Monday, December 17, 2012

Mooro/Goomap

As I started writing a bit about Australia, as well as a bit about Aborigines, I thought it might be good to write a tiny bit about Perth.*

Even though it's not considered the favourite city amongst Australians (and those who move to Australia), I actually think it's quite nice. Maybe my initial unfamiliarity is to blame, but I like the fact that it's big enough and small enough at the same time. You can find everything you need and still not have your toes stepped on by five million people. There's concerts all the time and it's not being skipped over (which is often the case with Zagreb), and at the same time it's cozy enough to have this laid back vibe.

Anyway, Perth got its name from the home of Sir George Murray. He was born in Perth, Scotland, and was the Colonial Secretary who at that time represented Perth Shires in the House of Commons. It was the colony's first Governor, James Stirling, who later wanted to honour this man and thus named the city after his hometown.

The city's Aboriginal name is Mooro or Goomap. Before the Europeans colonised the area (in the 19th century), it had been inhabited by the Whadjuk Noongar people for over 40,000 years, according to evidence by archaeological findings on the Upper Swan River. These Aborigines occupied the southwest corner of Western Australia, living as hunter-gatherers. The wetlands on the Swan Coastal Plain were particularly important to them, both spiritually, featuring in local mythology, and as a source of food. Rottnest, Carnac and Garden Islands were also important to the Noongar. About 5,000 years ago the sea levels were low enough that they could walk to the limestone outcrops.

The area where Perth now stands was called Boorloo by the Aboriginals living there at the time of their first contact with Europeans in 1827. Boorloo formed part of Mooro, the tribal lands of the Yellagonga. It is one of several groups based around the Swan River and known collectively as the Whadjuk. The Whadjuk were part of a larger group of thirteen or more tribes which formed the south west socio-linguistic block known as the Noongar (meaning "the people" in their language), also sometimes called the Bibbulmun.

The first documented European sighting of the region was made by the Dutch Captain Willem de Vlamingh and his crew on 10 January 1697. Subsequent sightings between this date and 1829 were made by other Europeans, but as in the case of the sighting and observations made by Vlamingh, the area was considered to be inhospitable and unsuitable for the agriculture which would be needed to sustain a settlement (even though the present-day city lies on the mouth of the Swan river, close to the Indian Ocean and offering incredible protection and connection).

Although the British Army had established a base at King George Sound (later Albany) on the south coast of western Australia in 1826 in response to rumours that the area would be annexed by France, Perth was the first full-scale settlement by Europeans in the western third of the continent. The British colony would be officially designated Western Australia in 1832, but was known informally for many years as the Swan River Colony, after the area's major watercourse.


Swan River, WA

On 4 June 1829, newly arriving British colonists had their first view of the mainland, and Western Australia's Foundation Day has since been recognised by a public holiday on the first Monday in June each year. Captain James Stirling, aboard the Parmelia, said that Perth was "as beautiful as anything of this kind I had ever witnessed". On 12 August that year, Helen Dance, wife of the captain of the second ship, Sulphur, cut down a tree to mark the founding of the town.

It is clear that Stirling had already selected the name Perth for the capital well before the town was proclaimed, as his proclamation of the colony, read in Fremantle on 18 June 1829, ended "given under my hand and Seal at Perth this 18th Day of June 1829" by James Stirling Lieutenant Governor. The only contemporary information on the source of the name comes from Fremantle's diary entry for 12 August, which records that they "named the town Perth according to the wishes of Sir George Murray".

Beginning in 1831, hostile encounters (classic...) between the British settlers and the Noongar people – both large-scale land users with conflicting land value systems – increased considerably as the colony grew. This violent phase of the region's history culminated in a series of events in which the British overcame the indigenous people, including the execution of the Whadjuk elder Midgegooroo, the death of his son Yagan in 1833, and the Battle of Pinjarra (south of Perth) in 1834.

By 1843, when Yellagonga died, his people had begun to disintegrate after having been dispossessed of the land around the main settlement area of Perth. They retreated to the swamps and lakes north of the settlement area including Third Swamp, known to them as Boodjamooling. Boodjamooling continued to be a main camp-site for the remaining Noongar people in the Perth region, and was also used by travellers, itinerants  and homeless people. By the gold-rush days of the 1890s, they were joined by miners who were en-route to the Goldfields.

In 1850, Western Australia was opened to convicts at the request of farming and business people looking for cheap labour. Queen Victoria announced the city status of Perth in 1856. Australians are still known as Cons (Convicts) to lots of people around the World (especially Poms, as the Aussies refer to the British).

On 19 September 2006, the Federal Court of Australia brought down a judgment recognising Noongar native title over the Perth metropolitan area, in the case of Bennell vs. State of Western Australia [2006] FCA 1243.

To explain it a bit better, Native title is the recognition by Australian law that some Indigenous people have rights and interests to their land that come from their traditional laws and customs (which the organisation I work in provides services for). Native title rights and interests may include rights to:
  • live on the area
  • access the area for traditional purposes, like camping or to do ceremonies
  • visit and protect important places and sites
  • hunt, fish and gather food or traditional resources like water, wood and ochre
  • teach law and custom on country.
Native title rights and interests differ from Indigenous land rights in that the source of land rights is a grant of title from government. The source of native title rights and interests is the system of traditional laws and customs of the native title holders themselves.

Perth (pronounced as /pɜrθ/, for those who can handle the IPA) is the capital and largest city of the Australian state of Western Australia. It is the fourth most populous city in Australia, with an estimated population of 1.83 million living in the Perth metropolitan area (more on Perth's population in future posts).

The first areas settled were on the Swan River, with the city's central business district and port (Fremantle) both still located on the river. As Fremantle was the first landfall in Australia for many migrant ships coming from Europe in the 1950s and 1960s, Perth started to experience a diverse influx of people, which included Italians, Greeks, Dutch, Germans, Croats, and many others (but I'll write more about that later).

The city's population increased substantially as a result of the Western Australian gold rushes in the late 19th century, largely as a result of emigration from the eastern colonies of Australia. During Australia's involvement in World War II, Fremantle served as a base for submarines operating in the Pacific Theatre. An influx of immigrants following the conclusion of the war was followed by a surge in economic activity as a result of several mining booms in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, with Perth becoming the regional headquarters for a number of mining operations located around the state. As part of Perth's role as the capital of Western Australia, the state's Parliament and Supreme Court are located within the city, as well as Government House, the residence of the Governor of Western Australia.

Perth became known worldwide as the "City of Light" when city residents lit their house lights and streetlights as American astronaut John Glenn passed overhead while orbiting the earth on Friendship 7 in 1962. The city repeated the act as Glenn passed overhead on the Space Shuttle in 1998. Perth came 9th in the Economist Intelligence Unit's August 2012 list of the world's most liveable cities.

Perth CBD from Kings Park

*Info and photo taken from the Internet...

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