South Lake, like many other suburbs east of Bibra Lake, was originally part of the Jandakot Agricultural Area. Parcels of land in the fertile, swampy district were offered for sale by the government in 1890 to encourage new farmers and market gardeners into the area to produce food for a rapidly growing colony.
As early as 1887 settlers had been taking up land in the South Lake area. Brothers Thomas and Anham Briggs held Lots 191 and 192, most of the land fronting onto Forrest Rd (now North Lake Rd). Their fruit and vegetable business became one of the best-known in the district and they went on to serve on the Fremantle Roads Board.
To the south of them James Hicks, a Fremantle property developer, bought Lot 154 and called it Bodalla Estate, dividing it into 2 and 4-acre plots to sell on. Robert Semple had Lot 155 on his eastern border. All of these families will be familiar now to South Lake residents, because all of them later inspired road names in the suburb. The struggle for most of these farmers and market gardeners was that the low-lying land was often flooded and waterlogged, damaging crops and restricting the amount of useful growing space. Calls were frequent for drainage of the chain of lakes we now hold dear.
The area remained rural farmland for the next century, until in 1981 developers began to clear the northern end for suburban housing. One building company suggested the name South Lake (imaginatively because it was ‘south of North Lake’), which was approved in August 1982. The Leisure Centre was completed in late 1991, and the Kwinana Freeway was extended to Yangebup Rd (renamed Beeliar Drive) in 1992.
Below are some articles from the very first few issues of the Cockburn Soundings, showing the progress of the construction of what would become the South Lake Leisure Centre (click to enlarge)