Why This Project Is So Important

The Western Australian Exploration series shows the environment and people at first contact by the European settlers, and contain a valuable record of detailed descriptions of landscapes, vegetation, plants and animals, and physical phenomena such as weather, fire and salination.

The diaries document the first meetings and co-operation and exchange between the Indigenous population and the explorers and settlers.

Many settlers made explorations into undocumented territory. Women, such as Bessie Bussell and Indigenous people like Weenat, are shown to be explorers.

Each report is a ‘snapshot’ of the environment at a particular time and place and serves as a base line for analyses of environmental change and comparisons with modern conditions.

These exploration reports are the only written record of the different natural habitats of the south-west (such as jarrah forest, tuart woodland and wetlands) prior to the development of agriculture and forestry.

The Exploration Diaries detail the interaction between the indigenous peoples and the explorers and settlers, and show that there was a great spirit of co-operation and collaboration between the two races.

The Exploration Diaries will assist ongoing work on Indigenous plant and animal names as well as medicines.

The explorers noted Indigenous place names. Even when a site or feature was given a new name, the Indigenous name was usually always noted.  Here, the words of our first Surveyor General, John Septimus Roe, are essential reading.

The idea that the first settlers found the south-west landscapes unattractive is shown to be false. Many of the explorers used classical and contemporary literary references to aid their appreciative descriptions of the new landscapes. In their efforts to record their perceptions of the beauty of particular south west landscapes, settler explorers like John Bussell cited the poetry of Shakespeare, and Dr T.B. Wilson quoted Milton.

The Western Australian Exploration series provides park managers and tour guides with valuable interpretative material.

The diaries reveal the cultural and philosophical influences on the explorers. As some of the explorers were also leaders and decision-makers, it is possible to trace the philosophy and rationale and origins of some modern laws policies.  This material is useful for policy analysts and legal analysts.

For many of the explorers, their Western Australian exploration reports are the only record of their lives and work in the colony.

The Explorers’ Diaries record the presence and distribution of Indigenous peoples at the time of first contact and are a fundamental document in the determination of native title.

The editors have listed the people known to have participated in each of the expeditions, many of whom have not been previously recognised.

The Western Australian Exploration series is now available to all Australians for pleasure, education and research, including:

(1)  local government projects such as interpretative signage and local histories.

(2)  archaeologists and anthropologists identifying European and Indigenous heritage.

(3)  town and regional planners and conservationists in the assessment of landscape and suitable land uses.

(4)  the purposes of cultural tourism.

Hercock, M., ‘Introduction’, in Shoobert, J. (ed), et al., Western Australian Exploration, vol. 1 1826-1835, Hesperian Press, Carlisle, Western Australia, 2005.