On a WA Day like no other, the COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t stop West Australians celebrating the “greatest place to be”.
While social distancing put the brakes on usual crowd numbers, people across the State went online or headed to their local parks and beaches to observe the occasion.
South Perth foreshore was bustling with families enjoying the morning’s clear skies, while cyclist groups took over a quieter CBD with workers away from the office amid the public holiday.
Held on the first Monday in June each year, the day was previously celebrated as Foundation Day until 2012 when it was renamed WA Day to recognise Indigenous Australians as the first people.
The West Australian’s live podcast presenter Jenna Clarke kicked off the day’s celebrations, hosting former foreign minister Julie Bishop co-hosting the show from Yagan Square.
The former Federal member for Curtin said there was nowhere else she would rather be amid a global pandemic.
“During lockdown we’ve all had our lives turned upside down,” Ms Bishop said.
“We’re living in these strange times. For some people it has been a real challenge. We’re a great nation, we’re a great State and what a wonderful time to celebrate all that we have.
“If you were ill would there be anywhere else you would rather be than here in Perth?
“Being able to assess our health care system, with the people the level of care, the talented and compassionate people on the front line, also the standard of care in our hospitals – I’ve been overwhelmed by it.
“I have a look around the world and think ‘imagine if you had been caught up somewhere else’.”
The sentiment was echoed by Premier Mark McGowan, who said it was time to embrace WA’s uniqueness and thanked West Australians for staying united.
“We live in a great State and we’ve got lots to celebrate,” Mr McGowan said.
WA is gearing up to significantly ease restrictions on Friday at midnight when phase three of the State’s roadmap to recovery commences.
Speaking to media in Perth’s iconic Swan Valley, Mr McGowan and Tourism Minister Paul Papalia encouraged West Australians to holiday in their own backyard and to support small businesses that had been forced into hibernation during restrictions.
The intrastate travel push comes after The West Australian revealed nine in 10 sandgropers supported Mr McGowan’s decision to keep WA closed to the rest of the nation.
“Western Australia is going further in our relaxation of the laws than any other State in Australia by a long way,” Mr McGowan said.
“At this point in time, our economy will get up and running far quicker than any other part of the country.
“We’ve got this border arrangement in place and if that means Western Australia can better open up our economy, well that’s an added benefit.”
Although not born a West Australian, Mr McGowan has lived in the State for more than 30 years and said he won’t live anywhere else.
“I’m very angry with my mother and father, I tell them that everyday,” he jokingly told media.
“About half our state was born somewhere else but we’re all proud Western Australians. For those of us who came here from somewhere else, you really do enjoy the comparisons because… we know how good our state is compared to the other states or other parts of the world.”
“Western Australia has given me everything, a wonderful family, a great life, a great career, I couldn’t ask for more. I know I’m not alone in that. Many West Australians feel the same way,” he said.
Among those making the most of the mild weather on Perth’s first day of winter and the Indigenous Makuru season were the Houthuyson brothers of Mosman Park brothers Maxi, 3, and Oskar, 6.
Kayaking on Matilda Bay, the boys’ mother Elyn said isolation had encouraged her family to celebrate locally.
“We would usually stay home but with isolation, I’ve taken them to the river and beach often,” SHE SAID.
“We’re so lucky we live in WA. Everyone has been respectful and social distanced properly.”
Despite usually travelling abroad for their annual holiday, Ms Houthuyson said her family were instead making plans to visit Yallingup, Margaret River and Rottnest this year.
Jess Cleverly, who travelled from Perth to Albany to spend the weekend with family, said she believed she lived in the “luckiest place in the world”.
“I think it is wise to wait for the State borders to open given the state of Victoria and NSW,” Ms Cleverly said.
“We have been lucky because we are isolated and I think it is wise to hold out a little bit longer. It will be worth the wait when they do open.”
The Leofa family, of Kalgoorlie-Boulder — Annalisa, her husband Shemron and daughter Viarni — headed 400km south for the long weekend to visit the pristine coastlines of Esperance. It was their first travel in two months.
“We booked as soon as Esperance opened,” Mrs Leofa said.
“We stayed at an Airbnb but my sister-in-law camped out at the Duke of Orleans Bay Caravan Park, so we went out there for the day.
“We hadn’t been to Esperance for a while and we’re planning on coming back.”
Kalgoorlie-Boulder couple Carly and Ryan Price also made the trip south with their three children, just managing to secure a cabin at the Esperance Chalet Village before they were fully booked.
During their three-day stay, they visited Cape Le Grand National Park, Bandy Creek and spent an afternoon at Lucky Bay Brewing’s new premises.
In the Mid West, Geraldton couple Chris and Monica Sullivan enjoyed a walk along the foreshore while their three-year-old daughter Azalea rode her scooter.
Arts Minister David Templeman urged people to use WA Day as an opportunity to embrace their local industries, including the creative fields that had been hard hit by the restrictions.
“I think it’s fantastic just to reflect on the beautiful part of the world we live in and we’re all so grateful,” he said.
SOTA Festival, the annual live music concert that promotes local artists on WA Day, switched to an online stream through music mecca Freo.
Social this year. Despite the shake-up, anyone in the State got front-row seats to WA’s hottest acts including Drapht, San Cisco, Methyl Ethel, Abbe May, Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse, Carla Geneve and Psychedelic Porn Crumpets.
Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse used the platform to share a suite of unique Noongar language songs.
A proud Indigenous singer and songwriter, Williams said less than 400 people spoke Noongar and “there needs to be more”.
“I have this made idea that if everyone who lives on this country learnt #fivewords of the languages of the land in which we are living, then our languages may not be completely saved but they would be kept safe until they are ready to awaken again,” she said.