J.W. Huggins, 1827.  <br>Engraving by E. Duncan, London, 1830. <br>National Library of Australia.<br>

Swan River 50 Miles Up
J.W. Huggins, 1827. 
Engraving by E. Duncan, London, 1830.
National Library of Australia.
The Colonial Eye

Alienation and Adaptation in Colonial Western Australia

Beatrice Harris

Beatrice Harris writes as an Honours student at The University of Notre Dame Australia in 2015.

Visual and artistic representations of the past are often overlooked as historical evidence. However, to a great extent, visual primary sources can be just as valuable as written accounts, presenting perspectives of society that may be missing from other forms of the historical record. As an emotive and evocative medium, artistic representations provide deeper insight into aspects of society that may be missing from other sources.

The artistic and visual representations of the colonial landscape of nineteenth-century Western Australia reflect experiences of alienation from, and adaptation to, the surrounding environment. While settlers to the new colony found themselves in an unfamiliar and harsh environment, enduring hardship in their daily existence, they also demonstrated resilience, and not only adapted to the environment, but actively shaped the landscape in order to adapt it to their needs. This is a significant theme in the Western Australian artistic tradition of the nineteenth century.

This exhibition, drawn from student research into visual evidence, discusses how images of colonial Western Australia evolved over the nineteenth century. It includes some well-known works, including Mary Ann Friend’s ‘View of at Swan River’ (1832) and J.W. Huggins’ record of Stirling’s exploration of the Swan River in 1827. There are others, too, that are less well known, including visual records of Aboriginal first contact with French explorers in the 1820s, and Thomas Browne’s startling scene of Fremantle’s High Street in the 1850s, and photographic evidence of exploration and mining in the late nineteenth century.

Each image reveals, accidentally or otherwise, the alienation and adaptation that was experienced within Western Australia in the nineteenth century: the alienation of colonists in new territory but their attempt to adapt, including Henderson’s engraving of a kangaroo hunt in the 1850s; the alienation of indigenous communities from traditional country and from white society, such as the small Aboriginal family depicted in Jane Currie’s panorama of Fremantle in 1832; and even professions of adaptation, such as the photographic record of an exploratory party in Coolgardie with Aboriginal guides, that actually reveals the degree of alienation westerners experienced within their natural environment.

Such insights make the artistic representations of nineteenth-century Western Australia a valuable primary source for the history of early colonial society and civil progress. While the actual depictions of the landscape may not be accurate– either intentionally, or due to the difficulty of presenting the alien landscape from a British frame of mind– these inaccuracies can provide indications of the sentiments, beliefs and values of settlers, an important aspect in understanding the experiences of society. Analysis of the paintings, sketches, maps, and later in the century, photographs, can reveal signs of alienation and adaptation in the colonial landscape that may not be immediately obvious. Through interpretation of colonial art with reference to prominent aesthetic styles, and comparison with primary sources and written histories of the period, visual depictions can be a valuable tool in the understanding of life in the Swan River colony in the nineteenth century.

Myth and legend in Western Australia’s history

The historical narrative of colonial Western Australia has, until recently, been dominated by what Tom Stannage has called the ‘gentry tradition’. This approach to history emphasises the endeavours of hard-working, enterprising ‘pioneers’ in shaping economic, political and social progress in Western Australia. This approach has been criticised for its narrow focus on the achievements of the gentry and land-owning classes, and its omission of the experiences of marginalised groups, such as the working classes and the very poor, women, and aborigines. In doing so, it neglects commentary on the tensions between these different classes, representing Western Australia’s society and history as a harmonious and consistent progression towards civilisation.

The ‘gentry tradition’, propounded by such authoritative Western Australian histories as J.S Battye’s Cyclopaedia of Western Australia, and F.K. Crowley’s Australia’s Western Third, are firmly founded in the notion of the ‘pioneer myth’. The West Australian pioneer is not the same as the Bushman discussed by Russell Ward in The Australian Legend, but it is closely tied to the concept, and the historical debate surrounding it. Though the veracity of the bushman and pioneer legend as representations of reality in the colonies may be challenged, it cannot be denied that the legends themselves has had a significant influence on Australian culture and society, and on national and local identity. Furthermore, like most legends, it is founded in an element of truth. The ‘outback’ ethos was sensationalised in songs, poems, stories and artwork, but does reflect a reality of the enduring struggle to adjust to new and harsh surroundings. While Russell Ward’s interpretation focuses predominantly on the growth of the Australian legend in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, it does make occasional reference to Western Australia, which despite being isolated from the social values of the eastern states by distance, and by its origins as a free colony, does reflect elements of the manners and ethos of the convict colonies. While this may have disseminated to some extent from across the country, it is clear there are many factors that may have fostered a parallel perspective in Western Australia.

