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Perth History, Australia

Perth’s original settlers were the native Whadjuk Noongar people. These Aboriginal tribes occupied the Upper Swan River area, on the southwest corner of West Australia and lived as hunters and food gatherers.


As recorded, the first European sighting of the territory was made by a Dutch Captain named Willem de Vlamingh and his crew in January, 1697. At the time of their first encounters with the Europeans, the Perth area was known to the Noongars as Boorloo. According to the Captain Vlamingh, the area was not suited for a colony because of its inhospitable environment and the land was less fertile for cultivation.

However, because of a rumored intention of the French to seize Australia’s western area, the British Army led by Captain Charles Fremantle made a full scale effort to establish a European settlement along the rest of the area, aside from a British Army base at King George Sound. It became informally known as the Swan River Colony, named after its major waterway.

On June 4, 1829, Captain James Stirling, the designated governor of the new colony, landed with its first settlers. They founded a settlement and named it Perth, in honor of George Murray, the British colonial secretary who was born in the Scottish town of Perth and Member of the House of Commons in Perthshire. Perth then became the political center of the Swan River Colony.

Hostile Encounters

In the year 1831, the settlers faced several problems including conflicts with native Aborigines of the Noongar tribe. As the colony grew in land area and in the number of settlers, local land users continually had disputes with the British settlers. The following years were marred by violence in the region as occupation of Aboriginal land led to a series of assassinations of the native people. In due course, however, the British prevailed over the indigenous people. The encounters led to the death of Midgegooroo, the tribal chief of the Whadjuk and his son, Yagan. In the year 1834, the Battle of Pinjarra brought about casualties on both sides.

The clash continued until in 1843, the Yellagonga tribal chief died which eventually caused the disintegration of the tribe having been driven out of their land around the Perth area. The remaining Aboriginal peoples settled to the swamp and lake areas on the northern part of the settlement, as well as the Third Swamp or the Boodjamooling which became their major campsite, along with traveling and homeless crowds.

In the 1850’s, the region received the arrival of its first transports of British convicts at the settlers’ demand for cheap labor for farming and business. In 1856, Queen Victoria officially proclaimed Perth a city. The continuous surge of convict migrants and contributions of their labor force sustained the Swan River colony. Mining also became a thriving industry as abundant mineral resources were discovered in the Perth area. In 1960’s, Perth became a central area for mining companies. South Perth’s Kwinana also became a thriving area for heavy industry.

Presently, Perth stands as the central business seat and capital of Western Australia.

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