Lois Tilbrook

Document Type



Western Australian College of Advanced Education

Place of Publication

Perth, Western Australia


Tilbrook, L., (1983). The first South Westerners : Aborigines of South Western Australia. Perth, Australia: Western Australian College of Advanced Education.


The task of preparing material on the Aboriginal inhabitants of the south western region of Western Australia before 1827, is both a fascinating and a challenging one. Fascinating, because these people lived in a unique part of the continent and were amongst the most remote of all the Australian Aborigines, pursuing their traditions in the wet forest lands and open bush country. Challenging, because so little is recorded of them in a way which paints a clear picture of their lives.

The main observers of Aboriginal life and customs in the early days of European settlement of the region were settlers and Government officials. From their accounts and records, shadowy images of traditional Aboriginal life emerge, gaining focus in some aspects which have been described more fully, and blurring and hazi11g in other areas of life that remained unknown to the newcomers.

With the exception of such people as Bishop Salvado, Dr. Alexander Collie, Sir George Grey, Ethel Hassell and Jessie Hammond, these accounts are written from a totally European perspective, which views the Aborigines from the outside, and which-makes little attempt to see and understand them through their own eyes.

Other records exist which mention Aboriginal contact with Europeans, as it affected the latter. In particular, some individuals felt moved to write to the Government about their experiences, whether motivated by concern for the plight of the Aborigines they came in contact with, or by self interests. These form the inward correspondence of the Colonial Secretary's Office. In preparing this picture of Aboriginal life in the south west prior to European settlement and the dramatic changes which followed, my principal sources have been those authors mentioned above, together with the diaries of G. F. Moore, and contemporary publications on the region notably those dealing with prehistory and language.

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