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A Traditional Owner's guide to Wadjemup

Become immersed in the island’s Aboriginal culture and history.
3 minutes
Lake view
Lake view
If you’re looking for a truly insightful journey into Wadjemup’s Aboriginal heritage, a Go Cultural tour with Walter McGuire is a must-do during a visit to the island. Walter is a respected Noongar man around Whadjuk Country (Perth), and a descendant of several Aboriginal tribal clans of Western Australia’s South West region. 

Now a Traditional Owner of Noongar Boodja (Noongar land), Walter’s childhood involved being educated in Noongar culture, language and customs, so he’s passionate about sharing his culture to ensure ongoing understanding and appreciation of Aboriginal heritage.

“Cultural heritage is in all of us,” says Walter. “So, I often encourage people joining the tour to share their heritage when I conduct the Welcome to Country.” 

“It can help make the connection that we all come from somewhere. By tracking back through the generations, you can acknowledge your ancestors which is an important ritual in Aboriginal culture.”


Walter McGuire
Walter McGuire
Go Cultural’s tours began running at Goomup (Elizabeth Quay) in 2016 and from there more were developed including the ones offered on Wadjemup. 

Walter offers two tours on the island: a one-hour walking tour exploring the island’s significance to Noongar people and its recent history as an Aboriginal prison; and, another two-hour tour providing a more immersive experience into Noongar culture, including a smoking ceremony. 

Each of them offers an unique insight into Aboriginal culture and history on Wadjemup, and provides a way for visitors to gain a much deeper understanding of Wadjemup’s Whadjuk Noongar people. On the tours, Walter shares both the good and the confronting in relation to Aboriginal heritage on Wadjemup.

“I tell a story that explains the effect of Western Australia’s colonisation on Aboriginal culture,” says Walter. “Especially the impact of the removal of the Aboriginal men of high degree from their lands – the Boordier – or in other terms, the kings and emperors of our Aboriginal nations.”

Walter hopes that by telling these stories visitors will better understand how the incarceration of Boordier men on Wadjemup had such a destructive effect on not only them, but also on the communities they left behind. While the colonial past of Wadjemup is a challenging story to tell and hear, Walter acknowledges that the present time is one for deep listening and acceptance. We can’t move forward without acknowledging the past

“I talk about Wadjemup’s brutal prison history, but this tour is not about blame,” he explains. “It’s about telling a truth from our perspective and sharing the stories that have been told to us by the old people.”

Walter says that joining a Go Cultural tour at Wadjemup often proves to be a very spiritual experience for visitors. “As I share my knowledge, I can see people becoming emotionally moved from hearing the truth from our perspective, this shows me that they have become more connected to country. 

"Our culture is about sharing and we invite everyone to get to know our culture and be part of this country and this land.”