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About Fremantle

Brief overview

The City of Fremantle acknowledges the Whadjuk people as the traditional owners of the greater Fremantle/Walyalup area and that their cultural and heritage beliefs are still important to the Nyoongar people today.

The land around Fremantle (Walyalup) has always been a significant place for the Whadjuk. Walyalup was the country on both banks of the Derbal Yerrigan (Swan River). The story of how the land once extended past Rottnest but had been inundated by the sea is one of the oldest oral traditions in human history.

This beautiful coastal port city bounded by the Indian Ocean and the Swan River is just 20 km from Perth. The City of Fremantle was established in 1829 as a port for the Swan River Colony and was the major city in Western Australia for much of its early history.

Fremantle's unique character is captured by its landscape, its heritage architecture, music, arts and culture, festivals, retail stores and markets, cafés and restaurants, which all contribute to its village style atmosphere - making it a popular destination for local and international visitors.

Aboriginal history

The City of Fremantle sits within the Aboriginal cultural region of Beelair. Its Nyoongar name is Walyalup (the place of walyo) and local people are called Whadjuk. The Beeliar district is bounded by Derbal Yerrigan (mouth of the Swan River), the Dyarlgarro (Canning River), Katamordo (Darling Ranges) on the east, the Wardan (sea) to the west and by the line due east from Mangles Bay on the south.  To the local Whadjuk people, Fremantle is a place of ceremonies, significant cultural practices and trading.

Fremantle has several significant sites and features in traditional stories.  The mouth of the Swan River is the place where the Wagyl fought the Crocodile spirit and used the crocodile’s tail to separate the fresh water from salt water. There is also a strong connection to Rottnest Island (Wadjemup or place across the sea).

The Whadjuk identify six seasons which guided their movement across the land.  For instance during Djeran (cool weather April to May) families moved back along the Swan River away from the coast. When Makuru (cold and wet June to July) came the Whadjuk moved further inland to their winter camps. By the time of Kambarang (warm and rain decreasing October to November) the Whadjuk had started to move back to the coast as the weather warmed up. 

Nyoongar name


Equivalent season


December to January



February to March

Summer to Autumn


April to May



June to July



August to September

Winter to Spring


October to November


The names Whadjuk people give to places conveys a sense of place. 

Derbal Yerrigan meaning

Derbal Yerrigan Derbal = this is a noun meaning mouth or in this case estuary.
Yerrigan = this is a verb which means to flow or rise and fall.

Therefore, Derbal Yerrigan refers to the estuary and flow of water where Fremantle harbour is now located.

Walyalup meaning

Walyalup (pronounced as WAL – LYA – LUP) is a noun because it is a naming word of a place. However, it is also an adjective in the sense that it describes an action that takes place with this naming word. It does not cover the entire local government area of Fremantle just the High street precinct to the Fremantle Town hall.   

So why is it called place of the walyo? 

The local Whadjuk people used to hunt walyo (kangaroo rat or woylie).  Walyo were abundant in the scrub and low trees that were found around Fremantle. 

Beeliar meaning

Beeliar is the name of the country on which Fremantle is situated on.  Beeliar is one of the land divisions of the Whadjuk people.  It stretches from the Derbal Yirrigan at Walyalup (Fremantle inner city) and east to Dyarlgarro (Canning River) south along the river to the Garangara (the Darling escarpment just south of Armadale) then west across to Derbal Nara (Indian Ocean) or Marmum Wardan (Father Ocean). 

The area was traditionally covered with lakes, water holes, swamp, marsh lands, with sand plains and hills providing a rich environment for plant and marine life. During the seasons of Kambarang, Birak and Bunuru – Beeliar would have provided a large variety of food resources for the Whadjuk people during the warmer months of the year along the coastal plain.

For further information on Aboriginal history, records, culture and programs visit:

Community profiles

These profile pages contain data on a range of topics about the economic, geographic, demographic and sociological makeup of the city which may be useful for businesses, property owners, tourists, students and those interested in looking at the direction of the city. To begin browsing please click on any of the below links or click on the links in the menu on the far left of this page:

City of Fremantle Coat of Arms

The City of Fremantle Coat of Arms is the armorial bearings of the City of Fremantle – granted by letters patent 20 April 1971.


The pile (or wedge shaped area) coloured silver with wavy blue lines alludes to the position of Fremantle at the mouth of a river. The black swan identifies the river as the Swan River, and at the same time symbolises Fremantle’s connection with Western Australia. The pile divides the remainder of the shield into two triangle areas, coloured green, which represent an open cape, or mantle. The tasselled cords are not joined, and the result is an heraldic pun, viz. A free mantle. Such arms are known in heraldry as canting’ (or punning) arms.


The crest is reminiscent of the crest of the Fremantle family, except that the lion has become a sea lion and has exchanged his flag for a trident, thus echoing the emblem Fremantle has used for many years.


The sea lions supporting anchors symbolise Fremantle’s connection with England and its maritime and naval interests. The sinister sea lion (i.e. the right hand one) has a naval crown around its neck. Naval crowns are used in the arms of distinguished sailors and naval towns of consequence.  The gold buckles occur in the arms of the Stirling family and so commemorate Sir James Stirling, the first governor of Western Australia.  Two red lions occur in the arms of a family by the name of Samson; thus a happy allusion is obtained to the Fremantle family of Samson.


The motto, which is also that of the Fremantle family, is taken from an ancient Roman work of rhetoric.  The original reads Nec prece nec pretio…a recta via deduci; Neither by entreaty nor by bribery…to be drawn from the right path.

The arms were designed by Conrad Swan, Esquire, Ph.D., M.A., York Herald of Arms.

The City of Fremantle Coat of Arms is a © copyright item.

Contact us

City of Fremantle
Town Hall Centre
8 William Street
T 08 9432 9999
F 08 9432 9895
TTY 08 9432 9777

Useful documents

The City of Fremantle Coat of Arms

Useful links

Australian Indigenous Health Info
Berndt Museum

Commonwealth Government

Department of Indigenous Affairs

Fremantle Local History Collection

Kaditj Cafe

State Library


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