Bringing research, arts, culture and community together
Place Names is a five year program aimed at engaging communities across Noongar country and beyond in the Aboriginal stories, language and culture of each place. The project is an initiative based on Professor Len Collard’s long term research. CAN’s federally funded initiative aims to explore the meaning of towns and places with Noongar names, bringing them to life through film and art and encourage the use of the Noongar words for places that were used pre-colonisation.
Building on Professor Collard’s well-established research, CAN’s focus is to work closely with communities to explore the Noongar language origins of town and place names using a variety of contemporary art forms that reflect language, place and identity.
CAN has produced Place Names programs in:
In 2020 CAN will be working in Walyalup // Fremantle for the next iteration of Place Names.
Place Names is a Community Arts Network Project supported through the Australian Government’s Indigenous Languages and Arts program, The Australia Council for the Arts and Principal Partner Moodjar Consultancy
Place names in the southwest of Western Australia are commonly derived from Noongar, the Aboriginal language of the region. However, the story of these place names is yet to be fully appreciated. As Noongar language is the basis of geographical nomenclature for many names for towns, localities and landmarks in the southwest, current, comprehensive and critical research and analysis of Noongar language documentation is required to interpret and reveal the ancient meanings of these names.
Place Names Walyalup
Through Place Names Walyalup, CAN is delivering an inclusive community arts and cultural development project in partnership with the Noongar community and the City of Fremantle.
Place Names Walyalup explores Noongar place naming by decoding the meanings of place names reflecting on language and storytelling. Place Names Walyalup will be led by Noongar Elders, and engages the broader Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community throughout a series of community consultations and workshops that will inform creative outcomes, determined by the community.
Working with Noongar Elders, partners and key stakeholders, Place Names Walyalup aims to increase the visibility and recognition of Noongar resulting in a shared understanding of Walyaup’s cultural identity.
Kep Gabi // Stories from Yued Country
Place Names Moora engaged local Elders, community members and students from Central Midlands Senior High School over an eighteen month period.
Creative engagement included community education on place naming, photography, visual arts, and on country story sharing. This extensive process has culminated in extraordinary outcomes by the community including podcasts produced in partnership with Noongar Radio, photos by high school students, artworks by community members, a local exhibition in the main street, and the Kep Gabi publication.
Kep Gabi Publication
Kep Gabi: Stories from Yued Country is an intimate collection of anecdotes told by local Elders and community members about growing up in Moora and surrounding towns, celebrating strength, resilience and cultural pride by the Yued people of Moora.
Emanating from these memories was the recurring theme of kep/gabi (water), which was the lifeblood of Yued Noongar people. What we “hear” in these stories is the significance of the water ways to history, place, family, and culture. Community members shared their stories in response to decoding place names in surrounding areas. Many of these were shared orally with Sandy McKendrick (community artist) who was then invited by the Elders to create specific artwork to depict the storytellers’ reflections.
Kep Gabi Podcast
This podcast series is a celebration of strength, resilience and cultural pride…. as told by the Yued community of Moora.
Narrated by Cyndy Moody and Daniel Hansen, this collection of stories was collected during Community Arts Networks Place Names project which explores the meanings of Noongar places.
These playful, poignant and precious stories are our nation’s hidden histories and remind us that this always was and always will be, Aboriginal land.
Exhibition, Book and Podcast Launch
Join members of the Yued community as they share their memories of people and place. This exhibition celebrates these stories with the launch of the Kep Gabi book and podcasts for the Place Names Moora project.
Exhibition launch at Gardiner Street Arts Collective
Friday 18 September 3.30–6.00 pm
19–20 Sept 10.00am–1:00pm
21–25 Sept 9.30am–3.30pm
Place Names Katanning
CAN and the Katanning Noongar Leadership Group proudly joined in hosting the community at an installation of language and artworks, featuring the magnificent Mulka and Djinda puppets, in the main street of Katanning.
Despite Covid-19 putting an end to the Harmony Festival parade in the town, community and visitors joined in the celebration of over 18 months work, displayed in a pop-up exhibition over the Harmony weekend.
