Dating back tens of thousands of years before European settlement, Aboriginal people roamed the Australian landscape, living in harmony in a nomadic partnership with nature. Australian Aboriginal people are a diverse group of people, living vastly different lifestyles in each corner of the country. There are up to 700 traditional societies in Australia and over 200 languages.
Indigenous Australians survived in harsh climatic and environmental conditions which ranged from cold temperate to hot tropical, coping with arid conditions and torrential rains. They have dwelt for many thousands of years in ways that sustained their societies while conserving resources, protecting fragile soils and leaving a light footprint on the environment.
In the late 1990’s, a collection of Australian Aboriginal rock art featuring distinctive stick-like images was discovered in Australia’s North West region. Archaeological dating placed the Bradshaw paintings, named after their recent discoverer, among the oldest paintings on record.
History is reflected in art, which varies in form from cave-paintings, rock art and bark paintings in the north, to the intricately patterned dot-paintings throughout the central Golden Outback region.
The first European to sight the Perth area was the Dutch sailor Willem de Vlamingh who sailed along the coast in 1697 and named Swan River after noting the large flocks of black swans in the area.
In 1827, Captain James Stirling and the botanist Charles Fraser became enthusiastic about the potential of the river, and considered the possibility of a settlement. Stirling founded the Swan River Colony on the 1st of June, 1829. The name of Perth was bestowed upon the colony as a tribute to Sir George Murray who, at the time was the secretary of state for the colonies, and who sat in the House Of Commons as member for the old Scottish capital of Perthshire.
Unlike many other Australian states, Western Australia was colonised as a free settlement not a penal colony and this is reflected in the diversity of farming and agriculture.
The original state capital was to be the harbour town of Albany, however this was soon moved to the fertile Swan river valley, which is now the site of Perth and Fremantle.
The colony was the first to be developed entirely by free settlers. It wasn¹t until 1850 that convicts arrived and by that time the basic structure of the settlement had been established. The early growth of the city was slow. By 1849 the population was 1148. By 1891 it had only grown to 8447 and even in 1911 it was only a medium sized country town with a population of 31,300.
The arrival of the Trans-Australian Railway in 1917 and the early success of the gold mining towns pushed the population to 272,528 in 1947 and the subsequent immigration from Britain meant that by 1981 there were 809,035 people living in Perth and its suburbs.