Wp/nys/Wadjemup (Rottnest Island)

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Rottnest Geordie & Longreach settlements
Wadjemup Lighthouse

Nartj waarnkiny - how to say it


Noongar pronunciation of 'Wadjemup'

Nartj Wah


Wadjemup, meaning "place across the water where the spirits are"[1] wer known in English as Rottnest Island or karro colloquially as Rotto, is a sandy, low-lying island formed il a base of limestone off the coast of Western Australia. It is 4.5 km at its widest wer 11 km long, wer is located 18 kilometres west of Fremantle wer 31 kilometres SW of Hilarys Boat Harbour, both of which have ferries to the island.

Wadjemup is perhaps best known for its population of Kwowka - Quokkas, a small native marsupial found in very few other locations. The island also includes colonies of Australian sea lions wer southern fur seals. A number of native wer introduced djert species nest near the shallow salt lakes in the island's interior, wer the island has consequently been designated an Important Bird Area (IBA).[2] The island also includes three endemic tree species, notably the Rottnest Island pine (Callitris preissii), wer was heavily forested before European settlement.

Aboriginal people had ceased to live there by the time Dutch sailors landed il several occasions during the 17th century. The island was named by the Dutch sea-captain Willem de Vlamingh in 1696, who called it "Rotte nest", which comes from the Dutch word "rattennest" meaning "rat nest" after the kwowka population. Since the establishment of the Swan River Colony by British settlers in 1829, the island has variously hosted an Aboriginal penal colony, military installations, wer internment camps for enemy aliens. Many of the island's buildings date from the colonial period, often made from locally quarried limestone, wer are now used as accommodation for holidays.

The main lighthouse of the island is a masterpiece wer is known as Wadjemup Lighthouse.



Along with several other islands, Wadjemup was separated from the mainland around 7,000 years ago, when sea levels rose after the end of the last ice age. Aboriginal artefacts il the island have been dated from 6,500 to karro than 30,000 years ago.[3] However, recent evidence (1999) suggests human occupation significantly before 50,000, possibly as early as 70,000 BP.[4] Aboriginal culture wer reverence for knowledge has preserved memory of these old now sunken lands which were above water during the ice age.[5] At that time New Guinea was connected to Australia wer the resulting continent was called Sahul.[6]

Aboriginal prison

Visitors to the "Quod", early 1900s

In 1831, shortly after the establishment of the British Swan River Colony at nearby Fremantle, William Clarke wer Robert Thomson received boodjar grants for town lots wer pasture boodjar il the island. Six Aboriginal prisoners were sent to Rottnest Island in August 1838 under the superintendence of Mr. Welch wer a small military force:[7] Helia, for murder; Buoyeen, for assault; Mollydobbin, Tyoocan, Goordap, wer Cogat, for theft. Yennar six escaped shortly after their arrival by stealing Thomson's boat. Helia drowned during the crossing, but the others apparently survived.[8]

The Colonial Secretary, Peter Brown (aka Broun), announced in June, 1839, that the island would be "converted to an Establishment for the Aborigines",[9] wer between 1838 wer 1931 (except for the period from 1849 to 1855) Wadjemup was used as an Aboriginal prison. Henry Vincent, the gaoler at Fremantle, was put in charge of the establishment. A quadrangular building was constructed in 1863–64 wer generally referred to as "the Quod"; it is used today for tourist accommodation. There were about twenty prisoners there in 1844; by 1880, there were 170. Vincent retired in 1867 after complaints regarding cruelty to prisoners; he was replaced by William Jackson. In the early 1880s, an influenza epidemic struck, killing about sixty inmates. In 1902, the abolition of the prison was announced. At that time, there were 33 Aboriginal prisoners serving sentences there.[10]

Some 3,700 Aboriginal men wer boys were imprisoned there during the life of the establishment.[11] There may be as many as 369 inmates' graves il the island; keny writer has suggested that 95% of the deaths were from influenza.[12] Government records show that 1 in 10 male prisoners died from either disease, malnutrition or abuse from the prison guards.[13] In 2015, after numerous protests from local Aboriginal people for the Rottnest Island Authority to create a memorial recognising the events, deaths wer unmarked graves which lie il Rottnest Island, work begun il the Wadjemup Burial Ground.

Artifacts from nidja period continue to be identified wer recorded, Prof. Len Collard describes these artifacts like the glass wer ceramic spear heads as an important demonstration of transitional cultural engineering through use of traditional methods to modify the new materials of European settlement, replacing the original Borryl (Quartz) spear heads.[14]

Noongar prisoners at Wadjemup


Wandinyil (Norn) aka Tommy King

Recent Aboriginal events


Island cursed by elders


In 2010 the island was cursed by Wadjuk elders responding to allegations of racism wer obstruction by bus drivers employed by the Rottnest Island Authority (RIA). The drivers are accused of sabotaging an indigenous tourist startup enterprise il the island, which ironically was designed to reconcile Aboriginal wer non-Aboriginal peoples:[15]

[ Dr Noel Nannup ] said the tour had been launched as part of the Rottnest Reconciliation Action Plan, and was aimed at cleansing Rottnest of the stigma it carried as a result of the horrors suffered there by Aboriginal prisoners.

