Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Dr. Sherry Saggers

Second Advisor

Professor Ed. Jaggard


This ethnohistorical study identifies maritime resources of southwest Australia which were subject to human exploitation prior to 1901 and provides an overview of how, when and why this took. place by integrating historical, archaeological, ethnographic, and natural-science information. The resources included for discussion arc whales, seals, seabirds, guano, oysters and pearls, and fish. An argument is developed that the socio-spatial relationship which existed between peoples and marine• estuarine species in the region was determined by the physiography and climate. This relationship has always been imperfect, if not chaotic because of the unpredictability of the resources through long and short term cyclic phenomena. Control of access was the key to furthering economic and social advantage for all peoples, and this control could be sustained by a complex matrix of customary beliefs and/or law. An abundant resource could occasionally engender friendly interaction, however ruthless competition, and resource over-exploitation emerged as predominant themes. The study proposes that regardless of cultural origins, the finite nature of southwest Australian maritime and estuarine resources has long been recognised, and the resultant priority of people was to maximise effort at the most opportune times in order to augment socioeconomic advantage.