On June 8th, 2022, Fanny Balbuk Yooreel Memorial was dedicated on the grounds of the Western Australia Government House, becoming the first and only Aboriginal woman commemorated in a sculpture in Western Australia. Balbuk was a Noongar activist who fought for Aboriginal land rights. This statue stands close to where her grandmother, Moojorngul, was buried in the grounds of the Government House years before the building stood there.
Balbuk (1840-1907) was born and lived on Matagarup (Heirisson Island) in the Swan River, the area that later evolved into Perth’s central business district area. As a Whadjuk woman (Nyoongar people of Western Australia), she collected zamia fruit, vegetables, turtles, and crayﬁsh from the swampy areas. The draining and filling of swamps and the expansion of the colonies at the expense of the Nyoongar territories impacted Whadjuk’s life tremendously.
Balbuk opposed the expansion of the colonies onto the traditional Noongar lands. She went to great lengths to protect these lands, sometimes physically breaking fences erected around houses built on the traditional territories that were on her way.
In her later years, Balbuk lived at the Maamba Aboriginal reserve on the Canning River; she shared the Whadjuk land’s history with the Australian author and anthropologist Daisy May Bates. These records played a significant role in the Native Title claim of 2006, which officially recognized the Nyoongar people’s rights over the Perth area.
Joan Walsh-Smith and Charles Smith of Smith Sculptors created the statue, depicting Balbuk in her senior years, walking with her Wanna, a digging stick along the Swan River.
Visitors are welcome to follow a self-guided walk that retraces the paths Balbuk once journeyed along the Swan River and its surroundings.
Fanny Balbuk Yooreel: Realising a Perth resistance fighter
On the 110th anniversary of her death, this 27min documentary explores the extraordinary life of Fanny Balbuk Yooreel through the exceptional insights of Perth’s Elder women. This Whadjuk woman was passionate about her country and ‘stormed and raged’ through her homelands as the new city of Perth developed.
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