As a free colony, founded on the entrepreneurial ambitions of middle class British settlers, the structure of society in Western Australian was markedly different from the convict colonies in the east. While the outback ethos in these eastern states was born from the experiences of the convict population and labouring classes, reflecting anti-authoritarian, rough, and larrikin attitudes, in Western Australia it was linked to the agricultural pursuits of middle class landowners, who saw themselves as pioneers in the development of a new British colony, far from the shores of the motherland, but founded firmly in her values. The obstacles encountered by these agricultural pioneers– the strange and unforgiving landscape and climate, the poor quality of the soil, inapplicability of British agrarian traditions to their new setting, and the shortage of labour– meant that progress was slow difficult. However, the overcoming of these obstacles rendered successes in the colony particularly sweet, and many of the early pastoralists endured the punishing environment with stoic resilience. A number also documented their experience at the Swan River in diaries and letters, presenting them as exciting adventures in enterprise.

However, they indicate that this romantic ideal of the successful agricultural pioneer was largely confined to the members of the middle class. For the working class individuals and families who immigrated to the colonies as indentured servants, the hope of making their fortune in the new colony was much more difficult to obtain. Disillusioned by the harsh environment (and more susceptible to such hardships of the colony as food shortages, disease and exhaustion than the middle classes), alcohol abuse, domestic and public violence, and suicides were rife among the labouring classes, as was infant mortality and death in childbirth. Additionally, the Indigenous peoples of the area, displaced from their ancestral lands, and forced to share vital resources with the settlers, were pushed to the fringes of society. Even the wealthy of the colony experienced hardship in their new lifestyle. The difficulties of subsisting within the harsh environment, that was so far removed from the landscape left behind in England, was juxtaposed with attempts to conquer this environment and shape it into the familiar. These themes of alienation and adaptation characterised the experience of settlers in the early colonies. This was particularly evident in the colony at Swan River, where, though promised ‘a land …flowing… with milk and honey’ , settlers were met with a sandy, unforgiving landscape, intense heat, and constant irritation from flies and mosquitoes. However, despite these obstacles, the landscape at Swan River was slowly transformed into something recognisable as a town, with some of the comforts that were taken for granted in Britain.

The Picturesque Scheme in Western Australia

Artistic representations of the landscape of the Swan River colony reflect these themes of alienation and adaptation, as perceived by the settlers themselves. Like any historical source, they are shaped by the motivations, ideals and values, and social and cultural context of their creator. The representations examined reflect predominantly the perspectives of the middle class British settlers, as members of this societal group would have had the time, skills, materials and inclination to produce artworks far more so than any other group. The settlers’ desire to capture their surroundings can be seen as reflective of their British colonial values, through which to document and familiarise the landscape is to control and understand it, and thus firmly establish it as part of the extended British empire. This phenomenon is clearly evident in the use of the ‘picturesque’ scheme to depict the decidedly un-picturesque landscape of the Swan River.

The English picturesque style of painting, taught and popularised in the late eighteenth century by Revered William Gilpin established a clear set of rules for framing the landscape to fit a formal aesthetic. Gilpin wrote a number of guides to painting in the picturesque style, essentially training wider society in an accepted English aesthetic. Gilpin’s guides were particularly popular among travelling amateur artists, who employed the clearly outlined rules to identify and capture the picturesque ‘Englishness’ of a landscape, even in unfamiliar environments such as the Swan River colony.

The standard elements of the picturesque scheme incorporate the ‘vista’ method of framing, which creates perspective by guiding the viewer’s attention through a series of planes to the horizon. The foreground is usually represented as an untamed ‘wilderness’, symbolised by dark tones. In the middle ground, there is usually depicted a sign of civilisation. This leads into a distinct horizon, which may often be illuminated, drawing the eye to the outermost boundary of the scene, and implying hope. In depictions of the Swan River, this horizon may also symbolise the distant home left behind.

