Sydney's Aboriginal Heritage
Iron Cove, near King George V Park: Near the waters of Iron Cove are Aboriginal engraving, which are rare in this area due to the scarcity of suitable rock. Some of these have been obliterated by more recent carvings placed there in colonial times. These appear to have Masonic connections, though suggestions have been made that they may have been placed their in pre-colonial times by Spanish sailors. A shell midden is nearby.
Linley Point: A number of weathered carvings have been engraved onto flat rocks on the west side of the point. There are a number of shelters and middens nearby.
Longueville Park, Longueville: Engravings of a fish and an emu are to be found on the left hand side of the park near the waterfront at the end of Stuart Street. The engravings, which have been touched up and painted in recent times, are situated on a flat rock face above the water and have a timber barrier erected around them. The emu motif is thought to have been a totemic figure to the Dharug clan inhabiting this area. It occurs only in a small band along the foreshore on the northern side of the harbour and in the Lane Cove and Parramatta River Catchment areas, and then disappears until re-emerging in Ku-Ring-Gai National Park.
Glades Bay Native Gardens, Gladesville: A campsite of the Cammeraigal Aborigines, it contains 11 carvings, the easiest to identify being two jumping kangaroos which are among the best preserved of the few remaining examples of Aboriginal rock art east of the Sydney central business district. Axe grinding grooves can be found on rocks beside a nearby creek. Evidence of Aboriginal occupation can also be found at Looking Glass Bay, Looking Glass Point, and Bill Mitchell Park.
WARNING: These sites contain irreplaceable examples of the art of the indigenous peoples of the Sydney region. The engraving and rock paintings found at these sites are a reminder of a people who once lived in the Sydney region and as such are valuable part of their history and the history of Sydney that will be lost forever if it not treated with respect. Please do not deface or add to the art, as it is part of our heritage. All such sites protected by law, and to deface, modify or remove them in part or in whole is a criminal offence.
It is believed that over 6,000 drawings, most of which are carved into sandstone rock faces, once existed throughout what is now the Sydney metropolitan area, but many have been destroyed, bulldozed or blasted out of existence to make way for farms, bridges and later, suburbs. In most cases, those clearing the land or responsible for it did not know about the art's existence, nor did they have any inkling as to its value as either the last remaining evidence of a new vanished culture, its spiritual and religious importance to the survivors of that culture or as a part of Sydney's heritage. As there has been no one to maintain them for over 2 centuries, many of the examples of rock art which have managed to escape the onslaught of the bulldozer and pick axe have suffered the onslaught of wind, sand and sea erosion, being walked on, driven on and vandalised.
To protect what is left, the Government has wisely brought all Aboriginal sites in New South Wales under the protection the National Parks & Wildlife Act 1974. Under the act, it is illegal to disturb, damage, deface or destroy any relic, a relic being defined as any deposit, object or material evidence relating to indigenous & non European habitation of New South Wales (not being handicraft made for sale). By definition, this includes middens, habitation sites, rock carvings, rock paintings, scarred trees, stencils, stone arrangements, stone implements and tools. Though they have been given legislative protection, there is little known about the best way to manage Aboriginal sites. To western eyes, the ideal would be to turn the maintenance of sites over to the Aboriginal people. This sounds good in theory, however, under Aboriginal law, only select people are permitted to maintain the art at these sites. Where those select people cannot be found, or if there are no survivors from a particular tribe, no one can touch the art created by and for that tribe. Even so, the art is considered sacred to the Aborigines, so there is reluctance among the Aboriginal communities to maintain the art if it is to turned into something to make money from by showing it to tourists.
Consequently, the authorities have adopted a policy of keeping the public in the dark about the location of much of Sydney's Aboriginal sites. The thinking behind it seems to be "what the people don't know about the people can't damage". As the damage caused in the past has occurred mainly as a result of ignorance, some would argue that education of the public is a better way to deal with the problem than maintaining their ignorance. When the public do come across it, and can be vandalised, even unintentionally, as it has no relevance, hence no value to them.
Engravings site, Grotto Point, Balgowlah
Below are links to a few of the thousands of sites in and around Sydney which have been recorded as containing evidence of occupation by the indigenous people of the Sydney region. In the main, those listed offer easy access to visitors, are often sign posted and/or contain explanations as to what they represent.
The list includes sites which have been obliterated through the ravages of time, road and building construction etc. Though no evidence of their existence can be seen today, they are recorded here as they represent the types of sites which existed in their respective locations. For the same reason, some sites which are on private or government property have been listed, however there is no access to these sites. Attempts should not be made to view them other than from the roadside as they are on private property which, if entered without permission, is trespassing. Please respect the privacy of the owners of the properties.