Story Telling

Story telling and truth telling is an important part of reconciliation.  Below the Town has started compiling stories to build community knowledge, awareness and understanding of local stories and our cultural history. 

Story of Country

For at least the last 38,000 years, Whadjuk people cultivated cultural landscapes in alignment with local climate and weather patterns. The alluvial floodplains of the Swan River enabled fields of native grasses underneath an open forest studded with large jarrah trees. Further inland, a dense banksia woodland grew on the dune and swale system of the ancient Bassendean Sands. 

Prior to colonisation, the cultural landscape of the Town and its surrounds were maintained through a complex system of community and Lore that aligned with the six seasons. The swales of this area held a mosaic of seasonal creek lines and swamps that crisscrossed between the Swan and Canning Rivers.

The banks of the rivers had muddy soils with open jarrah forest and native grasses growing thickly in the floodplains, maintained through cultural burning to discourage overgrowth and enabled easy travel, open sites for camping, and plenty of herbage and open areas for hunting and gathering by Whadjuk people. 

Travelling southeast from Perth, when crossing the Swan River and heading towards Mindeera Springs, one would have come across the mud flats of present-day Heirisson Island. Before the dredging and reclamation of the Swan River, a group of several islands in the middle of the Swan River could be reached by walking in knee-deep mud.

The islands of these mud flats are sacred sites, with their oyster shell beds left behind as part of the Waugyl’s creation journey from the hills through to the mudflats, where he was caught and shook off scales, now seen as oyster shells. These islands, Yoonderup, Kakaroomup, and Goonagar, were encircled by reeds. Kakaroomup island was the birthing site of well-known Whadjuk woman Fanny Balbuk’s mother.

Further upstream from the islands, along the present-day Burswood Peninsula, was a Whadjuk well with fresh spring water. Located just south of the Heirisson Island crossing point in the Swan River, the freshwater Mindeera Springs connected Whadjuk trails north and south of the river to camping sites, birthing sites, and burial sites. This crossroads was a meeting place and neutral ground providing safe passage for families travelling through.

Northeast from Mindeera Springs, the present-day Burswood Peninsula was a popular area for camping sites and freshwater sources. It was also the Country of Windan, a prominent female leader of the Mooro people, and the mother of the leader Yellagonga. Windan’s burial, as well as other Whadjuk people’s burials, are still within this peninsula today.

At the point of colonial contact, these Whadjuk cultural landscapes were managed by and in the custodianship of the kin of Fanny Balbuk, as well as several other Whadjuk leaders including Balbuk’s uncles Beenan, Yoorgan, and Kareen; Dygan (Kareen’s daughter); Windan and her daughter Ngalgoonga. Their land extends from the Canning River on the western edges of present-day South Perth through to the Town, north-eastward towards Heirisson Island and the Burswood Peninsula, southward towards the Canning River, and extending southeast towards Welshpool. These Whadjuk families identified as a mixture of Ballarok and Nagarnook skin groups, which tied into the complex kinship moieties that empowered family members as custodians across their cultural landscapes.

As wetter Noongar seasons encroached, the Ballarok and Nagarnook Whadjuk people would begin moving away from the riverbanks to avoid being flooded, and travel further inland. In the drier seasons, they would travel back towards the rivers and camp along the floodplain, as the inland banksia woodlands were relatively dry.

As pastoralists took over ever increasing amounts of land, creating orchards, running their livestock onto kangaroo paddocks, and continuously drawing up new lots and boundaries, an unequal friction was created with Whadjuk people whose ecological and cultural values were being violated. 

Whadjuk family groups along the Canning River would have struggled to access their usual pathways and foods. When viewed through the lens of unmet basic human needs due to colonists not following Whadjuk Lore, Whadjuk “attacks” on colonists, such as spearing livestock and taking their potatoes, were adaptive ways of surviving in a rapidly changing cultural landscape. 

Despite the devastating impacts of colonisation in and since the nineteenth century, Whadjuk people still follow their Lore, with Elders and leaders advocating for the protection of sacred sites, the value of fresh water, and the rehabilitation of endemic cultural landscapes over many decades. 


Jordanna Rebbeck (April 2023). Mindeera Advisory Group Member with editorial assistance from Dirima Cuthbert and Joe Dortch. 

Boundary Road/Perth's Prohibited Area

The State Records Office and Western Australian Museum have collated information and maps on the 'Native Pass' System which was in effect between 1927 and 1954 and included parts of the Town of Victoria Park (between 1917 and 1994 the Town formed part of the City of Perth).


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