Culture and Heritage of the Southwest

The Leeuwin-Naturaliste ridge sits within the land of the Wardandi Aboriginals. Their name for the southwestern tip of their land was Doogalup. The first recorded European sighting of this cape was by the Dutch in 1622; they named it "Landt van de Leeuwin" meaning Land of the Lioness.

The Wardandi are one of the fourteen Noongar tribes, or language groups, that live in the South West. They are the traditional custodians of this region, their land extends from the coast north of the Capel River to the sea near Augusta.

The Noongar people had an intimate knowledge of this land and its changing seasons. Their land was a plentiful area, well watered and with abundant natural foods. They recognised six separate seasons of the year, each lasting around two months. It was these seasonal changes that governed their activities and determined which part of their land they would move to.

Long after the 1622 sighting by the crew onboard the Dutch ship The Leeuwin, the British sighted the cape. In January 1801 the British Government appointed the British naval navigator, chart maker and explorer Captain Matthew Flinders to head an expedition to circumnavigate and chart the coastlines of 'New Holland' (as the Dutch had called the western coast) and New South Wales in the east. Flinders set sail from England as commander of the 334 ton sloop the HMS Investigator. On December 6th, 1801, his first sighting of land was the same southwestern promontory that the Dutch had seen almost 180 years earlier. Flinders re-named it "Cape Leeuwin," in honour of the Dutch ship who had first sighted the rocky headland.

He commenced his mapping of the Australian coast at Cape Leeuwin, where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet. By June 1803 he arrived in Sydney, having successfully circumnavigated Australia.

By 1830, this area was the site of Western Australia's third European settlement; Augusta. In 1895 construction began on the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, situated at the most south-westerly tip of Australia. This famous landmark, constructed from the local limestone, stands 39 metres high from ground level and its base is 16 metres above sea level. It remains a working lighthouse, an important link in the essential chain of navigation aids maintained by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. It is also an important collection site for meteorological data. Weather recording began here on January 1st, 1897, and the site now has the longest unbroken record of weather data recording in Western Australia. The Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse on the mainland of Australia; its piercing beam shines over the surrounding sea for 26 nautical miles as a warning to all about this treacherous corner of coastline.

Aboriginal custodians

Early European sightings

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse