Suburban history: Beeliar

In 1833, early settler R.M. Lyons spent many months talking to Indigenous people in the Cockburn area. He learned that the name Beeliar was used to describe Midgegooroo’s country, with borders that ran along the Swan river to Canning, east to the hills, and south to Cockburn Sound. He recorded the language of Midgegooroo’s people, which he also called Beeliar, along with the languages of many other groups in the area, and published his translations and thoughts in the colony’s newspaper (here, here, here and here).

This early show of interest and respect for the traditional land owners was confused by Lyons’ patronising attempts to link the Aboriginal people with other races of the world (he decided that some of their words were ‘pure Hebrew’, and that they were related to Malay peoples) and to point out that their sorry situation was inevitable without the revelation of Christianity. After these publications, the word Beeliar dropped out of common use by white settlers.

Jandakot district took in most of the east half of the current Cockburn region when it was first established.

In the 188os, the State Government opened up the Jandakot Agricultural Area in the east of the Cockburn district. Smaller packets of land were offered for sale to encourage food production in the district. Most land south and east of Bibra Lake became known as Jandakot, and was highly sought after by market gardeners for the rich and fertile soil around the lakes. Thomsons and Kogolup Lakes had market gardens, dairy farms and sheep grazing paddocks on their banks

In 1913 the State government dug a series of drains through the swamp chains in the area, which stabilised the land for better farming, but changed the environment irrevocably.

Many Cockburn residents have fond memories of the Beeliar lakes, and the most common phrase today is ‘how much they’ve changed!’. Children of the 1920s and 30s remember semi-dry swampland that could be walked over, abundant wildflowers and prolific native wildlife. One resident remembers a man trapping the possums and water rats at Kogolup to earn money from their fur.

Kogolup Lake, 1909In the late 1980s, the Beeliar Regional Park was proposed, and in the early 1990s its boundaries were established, taking in a large portion of the current Beeliar region.

Beeliar was approved as a suburb name in 1993, but wasn’t officially created by City of Cockburn until early 1995, carved out of the southern portion of Yangebup.


Author: Leah

I work as the Reader Services Librarian at Spearwood Public Library. I order the books, and I take requests for anything you can't find in the library! I also research and write local history articles for the Cockburn Soundings, and for anyone who has a local history question.

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  1. Hi Leah,

    just only found your article. I love these historical informations, because, as a fairly new resident,I get an idea and a feeling of the country I now live in.

    Thank you!!!

    Gisela Lenarz

    Post a Reply
    • Leah

      Hi Gisela,

      I’m so glad you found the local history article useful, and that it’s helped you get to know Australia, Perth, and Cockburn in particular. I love learning about the history of places that I use or live in – it gives such a good sense of grounding in day-to-day life.

      Thanks for your comment!

      Post a Reply
  2. Matt

    I really love this article, Leah!

    As a local, I love hearing stories of the land before the residential boom, I ride past Lake Kogolup on a regular basis and see many Quendas but never possums, now I know why!

    I can’t wait for your next suburban history lesson!


    Post a Reply
    • Leah

      Thanks Matt, I enjoy writing these (probably too much!)

      It’s funny to read back over the attitudes of earlier times towards the fragile environment in the wetlands areas, particularly in light of current events: the farming, gardening settlers were always pushing for the lakes to be drained and stabilised, or filled in altogether. But now we treasures these few remaining lakes, and their existence is the major reason we’re fighting against Roe 8.

      I imagine those early settlers would’ve welcomed a big ol’ highway to Fremantle cutting through their farmlands…

      Post a Reply

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Suburban history: Beeliar

by Leah time to read: 2 min




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