Noongar names boost

MELVILLE council has received a $700,000 Lotterywest grant to help decode Noongar site names and explain their ancient meanings.

The grant will allow the Place Names Melville project to expand from exploring just three sites in the city to 23.

Mayor George Gear said the project was one of the council’s reconciliation initiatives aimed at “amplifying First Nation’s voices and truth telling.”

The council engaged Community Arts Network and Modddjar Consultancy, elders, traditional owners, and families  to collect authentic cultural information about the Noongar sites. 

Moodjar Consultancy director Len Collard said they were excited to continue the “innovative, cutting-edge place names initiative”.

“Our work recognises that language is the first lore,” Prof Collard said.

“We use Noongar language to crack the code of the ancient meanings through a recolonisation process that puts elders at the forefront.”

The Whadjuk Boodja Sites of Cultural Significance brochure (available via the City of Melville website) lists the 23 sites throughout Melville, providing each with a translation and a short explanation of how the Noongar name originated. 

One of the sites, Marradungup, is in Alfred Cove in Bicton and the name translates to “place of death water”. 

Elder Noel Nannup said although the name sounded gruesome, it originated from a beautiful natural occurrence.   

“The area is subject to tidal movement,” Mr Nannup said.

“When the tide rises it pushes water into a little pocket of the cove, and when the tide goes back out, the water in the pocket remains there.

“It doesn’t move in and out, so it was called dead water.

“It replenishes itself through the natural spring right alongside the Atwell Gallery there, and there is always fresh water moving into the middle of it. 

“The spring attracts species there; birds and fish, they come into that section where there is beautiful, sweet water. 

“And that’s why it was used as a campground and a meeting place.”

by MEG ANDERSON

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