Noongar groups

The Noongar (/ˈnʊŋɑː/) (also spelt Nyungar, Nyoongar, Nyoongah, Nyungah, Nyugah, Yunga) are a constellation of peoples of Indigenous Australian descent who live in the south-west corner of Western Australia, from Geraldton on the west coast to Esperance on the south coast. Noongar country is now understood as referring to the land occupied by 14 different groups: Amangu, Ballardong[JJS1] , Yued, Kaneang, Koreng, Mineng, Njakinjaki, Njunga, Pibelmen, Pindjarup, Wardandi, Whadjuk, Wiilman and Wudjari.

The members of the collective Noongar cultural block descend from peoples who spoke several languages and dialects that were often mutually intelligible. What is now classed as the Noongar language is a member of the large Pama-Nyungan language family. Contemporary Noongar speak Australian Aboriginal English (a dialect of the English language) laced with Noongar words and occasionally inflected by its grammar. Most contemporary Noongar trace their ancestry to more than one of these groups. The 2001 census figures showed that 21,000 people identified themselves as indigenous in the south-west of Western Australia.


The endonym of the Noongar comes from a word originally meaning “man” or “person”.


Main article: Noongar language

At the time of European settlement it is believed that the peoples of what became the Noongar community spoke thirteen dialects, of which five still had speakers with some living knowledge of their respective versions of the language. No speakers use it over the complete range of everyday speaking situations, and the full resources of the language are available only to a few individuals.

Ecological context

The Noongar peoples have six seasons whose time frame is defined by specific observable changes to the environment, with a dry period varying from as few as three to as many as eleven months. Tribes are spread over three different geological systems: the coastal plains, the plateau, and the plateau margins; all areas are characterized by relatively infertile soil. The north is characterized by casuarina, acacia and melaleuca thickets, the south by mulga scrubland but it also supported dense forest stands. Several rivers run to the coast and with lakes and wetlands provided the Noongar people with their distinctive food and vegetation resources.

Generally, Noongar made a living by hunting and trapping a variety of game, including kangaroos, possums and wallabies; for people close to the coastal zone or riverine systems, spear-fishing or culling fish in traps was customary. An extensive range of edible wild plants were also available, including yams and wattle seeds. Nuts of the zamia palm, eaten during the Djeran season (April–May) required extensive treatment to remove its toxicity, and for women it may have had a contraceptive effect. As early as 10,000 BP local people utilised quartz, replacing chert flint for spear and knife edges when the chert deposits were submerged by sea level rise during the Flandrian transgression.

History of contact

Main article: Aboriginal history of Western Australia

Before the arrival of Europeans, the Noongar population has been variously estimated at between 6,000 and some tens of thousands. Colonisation by the British brought both violence and new diseases, taking a heavy toll on the population. The Noongar, like many other Aboriginal peoples, saw the arrival of Europeans as the returning of deceased people, often imagining them as relatives who deserved accommodation. As they approached from the west, the newcomers were called djaanga (or djanak), meaning “white spirits”.

Carrolup River Native Settlement, c. 1951, near Katanning

Initially relations were generally cordial. Matthew Flinders[JJS2]  recognized the success of his three-week sojourn as due in good part to Noongar diplomacy, and Noongar rituals celebrated their reception of the newcomers in a ceremonial form. When settlement became more firmly established, however, misunderstandings over the obligations of reciprocity – some of the most productive land was being taken especially on the Upper Swan – led to sporadic clashes. An example of such misunderstandings was the Noongar land-management practice of setting fires in early summer, mistakenly seen as an act of hostility by the settlers. Conversely, the Noongar saw the settlers’ livestock as fair game to replace the dwindling stocks of native animals shot indiscriminately by settlers. The only area that successfully resisted the usurpation of native land for any time was the area around the Murray River, which effectively blocked expansion of the tiny settlement at Mandurah for almost half a decade.

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In June 1832 a Whadjuk leader, Yagan, formerly of good standing among the settler authorities and known in the colony for his handsome bearing, “tall, slender, well-fashioned..of pleading countenance”, was, together with his father Midgegooroo and brother Monday, declared an outlaw after undertaking a series of food raids and revenge attacks in retaliation for some 16 Whadjuk who had been killed since the establishment of the settlement. Caught and imprisoned, he escaped and was let alone, as though informally reprieved as a native version of William Wallace.

His father was caught, and killed without trial by a military firing squad. Yagan himself, with a bounty on his head, was ambushed soon afterwards by an 18-year-old settler youth, after he had stopped two settlers and asked for flour. His corpse was decapitated and the skull sent to England for display in fairgrounds. Yagan is now considered a Noongar hero, by many to have been one of the first indigenous resistance fighters. Matters escalated with conflicts between the settlement of Thomas Peel and the Pindjarup people, resulting in the Pinjarra massacre.  

Similarly struggles with Balardong people in the Avon Valley continued until violently suppressed by Lieutenant Henry William St Pierre Bunbury. Notwithstanding this violence, extraordinary acts of goodwill existed. In the same year, 1834, the Swan River Noongar couple, Migo and Molly Dobbin, alerted to the fact a European child had gone missing, covered 22 miles (35 km) in 10 hours tracking his spoors, and saved him, at the point of death.

From August 1838 ten Aboriginal prisoners were sent to Rottnest Island (known as Wadjemup to the Noongar, possibly meaning “place across the water”). After a short period when both settlers and prisoners occupied the island, the Colonial Secretary announced in June 1839 that the island would become a penal establishment for Aboriginal people and was officially designated as such in 1841. From that time down to 1903 when the indigenous section was closed, Rottnest Island was used as a prison to transfer Aboriginal prisoners “overseas”.

To “pacify” the Aboriginal population, men were rounded up and chained for offences ranging from spearing livestock, burning the bush or digging vegetables on what had been their own land. It quickly became a “place of torment, deprivation and death”, and it has been estimated that there may be as many as 369 Aboriginal graves on the island, of which five were for prisoners who had been hanged. Except for a short period between 1849 and 1855, during which the prison was closed, some 3,700 Aboriginal men and boys, many of them Noongars, but also many others from all parts of the state, were imprisoned.

A significant development for the Noongar people in the Western Australian Colony was the arrival of Rosendo Salvado in 1846. Highly cultured, very caring, practical and down to earth, Salvado dedicated his life to promoting the humane treatment of the Australian Aboriginals at the mission he created at New Norcia, the territory of the Yued.

The Njunga found refuge under his roof, and he defended many natives up on charges of theft, arguing from Church doctrine that theft was not criminal if dictated by dire necessity. While intent on converting, he encouraged the Noongar to maintain their traditional culture.

From 1890 to 1958, the lives and lifestyles of Noongar people were subject to the Native Welfare Act. By 1915 15% of Perth’s Noongar had been thrust north and interned at the Moore River Native Settlement. Carrolup (later known as Marribank) became the home of up to one-third of the population.

It is estimated that 10 to 25% of Noongar children were forcibly “adopted” during these years, in part of what has become known as the Stolen Generations.


Noongar people live in many country towns throughout the south-west as well as in the major population centres of Perth, Mandurah, Bunbury, Geraldton, Albany and Esperance. Many country Noongar people have developed long-standing relationships with wadjila (white fella[man]) farmers and continue to hunt kangaroo and gather bush tucker (food) as well as to teach their children stories about the land. In a few areas in the south-west, visitors can go on bushtucker walks, trying foods such as kangaroo, emu, quandong jam or relish, bush tomatoes, witchetty grub pâté and bush honey.

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In Perth, the Noongar believe that the Darling Scarp is said to represent the body of a a snakelike being from the Dreamtime that meandered over the land creating rivers, waterways and lakes. It is thought that the Wagyl created the Swan River. The Wagyl has been associated with Wonambi naracoutensis, part of the extinct megafauna of Australia that disappeared between 15 and 50,000 years ago.

The Swan River

Swan River, with Canning River in light blue

Also in Perth, Mount Eliza was an important site for the Noongar. It was a hunting site where kangaroos were herded and driven over the edge to provide meat for gathering clans. In this context, the “clan” is a local descent group – larger than a family but based on family links through a common ancestry. At the base of Mount Eliza is a sacred site where the Wagyl is said to have rested during its journeys.

This site is also the location of the former Swan Brewery which has been a source of contention between local Noongar groups (who would like to see the land, which was reclaimed from the river in the late 19th century, “restored” to them) and the title-holders who wished to develop the site. A Noongar protest camp existed here for several years in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Noongar culture is particularly strong with the written word. The plays of Jack Davis are on the school syllabus in several Australian states.

Jack Davis AM, BEM (11 March 1917 – 17 March 2000) was an Australian 20th-century playwright and poet, and an Indigenous rights campaigner. He was born in Western Australia, in Perth, and lived in Fremantle towards the end of his life. He was of the Aboriginal Noongar people, and much of his work dealt with the Indigenous Australian experience.
Although Davis composed many of his poems while working as a stockman in the Gascoyne in his twenties, his first volume of poetry was not published until 1970.[1] He has been referred to as the twentieth century’s Aboriginal Poet Laureate, and many of his plays are on Australian school syllabuses.
Jack Davis
Davis received the Medal of the Order of the British Empire (BEM) in 1976,[2] and a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1985

Davis’ first full-length play Kullark, a documentary on the history of Aboriginals in WA, was first produced in 1979. Other plays include: No Sugar, The Dreamers, Barungin: Smell the Wind, In Our Town and for younger audiences, Honey Spot and Moorli and the Leprechaun. Kim Scott won the 2000 Miles Franklin Award [JJS4] for his novel Benang and the 2011 award for That Deadman Dance.

Yirra Yaakin describes itself as the response to the Aboriginal Community’s need for positive self-enhancement through artistic expression. It is a theatre company which strives for community development and which also has a drive to create “exciting, authentic and culturally appropriate indigenous theatre”.

The Barnett government of Western Australia announced in November 2014 that, due to changes in funding arrangements with the Abbott Federal government, it was closing 150 of 276 Aboriginal communities in remote locations. As a result, Noongars in solidarity with other Aboriginal groups established a refugee camp on Heirisson Island. Despite police action to dismantle the camp twice in 2015, the camp continued until April 2016.

Despite such state government actions many local governments in the south-west have developed “compacts” or “commitments” with their local Noongar communities to ensure that sites of significance are protected and that the culture is respected. At the same time, the Western Australian Barnett government, also from November 2014, had been forcing the Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee to deregister 300 Aboriginal sacred sites in Western Australia.

Although falling most heavily upon Pilbara and Kimberley sites this government policy also was having an impact upon Noongar lands according to Ira Hayward-Jackson, Chairman of the Rottnest Island Deaths Group. The changes also removed rights of notification and appeal for traditional owners seeking to protect their heritage. A legal ruling on 1 April 2015 overturned the government’s actions on some of the sites deregistered which were found to be truly sacred.

Elders are increasingly asked on formal occasions to provide a “Welcome to Country” and the first steps of teaching the Noongar language in the general curriculum have been made.

In recent years there has been considerable interest in Noongar visual arts. In 2006, Noongar culture was showcased as part of the Perth International Arts Festival. A highlight of the Festival was the unveiling of the monumental “Ngallak Koort Boodja – Our Heart Land Canvas”. The 8-metre (26 ft) canvas was commissioned for the festival by representatives of the united elders and families from across the Noongar nation. It was painted by leading Noongar artists Shane Pickett, Tjyllyungoo, Yvonne Kickett, Alice Warrell and Sharyn Egan.

Noongar ecology

The Noongar people occupied and maintained the Mediterranean climate lands of the south-west ecoregion of Western Australia, and made sustainable use of seven biogeographic regions of their territory, namely;

These seven regions have been acknowledged as a biodiversity hot-spot, having a generally greater number of endemic species than most other regions in Australia. The ecological damage done to this region through clearing, introduced species, by feral animals and non-endemic plants is also severe, and has resulted in a high proportion of plants and animals being included in the categories of rare, threatened and endangered species. In modern times many Aboriginal men were employed intermittently as rabbiters, and rabbit became an important part of Noongar diet in the early 20th century. The Noongar territory also happens to conform closely with the south-west Indian Ocean Drainage Region, and the use of these water resources played a very important seasonal part in their culture.

The Noongar thus have a close connection with the earth and, as a consequence, they divided the year into six distinct seasons  that corresponded with moving to different habitats and feeding patterns based on seasonal foods. They were:

  • Birak (December/January)—Dry and hot. Noongar burned sections of scrubland to force animals into the open for easier hunting.
  • Bunuru (February/March)—Hottest part of the year, with sparse rainfall throughout.
  • Djeran (April/May)—Cooler weather begins. Fishing continued and bulbs and seeds were collected for food.
  • Makuru (June/July)—Cold fronts that have until now brushed the lower south-west coast begin to cross further north. This is usually the wettest part of the year.
  • Djilba (August/September)—Often the coldest part of the year, with clear, cold nights and days, or warmer, rainy and windy periods.
  • Kambarang (October/November)—A definite warming trend is accompanied by longer dry periods and fewer cold fronts crossing the coast. The height of the wildflower season.

Native title

On 19 September 2006 the Federal Court of Australia brought down a judgment which recognised native title in an area over the city of Perth and its surrounds, known as Bennell v State of Western Australia [2006] FCA 1243. An appeal was subsequently lodged and was heard in April 2007.

 The remainder of the larger “Single Noongar Claim” area, covering 193,956 km2 (74,887 sq mi) of the south-west of Western Australia, remains outstanding, and will hinge on the outcome of this appeal process. In the interim, the Noongar people together will continue to be involved in native title negotiations with the Government of Western Australia, and are represented by the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council.

Justice Wilcox’s judgment is noteworthy for several reasons. It highlights Perth’s wealth of post-European settlement writings which provide an insight into Aboriginal life, including laws and customs, around the time of settlement in 1829 and also into the beginning of the last century. These documents enabled Justice Wilcox to find that laws and customs governing land throughout the whole Single Noongar Claim (taking in Perth, and many other towns in the greater South West) were those of a single community. The claimants shared a language and had extensive interaction with others in the claim area.

