A Tapestry of Life, Legacy and Emotions

*Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are advised that this web page contains images of people who have died.*

The richness of Aboriginal oral traditions forms an integral part in weaving a tapestry of long Australian histories and emotions.

The role of emotions in the life and legacy of Fanny Balbuk Yooreel, a remarkable Whadjuk Noongar woman who died 110 years ago, will be explored at the ‘Fanny Balbuk Yooreel: Life, Legacy and Emotions’ symposium at the City of Perth Library on Wednesday, 17 May 2017.

“Listening to the knowledge of Noongar Elder women has given us new perspectives on Fanny Balbuk Yooreel’s life and legacy. The strong emotions that surround this important Whadjuk woman of the nineteenth century are palpable, and help us forge new ways to understand indigenous history and heritage in Australia, and in Perth specifically,” says Professor Susan Broomhall, Foundation Chief Investigator at Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (CHE) based at The University of Western Australia (UWA).

Broomhall’s colleague, Dr Shino Konishi, a researcher at The University of Western Australia and Chief Investigator at CHE, echoes this: “Focusing on Fanny Balbuk’s history not only reveals Noongar people’s heartfelt connections to country, but also provides new insights into Indigenous modes of resistance.”

Konishi, one of the presenters at the symposium, will examine the early interactions between European explorers and Noongar people, highlighting the role of emotions in shaping cross-cultural understandings of one another.

“This event commemorates the life of a passionate nineteenth-century woman who ‘raged and stormed’ against the colonial  ‘usurping of her beloved’ homelands”, Konishi said.

Noongar Elder and Professor at the School of Indigenous Studies at UWA, Professor Len Collard, explains: “Fanny Balbuk Yooreel links the modern Noongar to the past, and this symposium celebrating her life is a recognition of our connection to country. It is such an emotional experience for us to ‘quop wiern’ or talk up stories on country.” His talk ‘Ngulluckiny Nyungar koorndarn’ will reveal more about Noongar emotions and ‘yarning up our feelings by stories’.

According to Broomhall, this symposium offers much to current dialogues about Australian heritage.

“This conversation is inspired by the focus on Fanny Balbuk Yooreel in the National Heritage Festival events in WA but it has much wider ramifications. It brings together leading scholars and practitioners from across Australia to consider the power of emotions — in colonial contacts, in how Australian indigenous stories, biographies and histories are told and heard, and how we recognise Noongar heritage in Perth today.”

“2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the referendum that voted in favour of recognising Aboriginal people in the census and the theme of this year’s National Heritage Festival is ‘Having a Voice.’ We hope that hearing new voices about Fanny Balbuk Yooreel’s experiences and how she is remembered in Noongar communities today, will not only enable contemporary residents of Perth to see the history of their region in fresh ways but also encourage new conversations about how we remember the past and decide which histories we choose to tell.”

The symposium, which includes a screening of the short film produced by the National Trust of Western Australia: ‘Fanny Balbuk Yooreel: Realising a Resistance Fighter’, forms part of a series of events guided by Noongar women and their extended families in partnership with the National Trust of Western Australia, City of Perth, ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions and Department of Aboriginal Affairs and supported by Lotterywest.

The events surrounding Fanny Balbuk Yooreel in 2017 are the flagship activities of the National Heritage Festival in WA. Here are some of the related Fanny Balbuk Yooreel events:

  • The National Trust of WA invited Perth’s senior Noongar Elders to share their knowledge and understanding of Fanny Balbuk Yooreel. Extensive interviews were undertaken with Noongar researcher Casey Kickett.
  • Elder Marie Taylor led community members on the inaugural walk, Fanny Balbuk Yooreel: realising a resistance fighter, visiting sites connected with Fanny’s life and finishing in the grounds of Government House with a laying of flowers for Fanny Balbuk Yooreel's ancestors and cultural dances.
  • Supported by the City of Perth and produced by the National Trust, a new free downloadable map is available for self-guided walkers to follow the footsteps of Fanny Balbuk Yooreel.
  • Her Excellency the Honourable Kerry Sanderson AC, patron of the National Trust of Western Australia, hosted a morning tea with Noongar Elder women in support of the Fanny Balbuk Yooreel project on 26 April 2017.
  • The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions is preparing an education package of resources about Fanny Balbuk Yooreel to enable primary and high school students to learn more about her important story.

Presenters include:

  • Professor Len Collard (Associate Investigator, ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions/ Indigenous Studies, UWA)
  • Dr Shino Konishi (Chief Investigator, ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, History, UWA)
  • Professor Jane Lydon (Wesfarmers Chair of Australian History, UWA)
  • Professor Andrew Lynch (Director, ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions)
  • Ms Gina Pickering (National Trust of WA)
  • Dr Elfie Shiosaki (Associate Investigator, ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions/ Indigenous Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Curtin)
  • Professor Jakelin Troy (ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions Advisory Board Member/ Director ATSI Research, The University of Sydney)
  • A/Professor Jacqueline Van Gent (Chief Investigator, ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, History, UWA)
  • Mr Richard Walley, OAM (Aboriginal Awareness)
  • Ms Aileen Walsh (Indigenous Studies, UWA)

Media Contacts

Susan Broomhall (susan.broomhall@uwa.edu.au)
Erika von Kaschke (erika.vonkaschke@uwa.edu.au)

Image: Courtesy of State Library of Western Australia (025341PD)