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.
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.
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.