For the artists of the Swan River colony, the task of translating the inhospitable and alien landscape into the English picturesque scheme would have been difficult, but was attempted nonetheless—Gilpin’s guides taught the skill of adaptability. In the context of the Swan River colony, the picturesque scheme, evident in works by Mary Ann Friend, Robert Dale and Jane Currie, reflects artistically the attempts by settlers to tame the wild landscape, and bring to it civilisation in its purest form¬– as embodied by traditional British society. However, the reality of their alienation is revealed in the forced nature of the paintings, that struggle to translate the bleak and barren landscape, and strange vegetation in a picturesque manner.

The Politics of Interpretation

The media sensation originating from Captain James Stirling’s 1827 expedition of the Swan River area was instrumental in attracting frenzied interest in the proposed settlement, and framing the early settler’s first views of the colony. Reports of the colony in London were characterised by Stirling’s highly picturesque language declaring it ‘rich’, ‘beautiful’, ‘abundant’ and ‘romantic’, and supported by botanist Charles Fraser’s assurance of the suitability of the region for agricultural improvement, and official artist Fredrick Garling’s sketches of the landscape, vegetation and inhabitants.

These descriptions are imbued with political meaning. They were employed as part of Stirling’s campaign in the latter part of 1829 to convince the Colonial office, and potential investors, of the merits of establishing a free settlement at Swan River. Consequently, Garling’s paintings, present the alien and unfamiliar landscape, flora and fauna in a tasteful, picturesque manner, demonstrating that the region could emulate the aesthetic, and thus, the values of the English rural idyll, that was disappearing in the increasingly urbanised British landscape, but could be revitalised in its imperial outposts. The imagery also reflects the perceptions of Stirling and his party of the nature of their expedition– it is characterised as a romantic, yet perilous adventure in a strange, unexplored land, undertaken for the benefit of the Empire. The explorers identify themselves as pioneers, and perceive their mission to be ultimately successful– in mapping and painting the landscape, they can control it, and claim ownership for the Empire.

However, their alienation is evident, despite their confidence. The view of the Swan River ‘50 miles up’ produced by the expedition was in reality, likely to have been just 15 miles from the mouth of the River. The party’s miscalculations highlight the unpredictability of the landscape, and the limitations of the tools they, and the first settlers, had to comprehend and navigate the new environment. That, by chance, Stirling happened upon the longest strip of alluvial soil in the colony, and assumed it was widespread, significantly exaggerating the agricultural potential of the area, suggests that the pioneer experience was based more in luck, than in the individual merit and fortitude of the settlers. Stirling’s misplaced optimism disseminated and exaggerated by the media, coupled with the incentive of the generous land-grant scheme, and the opportunity to emigrate as independent settlers, created an idealistic image of the Swan River Colony, resulting in the phenomenon of ‘Swan River mania’. Whether they expected the fabled ‘Great South Land’, an ‘Eldorado’ for capitalist endeavour, or merely adventure and spiritual reward, many of the early settlers were deeply shocked at the reality of the colony.

Other depictions of the colony, while still attempting to interpret the environment in a picturesque setting, present a far more realistic image of the Swan River colony. Such images capture the harshness of the landscape encountered by the first settlers to arrive at the Swan River. The administrative party arrived in early June 1829, and were unprepared when the first ships carrying private settlers arrived at the colony early, and as such, few permanent structures had been established, forcing settlers to establish themselves in makeshift accommodation, that provided little shelter from the elements. Upon arrival at the settlement, colonists saw in the scenery no sign of the ‘richness of the Soil, the bright foliage of the Shrubs, the majesty of the surrounding Trees’ promised by Stirling, instead discovering ‘nothing more or less than sand, white sand incapable of being made to produce anything for the sustenance of man’ , ‘impenetrable brushwood’ of ‘large stumpy trees of actual natural charcoal’ and trees ‘quite bleached and leaning in one direction’. Mary Ann Friend, who arrived in January 1830 to stay seven weeks at the Swan River, produced in situ a rendering of the harsh landscape surrounding her. Her sketch was reproduced and published in London, where it provided a stark contradiction to idyllic representations of the colony that had circulated prior. Friend depicts a crude campsite consisting of a few improvised huts, surrounded by sand and dirt, and sparsely vegetated. The image is at odds with Huggins’ and Garling’s lush depictions, both in aesthetic, and in agenda. Friend’s scene does not suggest British mastery of the land; rather, the elements of civilisation (a barrel, a chair, and Friend herself wearing respectable garb) seem incongruous and redundant. However, while portraying a sense of estrangement from the natural landscape, Friend illustrates the ability of the settler’s to tolerate, survive and eventually, thrive in the hostile environment.

