Yagan ( // ; c. 1795 – 11 July 1833) was an Indigenous Australian warrior from the Noongar people. He played a key part in early resistance to British colonial settlement and rule in the area surrounding what is now Perth, Western Australia. Yagan was pursued by the local authorities after he killed Erin Entwhistle, a servant of farmer Archibald Butler. It was an act of retaliation after Thomas Smedley, another of Butler's servants, shot at a group of Noongar people stealing potatoes and fowls, killing one of them. The government offered a bounty for Yagan's capture, dead or alive, and a young settler, William Keats, shot and killed him. Yagan's execution figures in Australian history as a symbol of the unjust and sometimes brutal treatment of the indigenous peoples of Australia by colonial settlers. He is considered a hero by the Noongar.
The Noongar are a constellation of peoples of Indigenous Australian descent who live in the south-west corner of Western Australia, from Geraldton on the west coast to Esperance on the south coast. Noongar country is now understood as referring to the land occupied by 14 different groups: Amangu, Ballardong, Yued, Kaneang, Koreng, Mineng, Njakinjaki, Njunga, Pibelmen, Pindjarup, Wardandi, Whadjuk, Wiilman and Wudjari.
The history of Australia from 1788–1850 covers the early colonial period of Australia's history, from the arrival in 1788 of the First Fleet of British ships at Sydney, New South Wales, who established the penal colony, the scientific exploration of the continent and later, establishment of other Australian colonies.
A bounty is a payment or reward often offered by a group as an incentive for the accomplishment of a task by someone usually not associated with the group. Bounties are most commonly issued for the capture or retrieval of a person or object. They are typically in the form of money. By definition bounties can be retracted at any time by whomever issued them. Two modern examples of bounties are the bounty placed for the capture of Saddam Hussein and his sons by the United States government and Microsoft's bounty for computer virus creators. Those who make a living by pursuing bounties are known as bounty hunters.
After his shooting, settlers removed Yagan's head to claim the bounty. Later, an official sent it to London, where it was exhibited as an "anthropological curiosity" and eventually given to a museum in Liverpool. It held the head in storage for more than a century before burying it with other remains in an unmarked grave in Liverpool in 1964.Over the years, the Noongar asked for repatriation of the head, both for religious reasons and because of Yagan's traditional stature. The burial site was identified in 1993; officials exhumed the head four years later and repatriated it to Australia. After years of debate within the Noongar community on the appropriate final resting place, Yagan's head was buried in a traditional ceremony in the Swan Valley in July 2010, 177 years after his death.
Anthropology is the scientific study of humans and human behavior and societies in the past and present. Social anthropology studies patterns of behaviour and cultural anthropology studies cultural meaning, including norms and values. Linguistic anthropology studies how language influences social life. Biological or physical anthropology studies the biological development of humans.
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough in North West England, with an estimated population of 491,500. Its metropolitan area is the fifth-largest in the UK, with a population of 2.24 million in 2011. The local authority is Liverpool City Council, the most populous local government district in the metropolitan county of Merseyside and the largest in the Liverpool City Region.
The exhumation of Yagan's head was the result of a geophysical survey and archaeological dig at a grave site in the Everton Cemetery, Liverpool in 1997.
A member of the Whadjuk Noongar people, Yagan belonged to a tribe of around 60 people whose name, according to Robert Lyon, was Beeliar . Scholars now believe that the Beeliar people may have been a family subgroup (or clan) of a larger tribe whom Daisy Bates called Beelgar.According to Lyon, the Beeliar people occupied the land south of the Swan and Canning rivers, as far south as Mangles Bay. The group had customary land usage rights over a much larger area than this, extending north as far as Lake Monger and northeast to the Helena River. The group also had an unusual degree of freedom to move over their neighbours' land, possibly due to kinship and marriage ties with neighbouring groups.
Whadjuk, alternatively Witjari, are an indigenous Noongar people of the Western Australian region of the Perth bioregion of the Swan Coastal Plain.
In anthropology, a tribe is a human social group. Exact definitions of what constitutes a tribe vary among anthropologists. The concept is often contrasted with other social groups concepts, such as nations, states, and forms of kinship.
A clan is a group of people united by actual or perceived kinship and descent. Even if lineage details are unknown, clan members may be organized around a founding member or apical ancestor. Clans, in indigenous societies, tend to be exogamous, meaning that their members cannot marry one another. Clans preceded more centralized forms of community organization and government, and exist in every country. Members may identify with a coat of arms or other symbol to show they are an independent clan. The kinship-based bonds may also have a symbolic ancestor, whereby the clan shares a "stipulated" common ancestor that is a symbol of the clan's unity. When this "ancestor" is non-human, it is referred to as a totem, which is frequently an animal.
