Yagan Memorial

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The Yagan Memorial[1] is an artwork created for the City of Swan to honour the memory of Yagan, the son of Midgigoroo and Moyran. Yagan Memorial is part of the Yagan Memorial Park and is situated at Lot 39 West Swan Road,[2] Swan Valley, Australia. Yagan was a very important representative of the Beeliar People[3] who was instrumental in trying to forge good working relations with the first white settlers of the Swan River Colony in Western Australia.

The imagery tells the story of Yagan and his family, their alienation from the white people, the taking and fencing off of their traditional land, the killings and the payback, and the treacherous ambush of Yagan, Heegan and his party by the Keates brothers at the site in 1833. Wall one will depict the story of Yagan and his people from colonisation to his untimely and tragic death.[4]

Tracie Pushman on Yagan

Yagan Memorial: Completed Walls photo by Peter Zuvela

The story of Yagan lives strongly in the hearts of the Nyungar people.[5] Son of Midgigooroo and Moyran, Yagan was a great leader of the Jondarup Ballaruk clan moeities. In the early years of colonisation by the British, the strangers to the area of Beeliar (Perth) were welcomed by the Indigenous people and seen as Djanga – returning spirits of the dead. As time went on, the increasing domination of the settler colony resulted in restrictions to land access for the custodians of the area, ultimately threatening their cultural wellbeing, and their relationship to country. Aboriginal resistance followed and Yagan will always be remembered for his intelligence, strength, courage and influence during this period of resistance.

As a cultural warrior, Yagan was fearless and highly respected both by his own countrymen and those of the settlement led by Captain James Stirling. Yagan’s ability to bridge the cultural gap allowed the Nyungar people a voice for negotiation and a hope for cultural exchange. However, despite the friendships he had made with several families of importance and the infamy of his character, the Nyungar people continued to be dispossessed of land, marginalized and treated with cruelty. Because of his unusual position within the new society, Yagan was able to stand up for his people, which resulted in there being reward for his capture. Yagan was outlawed and on the 11th of July 1833, was shot dead for a reward of £30 by two young brothers whom he had previously befriended. Yagan’s Head was then cut from his body and sent to England.

The repatriation of Yagan’s remains had been a long and arduous journey, not being recovered until 1997 from a museum in Liverpool. Yagan is now finally able to be put to rest in his own country with the dignity and respect so deserved of this fallen warrior.

This artwork is in memory of Yagan. The work depicts two stories; that of the life of the Nyungar people prior to the settlement, and the story of Yagan. Its positioning will be the entry to Yagan’s burial site, therefore allowing visitors to the site a chance to contemplate the loss experienced by not only the Nyungar people, but to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders throughout Australia. The work is of great cultural importance as it pays respect to one of the legendary figures in Perth’s history. Among many others, past and present, Yagan stood proud and fought for freedom and the cultural rights of his people and his country. This artwork pays tribute to Yagan, a cultural hero. May he finally rest in peace.

Yagan Memorial: Completed Walls photo by Peter Zuvela

Entry Statement to the Site by Sandra Hill

The work will have several rammed earth curved walls to be fabricated at the beginning of the pathway leading into the Memorial site. A feature visual timeline will be etched into clay tablets that meander along the full length of the walls, they will be reminiscent of the Waugal [6] moving in and out of the land as well as a connecting feature for the Burial Site. The walls, will gradually grade down until they disappear back into the earth.


Nyoongar artists who created the art works for the Memorial Site are Sandra Hill and Peter Farmer.The art works for the Yagan Memorial Park were design by Peter Framer, Kylie Ricks and Sandra Hill.[7] Jenny Dawson is assisting Sandra with the major story wall works.

Working team members are Tracie Pushman, Laurel Nannup and Ellen McFetridge. Roman Antoniuk has built the rammed earth walls and Peter Zuvela documented photographically the entire artwork process and has participated in the installation all of the artworks on the walls. The site was opened early in July 2010.

See also

External links

Yagan Memorial Wall Design by Sandra Hill


  1. ^ ABC News Aboriginal Warrior's Final Resting Place
  2. ^ City of Swan
  3. ^ Caught in Time: Talking Australian History by Bill Bunbury. Page 40-41
  4. ^ Australian Dictionary of Biography, Online Edition
  5. ^ Being Black: Aboriginal Cultures in Settled Australia by Ian Keen
  6. ^ State Library of Western Australia-The Waugul: Mythologically the Swan River was created by the Waugals (giant serpents), who carved waterways and valleys as they made their way to the mouth of the river at Fremantle. Noongar people have a responsibility to protect and care for the land and its waters as an integral part of their spirit and culture.
  7. ^ Artsource Peter Farmer, Kylie Ricks, Sandra Hill & Jenny Dawson-Commissions.
    • Sandra Hill and Jenny Dawson were commissioned to create an entry wall of Yagan’s story, Peter Farmer was commissioned to design the Yagan Grave site wall and park entry statements. Peter invited Kylie Ricks to develop a design for the female Coolamon.

Yagan Memorial: Work in Progress photo by Roman Antoniuk

Yagan Memorial Yagan Yagan art Australia Western Australia Swan Valley Perth Fremantle City of Swan Sandra Hill Peter Framer {[Yagan Memorial::Kylie Ricks]] {[Yagan Memorial::Jenny Dawson Ceramic Artist]] Western Australia Swan Valley