Swan River Colony

The Swan River Colony was a British colony established in 1829 on the Swan River, in Western Australia.

The name was a pars pro toto for Western Australia. In 1832 the colony was renamed the Colony of Western Australia, when the colony's founding lieutenant-governor, Captain James Stirling, belatedly received his commission. However, the name "Swan River Colony" remained in informal use for many years afterwards.

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European exploration

Vlamingh ships at the Swan River, Keulen 1796
Willem de Vlamingh's ships, with black swans, at the entrance to the Swan River, Western Australia, coloured engraving (1796), derived from an earlier drawing (now lost) from the de Vlamingh expeditions of 1696–97.

The first recorded Europeans to sight land where the city of Perth is now located were Dutch sailors. Most likely the first visitor to the Swan River area was Frederick de Houtman on 19 July 1619, travelling on the ships Dordrecht and Amsterdam. His records indicate he first reached the Western Australian coast at latitude 32°20' which would equate to Rottnest or just south of there. He did not land because of heavy surf, and so proceeded northwards without much investigation.[1]

On 28 April 1656, Vergulde Draeck en route to Batavia (now Jakarta) was shipwrecked 107 km north of the Swan River near Ledge Point. Of the 193 on board, only 75 made it to shore. A small boat that survived the wreckage then sailed to Batavia for help, but a subsequent search party found none of the survivors. The wreck was rediscovered in 1963.[2]

In 1658, three Dutch Republic ships, also partially searching for Vergulde Draeck visited the area. Waekende Boey under Captain S. Volckertszoon, Elburg under Captain J. Peereboom and Emeloort under Captain A. Joncke sighted Rottnest but did not proceed any closer to the mainland because of the many reefs. They then travelled north and subsequently found the wreck of Vergulde Draeck (but still no survivors). They gave an unfavourable opinion of the area partly due to the dangerous reefs.[1]

Battye freycinet swanriver lg
The first detailed map of the Swan River, drawn by the French in 1801

The Dutch captain Willem de Vlamingh was the next European in the area. Commanding three ships, Geelvink, Nyptangh and Wezeltje, he arrived at and named Rottnest on 29 December 1696, and on 10 January 1697 discovered and named the Swan River. His ships could not sail up the river because of a sand bar at its mouth, so he sent out a sloop which even then required some dragging over the sand bar. They sailed until reaching mud flats probably near Heirisson Island. They saw some Aborigines but were not able to meet any close up. Vlamingh was also not impressed with the area, and this was probably the reason for a lack of Dutch exploration from then on.[1]

In 1801, the French ships Géographe captained by Nicolas Baudin and Naturaliste captained by Emmanuel Hamelin visited the area from the south. While Géographe continued northwards, Naturaliste remained for a few weeks. A small expedition dragged longboats over the sand bar and explored the Swan River. They also gave unfavourable descriptions regarding any potential settlement due to many mud flats upstream and the sand bar (the sand bar wasn't removed until the 1890s when C. Y. O'Connor built Fremantle harbour).

Later in March 1803, Géographe with another ship Casuarina passed by Rottnest on their way eventually back to France, but did not stop longer than a day or two.[3][4]

The next visit to the area was the first Australian-born maritime explorer, Phillip Parker King in 1822 on Bathurst. King was also the son of former Governor Philip Gidley King of New South Wales. However, King also was not impressed with the area.[1]

Background to the settlement

Admiral Sir James Stirling
A Plan of Swan River Settlement and Surrounding Country
Map of Swan River Settlement and Surrounding Country (1831)

The founding father of Western Australia was Captain James Stirling who, in 1827, explored the Swan River area in HMS Success which first anchored off Rottnest, and later in Cockburn Sound. He was accompanied by Charles Fraser, the New South Wales botanist.