Yagan is thought to have been born around 1795.His father was Midgegooroo, an elder of the Beeliar people; his mother was presumably one of Midgegooroo's two wives. Yagan was probably a Ballaroke in the Noongar classification.
Midgegooroo was an Indigenous Australian elder of the Nyungar nation, who played a key role in Indigenous resistance to white settlement in the area of Perth, Western Australia. Everything documented about Midgegooroo is mediated through the eyes of the colonisers, some of whom, notably G.F. Moore, Robert Menli Lyon and Francis Armstrong, derived their information from discussions with contemporary Noongar people, in particular the son of Midgegooroo, Yagan. Largely due to his exploits in opposing colonisation and his relationship with Lyon and Moore, Yagan has a much sharper historical profile than his father. Midgegooroo was executed by firing squad and without trial under the authority of Lieutenant Governor Frederick Irwin in 1833.
The term Elder, or its equivalent in another language, is used in several different countries and organizations to indicate a position of authority. This usage is usually derived from the notion that the oldest members of any given group are the wisest, and are thus the most qualified to rule, provide counsel or serve the said group in some other capacity.
According to the historian Neville Green, Yagan had a wife and two children.A report in the Perth Gazette in 1833 gives the names of his children as "Naral", age 9, and "Willim", age 11; but most other sources state that the warrior was unmarried and childless. Described as taller than average with an impressive burly physique, Yagan had a distinctive tribal tattoo on his right shoulder, which identified him as "a man of high degree in tribal law." He was generally acknowledged to be the most physically powerful of his tribe.
Yagan would have been about 35 years old in 1829 when British settlers landed in the area and established the Swan River Colony.For the first two years of the colony, relations between settlers and Noongar were generally amicable, as there was little competition for resources. The Noongar welcomed the white settlers as Djanga, the returned spirits of their dead. Historical reports noted the two groups shared fish. As time passed, conflicts between the two cultures gradually became more frequent. The settlers incorrectly thought that the Noongar were nomads who had no claim to the land over which they roamed. Colonists fenced off land for grazing and farming according to their traditional practices of land use.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was a sovereign state established by the Acts of Union 1800, which merged the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland.
The Swan River Colony was a British colony established in 1829 on the Swan River, in Western Australia.
As the colonists fenced off more land, the Noongar were increasingly denied access to their traditional hunting grounds and sacred sites. In search of food, the Noongar raided the settlers' crops and killed their cattle. They also developed a taste for the settlers' supplies, and began to take flour and other food, which became a serious problem for the colony.In addition, the Noongar practice of firestick farming, or firing the bush to flush out game and encourage germination of undergrowth for sustainability, threatened the settlers' crops and houses.
In December 1831 Yagan and his father led the first significant Aboriginal resistance to white settlement in Western Australia. Thomas Smedley, a servant of farmer Archibald Butler, ambushed some natives who were raiding a potato patch, and killed one of Yagan's family group.A few days later, Yagan, Midgegooroo and others stormed the farmhouse and, finding the door locked, began to break through the mud-brick walls. Inside were Butler's servant Erin Entwhistle and his two sons Enion and Ralph. After hiding his sons under the bed, Entwhistle opened the door to parley and was killed by Yagan and Midgegooroo. Noongar tribal law required that murders be avenged by the killing of a member of the murderer's tribal group, not necessarily the murderer. The Noongar considered servants and employees to be part of the settlers' groups. Historians believe the Noongar attack on Entwhistle was retribution under their tribal law. Not understanding tribal law (and unlikely to agree with its concepts), the white settlers took the killing to be an unprovoked murder and dispatched a force to arrest Yagan's group, without success.
In June 1832 Yagan led a party of Aborigines in attacking two labourers sowing a field of wheat alongside the Canning River near Kelmscott. One of the men, John Thomas,escaped, but the other, William Gaze, was wounded and later died as a result. The settlement declared Yagan an outlaw and offered a reward of £20 for his capture. He avoided capture until early October 1832. A group of fishermen enticed Yagan and two companions into their boat, then pushed off into deep water. The fishermen took the three Noongar men to the Perth guardhouse, from which they were transferred to the Round House at Fremantle. Yagan was sentenced to death, but he was saved by the intercession of settler Robert Lyon. Arguing that Yagan was defending his land against invasion, Lyon said Yagan should not be considered a criminal but a prisoner of war and suggested he should be treated as such. At the recommendation of John Septimus Roe, the Surveyor-General of Western Australia, Yagan and his men were exiled on Carnac Island under the supervision of Lyon and two soldiers.
