Words in the West

Donna MacFarlane
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Fremantle, Perth WA

When I first relocated to Perth and someone told methat my soon-to-be-born daughter would be a Sandgroper, I realised there was a thing or two I needed to learn about becoming a Perthling. 

Anyone who moves to Perth, Western Australia, is bound to come across some local words, phrases or abbreviations they are unfamiliar with, or that just seem wrong! Even if you move here from another State of Australia, ‘Perthites’ use different words to describe a whole range of things.

This basic glossary is designed to help newly-relocated Perth residents have a clue what the locals are talking about. It is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully it can help alleviate the odd moments of ‘occidental’ misunderstanding.

Perth Properties and Real Estate

Reticulation: automatic sprinkler system set up to water the garden

Split-system air conditioner: heat pump (a term common in cold climates)

Verge: nature strip

Below-ground pool: in-ground pool

Home open: open home

Duplex block: potential for two dwellings to be built on the land. If a duplex is available to buy or rent, it means the property is one of two self-contained properties located on the same block.

Triplex block: potential for three dwellings to be built

Perth Schools

Faction: a school team or sporting house

Faction carnival: an in-school competition between team colours/houses

Pre-Primary: the compulsory year of schooling between kindergarten and Year 1 (equivalent to Prep)

Perth Services and Events

Synergy: residential electricity provider

Alinta Energy: residential gas provider

The Silver Chain: one of the largest providers of community, clinical and health care services in WA.

Telethon: a registered charitable event that raises money for Western Australian children. It runs for 26 hours continuously and is broadcast live on TV. It is currently in its 46th year.

Perth Locations

The Hills: Kalamunda and neighbouring areas (note: these are only hills by Perth’s standards, where the majority of the landscapes are flat)

NOR: Short for North of the (Swan) River

SOR: Short for South of the (Swan) River

Rotto: Rottnest Island

Kal: Kalgoolie

Freo: Fremantle

Subi: Subiaco

Hillarys: generally refers to Hillarys Boat Harbour and Sorrento Shopping Quay, located around 20 kms north of Perth.

Down South: generally refers to the Margaret River region, a popular holiday destination known for its gourmet food and wines.

Over East: the Eastern States of Australia, generally Melbourne and Sydney.

Denmark: a holiday destination located around five hours drive south/south-east of Perth, (as well as a country in Europe).

The Fremantle Doctor: the welcome afternoon sea breeze that cools Perth on a hot summer’s day


WACA: Western Australian Cricket Association. The WACA generally refers to the ground itself, located in Perth.

Subi: Subiaco Oval, where the Fremantle Dockers and the West Coast Eagles play their home games in the Australian Football League.

Bounce down: ‘Ball up’ in Australian Rules Football

Fairest and best: Best and fairest.

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Other words in the West:Quokka

Quokka: a small, short-tailed wallaby found mostly on Rottnest Island. The Quokka is also the name of Perth’s buy and sell classifieds newspaper, which is published weekly.

WA Day: Formerly known as Foundation Day and celebrated with a public holiday on the first Monday in June to commemorate the founding of the Swan River Colony in 1829. The Queen's Birthday Holiday, which is celebrated in most other states at this time, is held in September or October instead in WA. 

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SundownerSundowner: Friday night drinks after work

FIFO: Fly-In-Fly-Out, refers to employees who fly in to work in a remote location and then fly home on their days/weeks off.

This list will seem obvious to anyone who has spent their whole life in the West. But if you’re a new arrival, it can take time to settle in and feel at home. If there’s anything you don’t understand, or you need help finding your feet, it pays to ask someone who can help.

Find out more about relocating to Perth.  

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