Their initial exploration began on 8 March in a cutter and gig with parties continuing on foot from 13 March. In late March, HMS Success moved to Sydney, arriving there on 15 April. Stirling arrived back in England in July 1828, promoting in glowing terms the agricultural potential of the area. His lobbying was for the establishment of a "free" (unlike the now well established penal colonies at New South Wales, Port Arthur and Norfolk Island) settlement in the Swan River area with himself as its governor. As a result of these reports, and a rumour in London that the French were about to establish a penal colony in the western part of Australia, possibly at Shark Bay, the Colonial Office assented to the proposal in mid-October 1828.

In December 1828 a Secretary of State for Colonies despatch reserved land for the Crown, as well as for the clergy, and for education, and specified that water frontage was to be rationed. The most cursory exploration had preceded the British decision to found a settlement at the Swan River; the most makeshift arrangements were to govern its initial establishment and the granting of land; and the most sketchy surveys were to be made before the grants were actually occupied. A set of regulations were worked out for distributing land to settlers on the basis of land grants. Negotiations for a privately run settlement were also started with a consortium of four gentlemen headed by Potter McQueen, a member of Parliament who had already acquired a large tract of land in New South Wales. The consortium withdrew after the Colonial Office refused to give it preference over independent settlers in selecting land, but one member, Thomas Peel, accepted the terms and proceeded alone. Peel was allocated 500,000 acres (2,000 km²), conditional on his arrival at the settlement before 1 November 1829 with 400 settlers. Peel arrived after this date with only 300 settlers, but was still granted 250,000 acres (1,000 km²).

Events of the settlement

Swan River Colony
ship arrivals in 1829[5]
25 April HMS Challenger
31 May Parmelia
6 June HMS Sulphur
5 August Calista
6 August Saint Leonard
23 August Marquis of Anglesea
19 September Thompson
21 September Amity
5 October Georgiana
9 October Ephemina
12 October Orelia
12 October Cumberland
12 October Caroline
17 October Governor Phillip
19 October Atwick
23 October Lotus
John Summerson
31 October Admiral Gifford
11 November Lion (Lyon)
14 November Dragon
28 November HMS Success
15 December Gilmore

The first ship to reach the Swan River was HMS Challenger. After she anchored off Garden Island on 25 April 1829, Captain Charles Fremantle declared the Swan River Colony for Britain on 2 May 1829.

Parmelia arrived on 31 May carrying Stirling and his party and HMS Sulphur arrived on 8 June carrying members of the 63rd Regiment and families. Three merchant ships arrived shortly after: Calista on 5 August, St Leonard on 6 August and Marquis of Anglesea on 23 August.

A series of accidents followed the arrivals which probably nearly caused the abandonment of the expedition. Challenger and Sulphur both struck rocks while entering Cockburn Sound and were fortunate to escape with only minor damage. Parmelia however, under Stirling's "over confident pilotage", also ran aground, lost her rudder and damaged her keel, which necessitated extensive repairs. With winter now set in, the settlers were obliged to land on Garden Island. Bad weather and the required repairs meant that Stirling did not manage to reach the mainland until 18 June, and the remaining settlers on Parmelia finally arrived in early August. In early September a major disaster occurred: Marquis of Anglesea was driven ashore during a gale and wrecked beyond repair. (She did not break up, as had been expected, but instead survived to become Western Australia's first prison hulk.[6])

The first reports of the new colony arrived back in England in late January 1830. They described the poor conditions and the starving state of the colonists, deemed the land totally unfit for agriculture, and reported (incorrectly) that the settlers had abandoned the colony. As a result of these reports, many people cancelled their migration plans or diverted to Cape Town or New South Wales.

Nevertheless, a few settlers arrived and additional stores were dispatched. By 1832 the population of the colony had reached about 1,500 (Aboriginal people were not counted but in the south west have been estimated to number 15,000), but the difficulty of clearing land to grow crops was so great that by 1850 the population had only increased to 5,886. This population had settled mainly around the southwestern coastline at Bunbury, Augusta and Albany.

