Fishing the coastal and inland waterways has been a key means by which people in NSW have historically interacted with the environment. Direct evidence of Aboriginal people’s fishing activities is to be seen in the thousands of midden deposits that are scattered along the coastline, rivers and lakes. These are places where fish and shellfish were eaten and their remains disposed of by Aboriginal people who often returned to the same favoured locations over many generations.
The culture of fishing remains strong among present day Aboriginal people many of whom fish from and picnic and camp in the same locations used by their forebears. For Aboriginal people fishing tends to be regarded not as a recreational or a subsistence activity, but as an activity that is integral to their culture.
Several of the village settlements now incorporated in national parks along the coastline attest to an enthusiasm for fishing among the non-Aboriginal people from the early and mid-twentieth century. Many of the small houses and huts built by recreational and commercial fishing people have survived and are conserved within the parks. Recreational fishing was also a key activity at the camping grounds in national parks and still continue to draw campers to these areas.
Many of the migrants arriving in NSW since the 1940s (e.g. Greeks and Italians) and since the 1970s (e.g. Vietnamese) come from countries with long fishing traditions. Studies have shown that fishing has provided many such people with their first means of developing an understanding of, and attachment to, the Australian landscape.
Aboriginal Women’s Fishing in NSW: Historical Resources
Fishing has been, and continues to be, of particular significance to Aboriginal people across New South Wales. Fishing can provide people with food, a source of income, or an opportunity to pass on knowledge to younger generations. It can be culturally and spiritually significant, and provides a means to be on Country.
Many accounts of Aboriginal fishing in NSW have focussed on the activities of men. However, in recognition of the important role Aboriginal women have always played as fishers in many communities past and present, OEH has produced two publications which highlight Aboriginal historical and contemporary fishing practices in NSW, with a particular focus on Aboriginal women’s fishing.
Page last updated: 10 June 2011