The area of Perth contains the Whadjuk people
, who are one of several groups in south-western Western Australia which make up the Noongar people
Indigenous Australians have inhabited the Perth area for at least 38,000 years, as evidenced by archaeological remains at Upper Swan. The Noongar people occupied the southwest corner of Western Australia and lived as hunter-gatherers. The wetlands on the Swan Coastal Plain were particularly important to them, both spiritually (featuring in local mythology) and as a source of food.
The Noongar people know the area where Perth now stands as Boorloo. Boorloo formed part of the territory of the Mooro, a Noongar clan, which at the time of British settlement had Yellagonga as their leader. The Mooro was one of several Noongar Indigenous clans based around the Swan River known collectively as the Whadjuk. The Whadjuk themselves were one of a larger group of fourteen tribes that formed the south-west socio-linguistic block known as the Noongar (meaning "the people" in their language), also sometimes called the Bibbulmun. On 19 September 2006, the Federal Court of Australia brought down a judgment recognising Noongar native title over the Perth metropolitan area in the case of Bennell v State of Western Australia  FCA 1243. The judgment was overturned on appeal.
Early European sightings
The first documented sighting of the region was made by the Dutch Captain Willem de Vlamingh and his crew on 10 January 1697. Subsequent sightings between this date and 1829 were made by other Europeans, but as in the case of the sighting and observations made by Vlamingh, the area was considered to be inhospitable and unsuitable for the agriculture that would be needed to sustain a settlement.
Swan River Colony
Although the Colony of New South Wales had established a convict-supported settlement at King George's Sound (later Albany) on the south coast of Western Australia in 1826 in response to rumours that the area would be annexed by France, Perth was the first full-scale settlement by Europeans in the western third of the continent. The British colony would be officially designated Western Australia in 1832 but was known informally for many years as the Swan River Colony after the area's major watercourse.
On 4 June 1829, newly arriving British colonists had their first view of the mainland, and Western Australia's founding has since been recognised by a public holiday on the first Monday in June each year. Captain James Stirling, aboard Parmelia, said that Perth was "as beautiful as anything of this kind I had ever witnessed". On 12 August that year, Helen Dance, wife of the captain of the second ship, Sulphur, cut down a tree to mark the founding of the town.
It is clear that Stirling had already selected the name Perth for the capital well before the town was proclaimed, as his proclamation of the colony, read in Fremantle on 18 June 1829, ended "given under my hand and Seal at Perth this 18th Day of June 1829. James Stirling Lieutenant Governor". The only contemporary information on the source of the name comes from Fremantle's diary entry for 12 August, which records that they "named the town Perth according to the wishes of Sir George Murray". Murray was born in Perth, Scotland, and was in 1829 Secretary of State for the Colonies and Member for Perthshire in the British House of Commons. The town was named after the Scottish Perth, in Murray's honour. Beginning in 1831, hostile encounters between the British settlers and the Noongar people – both large-scale land users, with conflicting land value systems – increased considerably as the colony grew. The hostile encounters between the two groups of people resulted in multiple events, including the execution of the Whadjuk elder Midgegooroo, the death of his son Yagan in 1833, and the Pinjarra massacre in 1834.
The relations between the Noongar people and the Europeans were strained due to these events. Because of the large number of buildings in and around Boorloo, the local Whadjuk Noongar people were slowly dispossessed of their country. They were forced to camp around prescribed areas, including the swamps and lakes north of the settlement area including Third Swamp, known to them as Boodjamooling. Boodjamooling continued to be a main campsite for the remaining Noongar people in the Perth region and was also used by travellers, itinerants, and homeless people. By the gold-rush days of the 1890s, they were joined by miners who were en route to the goldfields.
Convict era and gold rushes
Perth Town Hall
, like many colonial buildings in Perth, was built using convict labour.
In 1850, Western Australia was opened to convicts at the request of farming and business people looking for cheap labour. Queen Victoria announced the city status of Perth in 1856. Despite this proclamation, Perth was still a quiet town, described in 1870 by a Melbourne journalist as:
"...a quiet little town of some 3000 inhabitants spread out in straggling allotments down to the water's edge, intermingled with gardens and shrubberies and half rural in its aspect ... The main streets are macadamised, but the outlying ones and most of the footpaths retain their native state from the loose sand — the all pervading element of Western Australia — productive of intense glare or much dust in the summer and dissolving into slush during the rainy season."
With the discovery of gold at Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie in the late 19th century, Western Australia experienced a mining boom, and Perth's population grew from approximately 8,500 in 1881 to 61,000 in 1901.
Federation and beyond
After a referendum in 1900, Western Australia joined the Federation of Australia in 1901. It was the last of the Australian colonies to agree to join the Federation, and did so only after the other colonies had offered several concessions, including the construction of a transcontinental railway line from Port Augusta in South Australia to Kalgoorlie to link Perth with the eastern states.
In 1933, Western Australia voted in a referendum to leave the Australian Federation, with a majority of two to one in favour of secession. However, the state general election held at the same time as the referendum had voted out the incumbent "pro-independence" government, replacing it with a government that did not support the independence movement. Respecting the result of the referendum, the new government nonetheless petitioned the Imperial Parliament at Westminster. The House of Commons established a select committee to consider the issue but after 18 months of negotiations and lobbying, finally refused to consider the matter, declaring that it could not legally grant secession.
In 1962, Perth received global media attention when city residents lit their house lights and streetlights as American astronaut John Glenn passed overhead while orbiting the earth on Friendship 7. This led to it being nicknamed the "City of Light". The city repeated the act as Glenn passed overhead on the Space Shuttle in 1998.
Perth's development and relative prosperity, especially since the mid-1960s, has resulted from its role as the main service centre for the state's resource industries, which extract gold, iron ore, nickel, alumina, diamonds, mineral sands, coal, oil, and natural gas. Whilst most mineral and petroleum production takes place elsewhere in the state, the non-base services provide most of the employment and income to the people of Perth.