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Cradles of the early settlement in Perth WA
Swan River Colony – Perth
It was before Bennelong was born when the Dutch explorer Dirk Hartog was sailing the coastline of the unknown southern land, was blown off course by the strong westerly winds. It was an uninhabited part of the world, from his point of view, so he didn’t stay too long. Bennelong had experienced drama with white intruders, and with his people which found him a traitor when Major Edmund Lockyer established a convict-supported military garrison at what is now known as Albany and subjugated the Western third of the continent to the British Crown. Albany became the gateway to the Eastern Goldfields.
Admiral Stirling had put forward many arguments to the Colonial Office to convince them that Swan River area was suitable for colonisation. Colonial Office already had information about French observations of Swan River area. It became the strategical focus of the Colonial Office. One of the admiral’s captains, Charles Fremantle declared Swan River Colony British, the following year. A month later, Admiral Stirling arrived with one regiment and their families, and shortly after them, three merchant ships landed. All boats had difficulties while they tried to reach the Swan River. It seemed that the new land was not as good as hoped for agriculture, also. Some of the reports spoke about starvation in the settlement, and that the settlement was abandoned. Despite these reports, two years later, Swan River Colony reached around 1500 settlers. It was difficult to cultivate the soil and grow crops, and because of it, further growth of the population was slow.
The natives are well known as a Noongar people, and they consider themselves as members of the Bibblmoon nation. For 30 000 years, they built their own culture far away from western civilisation. The country around the Swan River was a rich, good place to live. Because winters were cold and full of moisture, the Noongar people were wearing kangaroo furs as warm clothing, and if they stayed longer in one place, they built waterproof huts. The sacral bird crow was significant in their beliefs; man, with special powers, was capable of turning himself into the crow. Also, they used to believe in reincarnation into the crow.
Around 1825. The Noongar people had their first real contact with white people. Before that, it is possible they noticed both the Dutch and French crews, during their reconnaissance in the last two centuries. However, now, they had to live among each other, after thousands of years of sustaining their own culture and systems of beliefs. Whites were somehow different, well-armed, serving some unknown King and strange religion, and now they took the Noongar’s people lands as if the land belongs to somebody? Their worldviews were confronted, and the animosity started to rise. As the settlers used to arrive spreading their properties all over the Aboriginal territory, during 1834., following the rules of social mathematics, “The Battle of Pinjarra” happened. Many of the Noongar people were killed.
One of the three vessels carrying the settlers to Western Australia was stranded in shallow water near the Swan River Colony. The name of the boat was Rockingham, and the organiser was Thomas Peel. He built the settlement of Clarence to the south of the Swan River Colony because he had broken the landing contract a few months earlier. So he couldn’t join the Swan River Colony. Some of the passengers from Rockingham had settled near the wreck and used the name of the boat as their address. Some of them joined the Peel settlement, with few families remaining in Rockingham.
After a while, Peel’s settlement Clarence was abandoned, and he built his property near the place the indigenous people called Mandura. Some of the settlers joined him. Rockingham was declared a townsite some 25 years later.
In the summer season, the Noongar people used to exchange their goods, and those activities they called Mandura. We can presume that toponym Mandurah has an etymological connection with it. Thus, we can imagine a place where different tribes of the Noongar people met each other. Pindjarup was the name of the tribe that lived at this site.
The arrival of Thomas Peel and his settlers had a significant impact on Pinjarra tribe because suddenly, they were cut off from their source of food. The bitterness of the Pinjarra tribe had culmination at the moment when Calyute, one of the tribal leaders, and his people had stolen half a tonne of flour from South Perth. Three of them were captured, flogged and confined in Freemantle prison. After they were released, a few of Calyute men killed one of Peel’s servants and injured the other one as an act of revenge for the bad treatment in prison. Conflicts among settlers and natives reached a critical moment. Because of the pressure of the settlers, Governor Stirling organised a raiding party against the attackers on Peel’s property. Peel and Stirling were among the well-armed 25 soldiers and settlers. On 28 October 1834, they ambushed the tribe’s campsite and between 60 and 80 people came under fire. The number of casualties is not known. Calyute and his friends escaped, and the whole event is recorded in history as a „The Battle of Pinjarra“.
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