With winter weather fast approaching much of the world, it is time for us to chase the sun; this time to Perth, Australia. Situated along the banks of the Swan River, Perth is the capital, and largest city in Western Australia (WA). Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, the indigenous Noongar aboriginal peoples had inhabited this region for thirty-eight thousand years. They knew the region as “Boorloo”. A Dutch sailor by the name of Willem de Vlamingh was the first European to explore this region in 1697, but felt it was uninhabitable. By 1826, the British, who were worried that the French would try to establish a foothold in WA, began settling the area. Captain James Sterling founded the Swan River Colony in 1829. Helen Dance, wife of a captain of a small sailing vessel, symbolized the establishment of the colony by cutting down a tree (interestingly, she was chosen for this ceremony because all the other women were pregnant at the time...or so the story goes). The name “Perth” was given to the new colony in honor of Sir James Murray, Secretary of State for the Colonies, who came from Perth, Scotland. By 1850, needing cheap labor for farming and skilled workmen to construct new buildings, the colonists petitioned England to send them convicts. When gold was discovered in the region in 1893, Western Australia’s population exploded. Eight years later, WA officially joined the Federation of Australia. Perth earned the nickname “The City of Lights” in 1962 when everyone turned their lights on as American Astronaut, John Glenn passed overhead in “Friendship 7.” Today, Perth is known as one of the most isolated major cities in the world because it is surrounded by a desert on one side and an ocean on the other.
Of course, it does put its own unique stamp on things...this “Pensioneer’s Barracks Arch “ was constructed in 1863 . Designed to resemble a medieval castle, the barracks served as temporary housing for the guards, and their families, who came to Western Australia (WA) on convict ships. The arch is all that remains of the complex when the area was cleared for the construction of the Mitchel Freeway.
Located in the heart of the city is “The Cloisters.” Originally built in 1858 by the first Anglican Bishop of Perth, Mathew Blagden Hale (a statue of Hale can be seen in front of the central door) as a secondary school for boys, it later served as a girls’ school, a government high school, and then as a clergy training college.