Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


School of Communications and Arts


Faculty of Education and Arts

First Advisor

Professor Patrick Armstrong


This study takes as its focus the contrasting manner in which the Nyoongar indigenous people and the early European settlers utilised three wetland environments in southwest Australia over the century between 1829 and 1939. The thesis offers both an ecological and a landscape perspective to changes in the wetlands of Herdsman Lake, Lake Joondalup and Loch McNess. The chain of interconnecting linear lakes provides some of the largest permanent sources of fresh water masses on the Swan Coastal Plain. This thesis acknowledges the importance of the wetland system to the Nyoongar indigenous people.

The aim of this research is to interpret the human intervention into the wetland ecosystems by using a methodology that combines cultural landscape, historical and biophysical concepts as guiding themes. Assisted by historical maps and field observations, this study offers an ecological perspective on the wetlands, depicting changes in the human footprint on its landscape, and mapping the changes since the indigenous people’s sustainable ecology and guardianship were removed. These data can be used and compared with current information to gain insights into how and why modification to these wetlands occurred.

An emphasis is on the impact of human settlement and land use on natural systems. In the colonial period wetlands were not generally viewed as visually pleasing; they were perceived as alien and hostile environments. Settlers saw the land as an economic commodity to be exploited in a money economy. Thus the effects of a sequence of occupances and their transformation of environments as traditional Aboriginal resource use gave way to early European settlement, which brought about an evolution and cultural change in the wetland ecosystems, and attitudes towards them.


Paper Location