Cantwell Park has served as a popular recreation spot for residents and visitors to Pinjarra for over a century. Up until 1914 the land was used by the Roads Board Secretary as a horse paddock, and before that, as the town rubbish tip.
In the early 1920s a charismatic teacher, Mr A.R. Cantwell, persuaded the Roads Board to convert the land into a memorial park to commemorate the fallen soldiers of the Great War. Cantwell was also instrumental in the formation of the Pinjarra branch of the Returned Soldiers League (RSL) a few years earlier.
School children levelled the site by hand, dug flower beds, planted trees and watered the garden using kerosene tins of water from the river during the summer months. On weekends, Mr Cantwell would cut the grass with a scythe.
Soon after the Roads Board were gifted a war souvenir for Memorial Park, a German trench mortar. In 1923 a Mahogany Creek granite war memorial was erected (now relocated to the Pinjarra Civic Centre).
Mr Cantwell was head teacher at the school, though had recently returned from war serving in the 39th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force.
Cantwell has been described as a real character, strong willed and always looking to try new things for the betterment of his pupils or the wider community. His energy, enthusiasm and initiative meant that Cantwell was often at loggerheads with the more conservative Roads Board, however, his untimely death in a car accident in 1927 shocked the community and the former head teacher was widely mourned.
The RSL erected memorial gates at the entry to the park dedicated to his memory.
In 1998 the park was a renamed in Mr Cantwell’s honour. The park now features a playground, BBQ and picnic facilities as well as a number of public artworks, and is a popular place much used by the community.
Created in 2001 as a community project to acknowledge the ongoing contribution of Nyungar people, the six Totem poles represent the six seasons, with each season based on a seasonal food bounty. Pinjarra Senior High School students provided the decorated tiles.
Birak (Marron etching)
December – January: crabs, fishing, prawns, marron, Christmas tree blooms.
Bunuru (Tortoise etching)
February – March: bari grubs, kangaroo, karda (lizard eggs), emu.
Djeran (Fish etching)
April – May: emus, bush honey, wild duck and kangaroo.
Makura (Kangaroo etching)
June – July: emu eggs, possum, wattle gum.
Djilba (Possum etching)
August – September: tortoise, berries, wattles, birds, bardi grubs.
Kamarang (Lizard etching)
October – November: quandong, yams, wild figs, pig face, karda (goanna).