Aboriginal History in the City of Melville

The City of Melville sits within the cultural region of Beeliar, bound by Melville Waters and the Canning River on the north through to Katamordo (Darling Ranges) on the east, the moomboyet (sea) to the west and by the line due east from Mangles Bay on the south.

Noongar people’s concept of life prior to settlement was to care for the land because it was part of their identity as a people. They cared for the plants, soils, animals and waters for it was part of them. There was no risk of destroying other life forms and land because of the strong physical and spiritual bond with the Australian landscape through The Dreaming time of creation by powerful ancestors who formed the environmental features found today.

The laws and customs of Aboriginal peoples or Torres Strait Islanders say they must have connections with the land and/or waters. As custodians, physically and spiritually, to protect and maintain, it was also spiritually important for the oneness of ancestors and the environment. Hunters and gatherers were observers relying on detailed knowledge of climate and native plants and animals in order to survive. They followed six seasons, Birak, Bunuru, Djeran, Makuru, Djilba, Kambarang.

The Noongar Beeliar cultural group, lead by Midgegooroo and Yagan, was the first Aboriginal group in Western Australia to suffer the full impact of European settlement. The invasion was initially peaceful because the Aboriginal people believed the white men were the returning spirits or re-incarnates of their own dead, however, cultural conflict developed between the original landowners and the new land occupiers. The untold version of settlement is that Noongar people did fight for their land and this is why Rottnest Island began to house the leaders and young men who stood in the way of European development.

When the settlers reduced Aboriginal access to essential food sources, violent conflict continued. Many hundreds of Aboriginal people died or were forcibly removed. Beeliar survivors fled to Coolbellup/Walliabup lake area, which is an ancient principal campsite for all south west Noongar people.

Aboriginal Heritage Terms and Definitions

The following terms and definitions have been developed based on the guidance and advice of Aboriginal community members and Elders.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander is used in preference to "indigenous" to refer to Australia's First People.

Bibbulmun people is used in preference to "Noongars" to refer to Aboriginal people from the southwest portion of Western Australia, including Perth. Bibbulmun is considered to be a more inclusive term because "Noongars" (alternative spellings include Nyungars, Nyoongars, Nyoongahs, Nyungahs, Nyugahs and Yungas) specifically refers to men, and there is a separate term, "Yorgas" for women.

Whadjuk (or Wadjuk) territory is the traditional region of Perth in which the Bibbulmun people resided. Tindale (1974) explains the Whadjuk's territory as extending: "(From the) Swan River and northern and eastern tributaries inland to beyond Mount Helena; at Kalamunda, Armadale, Victoria Planes, South of Toodyay, and western vicinity of York; at Perth; south along the coast to near Pinjarra." (South-West Tribal Boundaries after Tindale, 1974).

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