Importantly, Justice Wilcox found the Noongar community constituted a united society which had continued to exist despite the disruption resulting from mixed marriage and people being forced off their land and dispersed to other areas as a result of white settlement and later Government policies.

In April 2008 the Full Bench of the Federal Court upheld parts of the appeal by the Western Australian and Commonwealth governments against Justice Wilcox’s judgment.

Other native title claims on Noongar lands include:

  • Gnaala Karla Booja: the headwaters of the Murray and Harvey Rivers to the Indian Ocean
  • The Harris Family: The coasts of the area from Busselton to Augusta
  • The South West Boojarah: Lower course of the Blackwood and adjacent coastal areas
  • Southern Noongar Wagyl Kaip: The South Coast to the Blackwood Tributaries
  • The Ballardong Lands: The interior Wheatbelt.


Since the Noongar are largely urbanised or concentrated in major regional towns, studies have shown that the direct economic impact of the Noongar community on the WA economy was estimated to range between five and seven hundred million dollars per year. Exit polls of tourists leaving Western Australia have consistently shown that “lack of contact with indigenous culture” has been their greatest regret. It has been estimated that this results in the loss of many millions of dollars worth of foregone tourist revenue.

Current issues

As a consequence of the Stolen Generations and problems integrating with modern westernised society, many difficult issues face the present day Noongar.

For example, the Noongar Men of the SouthWest gathering in 1996 identified major community problems associated with cultural dispossession such as:

Many of these issues are not unique to the Noongar but in many cases they are unable to receive appropriate government-agency care. The report that was produced after this gathering also stated that Noongar men have a life expectancy of 20 years less than non-Aboriginal men, and go to hospital three times more often.

The Noongar still have large extended families and many families have difficulty accessing available structures of sheltered housing in Western Australia. The Western Australian government has dedicated several areas for the purpose of building communities specifically for the Noongar people, such as the (now closed) Swan Valley Noongar Community.

The Noongar themselves are tackling their own issues, for example, the Noongar Patrol, which is an Aboriginal Advancement Council initiative. It was set up to deter Aboriginal young people from offending behaviour and reduce the likelihood of their contact with the criminal justice system. The patrol uses mediation and negotiation with indigenous youth in an attempt to curb anti-social and offending behaviour of young people who come into the city at night.

Notable Noongar people

Category: Noongar people

This category is for individual people of Noongar identity. The Noongar are an Indigenous Australian people from the southwest corner of Western Australia.


This category has only the following subcategory.


Pages in category “Noongar people”


















Modern day

Leonard Collard

Leonard Collard
Born Leonard Michael Collard
24 December 1959 (age 59) Pingelly, Western Australia
Nationality Australian
Alma mater Murdoch University (MA 1996)

Leonard Michael Collard (born 24 December 1959) is a Noongar elder, professor and Australian Research Council chief investigator at the School of Indigenous Studies University of Western Australia.

Collard is a Whadjuk/Balardong Noongar, the traditional owners of the Perth region of Western Australia. He has a background in literature and communications, and has researched areas including Noongar interpretive histories and Noongar theoretical and practical research models.

In 2011 Collard commenced a three-year study of Noongar place names and intends to create a public website of 25,000 Noongar words for different places around the South West of Western Australia. In 2014 he announced his project to create the world’s first online Aboriginal encyclopaedia, Noongarpedia,[JJS8]  to preserve the endangered Noongar language.


  • Mooro nyungar katitijin bidi – Mooro peoples knowledge trail : interpretation of the City of Stirling Local Government Area literature review. Leonard Collard, Angela Rooney and Laura Stocker, 2014
  • Nartji katitj bidi ngulluckiny korrl? : (which knowledge path will we travel?). Len Collard and Sandra Harben, 2010.
  • Beeliar Boodjar : an introduction to the Aboriginal history of the City of Cockburn based on existing literature. Leonard Collard and Clint Bracknall, 2001.
  • Nyittiny : cosmology of the Nuyngar of South-Western Australia. Leonard Collard, 2008
  • Aboriginal young people in the southeast of Western Australia : implications for youth policy. Len Collard and Dave Palmer, 1991.
  • Ben Cuimermara Taylor

Ben Cuimermara Taylor

Ben Cuimermara Taylor

Benedict “Ben” Taylor AM, also known as Cuimara (born 15 October 1938) is a Noongar elder from the south-west of Western Australia. Taylor is a well-known Indigenous activist.

Early life

Taylor grew up in Walebing, near New Norcia. His mother, Queenie Harris born in 1906 in Norseman, Western Australia and his father Rosendo “Andy” (from Yued country) was born in 1903 in New Norcia, Western Australia.

His parents met while at the Moore River Native Settlement and ran away together. According to Ben, they got married at the Catholic Church in New Norcia on 9 March 1926.


Angus Wallam

Angus Wallam
Born 1926
Died October 2014
Nationality Noongar Australian

Angus Wallam (1926 – October 2014) was a Noongar Aboriginal Elder from Wagin, Western Australia. He was a respected elder there. He received the Wagin Australia Day Citizenship Award for his work with Indigenous youth and community. He grew up at Marribank Mission (also known as Carrolup). He worked for farmers and contractors, built roads, and worked on the railway for 22 years. He has nine children and around 40 grandchildren.

Published works

  • 2004: Corroboree — autobiography of Wallam’s childhood (written in collaboration with Suzanne Kelly; illustrated by Norma MacDonald; published by UWA Press)

It’s springtime – Wirrin’s favorite time of the year. As he sets about enjoying hunting with his father, collecting ochre with his grandfather, digging for sweet potato with his mother and gathering wattle seed with his grandmother, people are coming from far and wide for the big corroboree at which Wirrin will see all his cousins and dance the night away.

The book was a joint prize winner of the 1999 Marrwarning Award for Published and Unpublished books by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

More of his memories and stories can be found in the publication Sort of a Place Like Home: Remembering the Moore River Native Settlement by Susan Maushart. and The Wailing: A National Black Oral History, Stuart Rintoul published by W. Heinemann Australia, 1 Jan.,1993. and in a video interview with Robyn Smith Wally available on Vimeo.

Drawings and artwork done by children at the Carrolup Mission during the 1930s, including artworks by Angus Wallam, were displayed in an exhibition at Curtin University called Curtin University called Heart Coming Home, or Koolark Koort Koorliny in August 2013. In May 2013 Angus Wallam and Ezzard Flowers, another Indigenous leader, signed an MOU with the owner of the artworks, Colgate University, and Curtin University to house the artworks permanently at Curtin University on condition that they be made available for viewing by Nyungar and other Indigenous students there.




Midgegooroo (died 22 May 1833) was an Indigenous Australian elder of the Nyungar nation, who played a key role in Indigenous resistance to white settlement in the area of Perth, Western Australia. Everything documented about Midgegooroo (variously spelled in the record as ‘Midgeegaroo’, ‘Midgegarew’, ‘Midgegoorong’, Midgegoroo’, Midjegoorong’, ‘Midjigoroo’, ‘Midgigeroo’, Midjigeroo’, ‘Migegaroo’, Migegaroom, ‘Migegooroo’, Midgecarro’, ‘Widgegooroo’) is mediated through the eyes of the colonisers, some of whom, notably G.F. Moore, Robert Menli Lyon and Francis Armstrong, derived their information from discussions with contemporary Noongar people, in particular the son of Midgegooroo, Yagan.

Largely due to his exploits in opposing colonisation and his relationship with Lyon and Moore, Yagan has a much sharper historical profile than his father. Midgegooroo was executed [JJS10] by firing squad and without trial under the authority of Lieutenant Governor Frederick Irwin in 1833.

Early life

Nothing is known of Midgegooroo’s life prior to the arrival of white settlers in 1829. At that time, Midgegooroo was the leader of his home country, Beeliar, which stretched from the Indian Ocean to the Canning River, south of the Swan River. Robert Menli Lyon reported that the northernmost land in Beeliar adjoined ‘Melville Water and the Canning’, and was bordered ‘by the mountains on the east; by the sea on the west; and by a line, due east, from Mangles Bay, on the south.’ Midgegooroo’s main camp (‘headquarters’) was a place known as ‘Mendyarrup, situated somewhere in Gaudoo’, suggesting that it was in the vicinity of Blackwall Reach and Point Walter. However, Midgegooroo’s family had some rights to use resources on a large part of what is now metropolitan Perth, and were able to move freely about an even larger area, presumably due to kinship ties with neighbours. For example, he was seen on some occasions as far afield as near Lake Monger and the Helena River.

In 1830, Midgegooroo was reported to be an older man, short in stature with long hair and a ‘remarkable bump’ on his forehead, a physical description repeated on occasions over the next two and a half years, including in a deposition presented in evidence before his execution. Midgegooroo appears to have remained aloof from the colonists. There is evidence that he occasionally engaged in friendly communications with some local farmers, including Erin Entwhistle, a man he speared in 1831.

 Unlike some of the other named Aboriginal people of the region, including Yagan, Weeip and Yellagonga, Midgegooroo does not appear to have ever performed casual labour for colonists in any capacity, and continued to move around Beeliar with his wives and children. He was described as consistently hostile to the presence of Europeans on his country; ‘a dangerous and furious ruffian.’

He had at least two wives, the older described as ‘rather tall and wanting her front teeth’, the younger of whom was named Ganiup, and at least four sons, Yagan, Narral, Billy and Willim, and at least one brother. He appears to have spent much of his time ‘taking care of the women and children of the tribe.’

Conflicts with white settlers

Early relationships between Noongar and colonists at the Swan River colony have been documented by Neville Green and Bevan Carter. Both document a story in which Aboriginals of the Swan and Canning River areas consistently demonstrated their opposition to colonisation, initially manifested by shouted warnings and aggressive postures, but increasingly by hostility and violence.

 Lieutenant Governor Sir James Stirling, in his proclamation of the colony in June 1829, warned that Aboriginal people were protected by British laws and any colonist convicted of ‘behaving in a fraudulent, cruel or felonious Manner towards the Aborigines of the Country’ would be dealt with ‘as if the same had been committed against any other of His Majesty’s subjects.’ Nonetheless, the first ten years of colonisation witnessed a significant level of violence in which a number of Europeans and Aboriginal people lost their lives. The actual death toll is unknown, but Carter in particular argues that the numbers of Aboriginal dead far exceeded the losses in the European community.

It took some time before Swan River colonisers in the first four years of the settlement began to record the names of the Aboriginals of the Swan River region, but it is highly likely that Midgegooroo would have been one of those who observed the first British explorations in 1827 and the subsequent establishment in June 1829 of the port of Fremantle, the capital at Perth, satellite settlements at Guildford and further inland at York, and the network of small farms around the area.

His first appearance in the colonial record may have been in May 1830 when an old man, tentatively identified by Sylvia Hallam and Lois Tilbrook as Midgegooroo, was found and beaten by a military detachment plucking two turkeys which had been stolen from a farm on the Canning River. The next day, a group of eight Aboriginal men, including ‘Dencil’ attacked a farm near Kelmscott and injured a settler named J.R. Phillips ‘with whom they had always been friendly.’ If Hallam and Tilbrook are correct and the old man was indeed Midgegooroo, he would quite early have been subjected to European violence in retaliation for actions he did not fully comprehend.

In December 1830, Midgegooroo was camping by Lake Monger when two white labourers who were passing by stopped to shake hands with a group of indigenous women. When the two men returned later that day, Midgegooroo scared them off by threatening to spear one of them.

In about February 1831, Midgegooroo was reported to have come to Lionel Samson’s store in Fremantle and was given biscuits by a servant James Lacey. ‘Midgegooroo was not satisfied, I was obliged to put him out of the store by force. As I was in the act of shutting the door he threw a spear at me through the open space of the door-way; it lodged in the opposite side.

I went out of the store with a pickaxe in my hand to drive him out of the yard – he retreated when he saw me, and as I supposed he was going away, I threw down the pickaxe – he ran towards it, picked it up, and was in the act of throwing it at me, upon which I ran away, he then threw the pickaxe down the well.’

A few weeks later, Midgegooroo was involved in an incident that came to play a crucial part in his eventual execution. In apparent retaliation for the killing of an Aboriginal man in the act of taking potatoes and a fowl from the farm of Archibald Butler near Point Walter, Midgegooroo and Yagan attacked Butler’s homestead and killed a servant Erin Entwhistle, whose son Ralph, then aged about ten, gave a deposition identifying Midgegooroo as the principal offender: “They thrust spears through the wattle wall of the house – my father was ill at the time – he went out and was instantly speared.

 I saw the tall native called Yagan throw the first spear – which entered my father’s breast, and another native Midgegooroo threw the second spear, which brought my father to the ground.

I am quite sure the native now in Perth jail is the very same who threw the second spear at my father – I know him by the remarkable Bump on his forehead – and I had full time to mark him on the day of the Murder, for when my father fell, I and my brother ran into the inner room, and hid ourselves beneath the bed-stead. Midgegooroo came in and pulled all the clothes and bedding off the bed-stead, but there was a sack tied to the bottom of it, which he could not pull off, and by which we were still hid from him.

I saw an old women rather tall and wanting her front teeth and who I have since been told by Midgegooroo himself is his wife, break my father’s legs, and cut his head to pieces with an axe – Munday was one of the natives who attacked the house, but I did not see him throw a spear. My father had always been kind to Midgegooroo’s tribe, and on good terms with them.”

In May 1833, colonist Charles Bourne recalled having sat on a jury inquiring into the death of Entwhistle which heard the evidence of Ralph Entwhistle and his younger brother. ‘The description they gave so fully convinced the Jury that Midgegooroo was one of the principle perpetrators of the murder, that the Coroner, at their request, promised to recommend to the Government to proclaim him and the whole tribe outlaws.’

