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Aboriginal carving

Aboriginal sites in this area:

There are a great many recorded Aboriginal sites in the area proposed for Gai-mariagal Aboriginal-owned National Park.

These sites, together with the oral evidence from Aboriginal people indicate a high level of significance in the landscape of this area.

Click here to read about
Aboriginal heritage sites in the Sydney Region

written by Val Attenborough, 2012

Wheeler Creek


Carving 2

Aboriginal Values:

Archeological examination of engraving sites indicate that Aboriginal people have lived in the area proposed for Gai-mariagal Aboriginal-owned National Park and nearby for more than 25000 years . They were and are saltwater people some of whom were forced inland over 6000years ago when the rising seas flooded the plains, river estuaries and some of the river valleys such as the ones that became Broken Bay and Sydney Harbour. The saltwater people, who lived amongst the estuaries of the rivers east of the area proposed for the National Park, had their ceremonial grounds in these higher lands behind which, from their vantage point, the sun set at night.

Of the many cultural sites of significance within the proposed Park area, the most significant is perhaps Wheeler Creek Valley, where a higher ridge links two high points - to the north west, Eel ridge and another slightly north north west, at Emu ridge which are women's places. The rebirthing site to the north west of Eel ridge is in fact a women's site and possibly the only known rebirthing site that is women's. Dennis Foley advises that part of the significance of the area is that this is the ONLY Aboriginal site in Australia (to his knowledge) where the women's area is closer to the heavens than is the men's, but this is matrilineal country. (email from Dennis Foley, 10/06/2014)

The sheltered rainforest area in the lower part of the valley would have been used in the context of the whole valley and connected terrain. Within the Wheeler Creek Valley and in nearby areas are a series of sites that would have formed a circuit visited for various purposes in the life of an Aboriginal person.

In the Wheeler Creek Valley there are caves and overhangs and carvings, all of which have significance for Aboriginal people through to contemporary times.

Protests about the Electricity Company erecting a power pole in the middle of some very important engravings prompted an article in The Sydney Morning Herald on January 27th, 1976. The article reported that when Mr Jackson Jacobs (a lecturer on Aboriginal art and culture at the Australian Museum) saw the carvings of the Wheeler Creek Valley, he said "This is a very powerful place. It was a sub-initiation site where the magic men congregated." Mr Jacobs was referring to carvings on both the North and the South sides of the valley, the men's sacred cave and the amphitheatre between them in which a particularly important rock stands.

Mr Jacobs located a very unusual rock and traced out a great semi-circle from it suggesting it could have been a corroboree ground. (In 1899 prior to mapping out the roads for suburban Sydney, W.D.Campbell, a surveyor, hand drew and recorded many of the engravings he found. He also commented on how the Wheeler Creek Valley formed a natural amphitheatre.) Another short walk and Mr Jacobs located a heap of shells or midden.

Men more often used walking tracks along ridgelines whilst those along creek lines tended to be used more by women. One such track linked Wheeler Creek to South Creek and beyond. In her 1974 Honours degree thesis, Dr Annie Ross reported (from a verbal report given to her by the brother of Dennis Foley's mother) that there was once a trail that led to a sacred men's site at Oxford Falls, used as a weapons and cutting site. Recently a Pig and Poultry Farm was located there and even more recently, a school.

The other trail from Wheeler Creek went down the side of South Creek before meeting up with the main trail that led to the Bora Rings at Duffy's Forest and the women's sites located there and at Terrey Hills. (refer the thesis of Dr. Annie Ross, Honours degree, Sydney Uni around 1974.)

This track continued to Coal and Candle and across to the canoe spot (Whale engravings) to go north. Another trail from Duffy's Forest led both east and west to other major sites. (email from Dennis Foley, July, 2002) More information about these trails can be found in Dreamtime Superhighway: Sydney Basin Rock Art and Prehistoric Information ...By Jo McDonald

Dennis Foley notes that it is not just the ridge tops and pictograph sites that are significant. The entire area is connected with seasonal ceremonial sites that have many uses and is crisscrossed by streams, waterfalls and waterholes that are of extreme importance.

As an example, all hanging swamps are accordingly sacred for in times of drought these were tapped for water during ceremony and subsequently used in body painting and processes of scarification.

Hanging Swamp

Aboriginal men fishing in Narrabeen Lagooon in 1905
Photo: courtesy State Library of NSW

How Aboriginal people lived and traded in this area:

There is an article called "Narrabeen Lagoon a brief history" in a brochure produced by the Coastal Environment Centre (CEC) in Pittwater.

This article contains a brief description of how Aboriginal people lived and traded in this area for thousands of years.

Read the CEC brochure

Waterfall 2

Waterhole at Oxford Falls


Rock overhangs

Alliance for Gai-mariagal National Park
P.O. Box 845, Narrabeen, NSW, 2101, Australia


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