Premier Colin Barnett made the announcement at the 2014 WA Day Awards. He said the area held great historical and cultural significance and the name Yagan was chosen to reflect this.
“Yagan’s contribution in Western Australia’s history is significant and he remains a very influential figure within the Aboriginal community,” Mr Barnett said.
“In the early 1800s, Yagan played an important role in attempting to bring together Aboriginal leaders and European settlers. He was a formidable warrior and leader greatly admired by his own people.”
Yagan was regularly reported in the Perth Gazette between 1831 and 1833 as an imposing figure who roamed the settlement wearing a soldiers coat under his kangaroo cloak to hide his tribal markings. He gained notoriety in separate incidents in 1831 and 1832 when he speared and killed two white settlers. Declared an outlaw with a 20 pound bounty placed on his head, Yagan was killed by a settler on the banks of the Derbarl Yerrigan (or the Swan River) in July 1833.
His body was decapitated and his head was smoked for preservation before being provided to the Liverpool Museum in England. It was only in 1997 that Yagan’s head was repatriated to WA.
The Premier said the new Yagan Square, situated within the arms of the Horseshoe Bridge, would be an inviting and lively meeting space for people to connect and celebrate Western Australian culture and history. The square will be 1.1ha, twice the size of Forrest Place and 25 per cent bigger than Melbourne’s Federation Square.
“We have so many places and monuments to our European leaders like the Duke of Wellington, Lord Forrest, Sir Charles Fremantle, Queen Victoria and Governor Stirling, not one named after an Aboriginal person in the city. I am delighted we can name this important place after a figure like Yagan,” he said.
“We also believe that Yagan’s story reminds us all of the importance of ongoing reconciliation. I hope future generations will come to Yagan Square, read the information, see the artwork and landscaping, and remember the struggles and hardship of our early settlement.”
Planning Minister John Day said Yagan Square would function as one of the city’s primary community and celebration places and is expected to be open in late 2016.
“It will see the return of fresh food markets to the CBD, an Australian native garden on the rooftop of the rail tunnel into Perth Station, a children’s play space and a vibrant mix of shops, cafes and public amenities,” Mr Day said.
“Planning for the square is well under way. Since unveiling plans for the space in late 2013, the MRA has been working with a number of landscape architects and planning consultants to finalise the design of Yagan Square.
“At more than one hectare in size, Yagan Square will be an important transit area for thousands of city workers, residents and tourists each day as they connect with public transport and move between the city and Northbridge.”