Charles Bourne figured again in the story when, in about May 1832, Midgegooroo and his wife attempted to break into their house in Fremantle. ‘My wife told me’, he recalled, ‘that they had thrown two spears at her, and I saw the spears laying on the floor. Their violence was such that my wife was obliged to take a sword to them.’ Later he was reported as having tried to take provisions from Thomas Hunt at his sawpit on the Canning River. Finally, he was reported as having set his dingos on a settler’s pigs.

A police constable Thomas Hunt reported that he had known Midgegooroo for three years: “When I lived on the opposite side of the river [on the Canning River] he and his wife used frequently to visit my residence. He was always present when they attempted to plunder and acted either as the spy or the instigator.

He has come to my tent door, and pointed to any provisions which might be hanging up and openly thrust in some other of his tribe to take them away. I have frequently been obliged to make a show of hostility before he would desist. He has also set two native dogs at my pigs, which they have followed to the very door of my tent. He and his tribe have repeatedly robbed me whilst I was working at a saw pit on the Canning, and on those occasions I have watched him, and distinctly observed that he acted as a spy, and gave warnings when we approached. I have heard almost every person who has known him, speak of him as a dangerous and furious ruffian.”

In May 1832, Yagan was arrested for the murder of William Gaze on the Canning River, an incident that lead to his declaration as an outlaw, imprisonment on Carnac Island with Lyon, and subsequent escape. In March 1833, a number of Noongar men from King George’s Sound visited Perth at the instigation of the Government.

This was the second visit of King George’s Sound people that year, apparently for the purpose of encouraging ‘amicable relationships on the Swan like those at the Sound.’

 Yagan and ten of his countrymen had met the first visitors at Lake Monger and, when the next group arrived, he was keen to present a corroboree for them in Perth before an ‘overflowing audience’, which included the Lieutenant Governor Frederick Irwin. Yagan acted as ‘master of ceremonies, and acquitted himself with infinite dignity and grace.’ Although Yagan’s group was referred to as ‘Midgegooroo’s group’, it is unclear whether the old man also attended.

In April 1833, an incident occurred in Fremantle that led directly to the declaration of Midgegooroo and Yagan as outlaws. A group of Aboriginal people, including a classificatory brother of Yagan named Domjun, broke into stores occupied by Mr. Downing. William Chidlow, who lived nearby: “… perceived two or three natives in the act of breaking into the stores; he aroused some of his neighbours and each being armed, they surprized the natives in the fact ,

Chidlow fired and Domjum fell; the guns of the persons who accompanied Chidlow were discharged at the natives, as they fled; and there is every reason took effect, but did not prove fatal. Domjum was conveyed to the jail where he received medical attendance; the ball lodged in his head, and although the brains were exuding from the cavity, he lingered for three days before he expired.”

The next morning, Yagan and a number of others crossed the Swan River near Preston Point and told Mr. Weavell’s servant that they were going to the Canning River to ‘spear ‘white man’, and fixing his spear into a throwing stick, he rushed into the bush, followed by his infuriated tribe.’ At noon, Yagan, Midgegooroo, Munday, Migo and ‘about 30 Natives’, who ‘appeared to be friendly’, encountered Mr. Phillips and four other white men, including Thomas and John Velvick, who were employed as farm labourers at the entrance of Bull’s Creek on the Canning River. The white men were loading a quantity of provisions for Phillips’ farm at Maddington, onto carts when Midgegooroo inquired about the number of men in the first cart which had already left the scene.

According to a witness, Thomas Yule: “There were about thirty natives present, amongst whom I saw Yagan, Midgegooroo, Migo, and Munday. Their conduct was perfectly friendly. They appeared very anxious to know how many persons were to accompany the carts and the direction they were going. A few potatoes were given to them which they had roasted and eaten. When the carts were loaded and departed, the Natives went off in almost a parallel direction. I saw two of them pick up spears at a distance of about one hundred yards from Flaherty’s stores; I separated from Mr Phillips and came on to Fremantle.”

Frederick Irwin described the episode in his dispatch to the Secretary of State for Colonies: “They left the place at the same time with the carts, and in a parallel, tho’ distant line. The foremost cart had proceeded four miles and was in advance of the rest a quarter of a Mile, when the Natives suddenly surrounded it and murdered with circumstances of great barbarity, the two Drivers named John and Thomas Velvick, whose cries brought up the proprietor of the Cart Mr Phillips of the Canning, who arrived in time to recognize distinctly a Native of great notoriety throughout the settlement named Yagan, while the latter was in the act of repeatedly thrusting his spear into the body of one of the deceased.

The surprise appears to have been so complete that the deceased had no time to take hold of their muskets which were in the cart. The fortunate and distinct recognition of the native above mentioned by Mr Phillips, a gentleman of unquestionable character, satisfactorily identified the tribe actually committing the murder, with that of which the native shot at Fremantle was a member, and the movements of which have above been traced from Fremantle to the vicinity of the scene of the murders.

The Head or leader of this tribe, an elderly man well known by the name of Midgegooroo, is father of the above-mentioned Yagan, and the native killed at Fremantle, and has long borne a bad character as the repeated perpetrator of several acts of bloodshed and robbery. He, Yagan, and another of the tribe named Munday (remarkable even during the friendly visits of his tribe to Perth for his sullen behaviour and ungovernable temper) were recognized by several credible witnesses as being present, and making the enquiries before alluded to, before the loading of the Carts at Bull’s Creek.”

According to his account, Irwin immediately conferred with his Executive Council ‘to take such steps for a prompt and summary retaliation, as the means at my disposal admitted.’ A proclamation was issued and published in the Perth Gazette offering a reward of 30 pounds for the capture ‘dead or alive’ of Yagan, and 20 pounds of ‘Midgigooroo’ and Munday. The proclamation declared Yagan, Midgegooroo and Munday to be outlaws ‘deprived of the protection of British laws, and I do hereby authorize and command all and every His Majesty’s subjects residents in any part of this colony to capture, or aid or assist in capturing the body of the said ‘Egan’ DEAD OR ALIVE, and to produce the said body forthwith before the nearest Justice of the Peace.’

 Frederick Irwin rationalized his actions to the Secretary of State in the following terms: This pecuniary stimulus has had the hoped for effect, by bringing forward some efficient volunteers among the Settlers whose —– and occupations have necessarily given them a more intimate knowledge of the haunts of the natives in the neighbourhood of the settled district than is possessed by the Military, but no volunteers have received permission to act unless headed by a Magistrate or a Constable. Parties of the Military have also been in constant movement, traversing the bush is such directions as reports or conjecture rendered most likely to lead to a discovery of the lurking place of the offending tribes.

 These parties have all received express instructions to attempt the lives of no other than the three outlaws, unless hostility on the part of others of the tribe should render it necessary in self defense. I am happy to say these measures have already been attended with considerable effect. The whole of this hostile tribe have been harassed by the constant succession of parties sent against them, and in some instances have been hotly pursued to a considerable distance in different directions.

Capture and execution of Midgegooroo

By the time Irwin’s dispatch had been received in London, Midgegooroo had been captured and executed. Despite his efforts to convince his superiors that his actions were justified, Irwin was criticized by the Secretary of State, who would have preferred a sentence of imprisonment, believing that execution would do little to improve relationships between the Aboriginals and the colonists.

 But as Irwin intended, the search for Midgegooroo, Yagan and Munday proceeded quickly as the military and private settlers combed the region. One volunteer party led by a colonist named Thomas Hunt (according to G.F. Moore, ‘a most appropriate name’ who had previously been a constable in London) headed south ‘in the direction of the Murray’ and came across a number of ‘native huts’ not far from the south shore of the Swan. They ‘routed’ the Aboriginal people there, and pursued a group south, shooting and killing one man who was believed to be the brother of Midgegooroo and according to Moore, bringing his ears home ‘as a token.’

 According to the Perth Gazette, throughout the period immediately after the proclamation, Midgegooroo remained near the property of the Drummonds on the Helena River ’employed as he usually had been of late in taking care of the women and children of the tribe’ and clearly unaware of his outlaw status and his impending doom.

On Thursday 16 May, a military party led by Captain Ellis, acting on information that Midgegooroo was in the area, joined forces with a number of civilians, including Thomas Hardey and J. Hancock.

After camping overnight, the next morning they came across Midgegooroo and his young son: The old man finding a retreat impossible, became desperate; Jeffers, a private of the 63rd … rushed forward and seized him by the hair, Captain Ellis seized his spears and broke them in his hand, he still retained the barbed ends, with which he struck at Jeffers repeatedly; the alarm he created by crying out for Yagan, and the apprehensions of his escaping, required the exercise of the greatest firmness on the part of Captain Ellis to accomplish his being brought in alive. The capture of this man as effected in a masterly manner, and redounds highly to the credit of Captain Ellis. … Midgegooroo in his dungeon presents a most pitiable object.

 In the same issue, the Perth Gazette went on to invite citizens to ‘forward the ends of justice’ by coming forward with their evidence of Midgegooroo’s wrongdoings, indicative of the close relationship between the early colonial media, the Government and the nascent system of justice. The Perth Gazette constitutes one of the principle records of the events over the next few days, and it is difficult to be definite about the chronological sequence between Midgegooroo’s capture on 17 May and execution on the 22nd.

It appears likely that Irwin spent the period weighing up his alternatives, consulting with the Executive Council as well as men such as G.F. Moore who, as well as being a private colonist, held the official post of Commissioner of the Civil Court. On Monday 20 May, Moore records a meeting with Irwin and hints that his personal view was that Midgegooroo should be transported but there was a strong public sentiment that he should be executed; ‘there is a great puzzle to know what to do with him. The populace cry loudly for his blood, but it is a hard thing to shoot him in cold blood. There is a strong intention of sending him into perpetual banishment in some out of the way place.’

 Irwin told the Secretary of State he had conducted a ‘patient examination’ and had received statements from ‘several credible witnesses’, twelve-year-old Ralph Entwhistle, John Staunton of the 63rd Regiment of Foot,

 Charles Bourne, constable Thomas Hunt, James Lacey, Thomas Yule (sworn before Magistrates at Fremantle) and John Ellis. Each gave brief details of Midgegooroo’s alleged crimes, and identified the prisoner as the same man. Irwin reported that he gave ‘much anxious consideration’ to Midgegooroo’s punishment:

 “The experiment of confinement, which had been tried to some extent in the case of the three Natives whose transportation to Carnac Island and ultimate escape I have reported to your Lordship in a former dispatch appeared to have produced no good effect on the subjects of that trial, and the age of the prisoner in question apparently exceeding fifty years, forbad any sanguine hopes from such an experiment in his case.”

There was no trial, even in the sense of an informal hearing. Midgegooroo was clearly not allowed the opportunity to give evidence or defend himself and indeed it is probable that he did not understand what was being alleged.

By 22 May, Irwin had made up his mind: “With the unanimous advice of the Council, I therefore decided on his execution as the only sure mode of securing the Colony from an enemy, who was doubly dangerous from his apparently implacable hostility and from his influence as an acknowledged Chief. The latter circumstance being also calculated to render his death a more striking example.” The Perth Gazette recorded the execution as follows: “In the absence of a Sherriff, the warrant was directed to the Magistrates of the District of Perth, the duty therefore devolved upon J. Morgan Esq., as Government Resident, who immediately proceeded to carry the sentence into execution.

The death warrant was read aloud to the persons assembled who immediately afterwards went inside the Jail, with the Constables and the necessary attendants, to prepare the Prisoner for his fate. Midgegooroo, on seeing that preparations were making  to punish him, yelled and struggled most violently to escape.

These efforts availed him little, in less than five minutes he was pinioned and blindfolded, and bound to the outer door of the Jail.

The Resident then reported to his Honor the Lieutenant Governor (who was on the spot accompanied by the Members of the Council), that all was prepared, – the warrant being declared final – he turned around and gave the signal to the party of the 63rd [which had volunteered] to advance and halt at 6 paces, – they then fired – and Midgegooroo fell. – The whole arrangement and execution after the death warrant had been handed over to the Civil Authorities, did not occupy half an hour.”

Irwin reported simply: ‘He was accordingly shot, in front of the jail at Perth on the 22 Ultimo.’ Moore also recorded the execution although it is not clear whether he was a witness: ‘The native Midgegoroo, after being fully identified as being a principal in 3 murders at least, was fastened to the gaol door & fired on by a Military party, receiving 3 balls in his head, one in his body.’

 According to the Perth Gazette, the execution was witnessed by a ‘great number of persons … although the Execution was sudden and the hour unknown.’ “The feeling which was generally expressed was that of satisfaction at what had taken place, and in some instances loud and vehement exaltation, which the solemnity of the scene, – a fellow human being – although a native – launched into eternity – ought to have suppressed.”

The aftermath It appears from the extant record that, while there was a crowd in attendance at the execution, few if any Aboriginal people were present. The boy who was captured along with Midgegooroo, who was identified as his son ‘Billy’ (later referred to also as ‘young Midgegooroo’) was estimated to be between five and eight years old. He was removed ‘out of sound and hearing of what was to happen to his father and has since been forwarded to the Government Schooner, Ellen, now lying off Garden Island, with particular instructions from the Magistrates to ensure him every protection and kind treatment.’

 Irwin informed the Secretary of State that ‘the child has been kept in ignorance of his father’s fate, and it is my present intention to retain him in confinement, and by kind treatment I am in hope from his tender age he may be so inured to civilized habits as to make it improbable he will revert to a barbarous life when grown up.’

 The Noongar population appears to have remained unaware of Midgegooroo’s fate, possibly to ensure that the news would not reach the feared Yagan. Four days after the execution, G.F. Moore recorded an encounter with Yagan near his homestead when he arrived with Munday, Migo and seven others, possibly with the aim of finding out from Moore what had happened to his father. Moore, caught by surprise, decided to conceal the truth from Yagan, whereupon Yagan told him that if Midgegooroo’s life was taken, he would retaliate by killing three white men. Six days later, it appears that news of the killing had still not penetrated the Noongar community for, when Moore was visited on 2 June by Weeip, Yagan’s son Narral, and some women, they asked him again about Midgegooroo and his young son.