Lyon thought he could teach Yagan British ways and convert him to Christianity. He hoped to gain his cooperation and use his tribal stature to persuade the Noongar to accept colonial authority. Lyon spent many hours with Yagan learning his language and customs.After a month, Yagan and his companions escaped by stealing an unattended dinghy and rowing to Woodman Point on the mainland. The Government did not pursue them; apparently its officials considered they had been sufficiently punished.
In January 1833 two Noongar, Gyallipert and Manyat, visited Perth from King George Sound, metres.where relations between settlers and natives were amicable. Two settlers, Richard [Robert?] Dale and George Smythe, arranged for the men to meet a party of local Noongar to encourage friendly relations in the Swan River Colony. On 26 January Yagan led a group of ten formally armed Noongars in greeting the two men near Lake Monger. The men exchanged weapons and held a corroboree , though the groups did not appear to share a language. Yagan and Gyallipert competed at spear throwing. As an example of his prowess, Yagan struck a walking stick from a distance of 25
Gyallipert and Manyat remained in Perth for some time. On 3 March, Yagan obtained permission to hold another corroboree, this time in the Post Office garden in Perth. The Perth and King George Sound men met at dusk, chalked their bodies, and performed a number of dances including a kangaroo hunt dance. The Perth Gazette wrote that Yagan "was master of ceremonies and acquitted himself with infinite grace and dignity."
During February and March, Yagan was involved in a series of minor conflicts with settlers. In February William Watson complained that Yagan had pushed open his door, demanded a gun, and taken handkerchiefs. Watson had to give him and his companions flour and bread. The following month, Yagan was among a group who received biscuits from a military contingent under Lieutenant Norcott; when Norcott tried to restrict his supply, Yagan threatened him with his spear. ... For the most trivial offence ... he would take the life of any man who provoked him. He is at the head and front of any mischief."Later that month, Yagan was with a group of Noongar who entered Watson's house while he was away. The group left after Watson's wife called on neighbours for help. The next day Captain Ellis lectured the Noongar about their behaviour. The frequent incidents prompted The Perth Gazette to remark on "the reckless daring of this desperado who sets his life at a pin's fee
On the night of 29 April, a party of Noongar broke into a Fremantle store to steal flourand they were shot at by the caretaker Peter Chidlow. Domjum, a brother of Yagan, was badly injured and died in jail a few days later. The rest of the party moved from Fremantle to Preston Point, where Yagan reportedly vowed vengeance for the death. Between 50 and 60 Noongar gathered at Bull Creek, where they met a party of settlers who were loading carts with provisions. Later that day, the group ambushed the lead cart, killing two settlers, Tom and John Velvick. Tribal law required only a single death for vengeance. Some historians have speculated that the Velvicks were targeted because they had previously been convicted for assaulting Aboriginal people and coloured seamen. Alexandra Hasluck has also argued that stealing provisions was an important motive in the attack, but this has been refuted elsewhere.
For the killing of the Velvicks, the Lieutenant-Governor Frederick Irwin declared Yagan, Midgegooroo and Munday to be outlaws, offering rewards of £20 each for the capture of Midgegooroo and Munday, and a reward of £30 for Yagan's capture, dead or alive.Munday successfully appealed against his proscription. Midgegooroo, Yagan and their group immediately moved from their territory north towards the Helena Valley. On 17 May, Midgegooroo was captured on the Helena River. After a brief, informal trial, he was executed by firing squad. Yagan remained at large for over two months.
Late in May, George Fletcher Moore reported seeing Yagan on his property and talking with him in pidgin English. Moore wrote in the Perth Gazette:
Yagan stepped forward and leaning with his left hand on my shoulder while he gesticulated with the right, delivered a sort of recitation, looking earnestly in my face. I regret I could not understand it, I thought from the tone and manner that the purport was this:"You came to our country — you have driven us from our haunts, and disturbed us in our occupations. As we walk in our own country we are fired upon by the white men; why should the white men treat us so?"
Since Moore had little knowledge of Yagan's native language, the historian Hasluck suggests that this account is probably more indicative of "a feeling of conscience on the part of the white men" than an accurate rendering of Yagan's state of mind.
