Culture and heritage

Aboriginal heritage

Aboriginal 'Living Places'

The Aboriginal 'Living Places' project was conducted between 2002 and 2005 with a view to recording places in NSW where Aboriginal people have settled since 1788 and to address the imbalance between the recording of Aboriginal sites before 1788 and the recording of Aboriginal settlements after European colonisation of Australia.

The post-1788 Aboriginal settlements presented here are all located in north-eastern NSW (see map). Such settlements have strong attachments and associated memories for Aboriginal people in the area, and often for Aboriginal communities in other parts of NSW.These places are a valuable part of the state's heritage, and include:

  • former Aboriginal reserves
  • fringe camps
  • pastoral station camps
  • town dwellings
  • seasonal work camps
  • holiday camps.

The project was conducted over several stages. The first stage was the collection of documentary historical information which identified over 800 Aboriginal settlements across NSW. In the second stage, Archaeologist Katrina Stankowski conducted field recording of selected settlements in north-eastern NSW and Consultant Megan Goulding and Anthropologist Joanne MacLean worked with Aboriginal communities to determine the Aboriginal values of these places. The ‘social significance assessment’ process involved consultation with Aboriginal communities and provided an opportunity for Aboriginal people to talk about these places (through stories, recollections and memories) and talk about why they are important.

This was a joint project between what was at the time the Department of Environment and Conservation and the NSW Heritage Office (now OEH). The information this project collects will be used to place sites on the OEH Historic Heritage Information System (HHIMS), as well as on the OEH Aboriginal Heritage Information System (AHIMS).

Some general aspects of the historical information collected about each place is available for people to view for the purpose of research only. Access to this information is restricted.

People and places

On this site, people from Aboriginal communities remember places and the events that shaped them. Please note that some of the photographs on these pages contain images of people who are now deceased.

Living on the frontier

People from the Bundjalung community (see Jali Land Council area on the map) remember their ancestors who lived in the Ballina region in the mid to late 1800s at the time of early European settlement, when there were many violent exchanges.

Living on Cabbage Tree Island

People from the Bundjalung community (see Jali Land Council area on the map) recall their relatives' stories of, or remember themselves, living self-sufficiently on Cabbage Tree Island on the Richmond River from the late 1800s, before and after the area became an Aboriginal station. They also share their memories of fishing and socialising at nearby Boundary Creek from the 1930s to the present day.

Living along Coffs Creek

People from the Gumbayngirr community (see Coffs Harbour Land Council area on the map) remember living on the fringes of Coffs Harbour in the 1930s and 1940s in semi-permanent camps that often provided places of sanctuary away from the government-managed Aboriginal reserves.

Living in State housing

People from the Gumbayngirr community (see Coffs Harbour Land Council area on the map) remember being forced to move from the camps along Coffs Creek into State housing in the 1950s, following the introduction of assimilation policies.

Living by the Macleay River

People from the Dunghutti community (see Kempsey Land Council area on the map) recall their relatives' stories of, or remember themselves, experiencing changing environmental conditions and government policies from the late 1800s to the 1950s that forced them to move from farms and fringe camps onto Aboriginal reserves.

Living at Grassy Heads camp

People from the Gumbayngirr community (see Kempsey Land Council area on the map) remember living at and visiting Grassy Heads camp from the mid-20th century to the present day.

Map: Local and District Aboriginal Land Council areas in north-eastern NSW

Map: Local and District Aboriginal Land Council areas in north-eastern NSW

Page last updated: 10 June 2011