 Moore again concealed the execution but assured them that his son ‘would come back again by & bye.’ Two days later, Moore recorded that thefts of sheep and goats continued on the Canning River, and expressed his despair at the prospects for a people in whom he felt ‘a very great interest’: ‘These things are very dispiriting. I fear it must come to an act of extermination between us at last if we cannot graze our flocks in safety.’

It was not until 11 July that the colonists succeeded in killing Yagan, his death at the hands of sixteen-year-old James Keats on the Upper Swan, who duly collected his reward and left the colony.

The Perth Gazette recorded its satisfaction at the deaths and believed that most of the citizenry supported the ruthless actions of the Government. Midgegooroo’s execution, it claimed, met with ‘general satisfaction … his name has long rung in our ears, associated with every enormity committed by the natives; we therefore join cordially in commending this prompt and decisive measure.’

 On the other hand, it is clear that a number of colonists were unhappy with the actions of the government. Robert Lyon, who published his account of the period in 1839 after he had left the colony, wrote that while the killing of Midgegooroo and Yagan was ‘applauded by a certain class’, they were ‘far from being universally approved. Many were silent, but some of the most respectable of the settlers loudly expressed their disapprobation.’

 There was criticism also from other Australian colonies about the execution of Midgegooroo. The Hobart Town Review of 20 August 1833 was full of vitriol for Irwin’s actions: “It is hard to conceive any offence on the part of the poor unfortunate wretch that could justify the putting him to death, even in the open field, but to slay him in cool blood to us appears a cruel murder without palliation.”

Irwin, however, was convinced that his actions were merited. Writing in England about two years after the events of 1833, he asserted that ‘these acts of justice so completely succeeded in their object of intimidating the natives on the Swan and Canning Rivers that recent accounts from the colony represent the shepherds and others in the habit of going about the country, as having for a considerable laid aside their usual precaution of carrying firearms, so peaceable had the conduct of those tribes become.’

Shortly after the death of Yagan, the Perth Gazette expressed hope that the Aboriginal people of the Swan and Canning Rivers would stop harassing colonists. At the same time, the way in which Yagan met his death was ‘revolting to our feelings to hear this lauded as a meritorious deed.’ ‘What a fearful lesson of instruction have we given the savage!’ the newspaper lamented. Munday approached the Lieutenant Governor seeking to make peace, and his outlaw status was annulled.

 Remarking on the apparent desire of Aboriginal visitors to the Perth town area to ‘renew the friendly understanding’, the newspaper nevertheless warned that ‘they ought … never to be out of the sight of some authorized persons, who should have the power of controlling the conduct of individuals towards them, at the same time as they protect the public from any aggression on the part of the natives.’

 Early in September 1833, Munday and Migo were taken by a young colonist named Francis Armstrong, later to be appointed to manage a ration depot at Mt. Eliza, to meet the Lieutenant Governor. With Armstrong acting as interpreter, Migo and Munday told the Lieutenant Governor that they ‘wished to come to an amicable treaty with us, and were desirous to know whether the white people would shoot any more of their black people.’

“Being assured that they would not, they proceeded to give the names of all the black men of the tribes in this immediate neighbourhood who had been killed with a description of where they were shot and the persons who had shot them.

 The number amounted to sixteen, killed, and nearly twice as many wounded; indeed it is supposed that few have escaped uninjured. The accuracy with which they mark out the persons who have been implicated in these attacks, should serve as a caution to the public in regulating their conduct towards them. … After all the names of the dead were given, they intimated that they were still afraid that, before long, more would be added to the number, but being assured again that it would not be the case, unless they “quippled”, committed theft, they said then no more white men would be speared.

They seemed perfectly aware that it was our intention to shoot them if they ‘quippled’; they argued however that it was opposed to their laws, – which as banishment from the tribe, or spearing through the leg.

The death of Domjun at Fremantle, who was shot in the act of carrying away a bag of flour, they say was not merited, that the punishment was too severe for the offence; and further, that it was wrong to endanger the lives of others for the act of one, – two of his companions having been severely wounded. They say that only one life would have been taken for this occurrence, had they not met with the Velvicks at the Canning, who had previously behaved ill towards them: the attempt which was made at the Canning to break their spears, it seems, increased their irritation.”

Migo and Munday went on to describe the arrest of Midgegooroo: “They were not far off, and heard his cries; the party who took him were all known to them, and they followed them to within a very short distance of Perth; they evince some anxiety now to be made acquainted with the names of the soldiers who shot him, and still continue their enquiries about the son; both of which questions it is prudent to avoid answering, notwithstanding their proferred amnesty. Midgegooroo’s wives, when they had ascertained that he was captured, scratched and disfigured themselves, – a usual practice among them – , and when his death was fully ascertained, Yellowgonga and Dommera fought a duel for the one, and Munday took the other.”

The Lieutenant Governor proposed that a meeting of all the Swan and Canning people should be held, but Munday and Migo told him this would have to wait until the ‘yellow season’, December, January and February when the banksias flowered. After the meeting, Migo and Munday were seen ‘in earnest conversation with members of their tribe, communicating, it was supposed, the results of the interview.’

 A day later, the newspaper reported that a large ‘corrobara’ was held in Perth, but that it had been interrupted by ‘some blackguards throwing a bucket of water over them.’ It also reported that a few days previously, a white woman had taken some wood ‘from under a tree, which it had occupied Munday some time to cut. As it was not intended for her, he called to her to put it down, she however persisted in carrying it off, he threw his saw down and was soon on the ground after her. He appeared terribly enraged; the female gave him some bread and he was pacified. The town would have been up in arms if Munday had speared the female, but there can be no question that she as richly deserved punishment as Domjum merited his fate.

Thus, the Aboriginal people of the Swan and Canning were able for the first time to put their side of the story before the government, and even the Gazette, which had been unrelenting in its calls for harsh punishment, conceded that they might have a point and that justice, style, was at best inconsistent. Munday and Migo argued forcefully that their people had been extremely badly treated.

Even in the context of the early nineteenth century, death was an extreme penalty for the theft of flour and biscuits. Their people had consistently been roughly treated, but their story had been left untold. The rough treatment at the hands of people such as the Velvicks had been left out of the discourse of ‘native barbarity’, and the dispositions about the role of Midgegooroo, Yagan and Munday in their deaths failed to mention that, on that day at Bull’s Creek, the colonists had tried to seize and break their spears.

The colonial government and the colonists of Perth, however, had no intention of sharing their new possessions with the Aboriginals, who were henceforth to be dependent on government rations dispensed from ration points. Thus began the long and inexorable history of the dispossession of Western Australian Aboriginal people from their lands and the loss of their freedoms of movement. In Perth, the ruthless killing of Midgegooroo and Yagan certainly shocked the people of the Swan and Canning but, far from improving relationships between coloniser and colonized, violence and robbery continued for some years in the region and further afield.

Aboriginal people of the Murray River felt the full force of colonial fury just over a year after Munday and Migo had expressed their desire for a treaty, when a large number of their people were massacred in a combined action near Pinjarra in October 1834. As the Western Australian frontier spread over the vast land area of the colony, other Aboriginal people were to experience much the same pattern of dispossession, death, incarceration and government repression.

Midgegooroo’s land rights passed to his son Yagan, then to his other son Narral. Munday assumed responsibility for his older wife, and his younger wife Ganiup became the wife of a Noongar named Dommera.

  • Mokare
Mokare Statue in Gardens
  • Mokare (c. 1800 – 26 June 1831) was a Noongar man, an Aboriginal man from the south-west corner of Australia who was pivotal in aiding European exploration of the area. Mokare had two known brothers: Mollian (d. 1829), who may have been known as Yallapoli, and Nakina, who with Mokare, was a frequent visitor to the Albany settlement, staying with the government resident, Dr Alexander Collie. He also was recorded as having a married sister.
  • Possibly first recorded as the charismatic “Jack” recorded by Phillip Parker King in his expedition to King George Sound in 1821, Mokare was from the Minang clan of Noongar.
  • With the arrival of Major Edmund Lockyer in the brig Amity, in 1827, he showed the Europeans the walking trails that the Noongar people had used and maintained over generations in the Albany region.
  • Many of these are today the roads of that region of Australia. He became a close friend of the surgeon-assistant J. S. Nind, with whom he frequently visited. In December 1829 Mokare guided Dr Thomas Braidwood Wilson‘s overland expedition during which Mount Barker and Mount Lindsay were named as well as Hay River, Denmark River and Wilson Inlet. Two months later he served again as the guide for Captain Barker’s expedition over the same area. As there was no competition between Europeans and Aboriginal people for land, women or hunting, the settlement in Albany was particularly peaceful.
  • Mokare was well known in his short life for being a peacemaker, and an effective mediator between black and white communities. He was concerned when Stirling took command of the Albany settlement in 1830, as he had heard of the battles and massacres between European settlers and Aboriginal people, and wished Albany to be maintained as a separate settlement.
  • Mokare died on 26 June 1831. The Noongar People and Europeans had assembled at Collie’s house and walked to a site selected by Nakina where the Europeans dug a grave and Mokare was interred with a buka cloak and personal artifacts to Nakina’s specifications. When Collie himself was dying from tuberculosis in 1835, he asked to be buried alongside Mokare.
  • Their graves are together beneath Albany Town Hall. Four years after Mokare’s death, the surveyor John Septimus Roe had his body exhumed and re-interred at the newly established Albany Cemetery.
  • A park consisting of native bushland on the northern side of Mount Melville in Albany was named after Mokare in 1978. A statue was erected in Alison Hartman Gardens on York Street in the centre of Albany in 1997 as part of a reconciliation project.
  • Alternative spellings
  • Mokaré, Mokkare, Mawcarrie, Markew or Makkare.
  • Dumont d’Urville spells his name ‘Maukorraï’ in the second volume of his Voyage pittoresque autour du Monde.
  • Portrait
  • Mokaré’s portrait was also sketched by Louis-Auguste de Sainson in 1826. It appears in colour with his name on the bottom right-hand corner of plate 8 of Dumont d’Urville, Voyage et découvertes de l’Astrolabe . . ., Atlas, 1833.


For the South American Yagán people, see Yaghan. For the company, see Yagan Railway.

Yagan statue, Heirisson Island

Yagan (/ˈjeɪɡən/; c. 1795 – 11 July 1833) was an Indigenous Australian warrior from the Noongar people. He played a key part in early resistance to British colonial settlement and rule in the area surrounding what is now Perth, Western Australia. Yagan was pursued by the local authorities after he killed Erin Entwhistle, a servant of farmer Archibald Butler. It was an act of retaliation after Thomas Smedley, another of Butler’s servants, shot at a group of Noongar people stealing potatoes and fowls, killing one of them.

 The government offered a bounty for Yagan’s capture, dead or alive, and a young settler, William Keats, shot and killed him. Yagan’s execution figures in Australian history as a symbol of the unjust and sometimes brutal treatment of the indigenous peoples of Australia by colonial settlers. He is considered a hero by the Noongar.

After his shooting, settlers removed Yagan’s head to claim the bounty. Later, an official sent it to London, where it was exhibited as an “anthropological curiosity” and eventually given to a museum in Liverpool. It held the head in storage for more than a century before burying it with other remains in an unmarked grave in Liverpool in 1964. Over the years, the Noongar asked for repatriation of the head, both for religious reasons and because of Yagan’s traditional stature.

The burial site was identified in 1993; officials exhumed the head four years later and repatriated it to Australia. After years of debate within the Noongar community on the appropriate final resting place, Yagan’s head was buried in a traditional ceremony in the Swan Valley in July 2010, 177 years after his death.


Early life

A member of the Whadjuk Noongar people, Yagan belonged to a tribe of around 60 people whose name, according to Robert Lyon, was Beeliar. Scholars now believe that the Beeliar people may have been a family subgroup (or clan) of a larger tribe whom Daisy Bates called Beelgar. According to Lyon, the Beeliar people occupied the land south of the Swan and Canning rivers, as far south as Mangles Bay. The group had customary land usage rights over a much larger area than this, extending north as far as Lake Monger and northeast to the Helena River. The group also had an unusual degree of freedom to move over their neighbours’ land, possibly due to kinship and marriage ties with neighbouring groups.

Yagan is thought to have been born around 1795. His father was Midgegooroo, an elder of the Beeliar people; his mother was presumably one of Midgegooroo’s two wives. Yagan was probably a Ballaroke in the Noongar classification.

Marriage and family

According to the historian Neville Green, Yagan had a wife and two children. A report in the Perth Gazette in 1833 gives the names of his children as “Naral”, age 9, and “Willim”, age 11; but most other sources state that the warrior was unmarried and childless. Described as taller than average with an impressive burly physique, Yagan had a distinctive tribal tattoo on his right shoulder, which identified him as “a man of high degree in tribal law.” He was generally acknowledged to be the most physically powerful of his tribe.

Relations with settlers

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Yagan would have been about 35 years old in 1829 when British settlers landed in the area and established the Swan River Colony. For the first two years of the colony, relations between settlers and Noongar were generally amicable, as there was little competition for resources. The Noongar welcomed the white settlers as Djanga, the returned spirits of their dead. Historical reports noted the two groups shared fish.

 As time passed, conflicts between the two cultures gradually became more frequent. The settlers incorrectly thought that the Noongar were nomads who had no claim to the land over which they roamed. Colonists fenced off land for grazing and farming according to their traditional practices of land use.

As the colonists fenced off more land, the Noongar were increasingly denied access to their traditional hunting grounds and sacred sites. In search of food, the Noongar raided the settlers’ crops and killed their cattle. They also developed a taste for the settlers’ supplies, and began to take flour and other food, which became a serious problem for the colony. In addition, the Noongar practice of firestick farming, or firing the bush to flush out game and encourage germination of undergrowth for sustainability, threatened the settlers’ crops and houses.

In December 1831 Yagan and his father led the first significant Aboriginal resistance to white settlement in Western Australia.

