Local Identities

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Research by Gordon Freegard 2018

In December 1829, Ensign Robert Dale and his party explored south of the Helena River as far as Mount Dale.

Dale reported encountering Aboriginal people during the expedition. These Aborigines would have been of the Beeloo tribe. Dale had, in fact, visited the area previously in October of the same year and mentioned meeting two natives “with whom we are on friendly terms”.







The Beeloo people inhabited the area in which the City of Kalamunda is now located. The Beeloo district was “bounded by the Canning River on the south, Melville Water to the west, by the Swan and Ellen’s Brook to the north”. The eastern boundary of the Beeloo territory was harder to ascertain. It seems that the tribe, travelled in small sub-groups, traversed the ranges in search of seasonal food resources, congregating at times for economic or social purposes. The waterways were essential to people’s survival, providing freshwater, plenty of crabs, shellfish, frogs, turtles and fowl in the lakes and swamps, and bush food and animals such as wild roots and fruits, edible gum, and lizards and snakes. They also may have moved to the much drier east as far as present-day York or Beverley, to escape the rains of winter.

The Beeloo people were a sub-group of the Whadjuk people.

The Bibbulmun people, were to be found in an area further south around Busselton. Walpole and Albany. This is a little confusing to local Kalamunda people because the Bibbulmun Track which commences in Kalamunda and is thought, fallaciously, to be named for the local people. The track is basically a European contrivance, and meanders through the forest from Kalamunda to Albany.




The leader of the Beeloo in 1829 was a young man called Munday. His life is fairly well documented. He covered a fair amount of territory in his travels but was usually found south of Guildford on the Helena River, his headquarters being at Wunerup.

In 1831 Munday was present when Midgegoonoo, his wife and his son Yagan (of the neighbouring Beelair people) speared Erin Entwhistle who had shot an Aborigine south of the Swan.

In 1833 Munday was wounded in a fracas over jealousy at Lake Monger. The wounds were reportedly treated by Dr. Milligan.


GUILDFORD NEAR THE "ROSE & CROWN"  c1900           #3


Again in 1833, in April, Munday along with Midgegooroo and Yagan and others were involved in the spearing of the Velvick Brothers near Bull’s Creek, Munday, Midgegooroo and Yagan were all declared outlaws. Munday had a price of twenty pounds put on his head. Migegooroo was captured and executed, later Yagan was also killed and beheaded. However, Governor Irwin rescinded Munday’s outlaw status, claiming that enough violence had occurred.

Munday took on the continuing role of trying to negotiate with the whites to bring better conditions for his people.

Within the City of Kalamunda, Munday is remembered in the name Munday Brook (which passes through Karragullen and Carmel and flows into Victoria Reservoir), and in Munday Swamp in High Wycombe, adjacent to the Perth Airport.


ABORIGINES AT GUILDFORD c1900            #4



Within only a few years of the Swan River Colony being established, the life of the local Aboriginal people was irrevocably and harmfully impacted. The dispossession of land and the devastating effects of the white man’s diseases quickly reduced Aboriginal numbers. Numerous deaths occurred and relationships with land were all but destroyed when family groups left their homelands either by force or by encroaching settlement.  

The population of Aboriginal people in the Canning District consisted of small family groups totally reliant on the native animals and plants in the area. Initially, when the settlers arrived co-operation seemed possible. The Aborigines helped the settlers find good quality water and edible native plants and also acted as guides. In return the settlers supplied flour or bread to the Aborigines. However, the settlers soon encroached on traditional Aboriginal hunting, meeting and spiritual grounds and confrontation seemed inevitable. There were incidents involving the spearing of young male shepherds tending herds of sheep in the bush. The settlers continued the conflict by reprisal killings or beatings.

During the early years of European settlement in the Kalamunda area from the 1860s onwards, records indicate no conflict between the Aborigines and the white settlers. The numbers of Aborigines spending time in the hills may well have been low; there is more evidence of them in the foothills and coastal plains and especially by the Swan and Helena Rivers. Another factor contributing to the comparative peace may be the fact that the district was not used to a great extent for the grazing of animals. The Aborigines’ spearing and eating of domestic animals in other areas was the source of much conflict and bloodshed. Kalamunda’s Industries were timber and fruit-growing, which do not interfere so markedly in the Aboriginal way of life. They could still hunt for native fauna and flora as they always had.



As the ever-increasing European influence continued to have its devastating effects, numbers of Aborigines continued to decline. The marriage system, dependent on firm adherence to the intermixing of the two great moieties, began to fragment and the culture along with it.

A native reserve at Maamba at the foot of the Darling Scarp was established by Premier John Forrest in 1899 in an effort to care for derelict Aborigines. It was developed as a small scale agricultural settlement for local Aboriginals. It was in the present-day Forrestfield/Wattle Grove area including what is now Hartfield Park. At the end of 1903, the chief Protector of Aborigines, Henry Prinsep decided to make this Welshpool Reserve a ration depot. Prinsep insisted all Aboriginal people in the metropolitan area should be moved to the reserve, along with a European caretaker. Despite protests Aboriginals from Guildford, Perth, Helena Valley, Gingin, Northam, York, Beverley, Busselton and Pinjarra were moved there.



