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Port Hacking

Port Hacking is a tide dominated, drowned valley estuary located approximately 30 kilometres south of the Sydney central business district. Much smaller than Sydney Harbour, Port Hacking has its source in the upper reaches of the Hacking River and several smaller creeks. The waterway is the northern boundary of Royal National Park.

Port Hacking and the the suburbs and localities that surround it are in the Shire of Sutherland, and as a consequence the locals refer to the whole area as 'The Shire'. Port Hacking effectively forms the southern boundary of Sydne's suburban sprawl. The southern bank is largely undeveloped land within the Royal National Park, although the small communities of Bundeena and Maianbar are found there.


Greys Point

When development occurred around the Port Hacking foreshore, the priority appears to have been the creation of as many waterfront properties as possible, no doubt for the revenue they generate. As a result, access to the natural beauty surrounding Port Hacking s north shore suburbs is restricted to tiny pockets of bushland around the creeks, and some harbourside reserves. These reserves are excellent and have good facilities, but there are not enough of them.


Gymea Bay

Working inland from the sea, the indented north bank of Port Hacking is formed by the suburbs of Cronulla, Woolooware, Burraneer, Caringbah South, Dolans Bay, Port Hacking, Lilli Pilli, Yowie Bay, Miranda, Gymea Bay and Grays Point. The southern bank is largely undeveloped land within the Royal National Park, although the small communities of Bundeena and Maianbar are found there. Warumbul and Gundamaian are other localities on the southern bank, in the Royal National Park. Cronulla and National Park Ferry Cruises operates a regular passenger ferry service that crosses Port Hacking, connecting Cronulla and its railway station to Bundeena. They also operate cruises along Port Hacking that depart from Cronulla.


Bundeena (foreground) and Port Hacking. Across the water from Bundeena is the Cronulla peninsula (top right)

Port Hacking is a popular recreational area, where many activities can be enjoyed such as swimming, fishing and boating. The estuary and bays are used for watersports such as wakeboarding and water skiing and scuba diving. The distinctive shore feature, Shiprock, sits above the only aquatic reserve in Port Hacking. It has been protected because of the unique micro environment of marine fauna and flora.


Hand stencils in a rock shelter in the Cabbage Tree basin catchment. Photo: R.J. West

Aboriginal rock art
The area we now refer to as Port Hacking was known to the Dharawal People as Djeebahn, or Deeban. That Port Hacking must have been a favourite camping ground of the Aborigines is proved by the number of rock shelters, or, as they are locally styled, gunyahs , along its shores. In 1918 the worst tragedy in terms of human life in and around Port Hacking was reported due to the collapse of one of these shelters.

Sadly, the encroachment of suburbia has seen many of them destroyed by development or vandalism, or covered over by the landscaping of gardens. As with the various Aboriginal people around Australia, the Dreaming stories told through the rock art were the way in which information was archived  and passed on through the generations. Animals feature in these stories because of the prominent place they play in the stories of creation and of their lives - the successes and failures, the reasons for things and so on, but for the coastal peoples, the Orca, or Killer Whale, assumed dominance.

Some engravings, carvings, paintings, tool-making sites and midden sites remain, however, providing a source for research, and the passing of the story by story, song and dance. Middens can also be seen at many points along the shores of the Port Hacking River, including Little Moon and Great Moon Bays, Yowie Bay, Gymea Bay, Beauty Point and Greys Point. Middens reveal much of the Aboriginal life and history around Port Hacking. Flints, a skull and bone implements have been found by archaeologists during an excavation at numerous locations, such as Yowie Point. Spear sharpening grooves are visible on the rocks surrounding creeks in the area. Many overhangs on these shores still bear the stains of smoke from Aboriginal cooking fires.

The existence of surviving Aboriginal cultural sites has been carefully recorded, resulting in an amazing catalogue of artifacts found around Port Hacking. Studies have revealed the particular importance of Warumbul (in the Royal National Park) as a gathering place where the Law would be told, and the surrounds contain clear indications of its importance in the passing down of the story  of the local people. Understandably, the most easily identifiable archaeological relics occur in the areas of the least European disturbance, in particular in what is now the Royal National Park. There are well-recorded rock art, paintings, tool making and burial sites. Some of these sites may be easily viewed.

In order to protect what is left of the evidence of Aboriginal culture on the rock faces or Port Hacking, the location of such sites is not widely broadcast. A few sites, such as those on the Jibbon Headland near Bundeena, have been signposted and have interpretive signage. If you are interested in viewing Aboriginal sites, visiting them is recommended. Should you be bushwalking and come across rock art of other occupation sites, by all means stop and look, but please leave them as you found them.

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