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First Nations Elders win campaign to change name of Lake Monger

David Prestipino -

The Town of Cambridge council has unanimously supported a motion to investigate changing the name of Lake Monger in Wembley to Galup.

First Nations Elders campaigned for the wetland site to be renamed due to the colonial history associated with the current name.

Whadjuk Noongar Elder and University of Western Australia senior lecturer Glenda Kickett was the driving force behind the push, and she believes the timing is right to have the popular urban wetland revert to its traditional name.

Galup, meaning "place of fire", is where Whadjuk Noongar families lived and maintained their home campfires for millennia.

Ms Kickett is also pushing for several other prominent sites across Perth to be renamed.

"I think we're at a point in history where there is a process of reconciliation and truth telling going on and I just feel it would be a great opportunity for the renaming of the lake, or a change back to its original name as it's known by the Whadjuk Noongar people of this area," she said.

"I think there is an issue with any colonial history and settlement and we know that the lake was also a massacre site and a lot of our Whadjuk people were slaughtered there."

The story of Lake Monger's history was first raised in a book written by Ms Kickett's late mother, Doolan Leisha Eatts, a prominent author and 2001 NAIDOC Female Elder of the Year.

"She would be so elated just to see our people and her grandmother's story acknowledged and for all our Whadjuk people that camped around Lake Monger," Ms Kickett said.

Every week around 12,000 people visit Lake Monger and its famous black swans without knowing the events that happened there or understanding the significance of this important site.

"It's been a long process to have this discussion with the [Cambridge] council but we've been working on the production of [traditional name] Galup for the last four or five years once the story came out in my mum's book," Ms Kickett said.

The urban wetland is named after John Henry Monger, who arrived in WA from England in 1829 and constructed and ran a sawmill at the lake. He would later become one of the richest men in the colony.

"We also know there was co-existence between the Noongar people there and the settlers around Lake Monger," Ms Kickett said.

"We feel to acknowledge the history of the local people, the traditional people before colonisation, is the right thing to do, for where we are at this point in time."

The pre-colonial history of Lake Monger came to life during a 2021 Perth Festival show at the site called 'Galup', with performances by Noongar man Ian Wilkes and fellow WA artist and filmmaker Poppy van Oorde-Grainger.

"I remember being in my father's car as a kid driving past Lake Monger along the freeway," Wilkes said.

"Dad would tell us to look out the windows towards the lake, he would always say 'something bad happened there, never forget it. Always remember what really happened'."

Town of Cambridge mayor Keri Shannon said it obvious the name change had widespread support but could not put an estimate on when it might occur.

"There's obviously a statutory process that needs to be followed ... we've never changed the name of a site like the lake before, so we're in new territory," she said.

Town of Cambridge councillor Gary Mack, who put forward the motion for the council to prepare a project plan on the name change, said First Nations elders would now be consulted before a recommendation was provided to the Department of Lands for approval for the name change.

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