 Thomas Smedley, a servant of farmer Archibald Butler, ambushed some natives who were raiding a potato patch, and killed one of Yagan’s family group.

 A few days later, Yagan, Midgegooroo and others stormed the farmhouse and, finding the door locked, began to break through the mud-brick walls. Inside were Butler’s servant Erin Entwhistle and his two sons Enion and Ralph. After hiding his sons under the bed, Entwhistle opened the door to parley and was killed by Yagan and Midgegooroo.

 Noongar tribal law required that murders be avenged by the killing of a member of the murderer’s tribal group, not necessarily the murderer. The Noongar considered servants and employees to be part of the settlers’ groups. Historians believe the Noongar attack on Entwhistle was retribution under their tribal law. Not understanding tribal law (and unlikely to agree with its concepts), the white settlers took the killing to be an unprovoked murder and dispatched a force to arrest Yagan’s group, without success.

In June 1832 Yagan led a party of Aborigines in attacking two labourers sowing a field of wheat alongside the Canning River near Kelmscott. One of the men, John Thomas, escaped, but the other, William Gaze, was wounded and later died as a result. The settlement declared Yagan an outlaw and offered a reward of £20 for his capture. He avoided capture until early October 1832. A group of fishermen enticed Yagan and two companions into their boat, then pushed off into deep water.

 The fishermen took the three Noongar men to the Perth guardhouse, from which they were transferred to the Round House at Fremantle. Yagan was sentenced to death, but he was saved by the intercession of settler Robert Lyon. Arguing that Yagan was defending his land against invasion, Lyon said Yagan should not be considered a criminal but a prisoner of war and suggested he should be treated as such. At the recommendation of John Septimus Roe, the Surveyor-General of Western Australia, Yagan and his men were exiled on Carnac Island under the supervision of Lyon and two soldiers.

Lyon thought he could teach Yagan British ways and convert him to Christianity. He hoped to gain his cooperation and use his tribal stature to persuade the Noongar to accept colonial authority. Lyon spent many hours with Yagan learning his language and customs. After a month, Yagan and his companions escaped by stealing an unattended dinghy and rowing to Woodman Point on the mainland. The Government did not pursue them; apparently its officials considered they had been sufficiently punished.

In January 1833 two Noongar, Gyallipert and Manyat, visited Perth from King George Sound, where relations between settlers and natives were amicable. Two settlers, Richard [Robert?] Dale and George Smythe, arranged for the men to meet a party of local Noongar to encourage friendly relations in the Swan River Colony. On 26 January Yagan led a group of ten formally armed Noongars in greeting the two men near Lake Monger.

A herd of giraffe standing next to a tree

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 The men exchanged weapons and held a corroboree, though the groups did not appear to share a language. Yagan and Gyallipert competed at spear throwing. As an example of his prowess, Yagan struck a walking stick from a distance of 25 metres.

Gyallipert and Manyat remained in Perth for some time. On 3 March, Yagan obtained permission to hold another corroboree, this time in the Post Office garden in Perth.

The Perth and King George Sound men met at dusk, chalked their bodies, and performed a number of dances including a kangaroo hunt dance. The Perth Gazette wrote that Yagan “was master of ceremonies and acquitted himself with infinite grace and dignity.”

During February and March, Yagan was involved in a series of minor conflicts with settlers. In February William Watson complained that Yagan had pushed open his door, demanded a gun, and taken handkerchiefs.

 Watson had to give him and his companions flour and bread. The following month, Yagan was among a group who received biscuits from a military contingent under Lieutenant Norcott; when Norcott tried to restrict his supply, Yagan threatened him with his spear.

 Later that month, Yagan was with a group of Noongar who entered Watson’s house while he was away. The group left after Watson’s wife called on neighbours for help. The next day Captain Ellis lectured the Noongar about their behaviour. The frequent incidents prompted The Perth Gazette to remark on “the reckless daring of this desperado who sets his life at a pin’s fee … For the most trivial offence  … he would take the life of any man who provoked him. He is at the head and front of any mischief.”

Wanted dead or alive

On the night of 29 April, a party of Noongar broke into a Fremantle store to steal flour and they were shot at by the caretaker Peter Chidlow. Domjum, a brother of Yagan, was badly injured and died in jail a few days later. The rest of the party moved from Fremantle to Preston Point, where Yagan reportedly vowed vengeance for the death. Between 50 and 60 Noongar gathered at Bull Creek, where they met a party of settlers who were loading carts with provisions.

 Later that day, the group ambushed the lead cart, killing two settlers, Tom and John Velvick. Tribal law required only a single death for vengeance. Some historians have speculated that the Velvicks were targeted because they had previously been convicted for assaulting Aboriginal people and coloured seamen. Alexandra Hasluck has also argued that stealing provisions was an important motive in the attack, but this has been refuted elsewhere.

For the killing of the Velvicks, the Lieutenant-Governor Frederick Irwin declared Yagan, Midgegooroo and Munday to be outlaws, offering rewards of £20 each for the capture of Midgegooroo and Munday, and a reward of £30 for Yagan’s capture, dead or alive. Munday successfully appealed against his proscription. Midgegooroo, Yagan and their group immediately moved from their territory north towards the Helena Valley. On 17 May, Midgegooroo was captured on the Helena River. After a brief, informal trial, he was executed by firing squad. Yagan remained at large for over two months.

Late in May, George Fletcher Moore reported seeing Yagan on his property and talking with him in pidgin English. Moore wrote in the Perth Gazette:

Yagan stepped forward and leaning with his left hand on my shoulder while he gesticulated with the right, delivered a sort of recitation, looking earnestly in my face.

I regret I could not understand it, I thought from the tone and manner that the purport was this:

“You came to our country — you have driven us from our haunts, and disturbed us in our occupations. As we walk in our own country we are fired upon by the white men; why should the white men treat us so?”

Since Moore had little knowledge of Yagan’s native language, the historian Hasluck suggests that this account is probably more indicative of “a feeling of conscience on the part of the white men” than an accurate rendering of Yagan’s state of mind.

Yagan asked Moore whether Midgegooroo was dead or alive. Moore gave no reply, but a servant answered that Midgegooroo was a prisoner on Carnac Island. Yagan warned, “White man shoot Midgegooroo, Yagan kill three.” Moore reported the encounter but made no attempt to restrain Yagan. He later wrote, “The truth is, every one wishes him taken, but no one likes to be the captor … there is something in his daring which one is forced to admire.”


Map of skirmish area showing gravesite and Henry Bull’s mill

On 11 July 1833, two teenage brothers named William and James Keates were herding cattle along the Swan River north of Guildford when a group of Noongar approached while en route to collect flour rations from Henry Bull‘s house.

The Keates brothers suggested Yagan remain with them to avoid arrest. While he was staying with them during the morning, the brothers decided to kill the warrior and claim the reward. When the natives were ready to depart, the Keateses took their last opportunity.

William Keates shot Yagan, and James shot Heegan, another native, in the act of throwing his spear. The brothers ran away, but other Noongar overtook William and speared him to death. James escaped by swimming the river. Shortly afterward he returned with a party of armed settlers from Bull’s estate.

When the party of settlers arrived, they found Yagan dead and Heegan dying. Heegan “was groaning and his brains were partly out when the party came, and whether humanity or brutality, a man put a gun to his head and blew it to pieces.” The settlers cut Yagan’s head from his body, and skinned his back to obtain his tribal markings as a trophy. They buried the bodies a short distance away.

James Keates claimed the reward, but his conduct was widely criticised.

 The Perth Gazette referred to Yagan’s killing as “a wild and treacherous act … it is revolting to hear this lauded as a meritorious deed.” However, Daisy Bates understood that “he was killed in self-defence by the young lad.” Keates left the colony the following month; it is possible that he left from fear of being murdered in tribal retaliation.

Yagan’s head

Exhibition and burial

A portion of George Fletcher Moore‘s handwritten diary, showing sketches of Yagan’s head Yagan’s head was initially taken to Henry Bull’s house. Moore saw it there and sketched the head a number of times in his unpublished, handwritten diary, commenting that “possibly it may yet figure in some museum at home.” The head was preserved by smoking.

In September 1833, Governor Irwin sailed for London, partly to give his own account of the events leading up to the killing. This was an unusual measure, especially given his regiment was about to leave for a tour of duty in India. The Colonial Office indicated satisfaction with Irwin’s administration of the colony.

Travelling with Irwin was Ensign Robert Dale, who had somehow acquired Yagan’s head. According to the historian Paul Turnbull, Dale appears to have persuaded Irwin to let him have the head as an “anthropological curiosity”. After arriving in London, Dale tried to sell the head to scientists, approaching a number of anatomists and phrenologists. His price of £20 failed to find a buyer, so he made an agreement with Thomas Pettigrew for the exclusive use of the head for 18 months. Pettigrew, a surgeon and antiquarian, was well known in the London social scene for holding private parties at which he unrolled and autopsied Egyptian mummies. He displayed the head on a table in front of a panoramic view of King George Sound reproduced from Dale’s sketches.

For effect, the head was adorned with a fresh corded headband and feathers of the red-tailed black cockatoo.

Portrait of Yagan by George Cruikshank.
This portrait was painted from observations of Yagan’s severed head, which had shrunk substantially during preservation by smoking. George Fletcher Moore said it bore little resemblance to the living Yagan, whose face was “plump, with a burly-headed look about it”.

Pettigrew had the head examined by a phrenologist. Examination was considered difficult because of the large fracture across the back of the head caused by the gunshot.

His conclusions were consistent with contemporary European opinion of Indigenous Australians. Dale published these in a pamphlet entitled Descriptive Account of the Panoramic View &c. of King George’s Sound and the Adjacent Country, which Pettigrew encouraged his guests to buy as a souvenir of their evening. The frontispiece of the pamphlet was a hand-coloured aquatint print of Yagan’s head by the artist George Cruikshank.

Early in October 1835, Yagan’s head and the panoramic view were returned to Dale, then living in Liverpool. On 12 October he presented them to the Liverpool Royal Institution, where the head may have been displayed in a case along with some other preserved heads and wax models illustrating cranial anatomy. In 1894 the Institution’s collections were dispersed, and Yagan’s head was lent to the Liverpool Museum; it is thought not to have been put on display there.

 By the 1960s Yagan’s head was badly deteriorated. In April 1964 the museum decided to dispose of it. It arranged burial of the head on 10 April 1964, together with a Peruvian mummy and a Māori head. They were buried in Everton Cemetery‘s General Section 16, grave number 296. In later years a number of burials were made around the grave. For example, in 1968 a local hospital buried directly over the box, 20 stillborn babies and two infants who died soon after birth.

Lobbying for repatriation

For many years beginning in the early 1980s, a number of Noongar groups sought the return of Yagan’s head to Australia.

It is Aboriginal belief that because Yagan’s skeletal remains are incomplete, his spirit is earthbound. The uniting of his head and torso will immediately set his spirit free to continue its eternal journey.

At the time, there was no historical trail for the head after Pettigrew passed it on. Tribal elders entrusted the Aboriginal leader Ken Colbung[JJS11]  with the search. In the early 1990s, Colbung enlisted the aid of University of London archaeologist Peter Ucko. One of Ucko’s researchers, Cressida Fforde, conducted a literature search for information on the head. Fforde successfully traced the head in December 1993.

 The following April, Colbung applied to exhume the remains under Section 25 of the Burial Act 1857. Home Office regulations required next of kin consent before disturbing the remains of the 22 infants. Colbung’s solicitors requested waiver of this condition on grounds that the exhumation would be of great personal significance to Yagan’s living relatives, and great national importance to Australia.

Meanwhile, divisions in the Noongar community in Perth began to develop. Some elders questioned Colbung’s role and one Noongar registered a complaint with the Liverpool City Council over his involvement. Media reports indicated acrimonious debate within the Noongar community about who had the best cultural qualifications to take possession of the head.

 The academic Hannah McGlade claims that these divisions were largely manufactured by the media, particularly The West Australian, which “aimed to and successfully represented the Nyungar community in terms of disharmony and dissent”. She alleges that one West reporter contacted Noongar who were known to be in disagreement, and quoted one to the other, so as to elicit provocative responses. The disputes were “trumpeted” by The West, allowing it to “preach” against the infighting.

On 25 July a public meeting was held in Perth. All parties agreed to put aside their differences and co-operate to ensure that the repatriation was a “national success”. A Yagan Steering Committee was established to co-ordinate the repatriation, and Colbung’s application was allowed to proceed. In January 1995 the Home Office advised Colbung that it was unable to waive the requirement to obtain next of kin consent for the exhumation. It contacted the five relatives whose addresses were known, and received unconditional consent from only one. Accordingly, on 30 June 1995, Colbung and the other interested parties were advised that the application for exhumation had been rejected.

Meeting on 21 September, the Yagan Steering Committee decided to lobby Australian and British politicians for support. In 1997 Colbung was invited to visit the United Kingdom at the British government’s expense and he arrived on 20 May. His visit attracted substantial media coverage, and increased the political pressure on the British Government. He secured the support of the Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, after gate crashing the Prime Minister’s June visit to the United Kingdom.


Surface Radar used to find Yagan’s Head

Main article: Exhumation of Yagan’s head

A horizontal colour contour map of ground conductivity of Yagan’s grave site, showing an anomaly in the electromagnetic signature caused by metal artefacts buried with Yagan’s head

While Colbung was in the United Kingdom, Martin and Richard Bates were engaged to undertake a geophysical survey of the grave site. Using electromagnetic and ground penetrating radar techniques, they identified an approximate position of the box that suggested it could be accessed from the side via the adjacent plot. A report of the survey was passed to the Home Office, prompting further discussions between the British and Australian Governments.

Of concern to the Home Office were an undisclosed number of letters that it had received objecting to Colbung’s involvement in the repatriation process; it therefore sought assurances from the Australian Government that Colbung was a correct applicant. In response Colbung asked his elders to ask the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) to tell the British Home Office that he was the correct applicant. ATSIC then convened a meeting in Perth at which it was again resolved that Colbung’s application could proceed.

