The Point Walter and Blackwall Reach area on the south bank of Perth’s Swan River has special significance to local Aborigines, as it features prominently in Noongar history and legends told throughout the South West of WA.
Next time you visit this special place on the Swan River, try and imagine it as it was 200 years ago when the entire Swan Coastal Plain was wilderness and native vegetation grew right down to the river’s edge. The Swan River would be full of fish, and the water less salty than it is today. Back then it was called Derbarl Yerrigan which and was inhabited by the Waugal – the creation serpent that shaped all the land and waterways.
Traditionally Point Walter is part of the land of the Beeliar family. The Beeliars were of the Whadjuk group, one of 14 language groups inhabiting the Noongar lands (South West region).
Dyoondalup and Jenalup – Point Walter Aboriginal History
Point Walter is located at a corner of the Swan River opposite Freshwater Bay, where the broad expanse of Melville Water narrows into the channel that snakes its way down to the ocean past limestone cliffs and hills. A long narrow sand bar of white sand extends out from Point Walter for almost a kilometre into the river, reaching more than halfway across to the far bank at Peppermint Grove.
The Aboriginal name for the Point Walter and the sand bar is Dyoondalup/Dyundalup, a word that means “Place of Long Flowing White Hair”.
A short distance south from the sandbar, at the place where the river first narrows into “Blackwall Reach”, there are cliffs up to 15 metres high along a 500m section of the riverbank, an area known to Aborigines as Jenalup meaning “The Place Where Feet Make a Track”.
Traditionally this area and the shoreline along the southern bank of the river was a women’s place, that men would sometimes visit but not stay for long.
The men would cross the river by swimming the short relatively distance to the end of the sandbar, then walking the rest of the way along the sand. So Point Walter was where the men and women would meet before moving as a group to other areas on the south side of the river.
The cliffs along Blackwall Reach (Jenalup) is the most sacred part of the area. These days it’s a popular place among teenagers and young adults (both male and female) to gather for cliff jumping, swimming, rock climbing and enjoying the Perth summer. But originally it was mainly a place for women and children.
Djoondalup/Point Walter Dreamtime and Creation
The dreaming trail on the southern side of the river is the women’s trail and the dreaming trail on the north side is the men’s trail and the sand bar, which stretches out from the point more than halfway across from the south bank of the river to the north, is the connection between these two trails.
The sandbar is a strand of hair the Charnok Woman, a tall white-haired spirit woman from the time of creation whose hair became the milky way. When the Charnok Woman passed Blackwall Reach she left a strand of hair, to become the long strand of white sand extending out from the point, or else it floated down from the milky way. The cliffs at Blackwall Reach are one of her footprints.
This was the same spirit women spoken of throughout South West WA who collected spirit children and carried them in her hair, creating big rocks and stones across the land whenever spirit children fell and hit the ground until eventually Kartakitch (Wave Rock ~350km east of Perth) was created. She stepped onto Wave Rock and was launched up into the Milky Way where the spirit children she was still carrying in her long white hair scattered to become individual stars you can see in the night sky.
Last Updated: 28th November, 2015.
First posted on 23rd November, 2015 by Bonny.
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