especially by encouraging a new sense of ministry amongst the laity.
St Michael’s Catholic Church, Tambellup was born in 1912 with the purchase of a Baptist Chruch building in the time of Fr Reidy, Parish Priest at Katanning. The purchase price being then 325 pounds or $650 and Bishop Clune blessed the new long awaited church.
The early parishioners had many long miles to travel to Mass including the Parish Priest who drove a horse and sulky from Katanning. After Fr Reidy came Fr Doddy and 1935 Fr Byrne. In 1950 the new parish of Tambellup was formed and Fr Costello was our first parish priest. An old school was bought and re erected next to the church to accommodate him. In 1958 the house next door was purchased to accommodate the Sisters of St. Joseph for their Motor Mission work which ceased in 1966 when they moved to Ongerup still supplying Tambellup, Gnowangerup and Broomehill with the aid of lay catechists. A new presbytery was built and opened in 1960 by Bishop Goody with Fr John Fitzgerald the first resident. Other priests to serve here were Fathers Leech, Ned McSweeney, Hubert Kelly, Noel FitzSimons, Bernie Dwyer, Russell Hardiman, Pat Rooney, Terry Flannigan, Doug Conlan, Ian Johnson, Denis McAlinden, Elisha O’Shea, Michael Slattery, Brian Morgan, Jess Navarra and our current priest Fr Ignatius Thambuswamy who lives in Katanning. The interior of the church during this time has changed considerably. As priests came and went so did the look of the church – from the original dome over the altar to a wooden structure moving the altar forward, to our present day simple wooden altar with a life size crucifix on the plain white back wall. St. Michael’s has had many generous benefactors for which we are eternally grateful and the services of the wonderful priests mentioned above which has kept the people of Tambellup appreciative of the commitment and love shown in the community. Our parish has been attached to other centres at different times, but as we face the future we are connected to Kojonup.
On the right of the patch is St Michael’s Church Tambellup, featuring its bell tower. On the left is the statue of Mary, which represents the special devotion St Bernard’s parishioners of Kojonup have to Mary.
People are leaving their homes and work places to come and join together in worship forming one parish. The Eucharist being the centre of our devotion.
The sheep and grain are the reasons for the community living in this special part of the south west with its rolling hills, the gold representing the ripe wheat and oat crops, the yellow a canola crop. Rich green pastures support sheep and cattle, while dark green bush is a prominent part of the landscape.
Parishioners from both centres met to design our patch which culminated in the completed patch being crafted by Christine Lewis of Kojonup.