Why did the penguin cross the road? To get to Rockingham

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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

A new road in the City of Rockingham has been given a Noongar name, thanks to consultations between the City and The University of Western Australia's Professor Leonard Collard.

The new 4.5 km road has been officially named Kulija Road.  Professor Collard, an Australian Research Council Chief Investigator Indigenous in UWA's School of Indigenous Studies, said kulija means ‘in relation to the penguin, the one that is linked to and travels about this site'.

Professor Collard said he believed the word kulija was a blend of the words kul (meaning movement) and nija (this) and that perhaps the Noongar people who lived in the area for thousands of years used the word to describe the penguin tracks.

Costing almost $20 million, Kulija Road was opened to traffic recently and honours the city's mascot, the Little (or Fairy) Penguin.  The smallest of all penguins, and the only species living permanently in Australian waters, Little Penguins are only 33cm tall and weigh about 1kg.  They generally remain faithful to their mates and produce two broods of chicks in years when there is enough food.

The new road provides a direct route from the Kwinana Freeway to the Rockingham City Centre, Garden Island and the Kwinana industrial strip, reducing transit times by about 10 minutes - cutting down greenhouse gases - and diverting freight vehicles from residential areas.

In April 2013, the City of Rockingham Council resolved to adopt an Aboriginal heritage name for the new road, reinforcing the importance that Council places on the Reconciliation Action Plan.  Mayor Barry Sammels said, "The Little Penguin is a well-known and widely recognised symbol of our City, so using the Noongar name for this local icon is an ideal way to link the area's Aboriginal history with its contemporary image."

Professor Collard has been investigating place-names around Perth and Western Australia's southwest, where more than half of the place-names are Noongar, for an ARC project which he has now completed.  He collaborated with colleagues at Curtin University as well as organisations including the WA Museum and Landgate on the project, which is titled Noongar Boodjera Wangkiny, or The People's Land is Speaking: Noongar Place Nomenclature of the Southwest of Western Australia. 

More than 25,000 Noongar words are recorded, having been collated from a range of sources such as historical maps, explorers' and surveyors' journals, from the writings of Daisy Bates (1859 - 1951) and early colonists and from Landgate.

Media references

Professor Leonard Collard (UWA School of Indigenous Studies)  (+61 8) 6488 7422 / (+61 4) 07 981 863
David Stacey (UWA Media Manager)  (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 32 637 716

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