METRONET Noongar Reference Group
Established in 2019 and made up of nominated representatives from the Whadjuk and Gnaala Karla Booja working parties, the METRONET Noongar Reference Group provides cultural input and advice on the METRONET program of works - a Western Australian Government project expanding Perth’s rail network with 72 kilometres of new passenger rail and 23 new stations.
Language is one of the key foundations of culture and from 2020 to 2022, the METRONET Noongar Reference Group worked closely with the METRONET Gnarla Biddi (Our Pathways) team, researchers, linguists, and facilitators on the Noongar Place Names Initiative to identify 26 Noongar place names and their meanings for new stations across METRONET projects.
The METRONET Noongar Reference Group provided cultural governance and input into the Noongar Place Names Initiative, collaborating closely with Aboriginal consultants Uncle Len Collard (Stage 1) and Kambarang Services (Stage 2) to navigate the complexities of identifying and validating place names and their spelling, phonetics and meanings. At the request of the METRONET Noongar Reference Group, additional consultation was also undertaken with Elders on the specific sites.
The Noongar Place Names Initiative acknowledges the traditional and ongoing connection of Noongar people to Country and the place names and meanings identified are reflective of culture, stories and connection to boodja (land).
Themes such as traditional names that have stood for thousands of years, Songlines which depict how Noongar people see the development of the ancient world during The Dreaming, and plants and animals which provided connection to the land and food for survival have been included to promote and protect this long-standing relationship and connection. This reinforces the love, beauty, respect, and spirituality of that relationship, as well as family connections, kinships, and governance systems which pre-date colonisation.
The process has also helped members of the METRONET Noongar Reference Group reconnect with their language, which was lost many years ago when Noongar people were separated from family, Country and culture.
METRONET Noongar Reference Group members Lera Bennell, Geri Hayden, Peter Michael, Doreen Nelson and Greg Ugle are driven by a passion to preserve Noongar culture for everyone in the wider community and hope that one day, Noongar is a widely celebrated language by all.
Through the Noongar Place Names Initiative, they have worked in collaboration with METRONET to positively transform the way the Western Australian Government engages with First Nations people through greater consultation. Some members also have family connections to Perth’s train systems and hope that their contributions and efforts honour their previous generations’ work on the rail lines and reconnect them to their Noongar culture.