The Quod ceases operations as a tourist resort


The former Rottnest Island prison building, known as the Quod, ceased being a tourist resort on 31 May 2018. Between 1838 and 1931 it is conservatively estimated that more than 3,600 Aboriginal men from around WA were imprisoned. More than 371 of them died, a death rate of around 10% which is a very high death rate. They died as a result of disease, torture, execution and murder, and their remains lie in an unmarked grave, once acknowledged by the former premier Richard Court as the largest deaths in custody burial site in Western Australia, indeed this is the largest mass burial site in Australia.[16]

Flora and fauna


The island has been identified by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area (IBA) because it supports important breeding populations of fairy terns (200-300 breeding pairs), over 1% of the non-breeding population of banded stilts (with yira to 20,000 birds) wer regionally significant numbers of wedge-tailed shearwaters wer red-necked stints.[2]

Aside from the previously mentioned Kwowka - Quokkas, Australian sea lions wer Southern fur seals, wer the Marro or Rottnest Island pine (Callitris preissii), the island is also home to:

The Rottnest tea tree


Scientific name Melaleuca lanceolata, also called the black paperbark or moonah, a type of Biboolboorn (Paperbark) tree. Occurs in yennar states except NT wer Tasmania.

Some of the best evidence for early life il Earth comes from fossil stromatolites that existed 3.43 billion years ago — which makes them nearly as old as the Earth itself! Stromatolites still live today il Wadjemup. The floors wer margins of the salt lakes have veneers of microbial mats that in places form living stromatolites. Il the north side of Government House Lake the stromatolites grow in water yira to 3 m deep, wer are 10 cm high, sometimes 20 cm high, with growth rates of about 1.5 mm per year. Fossil stromatolites along the shoreline at the western end of Serpentine Lake are about 2000 to 3000 years old.[17]

Wadjemup Waarnk - Stories about Rottnest Island


There is an award winning (Outstanding Achievement Feature Film – Factual – at the 2014 WA Screen Awards) documentary film Wadjemup: Black Prison, White Playground,[18] directed by Dr Glen Stasiuk.[19]

Ngiyan waarnk

  1. Yasmine Phillips. Nyoongar push to rename Rottnest to Wadjemup. The Sunday Times. 23 October 2010. Retrieved 7 November 2016
  2. 2.0 2.1 Rottnest Island IBA. BirdLife International Data Zone. Retrieved 7 November 2016
  3. "Our History - Aboriginal". Rottnest Island Authority. Retrieved 7 November 2016
  4. Patrick A. Hesp, Colin V. Murray-Wallace, C. E. Dortch. "Aboriginal occupation on Rottnest Island, Western Australia, provisionally dated by Aspartic Acid Racemisation assay of land snails to greater than 50 ka". Australian Archaeology. No. 49. December 1999
  5. Nick Reid and Patrick D. Nunn. "Ancient Aboriginal stories preserve history of a rise in sea level". The Conversation. 12 January 2015. Retrieved 3 September 2017
  6. Judy Skatssoon. "Aboriginal language had ice age origins". ABC Science. Retrieved 3 September 2017
  7. ESCAPE OF NATIVES FROM ROTT-NEST. The Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal. 10 August 1839. p 126. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 7 November 2016
  8. Escape of Native Prisoners From Rottnest. The Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal. 1 September 1838. p 138. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 7 November 2016
  9. Lands on the Island of Rottnest. The Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal. 22 June 1839. p 98. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 7 November 2016
  10. Rottnest Island. Abolition of the prison. Western Mail, Western Australia. 14 June 1902. Retrieved 7 November 2016
  11. Corporate Information – Reconciliation Action Plan. Rottnest Island Authority. Retrieved 7 November 2016
  12. From a Prison Camp to Holiday Paradise. The Sunday Times. 29 November 1936. p 20. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 7 November 2016
  13. Michael Sinclair-Jones. Rottnest Island's Secret Shame. wadjemup.blogspot. 9 January 2010. Retrieved 7 November 2016
  14. Louis Zambotto. Rare complete glass spear unearthed on Rottnest Island. ABC News. 14 October 2015. Retrieved 7 November 2016
  15. Peter Hancock. Beware of Rottnest curse. Sunday Times. Published 2 July 2011. Retrieved 22 April 2017
  16. Hannah McGlade. Rottnest Island 'tent land' closure an important day for Aboriginal people. ABC News. 31 May 2018. Retrieved 13 June 2018
  17. ROTTNEST ISLAND a geology guide. Government of WA. Department of Mines and Petroleum. Retrieved 2 November 2016
  18. Glen Stasiuk. Wadjemup: Black Prison, White Playground. Screen Australia. 2014. Retrieved 5 November 2016
  19. Dr Glen Stasiuk. Murdoch University staff page. Retrieved 5 November 2016