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Place Names Melville has been a journey of reconciliation and Noongar language revival produced by Community Arts Network (CAN) in partnership with Moodjar Consultancy, the Noongar community and the City of Melville.

Three areas within the City of Melville - Goolugatup, Willagee and Jenalup (Blackwall Reach) - were explored through a cultural mapping process and an interplay of mark making and collage artworks inspired by walks on country.

The exhibition Ngala Bidi Wongi Boodjar – Our Paths Talking Country was launched on the 29th of October 2022 and is the culmination of the first phase of Place Names Melville. The exhibition will remain open until 11 December 2022. Details and timing available through the Facebook event.


This catalogue captures the creative exploration of place by our Place Names Melville community participants.

Natural soundscapes and sensory videos

In a mentorship relationship between photographer and videographer Hugh Sando, Project Coordinator Pip Kelly and participants Christine Reich, Chelsey Thomson and Gerrard Shaw, natural soundscapes and sensory videos were recorded at each site. When displayed together, the seamless connection between video footage and collage works is profound. Words accompany the abstract artworks drawn from the lush Melville landscape, creating a beautiful representation of contemporised culture.

“Recording audio on Country opened it up more for me, I could really hear and feel the country. I also love sitting with other Elders I've only just met and meeting new people who bring a whole new life to what you know about language and places.” Christine Reich

Credit: Hugh Sando

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Decoding and the Place Names Process

Professor Len Collard’s research shows us that Noongar placenames are a group of words collapsed into a sentence. The Place Names process uses the cards to break the words down and uncover the ancient meanings.

Noongar placenames were originally written down by non-Noongars and words were misheard and meanings misunderstood. This resulted in multiple interpretations and spellings.

The decoding process makes Noongar knowledge and language the first principle in cracking the ancient codes. Len refers to this process as a recolonialising practice because it places Noongar kaartadjin (knowledge, language and culture) as the authority. Historical documents written by wadjellas are secondary. Noongar Place Names empower Elders and community to share stories, histories, culture and kaartadjin with the wider non-Aboriginal community as a powerful act of reconciliation.

During this Place Names Melville project the decoding process is still underway. The ancient meanings of these placenames are starting to reveal themselves but further research and further uncovering of Noongar kaartadjin is required to reach a final consensus.

The following placenames have been identified during the first stage of the decoding process.

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Digital Collage

A series of 8 Digital Collages are the collaborative artwork of individual participants, layered and reworked in the creative engagement of Place Names Melville.

Referencing 3 place names in the Melville area- Goolagatup, Willagee and Jenalup - the digital collage combines individual responses to patterns, texture, rhythms and reflections found on country with layers of mark making, line drawings and paper collage.

The collaborative collage was a layered process, with participants using other participants' initial line and mark making using lead pencil, charcoal, pastel, charcoal and ink to create a paper collage. The idea was to dissolve an individualistic focus to a community value of place. Combining a collective energy of many artworks layered upon artworks to create these abstract sensory collages, reflecting communities strong connection to boodjar.

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This collection of poetry captures the essence of place - a reflection of the community’s strong connection to boodjar.

Facilitator Nandi Chinna guided deep listening and word expressions about place names and in turn Noongar participants produced these word scapes.

Community Participants

CAN would like to acknowledge all Elders and Community Members involved in the project.

Adam Williams | Ashley Donaldson Jnr | Ashley Donaldson Snr | Betty Garlett| Billy Jack Spicer | Chelsey Thomson | Christine Reich | Deena Lazzan | Dot Henry | Dulcie Donaldson | Freda Ogilvie | Garry Garlett | Geraldine Metcalf | Dr Gerrard Shaw | Jim Hayden | Karen Jacobs | Kelvin Garlett | Kerry-Ann Winmar | Liam Nelson | Linley Williams | Liz Hayden | Mick McCarthy | Narelle Ogilvie | Sacha Ogilvie | Sharon Calgaret | Sheridan Jones | Tamara Ugle | Tova Calgaret | Trevor Walley | Vickie Zani

Project Team

CAN Perth Head Office

Monday - Friday, 9am - 5pm

PO Box 7514 Cloisters Square WA 6850

King Street Arts Centre
Ground Floor 357-365 Murray St
Perth WA 6000

08 9226 2422

ABN: 72106364407

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