Yagan asked Moore whether Midgegooroo was dead or alive. Moore gave no reply, but a servant answered that Midgegooroo was a prisoner on Carnac Island. Yagan warned, "White man shoot Midgegooroo, Yagan kill three." ... there is something in his daring which one is forced to admire."Moore reported the encounter but made no attempt to restrain Yagan. He later wrote, "The truth is, every one wishes him taken, but no one likes to be the captor
On 11 July 1833, two teenage brothers named William and James Keates were herding cattle along the Swan River north of Guildford when a group of Noongar approached while en route to collect flour rations from Henry Bull's house.The Keates brothers suggested Yagan remain with them to avoid arrest. While he was staying with them during the morning, the brothers decided to kill the warrior and claim the reward. When the natives were ready to depart, the Keateses took their last opportunity. William Keates shot Yagan, and James shot Heegan, another native, in the act of throwing his spear. The brothers ran away, but other Noongar overtook William and speared him to death. James escaped by swimming the river. Shortly afterward he returned with a party of armed settlers from Bull's estate.
When the party of settlers arrived, they found Yagan dead and Heegan dying.Heegan "was groaning and his brains were partly out when the party came, and whether humanity or brutality, a man put a gun to his head and blew it to pieces." The settlers cut Yagan's head from his body, and skinned his back to obtain his tribal markings as a trophy. They buried the bodies a short distance away.
James Keates claimed the reward, but his conduct was widely criticised. ... it is revolting to hear this lauded as a meritorious deed." However, Daisy Bates understood that "he was killed in self-defence by the young lad." Keates left the colony the following month; it is possible that he left from fear of being murdered in tribal retaliation.The Perth Gazette referred to Yagan's killing as "a wild and treacherous act
Yagan's head was initially taken to Henry Bull's house. Moore saw it there and sketched the head a number of times in his unpublished, handwritten diary, commenting that "possibly it may yet figure in some museum at home."The head was preserved by smoking.
In September 1833, Governor Irwin sailed for London, partly to give his own account of the events leading up to the killing. This was an unusual measure, especially given his regiment was about to leave for a tour of duty in India. The Colonial Office indicated satisfaction with Irwin's administration of the colony.
Travelling with Irwin was Ensign Robert Dale, who had somehow acquired Yagan's head. According to the historian Paul Turnbull, Dale appears to have persuaded Irwin to let him have the head as an "anthropological curiosity".After arriving in London, Dale tried to sell the head to scientists, approaching a number of anatomists and phrenologists. His price of ₤20 failed to find a buyer, so he made an agreement with Thomas Pettigrew for the exclusive use of the head for 18 months. Pettigrew, a surgeon and antiquarian, was well known in the London social scene for holding private parties at which he unrolled and autopsied Egyptian mummies. He displayed the head on a table in front of a panoramic view of King George Sound reproduced from Dale's sketches. For effect, the head was adorned with a fresh corded headband and feathers of the red-tailed black cockatoo.
Pettigrew had the head examined by a phrenologist. Examination was considered difficult because of the large fracture across the back of the head caused by the gunshot. His conclusions were consistent with contemporary European opinion of Indigenous Australians.Dale published these in a pamphlet entitled Descriptive Account of the Panoramic View &c. of King George's Sound and the Adjacent Country , which Pettigrew encouraged his guests to buy as a souvenir of their evening. The frontispiece of the pamphlet was a hand-coloured aquatint print of Yagan's head by the artist George Cruikshank.
Early in October 1835, Yagan's head and the panoramic view were returned to Dale, then living in Liverpool. On 12 October he presented them to the Liverpool Royal Institution,where the head may have been displayed in a case along with some other preserved heads and wax models illustrating cranial anatomy. In 1894 the Institution's collections were dispersed, and Yagan's head was lent to the Liverpool Museum; it is thought not to have been put on display there. By the 1960s Yagan's head was badly deteriorated. In April 1964 the museum decided to dispose of it. It arranged burial of the head on 10 April 1964, together with a Peruvian mummy and a Māori head. They were buried in Everton Cemetery's General Section 16, grave number 296. In later years a number of burials were made around the grave. For example, in 1968 a local hospital buried directly over the box, 20 stillborn babies and two infants who died soon after birth.
For many years beginning in the early 1980s,a number of Noongar groups sought the return of Yagan's head to Australia.
It is Aboriginal belief that because Yagan's skeletal remains are incomplete, his spirit is earthbound. The uniting of his head and torso will immediately set his spirit free to continue its eternal journey.
