Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park

Aboriginal heritage

Aboriginal associations with the park area
Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park covers part of the Guringai people's traditional lands. Before the colonisation of Australia in 1788, this nation of Aboriginal people lived from Broken Bay in the north to Sydney Harbour in the south. Two clans of the Guringai occupied the area which is now the national park: the Garrigal people, who lived around West Head, and the Terramerragal, who lived in the Turramurra area.

Within six weeks of the arrival of the British First Fleet in Sydney, Governor Phillip went exploring around Broken Bay. He camped at Resolute Beach, and commented on the friendliness of the Aboriginal people. However, when he returned a year later, all except those too sick with smallpox fled from him. By 1790, over half of the Guringai nation had been wiped out by smallpox. By the 1840s, most of the Aboriginal people had disappeared from Pittwater and their traditional lands had been taken over by white settlers.

Today, Aboriginal people live close to Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, and more widely in the Sydney community. The national park has great cultural and spiritual importance for them - both in its general landscape, and in the many Aboriginal sites found in the park. Local park staff work in partnership with Aboriginal people, protecting and managing the park's Aboriginal heritage.

Aboriginal sites in the park

More than 800 Aboriginal sites have been recorded in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. They include rock engravings, burial sites, axe grinding grooves and places that show evidence of Aboriginal occupation. For many visitors, these sites and other relics are the most visible reminders of the area's rich, living Aboriginal culture. However, they're part of a much bigger story of Aboriginal heritage: an ongoing, growing story which includes art, literature, history and immense knowledge of the natural world.

Rock engravings are found throughout the park. They're most common on the wide, smooth sandstone outcrops along the ridges, but you'll also see them in gullies, along shorelines and even in caves. They most often show people and animals, including wallabies, fish, reptiles and birds. You might also see whales, sharks, boomerangs, spears and shields - as well as the semi-human figures of gods and spirits.

Cave drawings, paintings and stencils can be found in caves and under rock shelters. You might see figures drawn, painted or stencilled on the rock in charcoal or ochre. Often, the figures will be painted on top of each other. The stencils are usually of adult hands, but can also be of children's hands and feet, boomerangs and stone axes.

Axe grinding grooves are generally found on sandstone outcrops, along creek lines and around waterfalls and rock pools. There will often be only one or two grooves, but in some places dozens have been found together. The grooves show where stone axe blades were ground and sharpened against the sandstone.

Middens, and shelters with occupation deposits, are common in the park. They're often found near caves and rock shelters, and along the waterways where people fished and collected shellfish. The deposits contain mostly shells, but there may also be tools and the bones of fish, mammals and birds. Middens can sometimes be human burial sites.