The first posties in Western Australia were the colonists themselves, but they quickly priced themselves out of the market. So the Government decided to turn to a cheaper option.
Since Rottnest Island was a harsh prison for Aborigines, it was from here the new posties were ‘recruited’. In exchange for basic rations, sometimes just a handful of flour, Indigenous men were forced to carry the mail all over WA.
Failure to fulfill any part of the ‘bargain’ would mean an instant return to the hell that was Rotto.
So from October 1848, a new (almost free) postal service was in place. The lucky ‘employees’ had to walk with a hefty bag from Perth to Mandurah, or Mandurah to Bunbury, or Bunbury to Busselton. They could easily rack up more than 200 km a week.
Unsurprisingly, some Aboriginal posties became injured through exertion, alarming the Government who wanted no interruption to their bargain-priced mail service.
As the number of leg injuries continued to rise, one kind soul suggested the posties be given ponies to ride. Fortunately, colonists were not heartless. Letters poured into newspapers protesting this proposed scheme.
How dare we think of doing that to the poor animals? Anyone familiar with brutish natives would know they would mistreat the poor ponies! Far better to break a few Aborigines, than one four-legged friend should be put at risk.
So the posties were forced to keep up the long walks, for no pay. The only reward being to keep out of Rottnest Prison.
Eventually mail bags became so heavy, the posties couldn’t lift them any more, so good white folk once again took over.
Naturally, they used a horse and carriage. Any other way would be unthinkable.