Karl Marx used the Swan River Colony to illustrate a point about a shortcoming of capitalism in Das Kapital.[7]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Appleyard & Manford, 1979
  2. ^ "Shipwrecks Audio Transcript : Gilt Dragins & Elephant Tusks". ABC online. 2003. Retrieved 14 February 2009.
  3. ^ Kate Pratt. "The Baudin Expedition of 1800–1804". Terra Australis 2001 WA Association Inc. Archived from the original on 16 January 2009. Retrieved 14 February 2009.
  4. ^ "The Captains: Nicholas Baudin". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 4 January 2009. Retrieved 14 February 2009.
  5. ^ "WA 1829 Passenger Ship Arrivals". Western Australian Genealogical Society. 4 December 2013. Retrieved 23 December 2016.
  6. ^ Goulding (2007), p.14.
  7. ^ Marx, Karl. "Chapter 33: The Modern Theory of Colonisation" . Das Kapital.


  • Appleyard, R. T. and Manford, Toby (1979). The Beginning: European Discovery and Early Settlement of Swan River Western Australia, University of Western Australia Press. ISBN 0-85564-146-0.
  • Fornasiero, Jean; Monteath, Peter and West-Sooby, John. Encountering Terra Australis: the Australian voyages of Nicholas Baudin and Matthew Flinders, Kent Town, South Australia,Wakefield Press,2004. ISBN 1-86254-625-8
  • Goulding, Dot (2007) Recapturing Freedom: Issues Relating to the Release of Long-term Prisoners Into the Community. (Hawkins Press). ISBN 978-1876067182
  • Marchant, Leslie R. France Australe : the French search for the Southland and subsequent explorations and plans to found a penal colony and strategic base in south western Australia 1503–1826 Perth : Scott Four Colour Print, c1998. ISBN 0-9588487-1-8
  • Marchant, Leslie R. French Napoleonic Placenames of the South West Coast, Greenwood, WA. R.I.C. Publications, 2004. ISBN 1-74126-094-9
  • Straw, Leigh S.L. A Semblance of Scotland: Scottish Identity in Colonial Western Australia, The Grimsay Press, 2006. ISBN 9781845300326
  • Toft, Klaus The Navigators – Flinders vs Baudin, Sydney, Duffy and Snellgrove, 2002. ISBN 1-876631-60-0
1829 in Australia

The following lists events that happened during 1829 in Australia.

A Sketch of the Vegetation of the Swan River Colony

"A Sketch of the Vegetation of the Swan River Colony", also known by its standard botanical abbreviation Sketch Veg. Swan R., is an 1839 article by John Lindley on the flora of the Swan River Colony. Nearly 300 new species were published in it, many of which are still current.

It appeared as Part Three of Appendix to the first twenty three volumes of Edward's Botanical Register, the first two parts being indices of previous volumes of Edwards's Botanical Register, of which Lindley was editor. It contained 58 pages, issued in three parts. Pages 1 to 16 were issued on 1 November 1839; pages 17 to 32 on 1 December 1839; and the remaining 26 pages on 1 January 1840. It also contained four woodcuts based on sketches by Lindley, and nine hand-coloured lithographic plates, the artist and lithographer of which are unacknowledged and are now unknown. According to Helen Hewson, the woodcuts are of high quality, but the plates "do not measure up to the standard of contemporary illustration"."A Sketch of the Vegetation of the Swan River Colony" represents only the second attempt to provide a flora for the colony, the first being Stephan Endlicher's 1837 Enumeratio plantarum, a Latin work of which only one installment was published. Thus there were at the time a great many undescribed species awaiting publication — speaking of the (now defunct) order Stylidaceae, Lindley remarks "In Brown's prodromus forty-six species only are named for all New Holland... but I possess from Swan River alone at least forty well marked species, and there are some of Baron Hugel's with which I am unacquainted". Working primarily from the collections of James Drummond, Lindley was able to publish around 280 new taxa, many of which remain current.

Buchanan River

The Buchanan River is a river in the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia.

