Academic journal article Australian Aboriginal Studies

Beeliar Boodjar: An Introduction to Aboriginal History in the City of Cockburn, Western Australia

Academic journal article Australian Aboriginal Studies

Beeliar Boodjar: An Introduction to Aboriginal History in the City of Cockburn, Western Australia

Article excerpt

This report is based upon an interpretive Aboriginal history of a metropolitan region in Western Australia known today as the City of Cockburn. The researchers first conducted a review of existing literature and oral histories, then consulted with local Elders and members of the Aboriginal community to analyse the material and construct a historical narrative around the interrelated Nyungar theoretical principles of boodjar (land), moort (kin) and katitj (knowledge). This interpretive history draws heavily on previously conducted oral history projects to bring Aboriginal voices together with historical texts and a variety of language resources to reflect the continuous connection Nyungar people of Western Australia's south-west have with their Country.

This report is intended as an introduction to the deep and continuing history of Nyungar people and culture in the area known today as the City of Cockburn. The authors wish to acknowledge the many Aboriginal families who have long association with the Cockburn area and will have more stories to tell in the future.

The initial research plan for this project proposed that the researchers collect historical data to be analysed in consultation with Elders and Aboriginal community members who comprised the City of Cockburn Aboriginal History steering committee. Steering committee members included Reverend Sealin Garlett, Maisie Stokes, Gail Barrow and Hayati Jaffrey. The steering committee discussed the many different stories and pieces of historical and cultural information that pertained to the City's Aboriginal history and heritage. On the basis of existing literature and oral histories, the City of Cockburn has always contained major Nyungar camping sites and a number of major travel routes through Nyungar Country. The City was the site of various cross-cultural historical incidents in the early days of the Swan River Colony and was also an area that Aboriginal people moved to in the mid-1900s to participate in industry. Some of the first Aboriginal housing schemes in Western Australia began in the City of Cockburn and a number of inspiring social progress initiatives also had roots in the area (Collard et al. 2001; Palmer 2002).

The main themes and concepts covered in this report were chosen by the steering committee as being the most important for the general public to understand. These theoretical themes and concepts comprised boodjar (land), moort (kin) and katitj (knowledge), which includes the Dreaming, connection to boodjar, Nyungar language and nomenclature, and the history of trade relationships and interaction among people. The all-encompassing message of these themes and concepts is one of connectedness. Members of the steering committee emphasised the importance of connections between story, land and people, and how Nyungar language both explicitly and implicitly articulates that interconnectedness of kura, yeya, boorda, meaning from the past to the present and into the future (Collard and Harben 2010; Host et al. 2009; Morgan et al. 2008).

We advise that this document contains names of deceased Aboriginal people. Their relatives have been notified about this project and are pleased to see the wisdom of their Elders live on. We do not wish to cause any distress to Aboriginal people who follow a specific cultural protocol regarding such names.

The Nyungar context

Aboriginal Australians have histories spanning well over 40 000 years. In that time, Nyungar have occupied and managed the south-west of Western Australia (Hallam 1981). Nyungar is the generic name that describes people whose ancestors originally occupied and continue to occupy the whole South West (Collard and Harben 2010). The word Nyungar is commonly accepted as meaning 'person' or 'people' (Mountford and Collard 2000). Noongar, Nyoongar and a range of other spellings are in common use today. Words in the Nyungar language can be written in many different ways due to regional dialectic differences and the absence of a common orthography. …

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