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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 sesquicentenary. 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 in 1989, "It would be fair to assume that Court and Drake-Brockman played the most significant roles in determining the character of WAY 1979."[page needed]
Ken Colbung had been invited to perform on the didgeridoo; the Indigenous activist used the occasion to hand 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 that used by the State Housing Commission for eviction notices to Aboriginal tenants. The act was intended both as 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 event, calling it "a cheap and ill-conceived stunt".
One of the major events held in Perth under the patronage of WAY 79 was the Miss Universe 1979 pageant. Maritza Sayalero of Venezuela won the pageant; as numerous press people crowded close to photograph her, the catwalk collapsed. Eight contestants and two media representatives were plunged to the ground, but there were no major injuries.
In March Prince Charles made a state visit, representing the Crown. 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. The government issued a commemorative twenty cent postage stamp. Both official and commercial merchandise was produced to mark the occasion, 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 1989 Bolton wrote that 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.
Among the books published was the WAY 79 Sesquicentenary Celebrations Series, 14 volumes on a range of Western Australian topics. 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 list of achievements by the state and its people, with graphics and accurate maps.
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; it omitted such eminent persons as Rolf Harris, Sir Paul Hasluck, Sir Laurence Brodie-Hall, Kim Beazley Jr, Sir Norman Brearley, building magnate John Roberts and champion Australian Rules footballer Bill Walker.
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.
St Georges Terrace plaques
One hundred and fifty commemorative plaques were installed along St Georges Terrace, Perth, honouring notable figures in Western Australia's history. Since then, more plaques have been added and, as of August 2014[update], the years to 1999 were included. In July 2014, the 1959 plaque of Rolf Harris was removed by the City of Perth following his conviction in the UK on charges of indecent assault.
- 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.
- Richman, Alan (1985-07-15), "The saga of Miss Universe: 79 beauties, a closet space crisis and the cachet of a chamois bikini", People Weekly (Time Inc.) 24: 36, ISSN 0093-7673
- http://henrietta.liswa.wa.gov.au/record=b2565641~S2 - Armstrong, Ronald (photographer).The tree planted in Government House Gardens by the Prince of Wales 19 March 1979 as part of the WAY '79 celebrations
- International Conference on Indian Ocean Studies (2nd : 1984 : Perth, W.A.); Western Australian Institute of Technology; University of Western Australia; Murdoch University; Western Australian College of Advanced Education (1984), Second International Conference on Indian Ocean Studies : Perth, Western Australia, 1984, University of Western Australia, ISBN 978-0-86422-025-7
- Parmelia Hilton International (1979), The Parmelia race, Plymouth to Perth, 1979 : a yacht race from Plymouth, England, via Cape Town, South Africa, to Fremantle, Western Australia, to commemorate the voyage of the merchant barque Parmelia when she conveyed the first settlers to the Swan River Colony, in 1829 : Sandovers souvenir programme, Wescolour Press, retrieved 9 June 2014
- Stannage, C. T. (Charles Thomas); University of Western Australia. University Extension; University of Western Australia. Summer School (57th : 1985) (1985), Western Australia's heritage : the pioneer myth, University Extension, University of Western Australia, ISBN 978-0-909704-50-6
- * 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.
- Western Australia (1980), 175th anniversary of the founding of the Swan River Colony, Govt. of Western Australia, retrieved 9 June 2014
- 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 Margaret A. (ed.) The WAY 79 Who is Who: Synoptic biographies of Western Australians, Crawley Publishers, Nedlands, W.A., 1980. ISBN 0-949848-00-X. (Cited from 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.
- WAY '79. Commerce Committee (1979), 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, [Perth, retrieved 9 June 2014
- "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 (PDF), City of Perth, June 2003, retrieved 17 July 2014
- City of Perth St. George's Terrace Commemorative Plaques for 1990-1999 (PDF), City of Perth, 10 June 2009, retrieved 17 July 2014
- "Rolf Harris plaque removed from Perth CBD". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 16 July 2014. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
- "City of Perth digs up Rolf Harris plaque". WAtoday. 16 July 2014. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
- "Perth rips up Rolf Harris plaque". ninemsn. 16 July 2014. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
- 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 ed.). ISBN 0-909994-84-6.