Centred around the Canning River or Djarlgarro Beelier, the area has an ancient and rich history.
The City of Canning recognises the Whadjuk people of the Noongar nation as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the lands in Canning and pays respect to Noongar Elders past, present and future. The City also recognises the strong and enduring connection the Noongar peoples have to the beautiful Djarlgarro Beelier (Canning River).
The Djarlgarro Beelier is of vital importance to the Whadjuk people, previously being a source of food, water and resources. At the time of colonisation, two Whadjuk clans lived along the Canning River, the Beeloo and the Beelier. The Whadjuk land south of the Swan River and west of the Canning River to the coast is Beelier land. The land across the Canning River to the Helena River is Beeloo land.
The area from Canning Bridge to the Freeway at Mt Henry provided an abundance of resources, as well as food and for this reason Hughes Hallett (2010) states that, this area had one of the highest densities of Noongar population in Western Australia. The Canning wetlands were vitally important to Noongars for their food and shelter. There was a camping ground in Ferndale that has now been built over, but it was found to contain stone chips that were dated back 5000-6000 years. Around six family groupings are believed to have claimed territorial rights to this area, the Munday family in the Beeloo District and Midgegooroo and his son Yagan, in the Beelier District being two of them. The Canning River is the border between these two Whadjuk clans, and provided an easy trail from the coastal plain to the hinterlands.
The Whadjuk history in Canning is as significant today as it was in the past. Aboriginal sacred sites are part of the land, rather than built on it like in other religions or cultures. These sites are important as they link cultural tradition to place, people and land overtime. Learn more about Aboriginal Culture and Heritage here.
The establishment of the Swan River Colony saw the granting of large parcels of land to colonists. The area around the Swan and Canning Rivers soon became scattered with fledgling farms and dairies. Despite the problems of isolation, distance and chronic shortages of labour and materials, the Canning district began to grow and small villages began to flourish.
In 1843 the first step towards local government was seen with the appointment of Trust Officers for the Canning District by the Governor. The trusts were short-lived, however, as dissatisfaction with their operation led to their dissolution in 1847. A Central Board of Work was established to oversee local development.
Growth in the district continued, with the Canning River playing a pivotal role as the major highway to Perth from the out-lying settlements along its banks. Built by British convicts as requested by the labour-starved Colony, the 'convict fence’ can still be seen in the river near Shelley. Its jarrah pilings were used to assist the navigation of barges carrying sawn timber down-river from the Mason Bird Timber Company's mill at Mason's Landing. The company’s owner Francis Bird built a homestead at Woodloes which is now the most important historic house in the City.
With the passage of the Municipal Council Act and the Road Board Act, real local government arrived in the Colony in 1870. The first Canning Road Board was elected on 8 February 1871 and was governed until 1907, when the district was divided. The area constituted as a municipality and the Queens Park Municipal Council came into being. The Council reverted to a Road Board in 1915 and in 1921 changed its name from the Queens Park Road Board to the Canning District Road Board.
During the 20th Century, the Canning District has grown from a semi-rural expanse to one that is an important part of the greater Perth metropolitan area. This development has been reflected in changes in status over the years. In 1961 the Canning District became the Shire of Canning, in 1971 the Shire became a Town and in 1979 the Town became the City of Canning.
View the Heritage Strategy, Inventory and List to find out how we protect our history and heritage.
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Learn more about a some locations and stories from our past here:
To view our collection of historical photographs, click here.