September 26, 2023 will mark the 100th anniversary of the Perth GPO building, a prominent landmark that overlooks Forrest Place and stands opposite Perth Railway Station. Its construction not only led to the creation of a street and later the civic square, Forrest Place, but also played a central role in communication.
The Commonwealth government considered multiple sites before settling on the final location between Wellington and Murray Streets. Construction began in 1915 and took eight years to complete due to the immense size of the building and the challenging terrain. To stabilize the swampy land, 1,600 jarrah poles, each 6 to 9 meters long, were driven into the ground for the foundation. The construction materials, including granite and stone, were sourced locally from Donnybrook in Western Australia.
From its inception, the Perth GPO handled various forms of communication, including letters, parcels, telegrams, and later, long-distance calls. The building was equipped with public telephones, which were always in use. It served as a lifeline for those who relied on international calls and had limited access to home telephones.
During the 1920s, the GPO also became responsible for radio broadcasting services. A radio mast was installed on its roof, broadcasting the second ABC radio station, 6WN. However, the mast was later removed during World War II for safety reasons.
The completion of the GPO also gave rise to a street in front of the building, leading to conflicts between the City of Perth council and the Commonwealth government. The size and purpose of Forrest Place sparked prolonged debates, with the council advocating for a large civic square, while the Commonwealth sought to build shops to recoup costs.
Ultimately, in the 1980s, the site underwent redevelopment and was transformed into a proper town square. Today, the lower levels of the GPO building house retail spaces, while the upper levels serve as offices. Although it no longer offers postal services, the Perth GPO remains an enduring symbol of the city’s history and the evolution of communication over the past century.