• The 1834 Pinjarra Massacre led by Captain James Stirling led to deaths of an estimated 80 men, women and children. (Supplied: )Source: Supplied:
Governor James Stirling led a massacre in the 1800's that killed First Nations men, women and children, but the city council has delayed debating a name change.
Sarah Collard

9 Jun 2021 - 6:05 PM  UPDATED 9 Jun 2021 - 6:05 PM

Perth's Stirling Council has delayed discussing the proposed name change of the city at a council meeting on Tuesday.

Last month, rate payers and residents backed a motion for the Council to consider changing its name, but the Council said it would rather focus on reconciliation.

The City is named after Western Australia's first governor Sir James Stirling, who instigated one of the state's bloodiest massacres almost 200 years ago.

In October 1834, soldiers, police and settlers led by Stirling ambushed Aboriginal families who were resisting efforts of colonial expansion.

Stirling recorded 15 men killed but others dispute this figure. Some estimate the death toll was much greater, with up to 80 men (including government officials), women and children slain in the attack. 


Photographer Cole Baxter grew up on Noongar Wadjak Country with connections to Wilman and Goreng Countries.

The Noongar man has been campaigning with others to push for the City of Stirling to change its name rather than paying tribute to a 'mass murderer'. 

He said a change of name could have been seen as a small move towards shared understanding, and be more in line with reconciliation. 

"Honestly, it's baby steps, (and) if I was them I would be embarrassed — they can take their time, dilly-dally and continue to uphold these white supremacist and racist ideologies." 

"You can't hope and expect people to do the just thing, defending James Stirling who has done awful things. 

He said the campaign had broad support on social media, including thousands of likes, shares and signatures on a petition to change the council's name. 

Colonised nations must deal with 'past horrors'

Professor Len Collard, from the University of Western Australia's Indigenous Studies unit, has investigated documents detailing accounts of the Pinjarra massacre. 

"I was reading the government archive materials, purchase orders and the like - Horses, saddles, guns, bullets, food, their resources required," he told NITV News.

"It is obvious they weren't going down for a friendly chinwag and a conversation."

Professor Collard said nations across Europe, Canada and the United States had begun to reflect more genuinely on their pasts, but continued to grapple with the statues, monuments, schools and streets which bore the namesakes from different eras. 

"Colonised nations are starting to deal with the horrors of their past. We have to recalibrate our understanding of how these colonial despots are represented and reflected in our modern world." he said. 

Professor Collard said the issue with Stirling City Council is still unresolved and it's up to the people to decide what and who represents them.

"It's unfinished business and we need to clarify where to from here, and I'm sure the ratepayers will have their say next time they go into the local government elections.

Council 'reaffirmed reconciliation efforts' 

The City of Stirling said in a statement to NITV News that the council was working together with First Nations people to reaffirm its commitments under its newly inked Reconciliation Action Plan. 

"While changing the name of the City of Stirling is not being progressed, stronger recognition of Aboriginal history and culture is certainly a priority and we are reaffirming our reconciliation efforts in good faith." it read.

"It was not considered appropriate to prioritise an Electors General Meeting motion above the many other actions and deliverables already included within this RAP.

"Reconciliation should not be seen as a single issue or agenda but rather an ongoing journey of actions that evolve, develop and grow over time."

Mayor Mark Irwin said the issue has been contested in the community and he welcomes 'respectful debate' from communities. 

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