Fired up for plaza Journal sheds new light on massacre

The new public space will be outside the district court on the corner of Hay and Irwin Streets.

THE Noongar name Kaal Yimniny (fire here) has been endorsed for Perth council’s upcoming Hay Street public space.

More Aboriginal language names are also on the cards at the urging of state Aboriginal affairs minister Ben Wyatt. 

The draft working name for the space just in front of the district court was “Irwin Street Plaza”. 

The street is named for lieutenant governor Frederick Irwin who ordered the summary execution by firing squad of Noongar leader Midgegooroo, about 250 metres away at the old gaol in 1834. 

Irwin was also in charge of a party of soldiers responsible for the first massacre in the Swan River Colony near Lake Monger in May 1830. While Irwin denied any Whadjuks were killed, the Voice recently discovered an account of the “affray” from a London journal published seven months later, which claimed seven deaths.

“The quarrel commenced in an attempt at theft by the natives at Perth,” the report from the Journal of the Literary Gazette and Journal of the Belles Lettres recounts, claiming to have picked up the story from “Indian newspapers”.

“The Aborigines made a great shew of courage: they dared the settlers to fight; and one of them advanced and quietly knocked down a corporal with his waddie, a stick about two feet and a half long, and an inch in diameter. 

“The chiefs ascended the trees like monkeys, and chattered to (the newspapers say harangued) their tribes from the tops of the branches. 

“In such situations they were shot at with facility; but they feared not the thunder and lightning of the Europeans; and seven of their number were killed.”

In July 2019 Mr Wyatt wrote to Perth city council encouraging it to use more Aboriginal names in line with a state-wide strategy.

The city yarned with Whadjuk and other Aboriginal elders through its Elder’s Advisory Group chaired by Noel Nannup. The EAG suggested the name Kaal Yimniny. The area was once used for traditional burning.

Perth commissioner Len Kosova said at the April 28 council meeting: “I think it’s a fabulous idea and I look forward to seeing more local places with Whadjuk Noongar naming incorporated in the future.”

Commissioners endorsed it unanimously and Landgate will have to do the final tick off, and they’re most likely to rubber stamp it. Landgate had already been consulted on the name and confirmed Kaal Yimniny won’t have to have a wadjella suffix (like “Plaza” or “Square”).

The new public square’s part of the council’s upcoming East End Revitalisation Project which aims to spruce up the area through more greenery, luxury-width footpaths, outdoor dining and a 20kmh speed limit.

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