Upgrade for Wellington

A CREEK, a young adult playground, and basketball and tennis courts are all on the cards for an upgraded Wellington Square.

The huge chunk of land in East Perth is sorely under-utilised—aside from a few people sleeping in the park or the occasional game of lunch-time soccer—and for decades the park’s been plagued by rowdiness and violence, with trouble at the park even reported in newspapers more than 100 years ago.

The draft masterplan, approved by Perth city councillors late last year, aims to revitalise the park, and they want ideas from the public.

“This is an opportunity for anyone who has a connection to Wellington Square or wants to shape its future to contribute to its revitalisation,” Perth council CEO Martin Mileham said.

“Whether you live near Wellington Square, own a business adjacent to the park, walk or cycle through it on your way to work or just enjoy the connection to nature it provides, I would encourage you to get involved.”

The park has a long cultural history, hosting the first official Australian Rules football game in WA in 1885.

• Perth council wants more positive activities in Wellington Square, like this Big Issue soccer match. Photo by Steve Grant

Revitalise

It’s also a significant site for the Whadjuk Noongar people, and traditional owners have been brought in to consult on the plan.

A cultural heritage assessment by Moodjar Consultancy revealed it was one a resource-rich wetland, and has long been used as a camping place by Noongar people, though many of the Aboriginal people camping there today come from regional areas, and stay there while receiving medical treatment in Perth.

The area is associated with the creation of the world for Whadjuk people, and was one of the spots the legendary Waugyl snake carried out its task in the nyittiny (cold times), making the streams and waterways with its movements.

The report says there is also “unconfirmed evidence of the use of the area as a place of burial for Noongar”.

This story dates back to 1942 when a council employee was digging a slit trench and found human remains, said to be of “a male aboriginal (sic), very old, height about 5’ and had been buried in a well-drained area, having been there for a considerable period”.

The report, by Whadjuk Noongar Len Collard, Whadjuk/Balardong Noongar Sandra Harben, and cultural heritage consultant Jo Thompson, recommended that any upgrades “do not disrupt the continuity of the role of Wellington Square as a meeting and camping place for Aboriginal people, families and community, nor negatively impact Wellington Square’s ‘sense of belonging’ for Aboriginal people”. The draft plan’s up for consultation at http://www.engage.perth.wa.gov.au until February 16, and a final plan is expected to be voted on by Perth council in the middle of the year.

by DAVID BELL

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