Aboriginal People of the South West.

In July 2017, the date of the arrival of Aboriginal people in Australia was confirmed as over 65,000 years ago. This figure was calculated from carbon dating of items located at a rock shelter in Kakadu National Park. This makes them likely to be the oldest living culture in the World.

The original custodians of this land left very little evidence of their presence. Some would argue that their hunting of fauna (their role in the extinction of mega fauna in particuliar), and the strategy of burning off the land changed the landscape. However both those claims could also be argued against the European settlers (who changed the land by removing the native bush and replacing it with farmland instead of burning off, and have certainly aided in the extinction of plenty of flora and fauna).

South Western Australian Aboriginal people, or Noongar, are made up of fourteen different language groups (often spelt in different ways): Amangu, Yued/Yuat, Whadjuk/Wajuk, Binjareb/Pinjarup, Wardandi, Balardong/Ballardong, Nyakinyaki, Wilman, Ganeang, Bibulmun/Piblemen, Mineng, Goreng and Wudjari and Njunga. Each of these language groups correlates with different geographic areas with ecological distinctions.

The most visible reference to the Noongar people is the name - "munda biddi's" (bush paths - biddi means "veins") or kangaroo tracks were used by Noongar people alongside rivers and along contour lines to search for food, water and shelter. Message sticks ("boornoo wangkinya"), as seen on the Trail markers, were traditionally used to share information about gatherings or as a welcome gift.

The Munda Biddi trail starts in the lands of the Whadjuk/Wajuk people, near Perth. Their names meas "those who went before" (i.e. ancestral ones). Finds in the Guildford region show continuous settlement going back at least 35,000 years, while stone tools recently found on Rottnest Island (or Wadjemup), have been estimated at 70,000 years old. Coastal dwelling Whadjuk have an oral tradition describing the separation of Rottnest from the mainland, which occurred between 10,000-6,000 BC.

Near Dwellingup, the Trail enters the Wilman people's land. Wilman people occupy the area around towns including Collie and Wagin.

The Kaniyang traditional lands are in the upper Blackwood River including Collie and Donnybrook.

The Munda Biddi Trail and the Wadandi track (Busselton to Augusta) traverse Wardandi (note different spelling) people's land around Donnybrook and Nannup. They are known as "the people who live by the ocean and follow the forest paths".

The Trail then enters Bibulmun/Piblemen lands, who gave their name to the Bibbulmun Track. Their traditional lands are around the lower Blackwood River and the hills between the Blackwood and Warren River. It includes Manjimup.

After Northcliffe, we enter the Minang people's land, which extends from near Walpole all the way to Albany. Minang meaning "southerners" or people of the south.

The Bibbulmun Trail uses the Wagyl (Waugal or various other spellings) on their markers. You will see "Bib track" markers near Collie, Pemberton, Denmark and other sections of the Munda Biddi trail. The Wagyl is a mythical rainbow serpent from Dreamtime stories. It is recognised by Wajuk Noongar people as the giver of life and who maintains all fresh water sources. It was the Wagyl that made Noongar people custodians of the land. The Wagyl rose up from Ga-ra-katta (Mt. Eliza, at the foot of Kings Park), and formed the Derbarl Yerrigan and the Djarlgarro Beelier (the Swan and Canning rivers) . It also created other waterways and landforms around Perth and the south-west of Western Australia. The Wagyl also joins up with wetlands such as Herdsman Lake and Lake Monger, and resides deep beneath underground springs.

The most common physical sign of Aborigines is midden mounds (piles of shells created by thousands of years of eating shellfish), ochre pits (colour used in ceromonies) and fish traps (the ones at the Eastern end of Wilson Inlet are 4000 years old - see one in my photo gallery). You can see an Aboriginal burial site on Map 9 (see my route sheets for exact details). The granite dome at Yirra Kartta hut and the rapids at Kwokralup Beela hut (both Map 7) have significance to the traditional owners of the area.

Mokare has a statue in Albany, near the Trail end at the Visitor's centre. In 1826, he played an important role in helping European  exploration of the area. From the Minang clan, he showed the early explorers the walking trails that the Noongar people had used and maintained over generations in the Albany region. Many of these are today the roads of this region. In 1829, guided Dr Wilson's overland expedition during which Mt Barker and Mt Lindesay were named as well as the Hay, Denmark Rivers and Wilson Inlet (Map 8 & 9). Mokare was well known in his short life for being a peacemaker, and an effective mediator between black and white communities.

Aboriginals had a strong influence in place names. Many local Aboriginal place names have the ending "up" (usually for locations closer to the coast) or "in" (for further inland). Although these suffixes belong to different dialects of the Noongar language, they both mean "place of". Because many important Aboriginal sites are located near water, this has led to the common but incorrect belief that these suffixes indicate the presence of water. An example of the location naming is "waitch, meaning "the place of the emu". After being Anglicised, the inland names it becomes Wagin, but closer to coast it is Wagerup.

Boyanup Originally spelt "Boyinup" meaning "place of quartz"
Dandalup A name relating to the rivers in the area but its meaning is unclear
Dwellingup  Dwaarlindjirraap  means "place nearby water" 
Manjimup Derived from "Manjin", a broad leafed marsh flag with an edible root
Mundaring From 'Mindah-lung', meaning "a high place on a high place"
Nannup "Stopping place" or "place of parrots"
Nornalup "Place of Norn" or black snake
Wagerup "Place of emus"
Yarloop Said to have originated from the words "yard loop" referring to the rail loop into the timber yard there. However, the name is more likely Aboriginal in origin. Yalup Brook is only about 5 km north of Yarloop. Early spelling variations of the siding (Yailoup and Yarloup) support it being of Aboriginal origin.
The Kep Track (Gep) is named after the Noongar name for water. See separate ride under "Country Ride"

Huts with Aboriginal names and their meanings:
Dandalup is an Aboriginal name relating to the rivers in the area.
Bidjar Ngoulin means "place to rest".
Yarri is the Aboriginal name for the blackbutt tree.
Nglang Boodja is Noongar for "our land".
Nala Mia means "our place".
Karta Burnu means 'hill of trees' in the Noongar language.
Yirra Kartta means "high mountains" in the traditional language.
Kwokralup Beela is the traditional name for the Frankland river.
Booner Mundak means "wild place" or "the bush" in the local language.
Jinung Beigabup means "looking towards Mt Lindesay" in the local Noongar language

I find the Perth Noongar people's weather a better summary then the traditional four seasons.

Season name Period Weather
(Whadjuk/Perth Noongar)
Bunuru February, March

Second Summer, season of adolescents.

Hot, dry, easterly and north winds.

Jarrah & marri in bloom.

Djeran April, May

Autumn season, season of adulthood.

Cooling, south-west winds.

Banksia in bloom.

Makuru June, July

Fertile season, first rains.

Cold, rain, westerly gales.

Djilba August, September

Season of conception, second rains.

Warming. Many plants flowering.

Magpies swoop to defend their nests.

Kambarang October, November

Wildflower season, season of birth.

Rain lessening. Snakes start to emerge.

Acacias, kangaroo paws and orchids still flowering.

Birak December, January

First Summer, season of the young.

Hot, dry, daytime easterly breezes, late afternoon south-west sea breezes.

Christmas trees in bloom.

This page is the property of Follow My Ride, a website detailing off road cycle tracks near Perth and in Western Australia. This page is about South West Aboriginal peoples.