DAISY BATE'S TENT           #6




Daisy Bates visited the area in 1905, pitching her tent and talked with the Aborigines over a period of time whilst living there.

Prior to the formation of the reserve, the area had been a place where many Aboriginal tracks crossed in the sandy foothills where travel was easier than in the hills. People mainly from the sub-groups of the Beeloo people, would congregate socially. A “scarred tree” which has now been fenced off in Hartfield Park, is thought to have been used to produce bark which would have been used to create shield and coolamons (dish-shaped utensils used to carry food or even a baby).






A widespread program of restriction and segregation of Aboriginal people was implemented by the government in the early decades of the 20th century. Led by the then Chief Protector of Aborigines, A. O. Neville, legislation for the control of Aborigines was passed and implemented. Native settlements were established for the training of children and all aspects of Aboriginal life were controlled. In the south west of the state many Aboriginal people were relocated to settlements, or moved to less populated districts as settlement encroached on their lands.

As a result of the Depression in the 1920s and 1930s, fringe camps increased with Aboriginal people returning to Perth in order to try and find work to support their families. The high visibility of these camps led to their surveillance by government officials and, in 1937, the Department of Native Affairs carried out an inspection of these places. As a consequence, people were moved back to Moore River and to regional areas.

The Aborigines who remained on the fringes of settlements are believed to have been able to do so by building relationships with European settlers. They often worked for these families as servants and manual labourers whilst being “permitted” to live on what remained of earlier camping places and food sources at the edges of rivers and swamps.

Throughout the mid-20th century, the Aborigine people were strictly controlled by government legislation in regard to travel, work, where they could live and who they could associate with. From the mid-1950s, some of the harsher provisions of the Aboriginal legislation were removed but the Acts were not finally dismantled and rights given to Aboriginal people until the 1970s.



Emma Wallis, who with her husband John, was the first settler at Walliston in 1880, used to teach her children how to count in the local Aboriginal language. Her daughter, Mrs. Florence Halleen, of Walliston in 1978 could still count up to three – kine, koojal, ballakoojal. She still remembers the words for a full stomach – kobul moorat.


EMMA WALLIS            #10


In the 1890s, it is recorded how Aboriginal people used to call at the lonely bush dwelling of Henry and Hester King in what is now known as Paull’s Valley, in the hope of being given flour.

By the 1930s, a much westernised Aboriginal family was living in a tent and a lean-to in the bush near the Paull Family of Paull’s Valley. This was the family of Ted Nannup. Ted cut timber for Jack Honnor. Mrs. Nannup and her two children, Shirley and Lionel, would visit the Paulls and their housekeeper every Saturday. Mrs. Nannup would have afternoon tea with Miss Elliott while all the children played together.

Ted Nannup served in the Australian Forces in World War 2 and lost his life in Singapore. One of the memorial trees (and accompanying plaque) in Stirk Park is for Ted and can still be seen there.

Ray Owen, former Shire President, remembers in his taped memoirs, the use of the service of some Aboriginal trackers in the 1940s.



Ted Nannup served in the Australian Forces in World War 2 and lost his life in Singapore. One of the memorial trees (and accompanying plaque) in Stirk Park is for Ted and can still be seen there.

Ray Owen, former Shire President, remembers in his taped memoirs, the use of the service of some Aboriginal trackers in the 1940s.


 Found in Walliston area by Mervyn Blamire        #13

Other Aboriginal men were employed in the local timber industry. One was Harry Isaacs who worked as a teamster at Smailes’ Mill in the 1930s. Harry was the son of Sammy Isaacs, who, with Grace Bussell, had saved the lives of many people shipwrecked off the South West coast when the “Georgette” was wrecked near the beach in 1876. Sammy had first sighted the ship in trouble and had ridden 13 kilometres to alert the Bussell family, most of whom were not at the homestead. He and Grace then proceeded to rescue women and children from the disaster, especially from the lifeboat which had capsized. Sammy was rewarded with a land grant, and, even more significantly, with full citizenship rights for himself and his heirs.


SAM ISAACS (seated) & SON FRED            #12


Records show that Sammy Isaacs Junior (Sammy’s grandson and Harry’s son) attended the Barton’s Mill School and performed as a black and white minstrel at a concert.

Many people remember Harry Isaacs as a “thorough-going gentleman” who, being a regular partner at the local dances, always used a fresh, white handkerchief between his hand and his partner’s dress.

Isaacs’s road in Pickering Brook was named after the Isaac family that lived at the end of it.


References:           Article:          Kalamunda Library Service and Researchers, Carol Mansfield and Marcia Maher)
                                              Pickering Brook Heritage Group
                                               City of Gosnells

                           Images:      1, 3                          Battye Library       
                                             2                              City of Gosnells         
                                             4, 5, 6, 12                 Internet
                                             7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13      Kalamunda & Districts Historical Society 



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