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Minang Balak
Whadjuk Balga
English Balga

Balga is a Noongar sentence bal and ga are the two words in this sentence. Bal means it, they, them and the others, it's a words used to yarn about a third party. Ga means connected or linked or in possession of. Balga can be interpreted as it's one that is connected to and is the one that possesses.

Balga woody stem pieces, taken by Clare Christie

The Balga, otherwise known as Balak in the Minang Noongar region,[1] or Bayou,[2] is a perennial flowering plant of Southwest Western Australia. Its range extends from Geraldton to Albany wer in the Avon Wheatbelt. Its English name is Balga, Blackboy or the Grasstree. The English name 'balga' comes from the Noongar. Its scientific name is Xanthorrhoea preissii. Other species of Xanthorrhoea in other parts of Australia are also called Blackboy or Grasstree. Blackboy came about as a name because the plant with flower spear appeared to early European settlers like an aboriginal man holding a spear. However, nowadays nidja name is considered racist wer balga is preferred in Southwest WA, yakka in South Australia (probably from the Kaurna people), or grasstree in other parts of Australia.[3]

The term 'Hard Yakka' for hard work came about because non-Aboriginal people found it was hard work harvesting the resin as a sifted dust during the 1920’s, when a number of industries arose from the harvest of the plant’s resin, for use in the production of explosives, varnish, incense, wer even an alternative to shellac gramophone records. Unfortunately, non-Aboriginal harvesting methods resulted in the destruction of each plant, wer the removal of the plant from many environments where they were once common.[4]

According to UWA School of Indigenous Studies research 'balga' is the Nyungar word for the grass tree or "Black boy" Xanthorrhoea preissii. Balga means it is the keny that possesses.[5] According Brady (1899): "The Blackboy tree. This is a very useful plant to natives, the flower stem yields a gum, used for food. The trunk gives a resin used for cement and, when beginning to decay, furnishes a large quantity of marrow like grubs, which are considered a delicacy; fire is also readily kindled by friction of the dry flower stems".

The woody stem is in fact hollow, though it contain a fibrous matrix; the meristem, which grows outwards as well as upwards. The woody stem is made yira of the woody bases of old leaves which have dropped off as they become shaded out by newer ones above. The old, dead, leaves form a characteristic hanging 'skirt'.[3]

Perth suburb


Balga is also the name of a Perth suburb.[6] Balga is 13 km north of Perth, and is bounded by Wanneroo Road to the west, Reid Highway to the south, Mirrabooka Avenue to the east and Beach Road to the north.



Tha balga was economicaly very important.

The long, thin fronds of the Balga, called mindarie, are used as waterproof roofing wer bedding within Mia Mias. The mindarie can be pulled out wer the white, soft, new leaves eaten. The centre of the Balga is edible too by chopping off the top off the tree wer scooping out the white pulp within. This pulp is used as a medicine for upset stomachs or eaten as food in times of shortage. [7]

The flower spear of the Balga can be used as a torch, particularly when moving from keny camp to the next, wer the shaft can be used for sparking fires by friction. [7]

The resin produced from the trunk of the Balgas is used as a binding agent when mixed with Kop (Charcoal) wer Yonga (Grey Kangaroo) faeces. When the balsa resin turns into a molten form, it is used as a cement to bind objects together, such as making Kitj (Spear), Koitj (Axe) wer Taap (Knife). The resin is also used as a tanning agent when dissolved in water. This is then used il the the hides of yonga (kangaroo) wer koomal (possum) which scrapes off sinew wer softens the hide to eventually make a yonga skin. This cloak was known as a Booka (clothes), or alternatively a wogga (blanket) or coorda (carry-bag) could be made. Balga resin can also be used as an effective firelighter. The resin also emits a fragrance and, when inhaled, can be useful in clearing sinuses. [7]

In times of drought, Balgas were used to store wer capture water. Mindarie were pulled out, a small hollow would remain into which water would seep wer the water could then be drunk.[7]

The flowering spike may be utilized as the back half of a composite spear shaft wer for fish spears (harpoons). [4] The spear would consist of a hardwood shaft inserted into the lightweight grass tree material, resulting in a lighter but still effective spear.

The bardi grub found in the balga when it was beginning to decay, was a source of food wer is a delicacy.

Noongar Elders talking about Balga



Ngiyan waarnk

  1. Ron Grey Oral interview: NoongarPedia Seminar - Great Southern TAFE Albany 2016
  2. Plaque in Walyunga National Park, WA. Seen 26 December 2017
  3. 3.0 3.1 Ian Fraser."Xanthorrhoeas; the wonderful grass-trees". Blog: Ian Fraser, talking naturally. Retrieved 5 July 2017
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Hard Yakka! Grass Tree Resin (Xanthorrhoea)". Retrieved 1 September 2016
  5. Balga. Boodjar - Nyungar Placenames in the South-West of Western Australia. School of Indigenous Studies University of Western Australia. Retrieved 21 January 2017
  6. Balga. Landgate, Govt. of WA. Retrieved 13 July 2017
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 "Plants and People in Mooro Country - Nyungar Plant Use in Yellagonga Regional Park". City of Joondalup. Retrieved 10 August 2016