Banner Credit: Shirley Bynder and Manfred Corunna on their way to a Coolbaroo Club dance, 1950s.  (Photo courtesy of Mandy Corunna. Shirley Corunna’s Private Collection)

Many storytellers shared fond memories of Coolbaroo Club dances held in various halls in and around East Perth from 1947 until the late 1950s.  

The Coolbaroo Club was started in 1947 by a group of Yamatji and Noongar activists as a social club where Aboriginal people could meet and dance on a Friday night. At the time, Aboriginal people were not allowed to enter central Perth at night, where most dances and dance halls were located.    The name ‘coolbaroo’ was the Yamatji word for magpie and for some it symbolised the coming together of black and white. 

Coolbaroo Dances were held in the late 1940s and 1950s at different places around Perth and East Perth including the Braille Hall on Newcastle Street, the Manchester Unity Hall at 267-9 William Street and the Aboriginal Advancement Council at 201 Beaufort Street.  When the Prohibited Area was abolished after 1954, the Coolbaroo Club also held dances in the city including at the Perth Town Hall.  Coolbaroo dances were also held in some country areas, and as Ron Gidgup Snr recalls, a teenage offshoot of the Coolbaroo Club also took place in Bassendean. 

While the Coolbaroo Club came to an end in 1960, the Aboriginal Advancement Council continued to hold dances at their headquarters at 201 Beaufort Street well into the 1960s and ‘70s.  The regular Friday night dances were the highlight of the week for many Aboriginal families. 


Roma Loo

Ron Gidgup Snr

Marie Pryor and Shirley Harris



Westralian Aborigine (1956)

Young people at the Coolbaroo Club, February 1957. (Photo courtesy of Mandy Corunna. Shirley Corunna’s Private Collection)


Our Patch by Mandy Corunna (City of Vincent 2014)