© 2014 Elsevier Ltd. This paper draws on the emerging field of evolutionary economic geography to offer insights into the transformation of rural economies. In particular, it focuses on the concepts of path dependence and resilience, and the ways in which these help to explain change within four case study local areas in rural Western Australia. The paper draws on recent advances in dynamic econometrics to examine the ways in the major economic shock of the late 1980s and early 1990s restructuring process 'unlocked' these local economies from existing development pathways and reshaped their trajectories. The paper finds that while common trends were evident across the four case study areas, the ways in which they responded and recovered from the shock were quite different reflecting the diverse ways in which multiscalar processes play out across rural space economies.