The Great Southern is Western Australia’s southernmost region, bordered by the Southern Ocean where the coast stretches for approximately 250 kilometres. Spanning over 39,007 square kilometres, the region represents 1.5% of Western Australia’s total land mass and extends inland for 200 kilometres. Deemed as one of the most liveable regions in WA, the Great Southern is renowned for its unspoilt natural environment including white sand beaches, tall timber forests, wildflowers and a spectacular rugged coastline complete with whales, dolphins and other marine life, the region has an inspiring and diverse tourism offering.
The Great Southern region is known for its primary production, natural and harvested fishing, aquaculture, award winning vineyards, fine food and wine culture, ecotourism and natural attractions. The Region’s population in 2020 was estimated to be nearly 61,400, with a median age of 44. The City of Albany, the State’s oldest European settlement (settled in 1826) is the region’s administrative, business and financial hub. Albany is home to approximately 38,300 residents or 62% of the region’s population.
The tourism sector is a key component of the economy within the region. The coastline is rugged, exciting and accessible, with Misery Beach being named Australia’s best in 2022 by Tourism Australia. Little Beach, Blossoms Beach, Greens Pool and Peaceful Bay are other Great Southern beaches recommended by the Australia’s South West Regional Tourism Organisation. The region also includes some of the oldest granite ranges in the world including the Stirling and Porongurup Ranges. A large part of the Great Southern’s culture and tourism is based on its important role in WA’s history, both European and Noongar. Lonely Planet rates the National Anzac Centre in Albany a top choice destination.
The Region includes part of the 1.5million hectare Biosphere Reserve of the Fitzgerald River National Park and is recognised as a place of environmental significance by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The Reserve ranks among the most important areas for plant biodiversity in the world and contains over 250 rare or geographically restricted plant and animal species, about many of which little is known. Of the 5,000 or so vascular plant species native to this area, 79% are endemic.
The Great Southern tourism experience has expanded in recent years with a four-star hotel in Albany; additional cellar doors and restaurants throughout the region; significant upgrades to regional trails; and the spectacular Bremer Bay Orca experience where the deep-sea Bremer Canyon Sub-Basin attracts Killer Whales and other unique marine life. The Great Southern is the fifth most visited region in the State of WA, with around 740,000 overnight visitors each year. This includes 67,000 interstate visitors and 61,000 international visitors.
The coastal part of the Great Southern region enjoys a Mediterranean climate with typically warm summers and cool, wet winters. Rainfall decreases and temperature increases moving from the coast to inland areas. The north and east of the region is considered to be semi-arid with hot and dry conditions. Higher rainfall areas tend to support a wider range and greater diversity of industry activities.
In 2020, the population of the Great Southern was estimated to be 61,400 with approximately 38,300 living in Albany.
In 2019, the top three Industry Sectors by employment are:
- Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing at 4,978 jobs
- Health Care and Social Assistance at 4,708 jobs
- Retail Trade at 3894 jobs
In 2020, the majority of Great Southern businesses had a turnover of between $50,000 and $2 million, and over 50 businesses a turnover of $10 million or more.
There are nearly 7,000 businesses in the Great Southern. Of these 4,377 are non-employing (sole traders) and 152 employ 20 or more employees.
Want to find more data like this? Visit the Data and Statistical Resources below for more information.
District Centres in the Great Southern region with populations of around 5,000 include the towns of Denmark, Katanning and Mount Barker. Smaller towns in the region, with populations of less than 2,500 include Kojonup, Woodanilling, Pingrup, Nyabing, Jerramungup, Bremer Bay, Wellstead, Cranbrook, Frankland, Tambellup Broomehill, Borden, Ongerup, Gnowangerup, Nornalup, Kendenup, Rocky Gully and Tenterden.
The Great Southern is bounded by the South West region to the west, the Wheatbelt region to the north and the Goldfields Esperance region to the east. It is one of the smallest of the nine regions in Western Australia by the hectare, and third lowest by Gross Regional Product at $4.979 billion, but it is the second largest agricultural producer in Western Australia. Primary production is the core strength of the Great Southern economy, contributing 17.5% of the region’s turnover. The main agricultural industries include cropping, livestock and wool, with horticulture and viticulture also important contributors to this sector. There are major sheep and lamb export abattoirs at Katanning and Narrikup (near Albany) and a smaller abattoir at Beaufort River.
