Mount Lawley College
Place of Publication
Mount Lawley, Western Australia
The south west of Western Australia was the first region of the state to experience the impact of European settlement, when the Swan River Colony was founded in 1829. Yet the Aborigines of this unique area have remained largely obscured in its history for almost a full 150 years. This is ironical, as their counterparts of the Pilbara, Goldfields and Kimberleys, feature prominently in literature, and have captured the imagination of artists, writers and academic researchers alike.
There are several reasons for the neglect of the original inhabitants of the south west by observers of the day, and later by other scholars. Firstly, the number of Aborigines declined dramatically under the impact of European encroachment. Never very numerous, they achieved a population density no greater than one person to four square miles (Radcliffe-Brown 1930; Hallam 1977). In some centres in the early days of European settlement, this ratio may have increased. Aborigines became attracted to settled areas as they were made dependent on grain rations, with the usurpation of their own lands by the newcomers. Governor James Stirling estimated one person per square mile in the 'settled' districts in 1832 (Swan River Papers 9/36-39).