Broadway Arboretum

Protecting and enhancing Bassendean's qualities

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History and heritage to the early 1990's

The area now known as Broadway Arboretum was once part of a large wetland system that included an area identified as Nyibra Swamp by Aboriginals or Cummings Lake by the Geological Survey department of the Western Australian Government. 

Figures 1 and 2 below are a 1948 aerial photograph of the area around Broadway Arboretum that has been overlaid with information for ease of reference. Aerial photography and Streetsmart overlay reproduced with permission of the Western Australian Land Information Authority, 2009 (1)

Figure 1: 1948 Aerial Photo with wetland boundaries in blue (for reference). Nyibra Swamp is the large wetland just above the middle of the photo. Notice the parallel lines running north-south in Nyibra Swamp - these are probably market gardens. It was common practice to grow vegetables in wetlands as the water receded, avoiding the need for irrigation.

Click on Figure 1 to obtain full resolution picture of the 1948 aerial without wetland boundaries.

Figure 2: 1948 Aerial photo with wetland boundaries and Streetsmart Directory overlaid. The wetland boundaries are based on maximum waterlevels that appear in 1953 aerial photography. Broadway Arboretum is located between Somerton and Scadden Streets.

Nyibra Swamp was typically between 0.9 to 1.2m deep during winter and dry during summer. 

The Department of Indigenous Affairs records Nyibra Swamp as a hunting site for Aboriginal people.  Nyibra Swamp was used by Aboriginal people from Bayswater and Bassendean areas as a turtle and gilgie fishing area from the 1920s until recent times.

Eric McCrum, a renowned naturalist in Perth, grew up in Bassendean and remembers Nyibra Swamp being rich in fauna including waterbirds, aquatic fauna and edible crustaceans.

Other local people recall canoeing in Nyibra Swamp.

Aerial photography from 1953 and 1963 shows Nyibra Swamp still largely intact.

Figure 3 shows the pattern of subdivision and houses built in 1953 and 1963 based on aerial photography.

Figure 3: Map showing houses evident in aerial photos in 1953 and 1963. One house built after 1963 appears in the (undated) map (near the second R in Recreation).

Nyibra Swamp was filled with waste sand and “slag” from the Hadwa Iron Foundry which operated through to around 1980.  The Hadwa Foundry was located adjacent to the Railway line between Scadden St and Collier Road (Refer Figure 2 for these roads). The Foundry made cast iron products by making a wood model of the desired product (e.g. wheels for railway carriages), putting it into a box and packing sand with a high clay content around the model ensuring there were holes for the escape of air and entry of molten iron, and after removing the wooden mould poured in the molten iron. Often the model and sand would be in two halves joined before pouring the molten iron.  The sand, and bits of iron from the small diameter holes (known as slag) were taken by truck and dumped at a range of sites in Bassendean, including Nyibra Swamp.

It is believed that between 1963 and 1993 the entire swamp was filled, but aerial photography has not been sourced to verify this. 

At least two houses were built on what is now the Broadway Arboretum (See Figure 3, one house near the second R in recreation, and one on the north east corner where there is now a Morton Bay Fig. The more centrally located house had a driveway of about 60m long which passed the large Morton Bay Fig in the middle of the reserve adjacent to Broadway.

In 1988 the Town of Bassendean’s Town Planning Scheme No. 3 was amended by relocating the reserve for Recreation eastward (see Photo Gallery for original location) to where Broadway Arboretum is now, making it possible to convert the area from its previous Industrial and Residential zoning to public open space.

For further information on the history since 1998 see History since 1988.

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