The river rises in the hills to the southern side of the Yackrkine Range and flows in a westerly direction then past Muggerrugging Rock then it turn to the south-west and discharges into the Arthur River of which it is a tributary between the towns of Piesseville and Wagin.

The river was named in 1835 by the Surveyor General John Septimus Roe, who named it after the London gentleman, Walter Buchanan, who had a strong connection with the fledgling Swan River Colony.The river's catchment falls within the Blackwood catchment's Beaufort zone as part of the Dellyanine system. The system is composed of undulating rises and low hills on granite and was a wandoo sheoak woodland but has now mostly been cleared for agriculture.

Flag of Western Australia

The current state flag of Western Australia was officially adopted by the government of Western Australia in 1953.

The flag is based on the defaced British Blue Ensign with the state badge located in the fly. The badge is a gold disc with a native black swan, the swan is facing towards the hoist. The black swan has long been a symbol of Western Australia. The original colony was called the Swan River Colony at the location which is now Perth.

Fremantle (suburb)

Fremantle is a Western Australian port city located at the mouth of the Swan River, and is situated 14.41 km from the capital Perth. Fremantle was one of the original townships of the Swan River Colony established in 1829.

Government House, Perth

Government House is the official residence of the Governor of Western Australia, situated in the central business district of Perth, the state capital. It was built between 1859 and 1864, in the Jacobean Revival style.

Government House is located on St Georges Terrace (Perth's main thoroughfare), sitting on the same block as Council House and the Supreme Court buildings. The site has been used by governors since the establishment of the Swan River Colony in 1829; the current building is the third to have served that purpose on the site. The buildings and gardens of Government House are of exceptional heritage significance, being listed on the Western Australian Register of Heritage Places and classified by the National Trust. They are regularly opened for public viewing.

Governor of Western Australia

The Governor of Western Australia is the representative in Western Australia of the Queen of Australia, Elizabeth II. As with the other governors of the Australian states, the Governor of Western Australia performs important constitutional, ceremonial and community functions, including:

presiding over the Executive Council;

proroguing and dissolving the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council;

issuing writs for elections; and

appointing Ministers, Judges, Magistrates and Justices of the Peace.Furthermore, all Bills passed by the Parliament of Western Australia require the Governor's signature before they become Acts and pass into law.

The current governor is Kim Beazley. He succeeded Kerry Sanderson, who was the first woman to hold the position, in May 2018.Until the appointment of Sir James Mitchell in 1948, all governors of Western Australia had been British officials. After Mitchell's appointment, a further three Britons served as governor: Mitchell's two immediate successors, and then, from 1980 to 1983, Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Trowbridge who was the last British governor of any Australian state.

History of Perth, Western Australia

Perth was founded by Captain James Stirling in 1829 as the administrative centre of the Swan River Colony. It gained city status (currently vested in the smaller City of Perth) in 1856 and was promoted to the status of a Lord Mayorality in 1929. The city inherited its name due to the influence of Sir George Murray, then Member of Parliament for Perthshire and Secretary of State for War and the Colonies.

History of Western Australia

The human history of Western Australia commenced between 40,000 and 60,000 years ago with the arrival of Indigenous Australians on the northwest coast. The first inhabitants expanded the range of their settlement to the east and south of the continent. The first recorded European contact was in 1616, when Dutch explorer Dirk Hartog landed on the west coast, having been blown off course while en route to Batavia, nowadays called Jakarta.

Although many expeditions visited the coast during the next 200 years, there was no lasting attempt at establishment of a permanent settlement until December 1826 when an expedition on behalf of the New South Wales colonial government, led by Major Edmund Lockyer, landed at King George Sound. On 21 January 1827 Lockyer formally took possession of the western third of the continent of Australia for the British Crown. This was followed by the establishment of the Swan River Colony in 1829, including the site of the present-day capital, Perth. The harsh conditions faced by the settlers resulted in population growth being minimal until the discovery of gold in the 1880s. Since the gold rush, the population of the state has risen steadily, with substantial growth in the period since World War II.

