Cockburn History

The City of Cockburn has a rich history, dating back 40,000 years. The City’s traditional owners are the Beeliar Nyungar people, who have strong historical ties to Cockburn's natural areas. European settlers arrived in Cockburn in 1829. It wasn’t until the 1890s that the City began to rapidly develop. Cockburn has evolved into a fast growing local government area.

Nyungar History

The City’s traditional owners are the Beeliar Nyungar people. Beeliar Nyungar means river people and they are one of the clans of the Whadjuk, the Aboriginal people of the Perth metropolitan area.

Boodjar means land and provides the life, sense of identity and belonging for the Beeliar Nyungar. Their spirit will always be linked to Cockburn land.

Beeliar Nyungar

Nyungar creation stories tell us that the City’s chains of wetlands are symbolised by a rainbow serpent, the Waakal. The serpent twists its way from Fremantle to Mandurah. The Waakal creates the shape of the Boodjar, over, under and through the earth and gives foundation to the meaning of life in Cockburn.

Traditionally, the Beeliar Nyungar lived alongside the City’s chains of wetlands. There are sixteen identified Aboriginal campsites in Cockburn, mostly along the banks of North and Bibra Lakes. The Beeliar Nyungar created many well-worn trails to and from these lakes. These trails formed the main transport route between the Murray and Swan River Nyungar Groups and the area was an important place of trade activity for Aboriginal people.

Places in Cockburn, such as Coogee, are special to the Beeliar Nyungar as well as to Aboriginal people from other parts of Australia. Cockburn’s supply of natural resources including fresh water, vegetation and wildlife meant that the Beeliar Nyungar could sustain their way of life for thousands of years.

Naming Cockburn

Captain James Stirling named the City in 1827. It is thought that the area was named after Admiral Sir George Cockburn, a well-known British naval officer.

European Settlement

Thomas Peel and his first ship of settlers arrived in Cockburn in December 1829. However, they abandoned their settlement at Clarence between Woodman Point Reserve and Mount Brown by December 1830. After this, some settlers remained in the area or on plots of land nearby.

In the 1870s, a small group of pensioner guards from Fremantle settled around Lake Coogee. They built a small village and established vegetable gardens and orchards. The settlers remained firmly tied to the barracks at Fremantle and the community failed to take root. Another smaller settlement then formed at South Coogee in the deserted village of the pensioner guards. This area became the nursery of market gardening in Cockburn as new settlers learned from established gardeners.

More market gardeners came to Cockburn following Fremantle and Perth’s rapid growth from the gold rush. New migrants were also enticed to Jandakot, whose sandy soil supported a large population influx.

The district began to boom in the 1890s, with Hamilton Hill and Spearwood growing to meet the demands of the metropolitan area for building materials and food.

20th century to the modern day

Many new settlements established throughout Cockburn by 1930. Housing development picked up from the late 1940s, following a slow period during and between the world wars.

Cockburn is now one of the largest growth areas in the south metropolitan region of Perth. Today it is known for its diverse cultural landscape and its industrial and commercial precincts. Despite many changes since European settlement, the City of Cockburn maintains close ties with traditional owners.

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9 Coleville Crescent,
Spearwood 6163

Po Box 1215, Bibra Lake DC,
Western Australia, 6965

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