At the time, there was no historical trail for the head after Pettigrew passed it on. Tribal elders entrusted the Aboriginal leader Ken Colbung with the search.In the early 1990s, Colbung enlisted the aid of University of London archaeologist Peter Ucko. One of Ucko's researchers, Cressida Fforde, conducted a literature search for information on the head. Fforde successfully traced the head in December 1993. The following April, Colbung applied to exhume the remains under Section 25 of the Burial Act 1857. Home Office regulations required next of kin consent before disturbing the remains of the 22 infants. Colbung's solicitors requested waiver of this condition on grounds that the exhumation would be of great personal significance to Yagan's living relatives, and great national importance to Australia.
Meanwhile, divisions in the Noongar community in Perth began to develop. Some elders questioned Colbung's role and one Noongar registered a complaint with the Liverpool City Council over his involvement. Media reports indicated acrimonious debate within the Noongar community about who had the best cultural qualifications to take possession of the head.The academic Hannah McGlade claims that these divisions were largely manufactured by the media, particularly The West Australian , which "aimed to and successfully represented the Nyungar community in terms of disharmony and dissent". She alleges that one West reporter contacted Noongar who were known to be in disagreement, and quoted one to the other, so as to elicit provocative responses. The disputes were "trumpeted" by The West, allowing it to "preach" against the infighting.
On 25 July a public meeting was held in Perth. All parties agreed to put aside their differences and co-operate to ensure that the repatriation was a "national success".A Yagan Steering Committee was established to co-ordinate the repatriation, and Colbung's application was allowed to proceed. In January 1995 the Home Office advised Colbung that it was unable to waive the requirement to obtain next of kin consent for the exhumation. It contacted the five relatives whose addresses were known, and received unconditional consent from only one. Accordingly, on 30 June 1995, Colbung and the other interested parties were advised that the application for exhumation had been rejected.
Meeting on 21 September, the Yagan Steering Committee decided to lobby Australian and British politicians for support. In 1997 Colbung was invited to visit the United Kingdom at the British government's expenseand he arrived on 20 May. His visit attracted substantial media coverage, and increased the political pressure on the British Government. He secured the support of the Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, after gate crashing the Prime Minister's June visit to the United Kingdom.
While Colbung was in the United Kingdom, Martin and Richard Bates were engaged to undertake a geophysical survey of the grave site. Using electromagnetic and ground penetrating radar techniques, they identified an approximate position of the box that suggested it could be accessed from the side via the adjacent plot. A report of the survey was passed to the Home Office, prompting further discussions between the British and Australian Governments.
Of concern to the Home Office were an undisclosed number of letters that it had received objecting to Colbung's involvement in the repatriation process; it therefore sought assurances from the Australian Government that Colbung was a correct applicant.In response Colbung asked his elders to ask the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) to tell the British Home Office that he was the correct applicant. ATSIC then convened a meeting in Perth at which it was again resolved that Colbung's application could proceed.
Colbung continued to press for the exhumation, asking that it be performed before the 164th anniversary of Yagan's death on 11 July, so that the anniversary could be the occasion of a celebration.His request was not met, and on the anniversary of Yagan's death, Colbung conducted a short memorial service at the burial plot in Everton. He returned to Australia empty-handed on 15 July.
The exhumation of Yagan's head eventually proceeded, without Colbung's knowledge,by excavating six feet down the side of the grave, then tunnelling horizontally to the location of the box. Thus the exhumation was performed without disturbing any other remains. The following day, a forensic palaeontologist from the University of Bradford positively identified the skull as Yagan's by correlating the fractures with those described in Pettigrew's report. The skull was then kept at the museum until 29 August, when it was handed over to the Liverpool City Council.
On 27 August 1997, a delegation of Noongars consisting of Ken Colbung, Robert Bropho, Richard Wilkes and Mingli Wanjurri-Nungala arrived in the UK to collect Yagan's head. The delegation was to have been larger, but Commonwealth funding was withdrawn at the last minute.The handover of Yagan's skull was further delayed when a Noongar named Corrie Bodney applied to the Supreme Court of Western Australia for an injunction against the handover. Claiming that his family group has sole responsibility for Yagan's remains, Bodney declared the exhumation illegal and denied the existence of any tradition or belief necessitating the head's exhumation and removal to Australia. On 29 August, Justice Henry Wallwork rejected the injunction application, on the grounds that Bodney had previously agreed to the current arrangements, and on the evidence of another Noongar elder (Albert Corunna, who claimed to be a closer relation of Yagan) and anthropologist Pat Baines, both of whom refuted Bodney's claim to sole responsibility.
Yagan's skull was handed over to the Noongar delegation at a ceremony at Liverpool Town Hall on 31 August 1997.In accepting the skull, Colbung made comments that were interpreted as linking Yagan's death with the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, earlier that day:
That is how nature goes ... Nature is a carrier of all good things and all bad things. And because the Poms did the wrong thing, they now have to suffer.
