Preliminary planning for WAY 79 began shortly after the March 1971 celebrations of Western Australia's population passing one million. The success of this celebration prompted the Perth Chamber of Commerce to begin planning for Western Australia's sequicentenary. Planning proceeded slowly at first, and it was not until January 1974 that the State Government became involved. When Charles Court became Premier of Western Australia in April of that year, the government took over planning, and preparations began in earnest. The following year the WAY 79 concept was officially launched by the premier. S. W. Dallymore was initially appointed executive officer for the celebrations, but he resigned after two years, and Slade Drake-Brockman was appointed in his place. According to Bolton (1989), "It would be fair to assume that Court and Drake-Brockman played the most significant roles in determining the character of WAY 1979."
The first WAY 79 event was a New Years Eve concert on the Perth Esplanade, attended by about 60,000 people. Performers included Rolf Harris, Fat Cat and Percy Penguin. A controversial moment occurred when the Indigenous activist Ken Colbung, who had been invited to perform on the didgeridoo, handed an eviction notice to the Governor of Western Australia, Sir Wallace Kyle. Colbung claimed to be serving the notice on the white people on behalf of Western Australia's Aboriginal people. The notice was pointedly in the same form as the eviction notices given to Aboriginal tenants by the State Housing Commission. Thus the act was both a reminder of Aboriginal land rights and dispossession, and a reference to the contemporary plight of the State's indigenous people. Court was furious at the act, calling it "a cheap and ill-conceived stunt".
One of the main events held under the patronage of WAY 79 was the Miss Universe 1979 pageant, which was held in Perth. It is best remembered for the collapse of a catwalk shortly after the announcement of the winner, Maritza Sayalero. Eight contestants and two media representatives were plunged to the ground, but there were no major injuries.
Another major event was the visit of Prince Charles in March. Among his many engagements was officially opening the Avondale Agricultural Research Station Museum by planting a tree near the entrance. His other tree planting activity included Government House. He also followed the steps of the founders from the Swan River into what is now the city 
Numerous other events were staged under the WAY 79 banner, from yacht races to family reunions and street parties. A twenty cent postage stamp was issued, and a range of merchandise were produced, from books to tea-towels.
Some have noted the celebrations focussed on its perpetuation of the "pioneer myth", which "saw progress in terms of mineral development rather than social justice or environmental amenity". In the analysis by Bolton (1989), the WAY 79 celebrations "offered a sanitised version of the past.... Nobody tried to replicate the heat, the insects, the dysentery, the alcoholism, the boredom and the discomfort which were so intimate a part of daily life in the Swan River Colony."
The subsequent anniversary event celebrated by the state of Western Australia was the 175 celebrations in 2004 during the premiership of Geoff Gallop.
Among the books released was the WAY 79 Sesquicentenary Celebrations Series, 14 volumes on a range of Western Australian topics, possibly the most ambitious publishing venture in the state's history. The Women's Committee for the 150th Anniversary Celebrations produced the volume Reflections; Profiles of 150 Women who helped make Western Australian History. The West Australian contributed Swan River Colony—96 pages of images selected from its newspaper archives The Education Department produced an Atlas of Human Endeavour'' to provide schools with an up-to-date, cartographically represented list of achievements by the state and its people.
An editorial panel, all connected with the University of Western Australia released a 437-page Who is Who in which the candid aim was to change as little as possible what people wrote about themselves. The result was an engaging compendium of academic and political networks of the day which sadly omitted such eminent persons as Sir Paul Hasluck, Sir Norman Brearley, building magnate John Roberts and hallowed Australian Rules footballer Bill Walker.
However, Parliament was provided with a report of the events of the year  The various committees formed did produce ephemeral material - such as the list from the Commerce Committee of the names of those plaques on St Georges Terrace  and the Premier's Department and the Anniversary Board arranged for the New Year proceedings to be kept on record 
One hundred fifty commemorative plaques were installed along St Georges Terrace, Perth, honouring notable figures in Western Australia's history. Since then, additional plaques have been added, so that there is now one for each year from 1829 to 1999.
- Edmonds, Jack (editor) (1979) Swan River colony: life in Western Australia since the early colonial settlement, illustrated by pictures from an exhibition mounted by West Australian Newspapers Ltd. as a contribution to celebrations for the state's 150th year Perth : West Australian Newspapers.ISBN 0909699208
- Jarvis, Neil (1986)Western Australia, an atlas of human endeavour Perth, W.A : Dept. of Lands and Surveys in association with the Education Dept. of Western Australia 2nd ed. ISBN 0-7309-0082-7 Previous ed.: Perth, W.A. : Government Printer, 1979. p.46
- Sacks M A (ed)(1980) The WAY 79 Who is Who: synoptic biographies of Western Australians Crawley Publishers, Nedlands, W.A. ISBN 0-949848-00-X editor's preface.
- Western Australia, 1829-1979 : a report on the celebrations to the Parliament of Western Australia by the 150th Anniversary Board. Perth : Government Printer, 1980.
- A walk through the history of Western Australia, 1829-1979 : a chronological presentation of those persons commemorated on bronze inlaid paving tiles on St. George's Terrace, Perth WAY '79 Commerce Committee.
- 150th New Year's Eve Celebration Concert (WAY 79) [videorecording]. TVW 7 for Premier's Dept. 150th Anniversary Celebrations Board, 1979. 4 videocassettes (VHS) ( min.) : sd., col. ; 1/2".[State Film Archives collection] PAL.4 videocassettes (U Matic) ( min.) : sd., col ; 3/4" ; PAL.
- "Read a Story - William Backshall". Immigration Place Australia. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
- "The Dictionary of Western Australians 1829 to 1914". Rica Erickson website. Library and Information Service of Western Australia. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
- St George's Terrace Commemorative Plaques 1829-1989, City of Perth, June 2003, retrieved 31 August 2013
- City of Perth St. George's Terrace Commemorative Plaques for 1990-1999, City of Perth, 10 June 2009, retrieved 31 August 2013
- Bolton, G. C. (1989). "WAY 1979: Whose Celebration?". In Layman, Lenore and Stannage, Tom. Celebrations in Western Australian History (Studies in Western Australian History X). Nedlands, Western Australia: University of Western Australia Press. pp. 14–20.
- Gregory, Jenny (2003) City of light: : a history of Perth since the 1950s Perth, W.A. City of Perth, ISBN 0-9594632-4-0 p. 219-231, -has a description of celebrations throughout 1979 to mark the 150th anniversary of the foundation of Western Australia as a British colony.
- WAY '79 Commerce Committee A walk through the history of Western Australia, 1829-1979 : a chronological presentation of those persons commemorated on bronze inlaid paving tiles on St. George's Terrace, Perth (found in Battye Library)
- Popham, Daphne (ed.) (1979) . Reflections - Profiles of 150 Women who helped make Western Australia's history. Stokes, Kerry Ann (Illust.) (2nd edition ed.). p. 266 pp. ISBN 0-909994-84-6.