Byrock Rock Holes | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Byrock Rock Holes

Item details

Name of item: Byrock Rock Holes
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Aboriginal
Category: Place of significance
Location: Lat: -30.6680730666 Long: 146.394888813
Primary address: , Byrock, NSW 2831
Local govt. area: Bourke
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Nulla Nulla
Hectares (approx): 27
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
 ByrockBourke  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

Why is it an Aboriginal Place?
Byrock Rock Holes is a central site in the Ngemba people's Dreaming stories about Baiame (the creator) and Wawai (the rainbow serpent). It is a place where cultural stories and lore are passed on, and it is the site of a former camp occupied by Aboriginal people from the late 1880s to the early 1900s.

Why is it important to Aboriginal people?
Byrock Rock Holes explains to the Ngemba people where they come from. It is the site of the Ngemba people's creation story. Baiame, the creator, stopped at Byrock Rock Holes to create the animals of the area and then the Ngemba people. This makes it a very important place for local Aboriginal people, as Paul Gordon explains: 'Without the rock holes there are no Ngemba people. Byrock is people.'

The rock holes are part of the Wawai story which describes the creation of water sources across Ngemba Country. The rainbow serpent Wawai created water holes across the Cobar Peneplain by going underground and coming up through the ground to create a water supply. At Byrock, Wawai emerged through the rock holes and filled them with water. Learning the story of Wawai's travels and the waterholes he created was the key to survival in the stone country - Aboriginal people had to recognise Wawai's tracks so they could find water. When creeks were dry, the Ngemba people would make their way across country from waterhole to waterhole following the Wawai story. There was a particular chain of waterholes that led from Gundabooka to Byrock, which was used until the early twentieth century.

Byrock rock holes has always been a place where stories, such as those of Biaime and Wawai, have been taught. According to Paul Gordon this is because 'the place is like a miniature map of Ngemba Country. It shows the creation of the whole Country. It was a teaching place for kids.'

Its association with Dreaming stories and the permanent water source made Byrock rock holes an important traditional meeting place. From the late 1880s until the early 1900s it also became the site of a camp for Aboriginal people. For Phil Sullivan, the rock holes provide a link to his ancestors: 'the key to it is the spiritual connection, knowing my grandfather was there and that he has left something for me. Whenever I go to the places like that I get very emotional.'
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Physical description: What's on the ground?
Two rock holes filled with water, the larger of which is believed to have been created by Biaime as he dug it with his stone axe. In the smaller rock hole is a large groove that was made by Biaime sharpening his axe. An impression of Biaime's spear is visible on the rock where he laid it down while sharpening his axe. The shape of Biaime's footprint is visible in the rock to the north of the rock holes. There are also a number of axe grinding grooves around the rock holes and on the rock outcrop.

Nature of the environment
Byrock Rock Holes Aboriginal Place is located in a flat weathered granite rock outcrop. There are two rock holes filled with water, both are roughly circular, one is larger than the other. Next to the rock holes is a large clay waterhole, which was constructed by Europeans. The country surrounding the rock holes is made up of rolling plains, granite outcrops and mountain ranges.
Current use: There is an outdoor interpretive area at Byrock Rock Holes Aboriginal Place, which has signs with information for visitors about the Aboriginal stories and history associated with the place. It is also still used as a waterhole.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Aboriginal cultures and interactions with other cultures-Activities associated with maintaining, developing, experiencing and remembering Aboriginal cultural identities and practices, past and present. Aboriginal Culture-


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
NPW Act - Aboriginal Place  04 Apr 08 402640

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenGoulding, Megan 20032003Byrock Rockholes Aboriginal Place Nomination: A Background Report, AHIMS Report No. 100011,
ElectronicNSW Government2008Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales View detail

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

rez rez rez
(Click on thumbnail for full size image and image details)

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5062860
File number: 02/06929 & DOC 07/42108

Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

All information and pictures on this page are the copyright of the Heritage Division or respective copyright owners.