Western Australia gained the right of self-government in 1890, and joined with the five other states to form the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. The desire of Western Australians to revert to complete self-governance, separate from the Commonwealth, culminated in 1933 with a successful referendum for secession supported by 68% of electors. In 1935 the British parliament declined to act since secession would require the assent of the Australian parliament, and the movement lapsed with an improving economy and generous federal grants.

James Walsh (convict)

James Walsh (c. 1833–1871) was a transported convict and artist. He is known for artworks depicting the early Swan River Colony and native Australian life. He is also thought to have been responsible for a number of fine quality classical drawings on the wall of Fremantle Prison in Western Australia, which were accidentally uncovered beneath whitewash in 1964.

John Acton Wroth

John Acton Wroth (1830–1876) was a convict transportee to the Swan River Colony, and later a clerk and storekeeper in Toodyay, Western Australia. He kept a personal diary that recorded life on board the transport ship and his experiences at the country hiring depots of York and Toodyay. This diary is lodged in the archives of the State Library.

Land grants in the Swan River Colony

The Swan River Colony, established in June 1829, was the only British colony in Australia established on the basis of land grants to settlers. Under the conditions stipulated by the Colonial Office, settlers would be granted land in proportion to the value of assets and labour that they brought to the colony. To ensure "productive" use of land, settlers were not given full title to their grants until they had been sufficiently "improved". The system of land grants continued until 1832, after which crown land was disposed of by sale at auction.

Mackie River

The Mackie River is a river in the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia. The river is ephemeral and flows following winter and spring rains. The water discharged is saline.

The river rises east of Corriging Hill and flows in a north westerly direction crossing the York to Quairading road twice before it finally discharges into the Avon River of which it is a tributary between York and Gwambygine.

The Mackie has four tributaries of its own: Pitt Brook, Doctors Brook, Mungerding Brook and Bailey Bailey Brook. There were once permanent pools along the course of the river, most notably Marley Pool and Wonnobing Pool, but these are now shallow as a result of sediment deposition.

The area was first explored by Europeans in 1830 when Ensign Dale travelled east from Guildford. York was settled in 1831 and Beverley in 1838, the land around York was sub-divided in 1842 with the land being primarily used for agricultural purposes.

The river was named in 1836 by the Surveyor General John Septimus Roe, who named it after William Henry Mackie who was an early settler in the Swan River Colony.

Peel (Western Australia)

The Peel region is one of the nine regions of Western Australia. It is located on the west coast of Western Australia, about 75 km (47 mi) south of the state capital, Perth. It consists of the City of Mandurah, and the Shires of Boddington, Murray, Serpentine-Jarrahdale and Waroona.

It has a total area of 6,648 km², and a population of about 88,000 people, of whom around two-thirds live in Mandurah.The economy of the Peel region is dominated by mining and mineral processing; the area has large reserves of bauxite, some gold and mineral sands, and an aluminium refinery. Other important economic sectors include agriculture and a substantial equine industry.

Before European settlement, the Peel region was inhabited by Indigenous Australians, specifically the Pindjarup dialect group of the Noongar people. Shortly after the establishment of the Swan River Colony in 1829, part of the northern coastal area of the Peel region was settled under a program known as the Peel Settlement Scheme, organised by Thomas Peel. However the scheme was poorly administered, and many settlers died of malnutrition in the first few months. The surviving settlers abandoned the area, with some moving inland where they found fertile soil.

In 1846, Western Australia's first mining operation was established at Yarrabah (near present-day Mundijong, mining lead, silver and zinc. The Jarrahdale timber mill, established in May 1872, became the state's largest timber operation, and led to the development of service centres for the timber industry along the Perth–Picton railway line at Mundijong, Waroona and Dwellingup. In recent times, the timber industry has declined, but the establishment of alumina refineries at Pinjarra and Wagerup, and gold mines at Boddington, have helped the local economy.