Colbung continued to press for the exhumation, asking that it be performed before the 164th anniversary of Yagan’s death on 11 July, so that the anniversary could be the occasion of a celebration. His request was not met, and on the anniversary of Yagan’s death, Colbung conducted a short memorial service at the burial plot in Everton. He returned to Australia empty-handed on 15 July.

The exhumation of Yagan’s head eventually proceeded, without Colbung’s knowledge, by excavating six feet down the side of the grave, then tunnelling horizontally to the location of the box. Thus the exhumation was performed without disturbing any other remains.

The following day, a forensic palaeontologist from the University of Bradford positively identified the skull as Yagan’s by correlating the fractures with those described in Pettigrew’s report. The skull was then kept at the museum until 29 August, when it was handed over to the Liverpool City Council.


On 27 August 1997, a delegation of Noongars consisting of Ken Colbung, Robert Bropho, Richard Wilkes and Mingli Wanjurri-Nungala arrived in the UK to collect Yagan’s head. The delegation was to have been larger, but Commonwealth funding was withdrawn at the last minute. The handover of Yagan’s skull was further delayed when a Noongar named Corrie Bodney applied to the Supreme Court of Western Australia for an injunction against the handover.

 Claiming that his family group has sole responsibility for Yagan’s remains, Bodney declared the exhumation illegal and denied the existence of any tradition or belief necessitating the head’s exhumation and removal to Australia. On 29 August, Justice Henry Wallwork rejected the injunction application, on the grounds that Bodney had previously agreed to the current arrangements, and on the evidence of another Noongar elder (Albert Corunna, who claimed to be a closer relation of Yagan) and anthropologist Pat Baines, both of whom refuted Bodney’s claim to sole responsibility.

Yagan’s skull was handed over to the Noongar delegation at a ceremony at Liverpool Town Hall on 31 August 1997. In accepting the skull, Colbung made comments that were interpreted as linking Yagan’s death with the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, earlier that day:

That is how nature goes … Nature is a carrier of all good things and all bad things. And because the Poms did the wrong thing, they now have to suffer.

Colbung’s comments prompted a media furore throughout Australia, with newspapers receiving many letters from the public expressing shock and anger at the comments. Colbung later claimed that his comments had been misinterpreted.

Throughout the repatriation process, many sections of the international media treated the story as a joke. For example, the US News & World Report ran a story under the headline Raiders of the Lost Conk, in which Yagan’s head was referred to as a “pickled curio”, and Colbung’s actions were treated as a publicity stunt.

Preparations for reburial

On its return to Perth, Yagan’s head continued to be a source of controversy and conflict. Responsibility for reburial of the head was given to a “Committee for the Reburial of Yagan’s Kaat”, headed by Richard Wilkes. The reburial was delayed by disputes between elders over the burial location, mainly due to uncertainty of the whereabouts of the rest of his body, and disagreement about the importance of burying the head with the body.

A number of attempts were made to locate the remains of Yagan’s body, which were believed to be on Lot 39 West Swan Road in the outer Perth suburb of Belhus.

A remote sensing survey of the site was carried out in 1998, but no remains were found. An archaeological survey of the area was undertaken two years later, but this also was unsuccessful. Disputes then arose over whether the head could be buried separately from the body. Wilkes has claimed that it can, so long as it is placed where Yagan was killed, so that Dreamtime spirits can reunite the remains.

In 1998 the Western Australian Planning Commission and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs jointly published a document entitled Yagan’s Gravesite Master Plan, which discussed “matters of ownership, management, development and future use” of the property on which Yagan’s remains are believed to be buried. Under consideration was the possibility of turning the site into an Indigenous burial site, to be managed by the Metropolitan Cemeteries Board.

Yagan’s head spent some time in storage in a bank vault before being handed over to forensics experts who reconstructed a model from it. After that it was held in storage at Western Australia’s state mortuary. Plans to re-bury the head were repeatedly deferred, causing ongoing conflict between Noongar groups.

 In September 2008 it was reported that Yagan’s head would be reburied in November, and a Yagan Memorial Park created as a projected cost of A$996,000; but in November it was announced that the reburial had been rescheduled for July 2009 because of logistical problems. In March 2009, it was announced that the Department of Indigenous Affairs had given the City of Swan more than A$500,000 to develop the park.


The head was finally buried in a private ceremony attended only by invited Noongar elders, on 10 July 2010, the anniversary of the last full day he lived and one day before the end of NAIDOC Week 2010. The site in Belhus was chosen as it is believed to be near to where the rest of Yagan’s body was buried.

A person in a suit holding a flower

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Yagan Memorial Park

 The burial coincided with a ceremony to mark the opening of the Yagan Memorial Park which was attended by around 300 people, including Noongar elders and State government representatives. State Premier Colin Barnett described the occasion as “a wonderful day for all West Australians.”

The art works for the Yagan Memorial Park were designed by Peter Farmer, Sandra Hill, Jenny Dawson and Kylie Ricks. Dawson and Hill created an entry wall of Yagan’s story; Farmer designed the park entry statements and Ricks the female Coolamon.


The repatriation of Yagan’s head increased the Aboriginal leader’s notability. He is considered a famous historical figure throughout Australia, with material about him appearing in such publications as the Australian Dictionary of Biography, and Western Australia’s school curriculum. He is of greatest significance to the Noongar people, for whom he is “a revered, cherished and heroic individual … patriot and visionary hero of WA’s South-West”.

 The return of his head was likened by some Indigenous Australians to the November 1993 ceremonial repatriation from Gallipoli of Australia’s unknown soldier.

The former Upper Swan Bridge, which carries the Great Northern Highway over the Swan River at Belhus, was renamed the Yagan Bridge in 2010. Also, an open plaza in the Perth central business district, constructed as part of the Perth City Link urban renewal project, was named Yagan Square.

The plaza, located adjacent to the Horseshoe Bridge, was opened on 3 March 2018.

Cultural references

Alas Poor Yagan

Main article: Alas Poor Yagan

The final two frames of Dean Alston‘s 1997 cartoon Alas Poor Yagan

On 6 September 1997 The West Australian published a Dean Alston cartoon entitled Alas Poor Yagan, which was critical of the fact that the return of Yagan’s head had become a source of conflict between Noongars instead of fostering unity. The cartoon was interpreted by some as insulting aspects of Noongar culture, and casting aspersions on the motives and legitimacy of Indigenous Australians with mixed racial heritage.

 The content of the cartoon offended many Indigenous Australians, and a group of Noongar elders complained about the cartoon to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. The commission ruled that the cartoon made inappropriate references to Noongar beliefs but was not in breach of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 because it was “an artistic work” that was published “reasonably and in good faith”, and was therefore exempt. This ruling was upheld on appeal by the Federal Court of Australia. Some academic commentators have since expressed concern that the protections offered under the act have been undermined by the ruling’s broad interpretation of the exemptions.


From the mid-1970s, members of the Noongar community lobbied for the erection of a statue of Yagan as part of the WAY 1979 sesquicentennial celebrations.

Their requests were refused, however, after then Premier of Western Australia Sir Charles Court was advised by one prominent historian that Yagan was not important enough to warrant a statue. Colbung claims “Court was more interested in spending tax payers’ money on refurbishing the badly neglected burial place of Captain James Stirling, WA’s first governor.”

 Despite this setback, the Noongar community persisted, establishing a Yagan Committee and running a number of fund-raising drives. Eventually, sufficient funds were collected to allow the commissioning of Australian sculptor Robert Hitchcock to create a statue. The result was a life-size statue in bronze, depicting Yagan standing naked with a spear held across his shoulders. Hitchcock’s statue of Yagan was officially opened by Yagan Committee chairperson Elizabeth Hanson on 11 September 1984. It stands on Heirisson Island in the Swan River near Perth.

In 1997, within a week of the return of Yagan’s head to Perth, vandals beheaded the statue using an angle grinder. Soon after a replacement head was installed and it too was detached and stolen. Credit for the act was anonymously claimed by a “British loyalist” as an act of retaliation for Colbung’s comments about Diana, Princess of Wales.

 The Western Australia Police did not succeed in identifying the vandals, nor in recovering the heads, and deemed it infeasible to have the statue fenced off or placed under guard.

Commentary on the beheadings varied widely. One column in The West Australia found humour in them, referring to the head as a “bonce” and a “noggin”, and finished with a pun on “skullduggery”. Stephen Muecke calls this the “satirical trivialising of Aboriginal concerns”; and Adam Shoemaker writes “This is the stuff of light humour and comic relief. There is no sense of the decapitation as being an act of vandalism, even less that it could have been motivated by malevolence … [T]he piece has a definite authorizing function”.

 On the other hand, academic analysis has treated the act with much more gravity. In 2007, for example, David Martin described the decapitation as “an act which speaks not only to the continuance of white settler racism, but also to the power of mimesis to invigorate our modern memorials and monuments with a life of their own.”

In 2002, Member of the Western Australian Legislative Assembly Janet Woollard called for the statue’s genitalia to be covered up, but nothing was done. In November 2005 Richard Wilkes again called for the statue’s groin to be covered, on the grounds that such a depiction would be more historically accurate, as Yagan would have worn a covering for most of the year. Also under consideration is the creation of a new statue with a head shape that accords better with the forensic reconstruction of Yagan’s head.

Literature and film

Cover of Mary Durack‘s 1976 children’s novel Yagan of the Bibbulmun, with illustrations by Revel Cooper

Mary Durack published a fictionalised account of Yagan’s life in her 1964 children’s novel The Courteous Savage: Yagan of the Swan River, which was renamed Yagan of the Bibbulmun on reissue in 1976.

The repeated beheading of Yagan’s statue in 1997 prompted Aboriginal writer Archie Weller to write a short story entitled Confessions of a Headhunter. Weller later worked with film director Sally Riley to adapt the story into a script, and in 2000 a 35-minute movie, also named Confessions of a Headhunter, was released. Directed by Sally Riley, the movie won Best Short Fiction Film at the 2000 AFI Awards. The following year the script won the Script Award in the 2001 Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards.

In 2002, the South African-born Australian poet John Mateer published his fourth collection of poems, entitled Loanwords. The collection is divided into four sections, of which the third, In the Presence of a Severed Head, has Yagan as its subject.

Other cultural references

A section of Kullark, a play by Jack Davis, explores the deteriorating relationship between Yagan and a settler couple.

In September 1989 an early maturing cultivar of barley, bred by the Western Australian Department of Agriculture for performance on sandy soils, was released under the name “Hordeum vulgare (Barley) c.v. Yagan”. Commonly referred to simply as “Yagan”, the cultivar is named for Yagan, continuing a tradition of labelling Western Australian grain cultivars after historic people of Western Australia.


List of Noongar people

The following is a list of prominent Indigenous Australian people of Noongar identity, who are from the south-west corner of Western Australia.





Resistance fighters

Kylie Farmer

Kylie Bracknell (formerly Farmer) (also known as Kaarljilba Kaardn) is an Aboriginal Australian actress. She has played Juliet in a run of Romeo and Juliet with the Australian Shakespeare Company, featured in the 2010 revival of The Sapphires, appeared in Rima Tamou’s film Sa Black Thing (an episode of the SBS TV series Dramatically Black) performed in the theatre production Aliwa!, appeared in Muttacar Sorry Business and is the face and narrator of the NITV series Waabiny Time.

Noongar language and culture has featured strongly in Farmer’s career. She spent 11 years with Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company, an Aboriginal-led theatre company based in Perth, in the heart of Noongar country. In 2012, she was part of the cast from Yirra Yaakin, which translated Shakespeare’s sonnets into Noongar and performed them at the Globe Theatre in London. She is a strong advocate for Aboriginal languages, with appearances at TEDxManly and on the ABC program Q&A. In addition, Farmer has taught language through music to young Noongar people in country towns, through Community Arts Network’s Noongar Pop Culture project and through early years television series Waabiny Time.


Fanny Balbuk

Group portrait of Noongar men, women, and children, Fanny Balbuk seated on the right in the white dress. State Library of WA 253420PD

Fanny Balbuk (1840-1907) was a prominent Noongar Whadjuk woman who lived in Perth, Western Australia during the early years of the Swan River Colony. Balbuk (sometimes recorded as “Yooreel”) was born on Heirisson Island in the Swan River, and her country included the swamps and wetland in the area currently occupied by the Perth Railway Station and Perth Cultural Centre. She is remembered for her fierce commitment to land rights, and her reactions to the buildings, fences and homes which quickly replaced her land as the colony expanded at the cost of Noongar peoples’ land, language and lives.

Early life

Balbuk was born to Joojeebal (Doodyep) and Coondenung on Heirisson Island in 1840. Her father Coondenung was an accomplished hunter and her mother Joojeebal was known for “cheeky” sense of humour.




Balbuk was born near the causeway on Noongar Whadjuk country, and would collect Gilgies and vegetables from the swampy areas around Perth. She was a descendant of Yellagonga and her traditional country covers the Perth central business district area.

Map showing Noongar language areas

Balbuk was well known among the colonists who had grown up around her. At a young age she had travelled around to places like Northam, Moore River and Dandaragan, and attended a friendship ceremony where she was given the name Yooreel at Moore River. She was remembered for her unwavering commitment to maintaining her land rights in the earliest days of the frontier wars in Western Australia. Balbuk would walk the track between her birth site and the railway station, regardless of any new obstacles, buildings or fences which would spring up in her path as the colony grew. Daisy Bates herself wrote “one of her favourite annoyances was to stand at the gates of Government House, reviling all who dwelt within, in that the stone gates guarded by a sentry enclosed her grandmother’s burial ground.”

Noongar Elder Noel Nannup tells a similar story: “That was her songline, her dreaming. She just kept going and didn’t take any notice of the new city going up. That’s a story of defiance and determination.”


Balbuk died in 1907, leaving no descendants.