Colbung's comments prompted a media furore throughout Australia, with newspapers receiving many letters from the public expressing shock and anger at the comments.Colbung later claimed that his comments had been misinterpreted.
Throughout the repatriation process, many sections of the international media treated the story as a joke. For example, the US News & World Report ran a story under the headline Raiders of the Lost Conk, in which Yagan's head was referred to as a "pickled curio", and Colbung's actions were treated as a publicity stunt.
On its return to Perth, Yagan's head continued to be a source of controversy and conflict.Responsibility for reburial of the head was given to a "Committee for the Reburial of Yagan's Kaat", headed by Richard Wilkes. The reburial was delayed by disputes between elders over the burial location, mainly due to uncertainty of the whereabouts of the rest of his body, and disagreement about the importance of burying the head with the body.
A number of attempts were made to locate the remains of Yagan's body, which were believed to be on Lot 39 West Swan Road in the outer Perth suburb of Belhus.A remote sensing survey of the site was carried out in 1998, but no remains were found. An archaeological survey of the area was undertaken two years later, but this also was unsuccessful. Disputes then arose over whether the head could be buried separately from the body. Wilkes has claimed that it can, so long as it is placed where Yagan was killed, so that Dreamtime spirits can reunite the remains.
In 1998 the Western Australian Planning Commission and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs jointly published a document entitled Yagan's Gravesite Master Plan, which discussed "matters of ownership, management, development and future use" of the property on which Yagan's remains are believed to be buried. Under consideration was the possibility of turning the site into an Indigenous burial site, to be managed by the Metropolitan Cemeteries Board.
Yagan's head spent some time in storage in a bank vault before being handed over to forensics experts who reconstructed a model from it. After that it was held in storage at Western Australia's state mortuary. Plans to re-bury the head were repeatedly deferred, causing ongoing conflict between Noongar groups.In September 2008 it was reported that Yagan's head would be reburied in November, and a Yagan Memorial Park created as a projected cost of A$996,000; but in November it was announced that the reburial had been rescheduled for July 2009 because of logistical problems. In March 2009, it was announced that the Department of Indigenous Affairs had given the City of Swan more than A$500,000 to develop the park.
The head was finally buried in a private ceremony attended only by invited Noongar elders, on 10 July 2010, the anniversary of the last full day he lived and one day before the end of NAIDOC Week 2010.The site in Belhus was chosen as it is believed to be near to where the rest of Yagan's body was buried. The burial coincided with a ceremony to mark the opening of the Yagan Memorial Park which was attended by around 300 people, including Noongar elders and State government representatives. State Premier Colin Barnett described the occasion as "a wonderful day for all West Australians."
The art works for the Yagan Memorial Park were designed by Peter Farmer, Sandra Hill, Jenny Dawson and Kylie Ricks.Dawson and Hill created an entry wall of Yagan's story; Farmer designed the park entry statements and Ricks the female Coolamon.
The repatriation of Yagan's head increased the Aboriginal leader's notability. He is considered a famous historical figure throughout Australia, ... patriot and visionary hero of WA's South-West". The return of his head was likened by some Indigenous Australians to the November 1993 ceremonial repatriation from Gallipoli of Australia's unknown soldier.with material about him appearing in such publications as the Australian Dictionary of Biography , and Western Australia's school curriculum. He is of greatest significance to the Noongar people, for whom he is "a revered, cherished and heroic individual
The former Upper Swan Bridge, which carries the Great Northern Highway over the Swan River at Belhus, was renamed the Yagan Bridge in 2010.Also, an open plaza in the Perth central business district, constructed as part of the Perth City Link urban renewal project, was named Yagan Square. The plaza, located adjacent to the Horseshoe Bridge, was opened on 3 March 2018.
On 6 September 1997 The West Australian published a Dean Alston cartoon entitled Alas Poor Yagan ,which was critical of the fact that the return of Yagan's head had become a source of conflict between Noongars instead of fostering unity. The cartoon was interpreted by some as insulting aspects of Noongar culture, and casting aspersions on the motives and legitimacy of Indigenous Australians with mixed racial heritage. The content of the cartoon offended many Indigenous Australians, and a group of Noongar elders complained about the cartoon to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. The commission ruled that the cartoon made inappropriate references to Noongar beliefs but was not in breach of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 because it was "an artistic work" that was published "reasonably and in good faith", and was therefore exempt. This ruling was upheld on appeal by the Federal Court of Australia. Some academic commentators have since expressed concern that the protections offered under the act have been undermined by the ruling's broad interpretation of the exemptions.
