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Discover a culture over 35,000 years old

8 August 2018

By Alf Bock

Indigenous Swan Valley - by Alf Bock

The Whadjuk people have lived in and around the Perth area for thousands of years and have an enduring relationship with the Swan Valley region – archaeological finds around Guildford show continuous settlement for at least 35,000 years – and the Swan River (Derbarl Yerrigan).

From a ceremonial and spiritual significance to a source of food and shelter, the Swan Valley is deeply rooted in Indigenous culture and a trip though the Valley offers the visitor the opportunity to experience some of this unique relationship.

On West Swan Road, high on the side of a hill overlooking the Swan River, Yagan Memorial Park is a good starting place. It is here that the remains of noted warrior and leader, Yagan, are interred, and a series of story walls tell the story of Indigenous culture before and after European settlement. With natural bushes and trees and eye catching sculptures it is a place for quiet reflection.

Sacred Tree Yagan Memorial.jpg

Further along West Swan Road you will find Maalinup Gallery. Here you are able to experience tastings of sauces, jams and chutneys made from native Australian herbs and spices. Tastings are free and you can buy jars and packets to take away. A small nursery attached to the gallery has a range of bush tucker plants, such as finger limes, for purchase, so you can start your own bush tucker garden at home. Recipes are also available to inspire you to use these spices and ingredients in cooking.

The gallery also has a range of Indigenous art on display and for sale, from canvasses, through painted glass, and carved wood - including boomerangs and other traditional artefacts - to scarves and tee shirts. And soon there will be a tea bar where visitors can try teas made from bush tucker ingredients.

Owners Dale Tilbrook and her brother Lyall are on hand to welcome visitors and explain the significance of the area. They also offer a series of activities that enhance the experience, suitable for groups of four or more. They attract a fee but are well worth a try. From bush tucker tours, corrobborees and local history and culture, their webpage has more detail and booking requirements.

Here, too, you can hear about the six seasons of Noongar culture (Birak, Boonooru, Djeran, Makooroo, Djilba and Kambarang).

Maalinup Aboriginal Galley.jpg

For something a little different, just a stroll along the banks of the river can also help you connect to the Valley. Among the many places, the area around Lilac Hill, with walk paths, picnic areas and barbeques, is one of the best – and it is a short walk from there to the Swan Valley Visitor Centre and Colonial Goal Museum where more information on the history of the region can be found. Or try Walyunga National Park where you can still see remnant yam gardens along the riverbank, dating from before European settlement.

The Swan Valley is much more than wine and food – it is also a place of deep cultural significance to Indigenous Australians and visitors have the opportunity to experience and understand this relationship.