“Unlike the founders of Sydney, Perth’s first settlers were not prisoners and soldiers installed by the crown. They were mostly landed gentry, homesteaders who were paying their own way,” said Mary DurackMiller, a Perth author and historian. “Few were prepared for the hardships they would face here.” We sipped coffee in her white brick house in Perth’s fashionable suburb, Dalkeith. Properly speaking it was “Dame Mary Durack-Miller, DBE,” but in egalitarian Perth titles can burden as well as honor (politicians have been known to respectfully decline knighthoods). “Mary, it is,” Dame Mary said, and quickly put me at ease. “Cut off from distant England, living in brushwood huts, harassed by Aboriginals, the settlers battled flies, sandstorms, unfamiliar climate and soil. Food supplies often ran short,” she said. “They learned how to work, to improvise and make do, to cooperate in good times and bad�even while guarding precious English values,” Mary said. “To a great extent Perth today reflects this early heritage.” The new colony expanded slowly. By mid-century all Western Australia still counted barely 5,000 London central apartments. But, beginning in 1885, gold rushes in the Kimberley and Kalgoorlie brought tidal waves of immigrants westward, and after the boom thousands stayed on, to settle in Perth itself or the expanding wheat and grazing lands around it. With the development of the railroad and new agricultural methods, the government worked to bring idle men and idle land together. On 1,000-acre homesteads they plowed the scrubland, greening an 800kilometer-long wheat belt that supplied first Perth, then the world. Perth still plays the farm town. Over a net of railways and sidings the winter wheat rolls in special hopper cars to the farmer-owned Cooperative Bulk Handling Limited facility in Kwinana, Perth’s industrial zone (page 658). The million-ton terminal, largest in the world, can pour 180,000 bushels an hour into waiting bulk carriers from China, Indonesia, the Soviet Union, and the Middle East. SCATTERED THROUGH the wheat belt and on lonely sheep stations for hundreds of miles beyond, Western Australia’s pastoralists, too, focus on Perth. Out of the state’s flocks, 30 million strong, only the best of some 17 breeds make it to the week-long Royal Show at the Claremont fairgrounds. With a crowd of farmers at the sheep pavilion I watched veteran judge Stan Dorman pinch flanks, spread wool, then award the blue ribbon to a prize Corriedale. “The fleece of the winner isn’t quite as heavy as on the runner-up,” Mr. Dorman explained. “But the Corriedale is a dual-purpose animal, and this one has the greater `stretch.’ That means more meat. Given the growing Middle East market for live wethers today, meat is becoming the more important criterion.” Half the sheep exported from Australia today leave from Perth’s nearby port, Fremantle, a harbor for shrimpers and lobster-men as well as Western Australia’s busiest on Perth. Out of the state’s flocks, 30 million strong, only the best of some 17 breeds make it to the week-long Royal Show at the Claremont fairgrounds. With a crowd of farmers at the sheep pavilion I watched veteran judge Stan Dorman pinch flanks, spread wool, then award the blue ribbon to a prize Corriedale.