From the mid-1970s, members of the Noongar community lobbied for the erection of a statue of Yagan as part of the WAY 1979 sesquicentennial celebrations. Their requests were refused, however, after then Premier of Western Australia Sir Charles Court was advised by one prominent historian that Yagan was not important enough to warrant a statue.Colbung claims "Court was more interested in spending tax payers' money on refurbishing the badly neglected burial place of Captain James Stirling, WA's first governor." Despite this setback, the Noongar community persisted, establishing a Yagan Committee and running a number of fund-raising drives. Eventually, sufficient funds were collected to allow the commissioning of Australian sculptor Robert Hitchcock to create a statue. The result was a life-size statue in bronze, depicting Yagan standing naked with a spear held across his shoulders. Hitchcock's statue of Yagan was officially opened by Yagan Committee chairperson Elizabeth Hanson on 11 September 1984. It stands on Heirisson Island in the Swan River near Perth.
In 1997, within a week of the return of Yagan's head to Perth, vandals beheaded the statue using an angle grinder. Soon after a replacement head was installed and it too was detached and stolen. Credit for the act was anonymously claimed by a "British loyalist" as an act of retaliation for Colbung's comments about Diana, Princess of Wales.The Western Australia Police did not succeed in identifying the vandals, nor in recovering the heads, and deemed it infeasible to have the statue fenced off or placed under guard.
Commentary on the beheadings varied widely. One column in The West Australia found humour in them, referring to the head as a "bonce" and a "noggin", and finished with a pun on "skullduggery". ... [T]he piece has a definite authorising function". On the other hand, academic analysis has treated the act with much more gravity. In 2007, for example, David Martin described the decapitation as "an act which speaks not only to the continuance of white settler racism, but also to the power of mimesis to invigorate our modern memorials and monuments with a life of their own."Stephen Muecke calls this the "satirical trivialising of Aboriginal concerns"; and Adam Shoemaker writes "This is the stuff of light humour and comic relief. There is no sense of the decapitation as being an act of vandalism, even less that it could have been motivated by malevolence
In 2002, Member of the Western Australian Legislative Assembly Janet Woollard called for the statue's genitalia to be covered up, but nothing was done. In November 2005 Richard Wilkes again called for the statue's groin to be covered, on the grounds that such a depiction would be more historically accurate, as Yagan would have worn a covering for most of the year. Also under consideration is the creation of a new statue with a head shape that accords better with the forensic reconstruction of Yagan's head.
Mary Durack published a fictionalised account of Yagan's life in her 1964 children's novel The Courteous Savage: Yagan of the Swan River,which was renamed Yagan of the Bibbulmun on reissue in 1976.
The repeated beheading of Yagan's statue in 1997 prompted Aboriginal writer Archie Weller to write a short story entitled Confessions of a Headhunter. Weller later worked with film director Sally Riley to adapt the story into a script,and in 2000 a 35-minute movie, also named Confessions of a Headhunter, was released. Directed by Sally Riley, the movie won Best Short Fiction Film at the 2000 AFI Awards. The following year the script won the Script Award in the 2001 Western Australian Premier's Book Awards.
In 2002, the South African-born Australian poet John Mateer published his fourth collection of poems, entitled Loanwords.The collection is divided into four sections, of which the third, In the Presence of a Severed Head, has Yagan as its subject.
A section of Kullark, a play by Jack Davis, explores the deteriorating relationship between Yagan and a settler couple.
In September 1989 an early maturing cultivar of barley, bred by the Western Australian Department of Agriculture for performance on sandy soils, was released under the name "Hordeum vulgare (Barley) c.v. Yagan".Commonly referred to simply as "Yagan", the cultivar is named for Yagan, continuing a tradition of labelling Western Australian grain cultivars after historic people of Western Australia.
Heirisson Island is an island in the Swan River in Western Australia at the eastern end of Perth Water, between the suburbs of East Perth and Victoria Park. It occupies an area of 285600 m2, and is connected to the two foreshores by The Causeway. The next upstream island is Kuljak Island, then Ron Courtney Island, with no islands in the Swan River downstream between Heirisson Island and the Indian Ocean other than the artificial islet in Elizabeth Quay.
Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick Chidley Irwin, KH was acting Governor of Western Australia from 1847 to 1848.