Shareena Clanton

Shareena Clanton
Born 1990 (age 28–29) Perth, Western Australia
Occupation Actress

Shareena Clanton (born 1990) is an Australian film, television and theatre actress. She is known for her role as Doreen Anderson on the drama series Wentworth (2013–2017).


Clanton was born in Perth, Western Australia. She is of Wangatha, Yamatji, Noongar and Gidja descent.

She currently resides in Melbourne, Victoria.



Year Title Role Notes
2009 Stone Bros. Leah
2010 On a Break Donna Short film
2015 Last Cab to Darwin Sally
2017 Mrs McCutcheon Ange Short film


Year Title Role Notes
2011 Ben Elton Live from Planet Earth Self 3 episodes
2011 Rescue: Special Ops Prisoner 1 Episode: “Break Out”
2012 Redfern Now Lilly Episode: “Family”
2013–2017 Wentworth Doreen Anderson Main role (53 episodes)
2013 Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Lena Episode: “Murder Most Scandalous”
2016 Ash vs Evil Dead Deputy Polly Episode: “Confinement”
2016–2018 Nowhere Boys: Two Moons Rising Sonia Jarra Supporting role
2017 True Story with Hamish & Andy Nurse Episode: “Sammie”
2017 Aussie Rangers Regina
2018 The Cry Lorna Jones Main role
2019 Rosehaven Suzanne 2 episodes
2019 Glitch Elena Triggs Episode: “First Times”

Karla Hart

Karla Hart

Karla Hart is a writer, film-maker, dancer, actress and director and has been the event co-ordinator for Wardarnji Festival 2011- 2015, is currently the Drive time presenter for Noongar Radio which broadcasts in Perth, Western Australia.


Hart learnt traditional dance from Noongar elders, she also studied Aboriginal Theatre at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts before completing a Bachelor Arts in Contemporary Performance at Edith Cowan University.


Hart is currently Co Executive Producer and Shooter/Director on new NITV series in the making “Family Rules”. Hart has acted in acted, danced in a number of productions both on stage and in film & television, she also written plays and coordinated major events including the Wararnji Festival. She was a drive-time presenter for Noongar Radio for which she won a national award . Hart is also a board member of Yirra Yaakin Aboriginal Theatre Company which is an independent theatre company in Western Australia.

Kwarbah Djookian

In 2004 Hart started the Kwarbah Djookian Dance Group of which she also a performer, the group has performed at many major event both locally and internationally and hundreds of events such as festivals, schools, concerts and corporate events.



  • Seasons series


  • King Hit – played Belle and Kerry

Theatre writings

  • Co-wrote and acted in Black as Michael Jackson
  • Co-created Fifty Shades of Black

Screen writings

  • Magic Quandong (2013) – winner WA Screen Awards 2013
  • Sharing Caring
  • Angela’s Rules (2015)
  • Meriny Time
  • Shit Noongars Say
  • Shit Whitefellas Say – sequel to Shit Noongars Say
  • Mobulator

Carol Martin

This article is about the Australian politician. For the Canadian athlete, see Carol Martin (athlete). For the American journalist, see Carol Martin (journalist).

Carol Martin
Member of the Legislative Assembly
of Western Australia
In office
10 February 2001 – 9 March 2013
Preceded by Ernie Bridge
Succeeded by Josie Farrer
Constituency Kimberley
Personal details
Born Carol Anne Pilkington
13 October 1957 (age 61)
Subiaco, Western Australia, Australia
Nationality Australian
Political party Labor
Spouse(s) Brian Martin
Alma mater Curtin University
Profession Social worker, politician and artist
Cultural background Yamatji – Noongar

Carol Anne Martin (née Pilkington; born 13 October 1957) is a former Australian politician who served as a Labor Party member of the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia between 2001 and 2013, representing the seat of Kimberley. She was the first Aboriginal woman to be elected to any Australian parliament.

Background and early career

Born as Carol Anne Pilkington in Subiaco, Perth, Western Australia, Martin grew up in Perth, Carnarvon and Mukinbudin. Her mother, Rose Pilkington, was a Yamatji, while her father Bernard was Noongar, and she had six siblings. Her father taught her car maintenance, traditional painting in his people’s style, singing and hunting.

At the age of 12, she was removed from her family and became a ward of the state, moving across several foster homes. Pat Dodson, a Yawuru elder, later wrote: “Removal had a profound impact on her. Albeit a painful and lonely time in her life, it was a period that required her to develop the constructive skills necessary to deal with her extraction and isolation.” At age 15, she made the decision to follow her mother to Broome after her parents’ divorce, and the local community protected her from the authorities.

 She completed a Business Management course in spite of not having completed formal schooling. In 1982, she moved to Derby, where she worked as a social worker and counsellor, and in 1984 married Brian Martin. Amongst other things, she worked alongside others to help return Aboriginal children who were missing in the system to their families, and help Aboriginal families deal with the consequences of the Stolen Generations. She said in 2001, “Sometimes I could help, other times my heart went out to them — for many of them their children are still lost.”

In 1992, Martin won a scholarship to study a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work at Curtin University. Her husband and two young children moved to Perth to be with her. She was the first in her family to graduate from university.

Political career

Martin served on the Derby-West Kimberley Shire Council, and was a member of the National Association for Loss and Grief in Western Australia, the Industry Training Advisory Board, and the Support Committee for Young Women’s Health Wise. Her husband Brian was the president of the Derby branch of the Labor Party, and ran as an independent candidate at the 1996 state election against incumbent ex-Labor MLA Ernie Bridge.

Following Bridge’s retirement from politics at the 2001 state election, Martin secured Labor preselection for the seat of Kimberley, and won it easily. In doing so she became the first ever Aboriginal woman elected to an Australian parliament. Martin was responsible for the establishment of EMILY’s List‘s Partnership for Equity Network, which is aimed at involving more Indigenous women in public life.

After three full terms, Martin retired from politics in 2013, in part following racial slurs directed at her in response to her support for Woodside Petroleum‘s plans to build a liquefied natural hub near Broome, but also a desire to spend more time in the Kimberley and with her family. She was succeeded in the seat by Gitja woman Josie Farrer.

In January 2016, she was named as the Labor Party’s candidate for the federal seat of Durack, which covers the northern part of the state.

Personal life

Martin is also an accomplished painter and artist, having taken it up on her return to Derby in the 1990s. Her work has been exhibited by Curtin University and still resides in the Centre for Aboriginal Studies, and former Governor-General William Deane owned several paintings. She has assisted with the creation of the Australian Indigenous Art and Culture Development Fund, which attempts to right a past wrong where traditional Aboriginal artists were not given royalty payments for the use of their work, and has been a strong supporter of the Indigenous Stock Exchange (ISX) which was founded in May 2003.

Her interests include fishing, camping, reading and spending time with her large extended family. She has two children and several grandchildren.

Mohammed Junaid Thorne

Mohammed Junaid Thorne is a Saudi-Australian Islamic preacher of Aboriginal heritage from Perth, Australia. Thorne is noted for his controversial views on Islamic militant groups including Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Thorne is a member of the Australian branch of Millatu Ibrahim, a Khawarij organisation banned in Germany. In August 2015 Thorne was sentenced to between four and eight months jail for travelling on an aircraft under a false name, and using fake ID to obtain his ticket.

Personal life

Junaid Thorne was born to a Noongar Aboriginal man named Graham Thorne and to a Malaysian Muslim woman. His parents divorced and Junaid’s mother remarried a Moroccan Muslim. In 1996, when Junaid was five he was taken to Saudi Arabia to live as his stepfather secured work there. Junaid lived and studied in Saudi Arabia and became transcultured as a Muslim Arab. He stayed in Saudi Arabia until the age of twenty three.

In November 2014, Thorne moved from Perth to Sydney.

Thorne is on the Australian Federal Government’s terrorism watchlist for his inflammatory social media posts and for lectures indicating support for Islamic State.

On 15 January 2015 Thorne’s home in Bass Hill, New South Wales was raided by Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers. He was served with a notice to appear at court in Perth. When traveling between Sydney and Perth, with Omer Issak and Mostafa Shiddiquzzaman, they all used false names. All three plead guilty to the charges. Shiddiquzzuman was sentenced to four months in custody, while Issak received a “community-based order” earlier the same year in Perth. On 15 June 2015 Thorne was sentenced to nine months’ jail. He was released on bail pending an appeal of his sentence. In August Thorne was sentenced to eight months, with a minimum of four. He is being held in segregation at Goulburn Correctional Centres ‘supermax’ facility after being classified with the most secure rating, AA.

In 2019 Thorne was charged with drug- and firearm-supply offences.


Thorne has been an active Islamic preacher in the Muslim community of Australia; he has given a series of lectures at local Islamic centres known for their hardline views of Islam including the iQraa Islamic centre in Brisbane, the (now-closed) Al Risalah Islamic centre in Bankstown, and the (now closed) Al Furqan Islamic centre in Melbourne.

According to Thorne, teenager Numan Haider, who was shot and killed after stabbing two officers from the Joint Counter Terrorism team outside the Endeavour Hills police station in Melbourne, attended a number of his lectures, and met with the teenager several times. Thorne claimed Haider was “innocent” and had been “murdered in cold blood.”

Millatu Ibrahim

Junaid Thorne has become a member of the Millatu Ibrahim branch in Perth; Millatu Ibrahim has been banned in Germany. According to Thorne, Millatu Ibrahim means “to follow the path of Ibrahim (Abraham),” who is considered a prophet in the Islamic faith. Thorne has claimed that no connection exists between the Australian and German Millatu Ibrahim groups, stating “just because the name is the same… doesn’t imply that they’re the same or that they know each other.”

Ruqyah healing

Following his move to Sydney in November 2014, Thorne turned toward an Islamic form of spiritual healing known as ruqyah; Thorne, collaborating with a Sydney-based healer, Abu Hamza, began a series of lectures on the subject of spirits in Islam or jinn.


Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)

“If I were to vocalise my complete support to them [Islamic State], I would get in trouble… If I was to say that [I] don’t support them at all, that would be untrue… I may support them [on] certain issues, while I disagree with them in other issues.”

Democracy and Sharia

“As Muslims, we do reject democracy, we reject other, we look to Sharia, Sharia law, as our main way of governmental system. Not that we are like trying to impose it here or anything. It’s just that what we as Muslims want. Me personally, I want, I would love for Sharia law to be implemented here, but it doesn’t mean that I’m going to impose it on anyone. But if there was an Islamic state where Sharia law was being implemented I would happily move there. Because as a Muslim, all Muslims, we see that Sharia law is our salvation, or our solution to the problems that we see nowadays.”

Charlie Hebdo shooting

Thorne has been critically cited in the media for providing justification for the terrorist attack on the French Charlie Hebdo magazine in which left 12 dead in Paris.

Victim of trolling

In 2015, Thorne was the victim of Jewish American online troll, and convicted bomber[12][13] Joshua Ryne Goldberg, who set up a fake account in the name of the preacher with the intention of smearing Thorne, as well as creating fake jihadist personas that interacted with the fake Thorne account, sending screengrabs of these fabricated interactions to journalists. Not realizing that the “jihadist” accounts were controlled by the same hoaxster that was impersonating Thorne, these faked interactions were published in The West Australian on April 18, 2015, and described as evidence of “the deep hatred many of Thorne’s followers harbour towards non-Muslim Australians”

·       Mokare

Mokare Statue in Gardens
  • Mokare (c. 1800 – 26 June 1831) was a Noongar man, an Aboriginal man from the south-west corner of Australia who was pivotal in aiding European exploration of the area. Mokare had two known brothers: Mollian (d. 1829), who may have been known as Yallapoli, and Nakina, who with Mokare, was a frequent visitor to the Albany settlement, staying with the government resident, Dr Alexander Collie. He also was recorded as having a married sister.
  • Possibly first recorded as the charismatic “Jack” recorded by Phillip Parker King in his expedition to King George Sound in 1821, Mokare was from the Minang clan of Noongar. With the arrival of Major Edmund Lockyer in the brig Amity, in 1827, he showed the Europeans the walking trails that the Noongar people had used and maintained over generations in the Albany region. Many of these are today the roads of that region of Australia. He became a close friend of the surgeon-assistant J. S. Nind, with whom he frequently visited. In December 1829 Mokare guided Dr Thomas Braidwood Wilson‘s overland expedition during which Mount Barker and Mount Lindsay were named as well as Hay River, Denmark River and Wilson Inlet. Two months later he served again as the guide for Captain Barker’s expedition over the same area. As there was no competition between Europeans and Aboriginal people for land, women or hunting, the settlement in Albany was particularly peaceful.
  • Mokare was well known in his short life for being a peacemaker, and an effective mediator between black and white communities. He was concerned when Stirling took command of the Albany settlement in 1830, as he had heard of the battles and massacres between European settlers and Aboriginal people, and wished Albany to be maintained as a separate settlement.
  • Mokare died on 26 June 1831. The Noongar People and Europeans had assembled at Collie’s house and walked to a site selected by Nakina where the Europeans dug a grave and Mokare was interred with a buka cloak and personal artifacts to Nakina’s specifications. When Collie himself was dying from tuberculosis in 1835, he asked to be buried alongside Mokare. Their graves are together beneath Albany Town Hall. Four years after Mokare’s death, the surveyor John Septimus Roe had his body exhumed and re-interred at the newly established Albany Cemetery.
  • A park consisting of native bushland on the northern side of Mount Melville in Albany was named after Mokare in 1978. A statue was erected in Alison Hartman Gardens on York Street in the centre of Albany in 1997 as part of a reconciliation project.

·       Alternative spellings

  • Mokaré, Mokkare, Mawcarrie, Markew or Makkare.
  • Dumont d’Urville spells his name ‘Maukorraï’ in the second volume of his Voyage pittoresque autour du Monde.

