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Perth, Western Australia

Noongar country

Mutual curiosity

We see life in a boomerang, we see a story in a stick.

Richard Walley, Noongar-Yamatji, 2013

A photo of river with trees on each side. The reflection of the trees against the water gives an impression of dark gloomy waters. In the distance a building is barely noticeable and the sky is filled with grey clouds.
Noongar country, Perth, Western Australia. © Eva Fernandez/licensed by Viscopy, 2015.

Miago, a young Noongar man from Wurerup (Upper Swan), took a great interest in the British during the early days of the Swan River colony at present-day Perth. He learnt English and joined exploration parties, sailing up the Kimberley coast on HMS Beagle in 1838.

At the same time, aspiring young colonist Samuel Talbot visited the Wurerup region. He collected Noongar objects, including the ngal-bo (feather dance ornament) below and other historical objects on display in Encounters. Talbot’s detailed accompanying notes, ‘Implements used by the natives in the neighbourhood of the Swan River’, reveal a keenness to understand Noongar culture, with important implications for communities today.

I want to acknowledge the white people who sat down with the Aboriginal people, who wrote the stories down, who collected this information that still exists today. Down here in Noongar country, we may have lost all of that had it not been for many of these people.

Marie Taylor, Noongar, 2014

Talbot’s colonial ventures proved ultimately unsuccessful and he returned to Britain. Miago, frustrated by his treatment at the hands of the British, abandoned his relations with them and returned to Wurerup.

Old objects

Dance ornament made of emu feathers
Ngal-bo (emu-feather dance ornament), Noongar people, collected from Swan River colony (Perth) by Samuel Talbot in 1838, 28 x 17 x 5 cm. British Museum Oc1839,0620.20.

This ornament is part of the oldest surviving collection of Noongar objects from the Perth region. Talbot collected them during his last visit to Swan River (Perth) in 1838. He stayed with George Fletcher Moore, a prominent settler who took a deep interest in the Noongar people and their culture. Moore may have helped Talbot in preparing the detailed descriptions of the objects that Talbot gave to the British Museum in 1839.

New objects

A sculpture made of carved wood in the shape of a surfboard inset with infused coloured glass
Boyi Moort (Turtle Families), 2014, carved surfboard inset with glass by Noongar artist, Peter Farmer and Kim Fitzpatrick, Perth, 202 x 46 x 4.5 cm. National Museum of Australia. Photo: George Serras.

Boyi Moort (Turtle Families) 2014

When I was a young boy, when we swam in the rivers or the ocean, we would see if we could see any turtles – a strong and significant totem in my father's country. There were always turtles of some sort, surrounded by their families ... Boyi Moort is a visual depiction of my time in the water with the turtles [boyi] ... and a representation of my Noongar families [moort].

Peter Farmer, Noongar, 2015

Kodj (axe) 2013

Lily Wilson
Lily Wilson, Noongar, with her kodj (axe) in Perth, Western Australia. National Museum of Australia.

The making of traditional tools is still being taught. We collect the gum, crush it up, mix it up and crush it up with kangaroo poop. I have fun and games with the children when we teach that to them.

Marie Taylor, Noongar, 2013

A stone axe made of a wooden stick attached to a stone and resin at the top end of it.
Kodj (axe) 2013, by Lily Wilson, aged 10, Noongar people, Perth,
36 x 12.5 cm. National Museum of Australia.
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