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White City

White City, also known as "Cooee City or Ugly Land" [44] established in the gardens behind the Supreme Court at the time of World War I, was a popular place of amusement, a place where charities provided entertainment to raise funds. Complaints about noise and the cost and time involved in constructing and demolishing structures on a regular basis, saw the ground moved in 1922 to a more permanent area bounded by Bazaar Terrace and William Street.

White City was run by different charity bodies and the Ugly Men’s Association was a frequent event administrator. There was a real carnival atmosphere and amusements included wheels and swings, games of chance, boxing, log chopping, bands, canned music and dancing. The venue was popular with Perth’s Indigenous people as well as the European population. However, the Chief Protector of Aborigines, AO Neville, did not like the fact "that young black men were beating white men in boxing contests on the doorstep of the city" and that they were being watched by black women. [45]

The 1927 Prohibited Area declaration compelling those Indigenous people not on "lawful business" to leave the city, gave Neville the excuse he needed to get Aborigines out of White City. In writing to the Police Commissioner, Neville stated that:

"Decent girls do not visit White City. There are a certain number of them who go there mainly for the purpose of inveigling some white man to accompany them somewhere else. … It is my desire that neither half-castes nor aboriginals be permitted to frequent the White City on any pretext what so ever. It is simply debasing the natives, and the contests lower the status of whites in their eyes." [46]

It was not only AO Neville who did not appreciate White City but an ongoing campaign by the West Australian, backed by groups including the Council of Churches, the National Council of Women and the Women’s Service Guilds saw White City closed in 1929. It was seen as a blot on the landscape, "a gambling blot on the whole State", "a magnet for larrikins and loafers" and "a terrible menace to the youth of our city". Raffles in an article entitled "White City: Why it Must Go" complained that White City:

"Contains a large open air dance floor on which youths, with their hats on their heads, perform intricate and sometimes immodest steps with young women whom, probably, they have never seen before." [47]

The Toboggan at White City, 1920s. Battye Library [212906P]

The newly established Town Planning Commission called for its demolition so that beauty and healthfulness would replace squalor and the indulgence of vicious instincts.

The toboggan was a popular feature of White City, riders sliding to the bottom in cars from some 350 feet up.

Page last updated: Tuesday 23 November 2010