Chart - Swan River Colony c 1827 b - SmallCaptain James Stirling first explored the Swan River Area in 1827 aboard the 114 foot (34.75 m) long, wooden sailing ship, the HMS Success, with botanist Charles Fraser on board.  Initially anchored off Rottnest Island located some 18 km west of the mainlandhe explored the area in a cutter and gig, and, by foot.

Though they presented wonderful reviews of their discoveries to the British Government, the response was far from favourable, as the government had no interest in establishing another colony at the time.

However, Stirling campaigned hard.  The French had already established a whaling station to the south and Stirling was eager to deter further expansion by the French.  In the latter half of 1828 he wrote:

” . . . His Majesty’s right to that country has never been declared, and as it is reported that the French Government contemplates the formation of a settlement in New Holland, the apprehension is that an expedition proceeding there might find, on its arrival, the best positions occupied and its aim defeated, to the total ruin of the property . . . I take the liberty of suggesting that [the difficulties] may be obviated by dispatching at once a ship of war to that quarter.  Possession might thus be taken of the country, surveys commenced, and arrangements made for the reception of settlers.”

On the 5th November 1828, the government issued an order to despatch a ship to the west coast of New Holland for the purpose of taking formal possession of the territory and to maintain the same until further advice arrived.  Captain Fremantle set sail on the HMS Challenger on the 10th March 1829.  He arrived on the 2nd May 1829 proclaiming the west coast of New Holland in the name of His Majesty the King, naming it the “Swan River Colony”.

Meanwhile, Stirling set sail from England on the 8th February 1829.  On board were eager settlers and their provisions.  Their destination:  the newly proclaimed Swan River Colony.  They arrived a few weeks after Captain Fremantle, who had cleared the way for their arrival.

An Act to provide for the the West Coast of New Holland until the 31st December 1834 was put in place on the 14th May 1829.  It is interesting to note that the Act already refers to the land as “Western Australia” rather than the “Swan River Colony”:

” . . . a settlement upon certain wild and unoccupied lands on the western coast of New Holland and the islands adjacent which settlements have arrived and are known by the name of Western Australia . . . “

On the 18th June 1829, the following was proclaimed by His Excellency James Stirling, Esquire, Captain in the Royal Navy and Lieutenant-Governor of His Majesty’s Settlement in Western Australia:

Whereas His Majesty having been pleased to Command that a Settlement should forthwith be formed within the Territory of “Western Australia,” and whereas with a view of effecting that Object an Expedition having been prepared and sent forth, and in Accordance with His Majesty’s Pleasure the Direction of the Expedition and the Government of the proposed Settlement having been confided to me, and whereas in Pursuance of the Premises Possession of the Territory having been taken, I do hereby make the same known to all Persons whom it may concern, willing, and requesting them duly regulate their conduct with reference to His Majesty’s Authority, represented in me, as good and loyal subjects ought to do, and to obey all such Legal Commands and Regulations, as I may from time to time see fit to enact, as they shall answer the contrary to their Peril.

And whereas by the Establishment of His Majesty’s Authority in the Territory aforesaid, the Laws of the United Kingdom as far as they are applicable to the Circumstances of the Case, do therein immediately prevail and become security for the Rights, Privileges, and Immunities of all His Majesty’s Subjects found or residing in such Territory, I do hereby caution all to abstain from the commission of Offences against the King’s Peace or the Laws of the Realm upon pain of being arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and punished in the same manner and to all Intents and Purposes as is usual in similar offences committed in any other Part or Parts of His Majesty’s Dominions subject to British Law.

And whereas for the aids of Justice and the preservation of Peace I may hereafter see Occasion to nominate and appoint a properly qualified Person to execute the Office of Sheriff of the Territory, having under his direction responsible individuals filling the Offices of High Constable, Constables, Bailiffs, and Surveyors of High Ways. And whereas I may hereafter see occasion to issue a Commission to certain discreet Persons to proceed to the Cognizance of Offences against the Laws; to hear and determine Complains of Injury; to commit Offenders for further trial to the Custody of the Sheriff; and to conduct themselves in the execution of their Office according to such mode of proceeding as Justices of the Peace may lawfully adopt; I here command and require that due abundance and respect be shown to all such Persons in their several Places and Jurisdictions.

And whereas the Protection of Law doth of Right belong to all people whatsoever who may come or be found within the Territory aforesaid, I do hereby give Notice that if any Person or Persons shall be convicted of behaving in a fraudulent, cruel, or felonious Manner towards the Aborigines of the Country, such Person or Persons will be liable to be prosecuted and tried for the Offence, as if the same had been committed against any other of His Majesty’s subjects.

And whereas the safety of the territory from invasion and from the attack of hostile native tribes may require the establishment of a Militia Force which on emergency may be depended on to assist His Majesty’s regular troops in the defence of the laws and property of the inhabitants of the Territory, and moreover the Efficiency of such an armed body, depending wholly on its Organisation, Discipline, and Preparation for Service, all male persons whatsoever, between the ages of 15 and 50, are hereby required to enrol themselves in the Muster roll of the Militia of the County in which they may reside, and to observe that the days for Muster and Exercise, and the Names of the Officers whom I may see fit to appoint to command them will be duly notified, and that on proof of their Disobedience to such officers or of negligent performance of the Duties required of them, they will be subject, in the Absence of Martial Law, to a pecuniary fine and Imprisonment until the same shall be liquidated.

And whereas His Majesty having been graciously pleased to confide to me the Power to make all necessary Locations, and to grant unoccupied Lands within the aforesaid Territory under such Restrictions as are or may be contained in the several Instructions issued or to be issued to me by Authority of His Majesty’s Government, I do hereby give Notice that the Conditions and existing Regulations under which Crown Lands will be granted will be exhibited to Public Inspection at the Offices of the Secretary to Government, and of the Surveyor of the Territory, subject to such alterations and amendments as may from time to time be ordered, and all Persons desirous of obtaining Lands or of becoming settlers for any other purposes in this Territory, are, as soon as may be practicable after their arrival in this Settlement, to appear at the Office of the Secretary to Government, and there to make application for Permission to reside in the Settlement, and all Persons found at large without having obtained such Permission will render themselves liable to be committed to Custody, and all Persons in like Manner who may intend to quit the Colony are to give a week’s Notice of their Intentions to depart, upon pain of being liable to be apprehended and detained and of rendering the Master of the Ship in which they may be about to depart subject to a Fine as set forth by the Port Regulations.

Captain James Stirling2 - Small

Admiral James Stirling – First Governor & Commander-in-Chief of Western Australia

God save the King!

Given under my hand and seal at Perth this 18th day of June, 1829.


James Stirling,


By His Excellency’s Command,

Peter Brown,

Secretary to Government.

View other important events in Western Australia’s History . . .