Solomon Levey

Solomon Levey (1794–1833) was a convict transported to Australia in 1815 for theft who became a highly successful merchant and financier, at one time issuing his own banknotes in New South Wales. His success in New South Wales triggered the migration of many relatives. His brother Barnett was the first free Jewish settler. His brother Isaac was for a time President of the Sydney Hebrew Congregation. Solomon was a backer of the Swan River Colony in Western Australia, and lost a fortune when it failed. He was also a noted philanthropist.

Port Levy on Banks Peninsula, Canterbury New Zealand is named after him.

The Botanical Register

The Botanical Register, subsequently known as Edwards's Botanical Register, was an illustrated horticultural magazine that ran from 1815 to 1847. It was started by the botanical illustrator Sydenham Edwards, who had previously illustrated The Botanical Magazine, but left after a dispute with the editors. Edwards edited five volumes of The Botanical Register in five years, before his death in 1819. During this period, the text was provided by John Bellenden Ker Gawler, and Edwards himself provided paintings, which were engraved and hand-coloured by others.

After Edwards' death, editorial duties passed to the publisher, James Ridgway, who issued a further nine volumes between 1820 and 1828. In 1829, John Lindley was appointed editor, and he adopted the title Edwards's Botanical Register. A further nineteen volumes were issued before the magazine was discontinued in 1847. In 1839, Lindley also issued an Appendix to the Firsty Twenty-Three Volumes of Edwards's Botanical Register, which included his A Sketch of the Vegetation of the Swan River Colony.

Western Australia

Western Australia (abbreviated as WA) is a state occupying the entire western third of Australia. It is bounded by the Indian Ocean to the north and west, and the Southern Ocean to the south, the Northern Territory to the north-east, and South Australia to the south-east. Western Australia is Australia's largest state, with a total land area of 2,529,875 square kilometres (976,790 sq mi), and the second-largest country subdivision in the world, surpassed only by Russia's Sakha Republic. The state has about 2.6 million inhabitants – around 11 percent of the national total – of whom the vast majority (92 per cent) live in the south-west corner, 79 per cent of the population living in the Perth area, leaving the remainder of the state sparsely populated.

The first European visitor to Western Australia was the Dutch explorer Dirk Hartog, who visited the Western Australian coast in 1616. The first European settlement of Western Australia occurred following the landing by Major Edmund Lockyer on 26 December 1826 of an expedition on behalf of the New South Wales colonial government. He established a convict-supported military garrison at King George III Sound, at present-day Albany, and on 21 January 1827 formally took possession of the western third of the continent for the British Crown. This was followed by the establishment of the Swan River Colony in 1829, including the site of the present-day capital, Perth.

York was the first inland settlement in Western Australia. Situated 97 kilometres (60 miles) east of Perth, it was settled on 16 September 1831.Western Australia achieved responsible government in 1890 and federated with the other British colonies in Australia in 1901. Today, its economy mainly relies on mining, agriculture, exports, and tourism. The state produces 46 per cent of Australia's exports. Western Australia is the second-largest iron ore producer in the world.

Western Australia Day

Western Australia Day (formerly known as Foundation Day) is a public holiday in Western Australia, celebrated on the first Monday in June each year to commemorate the founding of the Swan River Colony in 1829. Because of the celebration of Western Australia Day, WA does not celebrate the Queen's Birthday Holiday in June, as do the other Australian states; it is held in September or October instead.

Worsley River (Western Australia)

Worsley River is a river in the South West region of Western Australia. The river rises in the Darling Range 2 km south of the old timber town of Worsley then flows east and south discharging into the Collie River in Wellington Reservoir.The Worsley River was named after Charles Anderson-Pelham, Lord Worsley, patron of the Western Australian Land and Emigration Committee, which included James Stirling, John Hutt, William Hutt (MP), Edward Barrett-Lennard and Captain Bunbury. The committee promoted emigration to the Swan River colony and the Western Australian Land Company, which established the Australind land settlement project in 1841 under Marshall Clifton. The name was first recorded in surveys performed in the area in 1845.The Worsley has no named tributaries.

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