Control and Colonial Adaptation

Depictions of the natural landscape around the Swan River in the early years of the colony document the transformations enforced by settlers on their surrounding environment. This is evident not only in the appearance of built structures as the townscapes at Fremantle and Perth developed, but also changes to the physical structure of the landscape itself. Such images reflect the settlers’ endeavours to control and confine the landscape to their needs, and their ideal of a thriving outpost of British Empire.

One change that can be noted is the levelling of parts of the rock formations at Arthur’s head (upon which the Roundhouse Gaol was built), a result of limestone quarrying to provide materials for building the town at Fremantle. Town plots were required to have walls, and official permission was granted to source limestone from Arthur Head. Early depictions of the area, such as Robert Dale’s 1829 sketch, and Mary Ann Friend’s watercolour from 1830, show the headland in its relatively unchanged state– Friend’s painting showing the natural cliff line, with distinct mounds present. However these appear to be levelled to a significant extent in later depictions—even by 1832, distinct evidence of quarrying, forming a stark cliff edge leading up from the town to the Roundhouse.

The collection of illustrations from this perspective document the development of Fremantle into a tidy, compact town, compared to the more sprawling arrangement at Perth. Such paintings carry many symbols signalling the attitudes of the settlers to their new home, and their ideals about what is required in a civilised society. In highlighting the Roundhouse gaol as the central focus of the painting, the colony is demonstrated to uphold the tenets of law and order, transplanted on the new landscape by the settlers, as part of the moral duty to spread the values of British society across the empire. While this symbol of authority is clearly emphasised, those in society that it exists to reform are absent. This clearly characterises the Swan River as a free colony, founded on the merits, and persistence of the enterprising pioneers, and not on the punishment of the undesired classes of Britain. However, the lack of convict labour to shape the infrastructure of the town hindered its growth, so that it was eventually deemed necessary to accept convicts, many years after transportation to New South Wales had ceased.

Early depictions show symbols of civilisation, and of the perceived prerogative of British Empire over the land, including flag-posts, fences and ships. In Jane Currie’s panoramic depiction of Fremantle, she includes a woman hanging washing on the line, a civilised, domestic activity that was to be expected of a colony that could claim to uphold British values. While early representations of Fremantle endeavour to reflect the progress of civilisation and success of the settlers in ascribing British values, aesthetics, and institutions to the land, they also reveal the difficulties of adaptation to the new environment. In selecting a viewpoint looking out to sea, the artists evoke the sense of isolation from the landscape and people left behind, a sentiment echoed in the wistful recollections recorded by settlers.

Furthermore, evidence of the danger and unpredictability of the coastline of the settlement is captured in the inclusion of the wreck of the Marquis of Angelsea. Sand banks around the entrance to Swan River made navigation fraught with danger and many settlers lost possessions in wrecks. It also prohibited all but small boats from travelling up the River to the capital, and impeded the transportation of vital provisions from the port to the capital. This obstacle was one of a number of failings of a colony that soon seemed incapable of fulfilling the grand expectations of Stirling and the prospective colonists.

Due to the unpredictability of the landscape, the scarcity of labour and resources, and the sudden cessation of migration, development was slow in the initial years of the Swan river colony, economically, socially and in infrastructure. Early depictions of the town show signs of development juxtaposed with the natural landscape. Mary Ann Friend’s watercolour of Fremantle in 1830 reflects her observation in her diary of that it resembled a ‘country fair’. This comparison suggests a temporary and transient atmosphere in the town that was certainly reflected in the sentiments of the many settlers who decided to leave the colony.

Those settlers who remained had preconceived understandings of agricultural practice and land selection, however their knowledge often proved inapplicable in the new environment, prohibiting progress. Civil engineer Henry Reveley depicts his land plot as a thriving, cultivated and thoroughly ‘English’ garden, claimed from the untamed surroundings by imperial prerogative. Charles Wittenoom produced a number of sketches that present the towns of Perth and Fremantle as pleasant and ordered, however they reveal the limited extent of development in the first decade of the settlement. His depictions present the colony in a picturesque, controlled setting, however they hint at the vastness and unpredictability of the natural surroundings—the main road at Perth is still sand, houses are overwhelmed by forest, and a distant bushfire suggests both a tool used to shape the landscape, and its volatile nature. After 20 years of relative economic and demographic stagnation, the colony entered a new era of development, as it was agreed, to considerable opposition, that Western Australia would become an official penal colony.