·       Portrait

  • Mokaré’s portrait was also sketched by Louis-Auguste de Sainson in 1826. It appears in colour with his name on the bottom right-hand corner of plate 8 of Dumont d’Urville, Voyage et découvertes de l’Astrolabe . . ., Atlas, 1833.
  • Della Rae Morrison

Della Rae Morrison

Della Rae Morrison is an Aboriginal actor, songwriter and activist of the Bibulman Noongar people.

The daughter of Patricia Morrison and Eddie Parfitt, she was born in Narrogin, Western Australia and grew up in Albany, Perth and South Hedland. She left school at the age of 14 and began working at a checkout counter to help support her family.

 She later attended Hedland Business College and began doing office work. She lived in Melbourne and Sydney, later returning to Perth.

Morrison began singing and acting at a young age. She performed in the musical Bran Nue Dae. Morrison appeared in the Australian children’s television series Lockie Leonard and has also appeared in various theatre productions and film. She is musical director and co-founder of Madjitil Moorna, a community choir performing in the Nyungar language. Morrison and Jessie Lloyd, vocalists for the award-winning group Djiva, created the Chocolate Martini series of shows for National Indigenous Television.

In 2009, she was one of the founders of the West Australian Nuclear Free Alliance [de]. She also helped establish a Noongar tent embassy on Heirisson Island in 2012.

  • Angela Ryder
  • Angela Ryder is a Wilman Noongar from Western Australia who is chairwoman of the Langford Aboriginal Association and the manager of Aboriginal programs with Relationships Australia.
  • Ryder was born in Katanning, and is a member of the Stolen Generation. She was removed from her family and placed in Wandering and Roelands Missions between the ages of 8 and 12. Her mother was also stolen. In the early 1980s she got a government job in Katanning and was later transferred to Perth where she has lived for many years.
  • Career
  • Ryder is a Noongar speaker and is committed to restoring the language to members of the Stolen Generation and all Western Australians. As well as being President of the Langford Aboriginal Association and manager of Aboriginal programs with Relationships Australia, Angela Ryder has acted as treasurer for NAIDOC Perth and been a broadcaster on Noongar Radio with the Yorgas Yarning program. She is also a member of the board of Yule Brook College. She attended the launch of the internal Moorditj Moodle website for Polytechnic West in May 2012. The Moorditj Moodle contains Noongar language content for the college.
  • In January 2010 the Langford Aboriginal Association celebrated the creation of a bush food garden and the launch of a series of children’s books in Noongar and English.[7] The Langford Aboriginal Association provides language courses in Noongar for children and adults and is one of the main organisations in Western Australia dedicated to reviving and teaching the Noongar language.
  • Ryder’s contributions to her community were recognised in 2013 at the Perth NAIDOC Awards Ceremony when she was named The Community Person of the Year. The 2013 NAIDOC Perth Award ceremony was held at The Hyatt Regency Perth on Thursday 20 June. The awards are given to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, communities and organisations who have achieved and excelled within the Perth community.
  • Ryder was also one of the inaugural 100 women inducted into the Western Australian Women’s Hall of Fame in 2011 in a ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. She was the 81st in a list of the 100 most inspirational Western Australian women. She was recognised for her work to ensure equitable access to services for all Aboriginal people.
  • More recently, in October 2017, Angela Ryder was awarded the Curtin University John Curtin Medal for her long standing leadership in the community.
  • Personal life
  • Ryder is a Noongar woman, mother and grandmother.  Both she and her mother raised large families.
  • Ken Wyatt

Ken Wyatt

The Honourable   Ken Wyatt   AM MP
Minister for Indigenous Australians
Assumed office
29 May 2019
Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Preceded by Nigel Scullion
Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care
In office
24 January 2017 – 29 May 2019
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
Scott Morrison
Preceded by Himself as assistant minister
Succeeded by Richard Colbeck
Minister for Indigenous Health
In office
24 January 2017 – 29 May 2019
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
Scott Morrison
Preceded by Warren Snowdon (2013)
Succeeded by Abolished
          Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care
In office
30 September 2015 – 24 January 2017
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
Preceded by Fiona Nash
Succeeded by Himself
(as Minister for Aged Care)
David Gillespie
(as Assistant Minister for Health)
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Hasluck
Assumed office
21 August 2010
Preceded by Sharryn Jackson
Personal details
Born Kenneth George Wyatt
(1952-08-04) 4 August 1952 (age 67)
Bunbury, Western Australia, Australia
Nationality Australian
Political party Liberal
Spouse(s) Anna-Maria Palermo
Children 2
Relatives Cedric Wyatt, Ben Wyatt (cousins)
Occupation Public servant
Profession Teacher
Website kenwyatt.com.au

Kenneth George Wyatt AM (born 4 August 1952) is an Australian politician who has been a member of the House of Representatives since 2010, representing the Division of Hasluck for the Liberal Party. He is the first Indigenous Australian elected to the House of Representatives, the first to serve as a government minister, and the first appointed to cabinet. Wyatt was appointed Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health in the Turnbull Government in January 2017, after previously serving as an assistant minister since September 2015. He was elevated to cabinet in May 2019 as Minister for Indigenous Australians in the Morrison Government.

Early life

Wyatt is an Indigenous Australian, also of part English, Irish and Indian descent. He was born at Roelands Mission farm, near Bunbury south of Perth in Western Australia, a former home for young Indigenous children removed from their families. His mother, Mona Abdullah, was one of the Stolen Generations of Aboriginal children removed from their parents and relocated to Roelands, where she met her husband Don. Wyatt’s father’s heritage is Yamatji and Irish ancestry. His mother’s family heritage is Wongi and Noongar ancestry, while her surname, Abdullah, is from an ancestor who migrated from India to be a cameleer, helping lay the trans-Australia telegraph line.


Prior to entering Parliament, Wyatt served as senior public servant in the fields of Aboriginal health and education. He has held positions as Director of the WA Office of Aboriginal Health as well as a similar post with NSW Health. He was also previously Director of Aboriginal Education with the WA Department of Education.


Wyatt stood for the Liberal Party in the seat of Hasluck in the 2010 election, defeating Labor incumbent Sharryn Jackson. He won the seat with a 1.4-point swing, and became the first Aboriginal person to be elected to the Australian House of Representatives (if one excludes David Kennedy who was Member for Bendigo from 1969 to 1972), and the third elected to the Parliament (behind Neville Bonner and Aden Ridgeway, both Senators). Mal Brough is of Aboriginal descent but does not identify himself as such.

On 28 September 2010, Wyatt attended the opening of the 43rd Australian Parliament to take up his seat as member for Hasluck. He wore a traditional Booka – a kangaroo skin coat with feathers from a red-tailed black cockatoo, signifying a leadership role in Noongar culture. The cloak had been presented to him by Noongar elders. He made his maiden speech to the Parliament on 29 September and received a standing ovation from both the government and opposition benches as well as from the public galleries.

On 20 September 2015, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that Wyatt would become Assistant Minister for Health, making him the first Indigenous frontbencher in federal parliament. Although his term commenced on 21 September, he was not sworn in with the other ministers as he was overseas, with his ceremony taking place on 30 September. On 18 February 2016, Wyatt’s responsibilities were expanded to include aged care in addition to health following a rearrangement in the ministry; and were expanded further when on 24 January 2017 Wyatt was the first indigenous Australian appointed as an Australian Government Minister, with responsibility for the portfolio of Aged Care and the newly established portfolio of Indigenous Health.

Wyatt retained his marginal seat at the 2019 federal election with an increased majority. After the election, he was appointed Minister for Indigenous Australians in the Second Morrison Ministry. He is the first Indigenous person to hold the position, and was also elevated to cabinet.

Awards and honours

In 1996 Wyatt was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia for services to Aboriginal health. He received the Centenary Medal in 2001.


Wyatt’s cousin Cedric Wyatt was a senior public servant and unsuccessful Liberal candidate for federal parliament. Cedric’s son Ben Wyatt is a Labor Party politician and the current state treasurer of Western Australia. Ben is also the state’s Aboriginal Affairs Minister which makes Ken, the Indigenous Australians Minister, his federal portfolio counterpart.


 [JJS1]Noongar language groups

Ballardong are an indigenous Noongar people of the south western area of Western Australia.


The Ballardong’s land encompassed an estimated 10,500 square miles (27,000 km2). Northwards they occupied the Avon River. From York, To the east they extended to Tammin, Kununoppin, Waddouring Hill, and Bencubbin, Toodyay, Goomalling, the Wongan Hills. On their southern flank lay Pingelly and Wickepin. Their western frontier was at the Darling Scarp.


The Ballardong engaged in mining, quarrying stones to be shaped and sharpened for knives and multibarbed spears at Kalannie Boyangoora, Booyungur.

Alternative names

  • Balardong
  • Balladong, Ballardon
  • Ballerdokking
  • Waljuk
  • Warrangul, Warrangle (“kangaroo country”. This ethnonym was also applied to the Koreng)
  • Warranger
  • Toode-nunjer (a coastal exonym for the Ballardong, properly, Tu:denyunga (Toodyay men))
  • Boijangura, Boyangoora, Booyungur (hill people)
  • Maiawongi (language name)
  • Mudila, Mudilja, Mudi:a (general Kalamaia exonym for the Ballardong and other uncircumcised tribes to their southwest).
  • Minang (“south”, used by the Kalamaia of the Ballardong and other southern tribes’ languages) Boyangoora, Booyungur

Some words

  • maman (father)
  • unkan (mother)
  • doorda (tame dog)
  • yockine (wild dog)
  • chungar (whiteman)

 [JJS2]Captain Matthew Flinders (16 March 1774 – 19 July 1814) was an English navigator and cartographer who led the second circumnavigation of New Holland that he would subsequently call “Australia or Terra Australis” and identified it as a continent. Abel Tasman had circumnavigated it more widely in 1642-43[1] and had charted its north coast in 1644.

Flinders made three voyages to the southern ocean between 1791 and 1810. In the second voyage, George Bass and Flinders confirmed that Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) was an island. In the third voyage, Flinders circumnavigated the mainland of what was to be called Australia, accompanied by Aboriginal man Bungaree

 [JJS3]The Pinjarra Massacre, also known as the Battle of Pinjarra, was an attack that occurred at Pinjarra, Western Australia on a group of up to 80 Noongar people by a detachment of 25 soldiers, police and settlers led by Governor James Stirling in 1834. After attacks on the displaced Swan River, Whadjuk people and depredations on settlers by a group of the Binjareb people led by Calyute had, according to European settlers, reached unacceptable levels, culminating in the payback killing of an ex-soldier, Stirling led his force after the party. Arriving at their camp, five members of the pursuit party were sent into the camp to arrest the suspects; Whadjuk community resisted. In the ensuing melee, Stirling reported 15 killed (eleven names were collected later from Aboriginal sources); police superintendent Theophilus Tighe Ellis later died of wounds and a soldier was wounded. Stirling warned the tribe against payback killings and arranged a peace between the warring tribes, but Calyute continued to break it by raiding the Whadjuk until his demise


Miles Franklin Award
Awarded for a novel which is of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases
Sponsored by Estate of Miles Franklin
Location Australia
First awarded 1957
Website Miles Franklin Award

 [JJS5]Whadjuk, alternatively Witjari, are an indigenous Noongar people of the Western Australian region of the Perth bioregion of the Swan Coastal Plain.

 [JJS6]Jump to search

Indigenous Australians have distinct ways of dividing the year up. Naming and understanding of seasons differed between groups, and depending on where in Australia the group lives. Below are a few examples of different groups and their seasons.


Inhalant use
Common household products such as nail polish contain solvents that can be concentrated and inhaled, in a manner not intended by the manufacturer, to produce intoxication. Misuse of products in this fashion can be harmful or fatal.

Noongarpedia is a collaborative project to add Noongar language content to Wikimedia projects and to improve all languages’ content relating to Noongar topics. It is being driven by an Australian Research Council project from the University of Western Australia and Curtin University, in collaboration with Wikimedia Australia. The goal of the project is to establish a Nyungar language

King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women
Main entrance
  Wikimedia | © OpenStreetMap
Location 374 Bagot Road, Subiaco, Western Australia, Australia
Coordinates 31.94969°S 115.8186°ECoordinates: 31.94969°S 115.8186°E
Funding Public hospital
Hospital type Specialist
Emergency department Yes
Speciality Maternity hospital
Helipad No
Founded 14 July 1916
Website kemh.health.wa.gov.au
Lists Hospitals in Australia

King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women (KEMH) is a hospital located in Subiaco, Western Australia. It is Western Australia’s largest maternity hospital and only referral centre for complex pregnancies.

It provides pregnancy and neonatal care within the greater Perth Metropolitan area. In cases where patients have gone to private maternity clinics, they may be moved to KEMH if complications occur. All cases of complicated pregnancy in Western Australia are transferred to KEMH by the Royal Flying Doctor Service

 Midgegooroo, on seeing that preparations were making [sic.] to punish him, yelled and struggled most violently to escape. These efforts availed him little, in less than five minutes he was pinioned and blindfolded, and bound to the outer door of the Jail. The Resident then reported to his Honor the Lieutenant Governor (who was on the spot accompanied by the Members of the Council), that all was prepared, – the warrant being declared final – he turned around and gave the signal to the party of the 63rd [which had volunteered] to advance and halt at 6 paces, – they then fired – and Midgegooroo fell. – The whole arrangement and execution after the death warrant had been handed over to the Civil Authorities, did not occupy half an hour.” Irwin reported simply: ‘He was accordingly shot, in front of the jail at Perth on the 22 Ultimo.’ Moore also recorded the execution although it is not clear whether he was a witness: ‘The native Midgegoroo, after being fully identified as being a principal in 3 murders at least, was fastened to the gaol door & fired on by a Military party, receiving 3 balls in his head, one in his body.’

Kenneth Desmond Colbung AM MBE (2 September 1931 – 12 January 2010), also known by his indigenous name Nundjan Djiridjarkan, was an Aboriginal Australian leader who became prominent in the 1960s. He was appointed an MBE and an AM for his service to the Aboriginal community.

He died after a short illness on 12 January 2010. He was 78.

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