Heritage Trail Drawing Tourists to Regional WA

Article | Updated 3 months ago

In the New Museum Voices gallery we’re looking at how regional Western Australia has changed over time and the creative ways communities are sustaining their local economy. 

Mullewa is a farming community in the heart of the Mid-West located an hour's drive east from Geraldton.  The surrounding areas farm wheat and cereal and the town is a central location for processing and distributing grains.  It is also a great location to see Western Australia’s spectacular wildflowers.

Most people tend to visit Mullewa around August and September when the wildflowers draw tourists and locals into the desert plains to see the blooming colour.  Mullewa is one of the few places in WA where the unique wreath flower grows.  But a number of tourists are coming out-of-season to see Mullewa’s hidden drawcard – a stunning and unique stone church.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Mullewa

Alter of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Mullewa
Image copyright WA Museum

Our Lady of Mount Carmel church was designed and built in 1923 by Monsignor John Hawes almost entirely by himself with some help from local farmers.  When the parish could no longer afford to pay a stone mason, Hawes took on the job himself. 

The church is made with local stone and the architecture is Romanesque style, similar to churches found in southern Europe. To find such an architectural gem in a town of less than a thousand people is quite astounding.

Monsignor Hawes

Monsignor John Hawes was an architect, missionary and a priest who found solace and fulfilment in the largest and most remote diocese of the Catholic Church – Western Australia's Mid-West. 

Arriving in 1915, he contributed significantly to the development of the region, designing and building more than 20 churches, cathedrals, chapels and hermitages. In some cases he constructed them with his own hands.

The Heritage Trail

Our Lady of Mount Carmel is just one of the 15 architectural gems on the Monsignor Hawes Heritage Trail.  The Trail takes in eight regional towns and is a self-drive tour between Carnarvon to the north, Yalgoo in the East and Perenjori in the South.

In many cases the tourists that follow the Monsignor Hawes Heritage Trail drive and stay in these towns, building a sustaining tourism economy.

Many of the Mid-West’s smaller towns have limited ways of attracting visitors outside of wildflower season and the Hawes buildings are an attraction that brings visitors to worship, learn about the history of the region and the work of this remarkable man. By promoting each other on the trail, they are promoting a more sustainable future.