Exploring the cultural landscapes of the south west of Western Australia through history, story, and art.
“Nidja Noongar boodjar gnulla nyinniny”
This is Noongar country I am sitting in.
The far south west of Western Australia, inhabited by the first peoples for over 50 000 years. A country already seeped in deep history, long before the Dutch first sighted Cape Leeuwin in 1622. Long before the French and English explorers sailed by, like ghosts in their ships with white wings.
The landscape, or what survives of it, is rich in a network of song and story. Katatjin, the local Noongar call it, or the web that connects the dreamings of people and place. But those stories are Noongar, for Noongar people to tell. How can newcomers learn to connect and care for country without appropriating Indigenous culture?
My ancestors arrived only 100 years ago. Their origins were in the deep forests of Germany, and around the North Sea coast. Pushed out by shifting politics after the fall of the Roman empire, and pressure from the expansion of Christianity from the south, they invaded Roman-Celtic Britain. And centuries later, invaded Australia.
But the cultures of my ancestors are, like the Aboriginal Australians, deeply rooted in nature. Earth, Sea, and Star. Somehow, it feels like we have lost that along the way. We are strangers in a strange land. By claiming it as dispossessors it can never be truly ours. The land is far older and deeper than that.
Rather, we can connect to country by allowing ourselves be claimed by place. By paying attention to detail, and letting all the small voices of country into our hearts.
We can redream ourselves into the land.
I was born in Western Australia in 1970, and grew up in Perth, Margaret River, and Dunsborough. I first moved to Margaret River in 1982. For the first few months we lived in the old caravan park at Wallcliffe House, the historic Bussell homestead down by the Rivermouth. Perhaps that is where I found my forever interest in limestone, trees, rivers, and history.
I studied anthropology, geology, and archaeology at the University of Western Australia. I first began guiding at heritage sites in 2000, at the Margaret River caves. I took tours through Mammoth, Lake, Jewel, and Moondyne. In 2004 I moved to Perth and guided at the Fremantle Prison for a year. In 2016 I was drawn back to the caves, developing a particular interest in Mammoth Cave and taking school-group megafauna workshops. I now have more of an interest in writing and less of an interest in stairs, so I left the caves to establish a heritage tour company of my own.
University of Western Australia