The introduction of convicts not only provided labour for public works, and established pastoral, whaling and timber industries, but also supported economic growth by providing demand for marginal industries. Despite an influx of convicts, visual representations of the townscape, including the buildings constructed by, and designed to house the convicts themselves, evoke a sense of respectability and moral stability. Thomas Brown’s painting of the newly constructed ‘Convict Establishment’ portrays an elegant but authoritative building that could easily be a prestigious private school. The representation of the prison reflect the ideas of propriety that permeated society, and the fact that, despite the necessity of introducing convict labour, the inhabitants of the Swan River still identified as a free colony. However such representations of society are in contrast to reports that suggest a considerable change in social climate brought by the convicts. Another work by Brown depicts High Street, Fremantle as a handsome streetscape, inhabited by reputable members of civilised society. There is no evidence of the dirt, flies and other undesirables present in the colony. Therefore the painting, in attempting to represent the progress of the colony by portraying only its highest echelons, reveals who in the colony was alienated by society. The convicts, working classes, and aboriginal people are not included in the ideal of a principled society.

Parallel to the representations of British civility in the fledgling colony, pioneers exploring in the outback were forging their sense of identity, attached intrinsically to ideals of survival in the rugged landscape. The bush pioneer was resourceful, resilient, and self-governing, and ultimately, male. Though female settlers were known to have joined their male fellows on adventures in the outback, they are generally absent from the ethos. Societal expectations of women in Western Australia were aligned with domestic and maternal duties. However, many women in the Swan River colony had to fulfil both the responsibilities of motherhood, and the labours associated with the maintenance of their land and livelihood. For early settlers, knowledge of the land, and the skills to survive its dangers and harness its resources, was necessary for the endurance of the individual and the colony. The idealisation of outback living was propounded with the discovery of gold in Western Australia in the 1890s. This brought an influx of migrants to the previously untapped North West, and rapid economic growth.

That the majority of prospectors flooding the goldfields were from the eastern states, rather than overseas was instrumental in the characterisation of the era. The gold rush was bolstered by images of the hardy pioneer seeking to make his fortune from the natural resources of the land. Those who possessed the skills to navigate, subsist off, and exploit the land were richly rewarded. However, this attribution of ingenuity and comprehension of the landscape to the white settlers may have been misguided. For many of the enterprising pioneers, their survival depended on the knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal trackers, who essentially controlled the fate of the settlers. However in many depictions of the early settlers in the outback, the pioneers held the power and glory, evoking the themes and values of the bush legend.

Certain depictions of the colony reflect the aspects of life and individuals the respectable settlers did not want to project. Satirical cartoons produced in London provide a derisive comment on the perceived failures of the colony, presenting its inhabitants as an uncivilised and pitiable crowd. In one, settlers are depicted with webbed swan’s feet, and the supposed ‘respectable’ members of society mingle with the poor, and indigenous population alike. Despite little evidence of civilisation, the settlers proclaim the comfort and prosperity of the colony. Another cartoon, depicts settlers languishing in rags, declares the water ‘UNFIT FOR USE’ and includes the wrecked hull of the Marquis of Angelsea. These depictions of the colony, likely produced in England are far removed from the representations put forward by the settlers, however they do reflect the outside perceptions of the nature of society at Swan River. They are, to an extent, accurate– the failures of the natural environment to yield entrepreneurial advancement instilled in many an air of disillusionment. For the indentured workers who arrived in the colony, seeing it as an escape from poverty in England, their hopes of social were dashed, and they suffered more intensely the hardships, which included food shortages, disease, and exhaustion from physical labour and the harsh climate. As a consequence of these grievances, drunkenness, violence and death were prevalent in the colony.

First Contact

Depictions of indigenous people by white settlers can reflect the varied and complex nature of relations between the two groups. Representations of the Aborigines, in both written and visual accounts, portray the indigenous population in a number of ways. They have been depicted as hostile savages, such as in the depiction of an encounter with French Explorers. Jane Currie’s panorama also presents them as wild and uncivilised, yet reflects an element of the ‘noble savage’ ideal of the indigenous peoples in a colonised nation witnessing the introduction of civilised society in awe. Another French depiction reflects this interpretation, depicting an Aboriginal man, dressed in European clothes, showing proudly the gifts he received from the explorers. The indigenous people in the painting view with wonder objects that are commonplace for the Europeans, implying a simple and compliant nature. Interestingly, the physical characterisation of the Nyoongar people is quite inaccurate, suggesting the inability of the Europeans to effectively describe and translate the native population.