During Place Names Katanning CAN engaged animateur and puppeteer Karen Hethey to work with the community, Elders and more than 100 students. Together, they created two large-scale puppets of Mulka and Djinda and more than thirty coolbardie (magpie) puppets, building on their knowledge of Noongar and local history in the process. The meaning behind Katanning and surrounding place names was revealed to form part of a greater, significant Noongar story of Mulka. This story of Mulka presented during this community celebratation is a version for the general public. We recognise that many people hold and look after parts of the full story.
Elders and community from the Great Southern towns of Katanning, Tambellup, Gnowangerup and Badgebup welcomed the wider community to learn about Noongar place naming in their area. Each place name was interpreted with its Noongar significance in what was an important experience for the whole community.
Images // Caro Telfer
“This is probably the most important story of the Noongar Nation and it’s being told so that it can be handed down for our future generations.” Julie Hayden, Katanning Noongar Leadership Group.
Following extensive consultation and community engagement, the Katanning Noongar Leadership Group and the Place Names Project Working Group undertook a process of collating, recollecting and remembering cultural knowledge to put back together the story of Mulka. The story starts 26 kms south east of Wiluna and comes all the way down to Katanning. It is a story deeply embedded in boodja (country) and it holds the meaning behind Katanning and surrounding towns, teaching us that these place names are more than words but form part of a greater, significant Noongar story.
Place Names is produced by CAN and supported by the Australian Government’s Indigenous Languages and Arts Program and the Australia Council for the Arts, in partnership with Principal Partner Moodjar Consultancy and with support from the Shire of Katanning.
Image Credit: Caro Telfer
We acknowledge that the spelling and interpretation of Noongar words can vary greatly from community to community.
CAN is partnering with Albany’s Follow the Dream program to empower young Noongar people to document their culture, language, history, identity and sense of place through film.
According to the last census, there are less than 400 fluent speakers of Noongar language left. CAN documentary making program with the Follow the Dream students at Albany Senior High School and North Albany Senior High School has been a fun and inspiring to engage students to learning Noongar language, through interviewing Elders and learning more about the meaning of their local place names.
Through a series of intensive hands-on workshops, the young people learnt the process of making short films, including how to operate camera and sound equipment, filming techniques, scriptwriting and editing. The students also interviewed local Elders, enabling intergenerational cultural transmission along the way.
This project will culminate in a short documentary that celebrates the importance of language and its connection to place and identity and will be released in 2018.
Culturally mapping Boodja and Wangkiny
In 2018, CAN brought together Co-Director of Moodjar Consultancy Professor Len Collard, Cultural Advisor Geri Hayden and artist Susie Vickery to explore the intersection of Noongar language, local knowledge and artistry. The Project was facilitated by CAN Project Coordinator Natalie Scholtz. CAN partnered with Langford Aboriginal Association to develop the creative and artistic skills of emerging artists at the Langford Aboriginal Centre in two stages.
In the first stage of development more than 45 participants attended a series of arts development workshops drawing upon Professor Len Collard’s Placenames research. Participants explored their sense of place and other related themes of culture, language, history and identity using various art mediums.
In the second stage of creative development, CAN engaged renowned textile artist Susie Vickery to work more closely with 13 participants who created a stunning textile map of Langford using metres of recycled denim, mixed textiles and a range of tapestry techniques including specialised embroidery, stitching, and applique skills. Through this process, participants deepened their understanding of Noongar boodja (land), wang
‘Working on this project has been the most inspiring and exciting experience for me. I have never worked on something like this before.’
– Linda Carlsson
Place Names – Weaving Workshops & Exhibition
3 – 13 July 2018, Vancouver Arts Centre, Albany
As part of NAIDOC week celebrations, CAN and Vancouver Arts Centre (VAC) held weaving workshops and an exhibition. Inviting participants and visitors to come along and learn about weaving with native and garden vegetation and increase their knowledge about Noongar place names, art, language and culture.
Place Names Documentary
‘Noongar Boodja’, is a documentary made by young Aboriginal people from Albany. A stunning cinematic story that explores with Elders, significant places, their Noongar names and culture in Albany and surrounding areas. This film was developed as part of Community Arts Network (CAN) Place Names program, which looks to engage Noongar communities in exploring the meaning of language and culture through place.
“Noongar language to our culture is important, it’s our identity, it belongs to us, it’s significant, it’s special, and it’s the only one in the world. For us to ignore that is abandoning our being,” Lester Coyne, Menang Elder.