Culture and heritage

The Rock Nature Reserve (Kengal)

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Why is it an Aboriginal Place?

Kengal Aboriginal Place is a Dreaming place, a lookout, and a ceremonial site for the Wiradjuri Aboriginal people and descendents.

Why is it important to Aboriginal People?

The Rock Hill was traditionally known as 'Yerong', meaning the place of a male initiation site. As such, it was taboo for women and uninitiated males to enter the area, therefore, keeping knowledge of the place a secret. Ossie Ingram, a Wiradjuri Elder, explains, 'Knowledge about the Rock Hill is not everyday knowledge – it has a spiritual meaning. It is what we are. [It is a] secret knowledge…which relates to the making of men…a place of initiation.' Kengal Aboriginal Place contains the Rock Hill or 'Kengal' (meaning 'sloping hill'), a name given to an early explorer of the region, Charles Sturt, by two Wiradjuri guides from Wantabadgery.

Kengal was created by Baiame (Biamai), the creator in Wiradjuri culture and traditional law. According to local oral histories, Biamai was sent to the Wiradjuri to teach the people how to make fire and spears. Oral histories say that when settlers arrived in the area, they said something which made Biamai (the creator) go away. Baiame left his male and female dingo companions who still today lay in wait for Baiame's return, forming the Rock Hill-Kengal in the physical landscape.

Kengal remained an important place for Aboriginal people throughout the post-1788 era, despite the impacts to the local Wiradjuri people, culture, language and population of a smallpox outbreak inadvertently brought by Eora traders in the 1790s and loss of resources due to colonial settler land claims. Wiradjuri cultural visits to Kengal continued up until the 1950s. In 1962, the area was gazetted as a nature reserve which has since helped to protect the natural values of the area.

Today, the settlements surrounding the Rock Nature Reserve-Kengal Aboriginal Place have seen a drastic increase in Aboriginal populations, which in turn has brought about an increasing appreciation and respect for the site. It continues to be a place which is often visited by local Aboriginal people to maintain and re-establish links to land and culture. Jim Ingram and David Tout explain the importance of Kengal to contemporary Aboriginal people stating, 'The Rock Hill... tells and reminds the Wiradjuri who they are, what to do and why they need to follow the Law. Many of the descendants of Wiradjuri people today forget where they come from. They don't understand what it means to be Wiradjuri.'

What's on the ground?

The Yerong Walking Trail starts at the western base of the Rock Hill and winds up to the top of the outcrop. A scar tree used to make a large shield or coolamon can be found within the boundaries of the Nature Reserve while another scar tree and two artefact scatters can be found within adjacent properties. Beyond this area there are recorded campsites, fire hearths, ochre quarries and stone arrangements.

Nature of the environment

The Rock Hill or Kengal within the Rock Nature Reserve-Kengal Aboriginal Place is a large eroding outcrop of sedimentary rock and is a prominent physical feature in the Western Plains region of NSW. The area is home to Open Box and Cypress Pine Woodland as well as several plant species including the vulnerable woolly ragwort. Many plant and animal species found at Kengal today were used for traditional Wiradjuri practices and were culturally significant.

What's the land used for?

Falling within a Nature Reserve, the area is used for conservation purposes and is open for public recreational activities that do not harm the natural or heritage values of the area. These activities include walking, rock climbing, and abseiling.

Land status

Kengal Aboriginal Place is wholly within The Rock Nature Reserve and is managed by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Further information

Kabaila, Peter 1998, 'The Rock', pp. 78-85, in Wiradjuri Places: The Macquarie River basin and some places revisited,: Black Mountain Press, Australian Capital Territory.

National Parks and Wildlife Service, The Rock Nature Reserve, , Office of Environment and Heritage, Sydney 

Page last updated: 21 May 2013