A BRIEF HISTORY OF ABORIGINAL SETTLEMENT AND ACTIVITY IN THE SHIRE OF KALAMUNDA

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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 this 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

The Beeloo people inhabited the area in which the Shire of Kalamunda is now located. The Beeloo district was “bounded by the Canning River on the south, Melville Water on the west, by the Swan and Ellen’s Brook on the north”. The eastern boundary of the Beeloo territory was harder to ascertain. It seems that the tribe, travelling in small sub-groups, traversed the ranges in search of seasonal food resources, and to escape the rains of winter. They may have moved to the much drier east as far as present-day York or Beverley.

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

The Bibbulmun people, according to Sylvia Hallam and Lois Tilbrook, were to be found in an area further south around Busselton, Walpole, Albany. This is a little confusing to local Kalamunda people because the Bibbulmun Track which commences in our town 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.

Munday

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 Wurerup.

In 1831 Munday was present when Midgegooroo, his wife and his son Yagan (of the neighbouring Beeliar 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.

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. Midgegooroo 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 However, Governor Irwin rescinded Munday’s outlaw status, claiming that enough violence had occurred.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 about better conditions for his people.

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

Aboriginal / European relations in the Kalamunda area

The dispossession of land and the devastating effects of the white man’s diseases quickly reduced Aboriginal numbers. 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.

Maamba Reserve

As the ever-increasing European influence continued to have its devastating effects, numbers of Aborigines continued to declined. 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 the 1890s in an effort to care for derelict Aborigines. It was in the present-day Forrestfield / Wattle Grove area including what is now Hartfield Park.

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

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 shields and coolamons (dish-shaped utensils used to carry food or even a baby).

Further documented Aboriginal / European history in the Kalamunda area

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 four – kine, koojal, ballakoojal. She still remembers the words for a full stomach – kobul moorat.

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, mentions in his taped memoirs, the use of the service of some Aboriginal trackers in the 1940s.

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.

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.

(Courtesy of the Kalamunda Library Service and researchers, Carol Mansfield and Marcia Maher).

 
 
 

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