Written descriptions of the first encounters between the Indigenous people and white settlers support the evidence in artistic representations of contrasting experiences. Some accounts tell of the aggressive and unreasonable nature of the Aboriginals, suggesting they were a danger, and cohabitation with them impossible ‘It is not safe for a white woman to be seen by them, as they are perfectly savage.’ Others describe milder encounters, claiming ‘They will not intrude into any of our tents, where they conceive they are not desired; for instance, I never wish for them in mine; so I always send them something to eat, and then they go off quietly.’ Some colonists proclaimed to be sympathetic to the fortune of the Aborigines. George Fletcher Moore designated himself as an advocate for the Aborigines, and took part in negotiations over a number of disagreements between white and aboriginal men. However his interest appears to reflect anthropological interest rather then genuine compassion– he expressed a desire to possess the head of Yagan, a local leader, who had been killed after a series of disputes and murders between the Aboriginals and white settlers. Moore also published A Descriptive Vocabulary of the Language in Common Use Among the Aborigines of Western Australia.

Pictorial representations of the native Aborigines by the colonists reflect European attitudes to Indigenous peoples in a colonial setting. The white settlers’ inability to comprehend the cultural and spiritual practices of the Aborigines shaped their treatment– and caused conflict when the Aborigines tried to continue traditional practices. It was commonly held that it was only possible and necessary to ‘civilise’ the native population to the point of domesticity, so that they could be utilised for labour. The Aboriginal population were expected to acquiesce to the advancement of civilization, either by assimilation or extinction, and if they did retaliate, the settlers would be justified in suppressing them violently.

Such values, aligned with Social Darwinism, characterized on-going interactions with and perceptions of the Aboriginal people during the nineteenth century, facilitating events such as the Battle of Pinjarra, (or Pinjarra Massacre). Evidence of atrocities against Aboriginal people can be found in photographic sources, such as in an 1890’s photograph displaying Indigenous convicts chained at the neck. The atmosphere in this photograph is one of European power and domination over a people they perceived as inferior. Such images are confronting and upsetting, however, they provide proof of the policies governing the Indigenous population that were carried out in the colony, despite being largely overlooked or minimised in traditional histories. Such photographs provide evidence for revisionist histories that challenge the manner in which Aboriginal and white relations have been interpreted.

Despite some friendly interactions, the Aboriginal experience of colonization was defined by the invasion, conversion, and spiritual destruction of their native lands. The indigenous population were displaced and alienated from their spiritual home, imprisoned when they attempted to continue their traditions, and often killed. Though there are few artistic depictions from the indigenous perspective during this period, a 2007 work by Nyoongar artist Christopher Pease, appropriates Wallace Bickley’s rendition of the Roundhouse, transposing on it an image of the Wagul, the dreamtime serpent, introduced rabbits, and a chain gang of Indigenous people. Such an image presents the affects of European settlement from an Aboriginal perspective, suggesting that the changes that stabilised and comforted the colonists were the same that alienated and repressed the native people.

Visual depictions of the Swan River colony in the nineteenth century reveal signs of both the alienation and adaptation the settlers experienced in their new surroundings. Although settlers were able to some extent to shape the landscape to fit the recognised aesthetic and ideals of British society, the nature of the colony and its establishment, and of the environment itself often inhibited progress. In this sense, the early settlers were perhaps not successful in conquering the landscape, as suggested by much of the artwork and historical tradition of the period, but they were able to adapt to it, and transform it to suit their needs. While the visual portrayals produced by the settlers may sometimes provide a distorted view of the landscape and society in the colony, they are extremely useful in providing insight into the social and cultural attitudes of the colonists, or at least of an influential portion of society. As such, the artistic tradition of the colony can be employed as a valuable tool in the interpretation of the experiences and sentiments of the wealthier members of society. However, as representations by the marginalised members of society are rare, the visual record cannot be considered a complete source. Despite limitations as independent historical sources, the visual depictions of the Swan river colony represent a climate of alienation and adaptation that is reflected in the historical record.


Primary Sources

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Alienation and Adaptation