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Swan and Canning Rivers


Heritage Council

Place Number

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Location Details

Other Name(s)

Swan Canning Riverpark

Local Government




Construction Date

Demolition Year


Statutory Heritage Listings

Type Status Date Documents More information
(no listings)

Heritage Council Decisions and Deliberations

Type Status Date Documents
RHP - To be assessed Current 24 Sep 2010

Other Heritage Listings and Surveys

Type Status Date Grading/Management More information
Category Description
(no listings)

Statement of Significance

The Swan Canning Riverpark covers 72.1 square kilometres of river reserve and adjoining public lands. The Swan Canning Riverpark supports a diverse array of plant and animal life, some endemic to the region. The Swan and Canning rivers, which stretch and snake their way for 280 kilometres from Wickepin to the deep blue of the Indian Ocean in Fremantle, represent an important slice of West Australian history, as well as holding significant cultural values for Perth, serving as an important feature of the city’s landscape.


The place is one of the most prominent landmark in the State of Western Australia

The place has an exceptional level of aesthetic value

The place is highly significant as the primary water way through the Perth metropolitan area and, being the focus of the earliest settlements in the State, still retains numerous sites and places that provide evidence for this story

The place is highly significant to the Western Australian Noongar population as a focus point for ceremony, spiritual life and subsistence during both prehistory through to the present day

The place has long been the focus of recreation and community life in the metropolitan area and has iconic values as the centrepiece of the State

Physical Description

The Swan River runs through the Perth metropolitan area from its mouth at Fremantle to Walyunga National Park in the northeast. The Canning River, diverting from the Swan at Canning Bridge, continues to Araluen in the southeast.


The Indigenous population of Western Australia, in the metropolitan area comprising the Noongar language group, utilised the resources of the Swan River for thousands of years prior to European settlement. Although the resources it contained were integral to this focus, the rivers were also significant components in Noongar spiritual and ceremonial life. This focus, and the spiritual links, continues to the present day.

Although explored by the French and Dutch during the seventeenth, and early nineteenth centuries, the first British expedition to explore this part of Western Australia did not take place until 1827. Captain James Stirling arrived on the western side of the continent in the H.M.S Success in March and his reports of the region were favourable. The Canning River was also explored during this expedition with Stirling naming it after George Canning, a British Statesman and Prime Minister of Great Britain. Stirling’s favourable reports encouraged the establishment of the Swan River Colony in February 1829.

European settlement initially centred around the mouth of the Swan at Fremantle and spread out towards Perth and Guildford. Long thin ribbon grants were allotted to early settlers in the Swan District to give them equal river frontage but poor soils and a noxious weed resulted in movement further east into the Swan Valley. With the introduction of convicts to the Swan River Colony in the 1850s infrastructure building and the availability of a labour force allowed the river valleys to be fully exploited for agriculture.

With the commencement of Western Australia’s gold rush in the 1890s the population increased, as did the settlement focus on the Swan and Canning Rivers. This continued throughout the early twentieth century with the majority of the population living in and around the river park and along the coastal areas of the State. The intensive infrastructure building seen during this period saw the construction of a safe harbour at the mouth of the Swan in Fremantle and, during the early twentieth century, large sections of the river along the Perth foreshore were subject to reclamation.

The Swan and Canning Rivers have, from the earliest period of settlement, been a focus of Western Australian life. This continues to the present and will continue far into the foreseeable future.

State Heritage Office library entries

Library Id Title Medium Year Of Publication
9531 Swan and Helena rivers management framework: heritage audit and statement of significance, final report 26 February 2009. Heritage Study {Other} 2009

Place Type

Large Conservation Region


Epoch General Specific
Present Use Transport\Communications Water: Other
Original Use Transport\Communications Water: Other

Historic Themes

General Specific
SOCIAL & CIVIC ACTIVITIES Sport, recreation & entertainment
TRANSPORT & COMMUNICATIONS River & sea transport
DEMOGRAPHIC SETTLEMENT & MOBILITY Land allocation & subdivision
OCCUPATIONS Commercial & service industries

Creation Date

30 Aug 2010

Publish place record online (inHerit):


Last Update

12 Jul 2022


This information is provided voluntarily as a public service. The information provided is made available in good faith and is derived from sources believed to be reliable and accurate. However, the information is provided solely on the basis that readers will be responsible for making their own assessment of the matters discussed herein and are advised to verify all relevant representations, statements and information.