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Naming Davilak

Aboriginal ‘devils’

Descendents of the Manning family told the story that the name Davilak came from local Aboriginal people’s fear of the ‘devil’ living in the lake on their land, and that their pronunciation of ‘devil’s lake’ was the source of the name. 

The Manning family is the only source for this information, but the use of the word ‘debbil-debbil’ in place of ‘devil’ in some retellings of this story give it some weight, as there are Nyungar recordings of the use of this word to mean a little devil creature who steals children.  

It is certainly likely that Charles Manning and his family and staff would have encountered Aboriginal people of what was sometimes called the ‘Fremantle-Mandurah tribe’ during their early years in the Cockburn district.

But the prevalence of this story, being told and retold with a certain
Cockburn Sound Locations at Manning Lake c1895 [picture]
colonial glee in newspapers and other documents, means it should be viewed with skepticism. The Mannings clearly enjoyed the exotic, dangerous nature of owning a lake that ‘scared the natives’, and the story made for a concise soundbite for those who asked about their estate’s origins.

Early settler names

There is a more likely explanation: in 1868 Charles Manning stated that Cockburn Sound Location 3 was ‘known as Davy’s Swamp’. Other sources have the lake as ‘Davies Lake’, and the land had the Davey name associated with it long after the death of J.W. Davey in 1852.

On the balance it seems far more likely that Davey’s Lake became shortened to Davilak by locals or by the staff that the Mannings kept on at their Cockburn property year-round in later decades, or even by the Aboriginal inhabitants who were disposessed by Charles Manning's construction of Davilak. 

It is also worth noting that the story about ‘Devil’s Lake’ was never told publicly before the 1930s, two or three generations after Charles put down roots in a barely-settled colony, whereas Davy’s Swamp was a known name soon after he purchased the land.


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City of Cockburn
Whadjuk Boodja
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Western Australia, 6965

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Cockburn Nyungar moort Beeliar boodja-k kaadadjiny. Koora, yeyi, benang baalap nidja boodja-k kaaradjiny.
Ngalak kaditj boodjar kep wer kaadidjiny kalyakool yoodaniny, wer koora wer yeyi ngalak Birdiya koota-djinanginy.

City of Cockburn acknowledges the Nyungar people of Beeliar boodja. Long ago, now and in the future they care for country.
We acknowledge a continuing connection to land, waters and culture and pay our respects to the Elders, past, present and emerging.