The Early Days
For nearly 40,000 years the area on which Perth now stands was occupied by groups of the Nyoongar people and their ancestors – a fact that has been verified by the discovery of ancient stone implements near the Swan River which have been carbon dated at 38,000 years old.
In December, 1696, three ships in the fleet commanded by de Vlamingh anchored off Rottnest Island and on 5th January, 1697, a well-armed party landed near the present-day Cottesloe Beach, marching eastward to the Swan River near Freshwater Bay. They tried to contact some of the Nyoongar to enquire about the fate of survivors of the Ridderschap van Hollant, lost in 1694, but were unsuccessful. Following this encounter, they sailed north, but not before de Vlamingh had bestowed the name Swan on the river because of the black swans he saw swimming there.
Just over 100 years later, in 1829, Captain James Stirling founded Perth as part of the Swan River Colony. Stirling thought the natural environment around Perth was “as beautiful as anything of this kind I had ever witnessed” and advocated that a colony be established there. The British Government agreed to found the colony as the first free settlement in Australia, and settlers began to arrive in Western Australia in June 1829.