Heirisson Island

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Coordinates: 31°57′59″S 115°52′57″E / 31.96639°S 115.88250°E / -31.96639; 115.88250 Heirisson Island is an island in the Swan River in Western Australia at the eastern end of Perth Water, between the suburbs of East Perth and Victoria Park. It occupies an area of 285,600 m2 (3,074,000 sq ft), and is connected to the two foreshores by The Causeway.

Southern section including remains of previous bridge structure

Prior to development, there were several small islands, surrounded by mudflats.[1] The Noongar name for the area is Matagarup (meaning "leg deep"), which has been retained for the single island after reclamation.[2]

Over the years, dredging[3] and reclamation has created a single island, which is now a landscaped nature reserve, with a 2 km (1.2 mi) walking path.

In 1998, five female Western Grey Kangaroos were introduced onto the island, followed by a female with a male joey in 2000.[4][5]


In 2008 a new master plan for Heirisson Island was adopted by the City of Perth. This plan integrates a proposed international quality sculpture park on the island and the construction of a footbridge over the northern channel of the Swan River. The footbridge will link Point Fraser to the island and provide a gateway to the proposed sculpture park. The sculpture park concept is being driven by a not for profit organisation Heirisson Island Sculpture Park Inc. with the support of the City of Perth.[6][7]


The earlier state of the Heirisson Island area

The area around Heirisson Island is traditionally associated with the Beeloo Nyungah people who knew the small islands and mud flats as Matagarup, referring to the river as being "one leg deep". The island located on either side of the current causeway bridge was known as Kakaroomup.

The Matagarup mud flats were the first major crossing point upriver from the river's mouth (at Fremantle) and were an important seasonal access way over which the Beeloo Nyungah gave other groups right of passage across the river.

The first European to visit the Heirisson Island area was the Flemish explorer Willem de Vlamingh in January 1697. He was exploring the Swan River in long-boats but only got as far as the Heirisson Island(s) because the mud flats impeded any further progress.

Heirisson Island was named after French midshipman François-Antoine Boniface Heirisson, who was on the French ship Le Naturaliste, which was a scientific expedition led by Nicolas Baudin between 1801 and 1804. The expedition made several journeys up the river from Fremantle in long-boats and made the first maps of the Swan River. The island was named in June 1801.

Captain James Stirling also investigated the area in 1827 just prior to settlement of the Swan River Colony in 1829. (Appleyard & Manford, 1979)

Yagan's statue[edit]

Yagan statue, Heirisson Island

In September 1984 the Government of Western Australia erected a statue of Aboriginal warrior Yagan. In 1997 the statue's head was twice removed by vandals.[8]

Aboriginal protests[edit]

Tent embassy[edit]

In 2012, the island was the site of a tent embassy, set up in February by Nyoongar people to raise community awareness about problems with a government plan to extinguish most of the native title land in the southwest of Western Australia that was recognized in 2006 by Justice Wilcox of the Federal Court of Australia.[9][10] The Nyoongar Tent Embassy was intended to be a peaceful affirmation of native title to Nyoongar country and legitimate use of a state-registered Aboriginal Heritage Site,[11] and was inspired by the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra.[10][11] However there were many claims made of rocks being thrown at passing boats.[12] The tent embassy was removed by police in March 2012.[13]

Refugee camp[edit]

In early March 2015, a group of Aboriginal activists set up what they referred to as a refugee camp after the state government announced plans to close some remote Western Australian Aboriginal communities.[14] The camp was removed ten days later by City of Perth rangers, with police support,[15] but gradually reassembled and was occupied by about 100 people when it was dismantled again by police and City of Perth rangers in late April 2015.[16] People still remain at the site as of 25 August 2015 and the City of Perth has been ordered to return all the property taken in raids as Matagarup (Heirisson Island) is a Registered Site with the Government of Western Australia Department of Indigenous Affairs (Site ID 3589).[17]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "HEIRISSON ISLAND DEVELOPMENT.". The West Australian (Perth: National Library of Australia). 18 February 1950. p. 2. Retrieved 11 June 2012. 
  2. ^ http://www.slwa.wa.gov.au/swan_river/living_with_the_land
  3. ^ "HEIRISSON ISLAND TAKES SHAPE.". The West Australian (Perth: National Library of Australia). 1 March 1947. p. 6 Edition: SECOND EDITION. Retrieved 11 June 2012. 
  4. ^ Long, John (2003). Introduced Mammals of the World: Their History, Distribution, and Influence. Australia: CSIRO Publishing. p. 37. ISBN 0643067140. 
  5. ^ City of Perth (2000), Heirisson Island : kangaroo colony, The City, retrieved 11 June 2012 
  6. ^ Epcad (1999), Concept development : Heirisson Island Sculpture Park, Epcad, retrieved 10 June 2012 
  7. ^ Heirisson Island Sculpture Park Inc (2009), Heirisson lsland Sculpture Park sculpture on the Swan, Heirisson Island Sculpture Park Inc, retrieved 10 June 2012 
  8. ^ Chris Munro (2 April 2012). "A journey of resistance". Tracker magazine. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  9. ^ Bennell v Western Australia FCA 1243 (Federal Court of Australia 2006).
  10. ^ a b "The Inauguration of the Nyoongar Tent Embassy". Nyoongar Tent Embassy. Retrieved 3 May 2015. 
  11. ^ a b Kerr, Thor & Cox, Shaphan (2013). R. Briggs, N. Lucy & S. Mickler (Eds.). Setting up the Nyoongar Tent Embassy: a report on Perth media. Perth: Ctrl-Z Press.
  12. ^ "Rocks hurled at passing Swan River boat". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 19 March 2012. Retrieved 3 May 2015. 
  13. ^ "Aboriginal protestors vow to return to Heirisson Island". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 23 March 2012. Retrieved 3 May 2015. 
  14. ^ Andrew O'Connor (3 March 2015). "Aboriginal protesters set up camp on Heirisson Island as some remote communities face closure". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 3 May 2015. 
  15. ^ Rebecca Trigger (13 March 2015). "Heirisson Island Aboriginal protest: Police move in to clear campers". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 3 May 2015. 
  16. ^ "Arrests as police remove tents at Perth's Heirisson Island Aboriginal protest". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 30 April 2015. Retrieved 3 May 2015. 
  17. ^ "Matagarup Heritage". Nyoongar Tent Embassy. Retrieved 26 August 2015. 


  • Appleyard, R. T. and Manford, Toby (1979). The Beginning: European Discovery and Early Settlement of Swan River Western Australia, University of Western Australia Press. ISBN 0-85564-146-0