Diversification from traditional agricultural methods has seen developments of the following industries in the region: timber, light engineering, energy, horticulture, tourism (adventure and ecotourism), fine food and wine (marketing, farmers markets, regional branding), aquaculture, and bush products and exports.
The moderate coastal climate and clean image associated with the Great Southern has enabled the Region to become a prime centre for production of high value fruits, nuts and vegetables including strawberries, potatoes, and asparagus. Being free from major diseases and pests, the region is an ideal location for fruit and vegetable production.
The woodchip industry continues to be one of the primary exporters in the region. The dominant species planted are Tasmanian blue gums and pines. From March 2021 – March 2022, the Port of Albany’s rolling annual trade from 145 ship visits was 4,092,115 (tn) in exports, of which 3million was grain, and 213,361 (tn) in imports.
The Great Southern is the State’s second largest wine grape producing region, with many wines receiving international recognition. In 2021, the top five varieties in the Great Southern were Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Semillon. Wine Tasting and the cellar door experience are an important attraction for tourists.
The commercial fishing industry on the south coast is an important contributor to the socioeconomic health of the region. There is a wide diversity of products including pilchards, salmon, crabs, herring, estuarine species, deep sea table fish, sharks, rock lobster and aquaculture species such as oysters and mussels. The products provide seafood availability and food security for local residents and are keenly sought by tourists visiting the region. The benefits flow to local restaurants and fish and chip shops throughout the Great Southern, and to discerning metropolitan markets, thereby creating jobs and value-added opportunities. Other industrial activities include the retail, tourism, construction, and manufacturing sectors.
Great Southern Data and Statistical Resources
The links below will provide access to data and information which will assist when building convincing business cases for project funding.
The ABS is Australia’s national statistical agency and an official source of independent, reliable information. The depth of data can be overwhelming, so it is recommended that users be very focused and perform specific searches using the Data by Region portal as a starting point. The Albany Regional Summary (SA3) is a statistical division which includes the 11 local governments, but searches can also be done by each Local Government Area (LGA).
For a detailed ABS Regional summary of the Great Southern region click here.
The Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics (BITRE) provides economic analysis, research and statistics on infrastructure and transport to inform both Australian Government policy development and wider community understanding.
The Bureau of Meteorology is Australia’s national weather, climate and water agency. The Bureau contributes to national social, economic, cultural and environmental goals by providing observational, meteorological, hydrological and oceanographic services and by undertaking research into science and environment related issues in support of its operations and services.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) works with industry, government and the research community to turn science into solutions to address Australia’s greatest challenges, including food security and quality; clean energy and resources; health and wellbeing; resilient and valuable environments; innovative industries; and a secure Australia and region.
The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences is the research arm of the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. It provides professionally independent data, research, analysis and advice that informs public and private decisions affecting Australian agriculture, fisheries and forestry.
The Western Australian Government’s Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) works to protect the sustainability of natural resources and accelerate ongoing economic growth, job creation and regional development.
The GSDC’s role is to coordinate and support endeavours that build the economy and promote growth in the Great Southern region of Western Australia. The GSDC works with the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. The GSDC provides links to the Remplan Great Southern Community Profile and Economic Profile.
The Regional Australia Institute (RAI) is the nation’s first and only independent think tank dedicated to building robust regional economies and a better quality of life in our regional towns and cities. They are a non-partisan, not-for-profit organisation that undertakes research to stimulate and activate rural and regional communities. RAI assists decision-makers at all levels of government, industry and community have the information they need to ensure the best outcomes for regional Australia.
Tourism Research Australia (TRA) is a branch within Austrade. TRA is Australia’s leading provider of quality tourism intelligence across both international and domestic markets.
They equip industry with information to strengthen their marketing and business decisions and their data underpins government tourism policy and help improve the performance of the tourism industry for the benefit of the Australian community.