Robert Menli Lyon (1789–1874) was a pioneering Western Australian settler who became one of the earliest outspoken advocates for Indigenous Australian rights and welfare in the colony. He published the first information on the Aboriginal language of the Perth area.
Alas Poor Yagan is an editorial cartoon, drawn by Dean Alston and published in The West Australian newspaper on 6 September 1997. It consists of a panel of eight drawings of Indigenous Australian activist Ken Colbung speaking to a group of three Indigenous Australian children. The cartoon's content offended many Indigenous Australians, and resulted in a complaint of racism to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. The commission eventually ruled that the cartoon made inappropriate references to Nyungar beliefs but did not breach the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. This ruling was subsequently upheld on appeal to the Federal Court of Australia.
The Beeliar people are a clan or group of Indigenous Australians belonging to the Noongar tribal people of the South West region of Western Australia. Robert Lyon referred to the Beeliar people as one of the five groups of the Perth metropolitan area, but it is now thought that they may have been a family subgroup of a larger group, which Daisy Bates refers to as "Beelgar". When British settlers arrived to establish the Swan River Colony in 1829, there were about 60 Beeliar people, including Midgegooroo and Yagan. The Beeliar group no longer exists, and although some present-day Noongars trace their ancestry to Yagan, they identify as Noongars rather than Beeliar.
Lake Monger is a large urban wetland on the Swan Coastal Plain in suburban, Western Australia nestled between the suburbs of Leederville, Wembley and Glendalough.
Kenneth Desmond Colbung AM MBE, also known by his indigenous name Nundjan Djiridjarkan, was an Aboriginal Australian leader who became prominent in the 1960s. He was appointed an MBE and an AM for his service to the Aboriginal community.
Robert Charles Bropho was a Ballardong Noongar Australian Aboriginal rights activist and convicted serial child sex offender from Perth, Western Australia. He was convicted of multiple cases of child sexual abuse. A judge described his crimes as the "lowest form of abuse imaginable".
The Binjareb, Pindjarup or Pinjareb were an indigenous Noongar people, now believed to be extinct, who once occupied part of the south-western region of Western Australia.
The Pinjarra Massacre, also known as the Battle of Pinjarra, was an attack that occurred at Pinjarra, Western Australia on a group of up to 80 Noongar people by a detachment of 25 soldiers, police and settlers led by Governor James Stirling in 1834. After attacks on the displaced Swan River, Whadjuk people and depredations on settlers by a group of the Binjareb people led by Calyute had, according to European settlers, reached unacceptable levels, culminating in the payback killing of an ex-soldier, Stirling led his force after the party. Arriving at their camp, five members of the pursuit party were sent into the camp to arrest the suspects; Whadjuk community resisted. In the ensuing melee, Stirling reported 15 killed ; police superintendent Theophilus Tighe Ellis later died of wounds and a soldier was wounded. Stirling warned the tribe against payback killings and arranged a peace between the warring tribes, but Calyute continued to break it by raiding the Whadjuk until his demise.
Calyute, also known as Kalyute, Galyute or Wongir, was an Indigenous Australian resistance leader who was involved in a number of reprisal attacks with white settlers and members of other tribes in the early days of the Swan River Colony, in Western Australia. He was a member of the Pindjarup people from around the Murray River area south of Perth. Calyute's family included two brothers, Woodan and Yanmar, two wives, Mindup and Yamup, and two sons, Ninia and Monang.
Nyungar is an Australian Aboriginal language or dialect continuum, still spoken by members of the Noongar community, who live in the southwest corner of Western Australia. The 1996 census recorded 157 speakers; that number increased to 232 by 2006. The rigour of the data collection by the Australian Bureau of Statistics census data has been challenged, with the number of speakers believed to be considerably higher.
This is a timeline of Aboriginal history of Western Australia.
Kim Desmond Hames is an Australian politician who was a Liberal Party member of the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia from 1993 to 2001 and from 2005 to 2017. He served as a minister in the governments of Richard Court and Colin Barnett, and was deputy premier to Barnett from 2008 to 2016. Hames has announced his intention to retire from parliament at the 2017 state election.
Robert Charles Hitchcock is an Australian sculptor. He commenced his career in 1970 and works in a wide variety of subjects and materials. Hitchcock is one of the leading portrait sculptors currently working in Australia today. He is known for his life size bronze sculptures which are located in private collections as well as public works of art in Australia and overseas.
Clarence Frederick "Clarrie" Isaacs also known as Yaluritja and Ishak Mohamad Haj was an Australian Aboriginal activist.
[Hasluck] advised the states anti-Labor government not to agree. University historians pleaded Yagan's cause in vain.
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