Coast : A History of the New South Wales Edge 9781742246567, 9781742232706

From Eden to Byron Bay, the New South Wales coast is more than 1,000 miles long, with 130 estuaries, 100 coastal lakes,

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Coast : A History of the New South Wales Edge
 9781742246567, 9781742232706

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coast

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To Lisa, for being much more than a dive buddy and Hal and Ariel for helping me find places that aren’t there anymore

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coast a h i s tor y o f t h e n e w s o u t h wa l e s edge

Ian Hoskins

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A NewSouth book Published by NewSouth Publishing University of New South Wales Press Ltd University of New South Wales Sydney NSW 2052 AUSTRALIA newsouthpublishing.com © Ian Hoskins 2013 First published 2013 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 This book is copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part of this book may be reproduced by any process without written permission. Inquiries should be addressed to the publisher. National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry Author: Hoskins, Ian. Title: Coast: A history of the New South Wales edge/Ian Hoskins. ISBN: 9781742232706 (hardback)  9781742246567(epdf) Subjects: Coasts – New South Wales – History Urbanization – Australia – Pacific Coast – History. Pacific Coast (Australia) – History Dewey Number: 307.7609944 Design Di Quick Cover images Neil Frazer, Wall to Wall, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 76 x 152 cm, private collection, Sydney. Courtesy the artist and Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney. Printer 1010 Printing All reasonable efforts were taken to obtain permission to use copyright material reproduced in this book, but in some cases copyright could not be traced. The author welcomes information in this regard. This book is printed on paper using fibre supplied from plantation or sustainably managed forests.

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.

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Contents

Introduction 1 1: Natural histories 15 2: The first coast people 51 3: Claiming the coast 72 4: Convicts, coal, cedar and cane 118 5: Harvest of the sea 149 6: Boats on the coast 183 7: Harbours and lights 212 8: Defending the coast 237 9: Embracing the coast 280 10: Sea change 325 11: Heritage and the coast 378 Acknowledgments 424 Notes 426 Select bibliography 432 Picture credits 435 Index 437

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Introduction

‘Once upon a time …’ The web of history can be intricate, even in the smallest places. Currarong sits on the New South Wales south coast, at the base of the Beecroft Peninsula that forms the northern headland of Jervis Bay. Most apparently it is a collection of a few hundred holiday houses and a caravan park, sitting astride a tidal creek with two beaches – one long and windswept, the other small and sheltered. Yet a day spent wandering around sites and artefacts in and near the small town can prompt contemplation of historical themes that are relevant up and down the coast. Currarong is a microcosm. Europeans have visited the place for nearly 100 years, but Aboriginal people were there at least three millennia before. An overhang, professionally excavated and interpreted in the 1980s, is only the most obvious of hundreds of indigenous sites around the peninsula. It was one of a series of complex, inter-related camps where meals, mainly seafood, were

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prepared and consumed. Bones from seals, penguins and mutton-birds also suggest that the people who lived there took what they could from their coast. The descendants of these, or other south coast Aboriginal people, were still on the peninsula when white Australians began pitching their tents around 1915. Aboriginal men spotted for garfish from a hill behind the small beach the newcomers called Abraham’s Bosom, such was the heavenly contentment they found there. While other Australians, and much of the world, fought a war to end all others, Frank Young and his companions trekked annually from Wollongong to camp, write and fish at that peaceful beach. For a few years they were the only whites in what Young called a ‘wilderness’. Frank explored the peninsula and found one shell-filled overhang that he imagined as the last of the caves of the local tribe. It inspired a children’s story called The Prince of Kurrarong Creek, which began, ‘Once upon a time there lived by the hills of Kurrarong a family of dark people. This was many years ago. Kurrarong was then as it is now’. Frank Young quit Abraham’s Bosom sometime after 1921, possibly because it was no longer as it always had been. Fishermen and holidaymakers from Nowra and elsewhere were starting to build huts and houses. A Sydney-based real estate agent called Henry Halloran bought much of the land and subdivided it as a suburb of his visionary St Vincent’s City. Streets were created and named in honour of other south coast places and the good fishing Halloran hoped would attract residents. Fishery Road intersected with Piscator Avenue, which crossed Jervis and Gerringong streets. In 1928 the steamer Merimbula ran aground on rocks not far from Abraham’s Bosom Beach. There was a lighthouse on nearby Point Perpendicular that was barely two decades old, but bad weather and a dark night confounded the captain. Little could be salvaged, so the wreck remained as a warning to other shipping while the steamer trade stayed vibrant. Then from the 1950s, when road travel took over from shipping, the remains of the Merimbula became a monument to a bygone time. At the end of the century it was hard to distinguish the last pieces of misshapen metal from their

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base of natural rock. The only way of knowing that a ship was ever there was to read the historical plaque mounted nearby. Currarong got a post office and a store but Halloran’s plans were never realised. The place stayed as a collection of small fibro cottages sitting on large expectant blocks. After World War II, these were joined by a community hall and a caravan park. In the 1960s and 1970s some long-term residents and retirees built large brick dwellings that were more comfortable than the cottages. Fishing and boating were popular at Currarong as they were all along the coast. In the years before four-wheel drives became commonplace, small tractors were used to back the boats down a ramp created between the two beaches. Possibly these little machines were, themselves, retirees from the lush dairy farms of the Shoalhaven area nearby. Sometime in the 1990s the term ‘sea change’ was coined to describe the growing allure of the coast as the ideal Australian destination. It referred initially to permanent relocation but was applied also to those who bought beach houses with the intention of taking regular breaks from the city. It was probably around that time that the mix of permanent residents and holidaymakers at Currarong started to shift noticeably in favour of the latter – so the place teemed with life over summer but seemed barely populated in the colder months. Road improvements and faster cars placed the settlement within three hours travelling from Sydney where more and more jaded urbanites dreamed of life, or at least regular weekends, in an unspoilt coastal ‘village’. In terms of distance, Canberra was not much further away. However, because the direct rail and road connection between Canberra and Jervis Bay – the intended Commonwealth port back in 1911 – was never built, the route to Currarong from there was more circuitous. Instead, the socio-economic impact of middle-class Canberrans seeking sea change was felt further south. Property prices rose in little Currarong, as they did wherever city wealth was brought to bear on coastal real estate. Sydney money flowed north to warmer climes even more than it did to the south coast, and the impact upon places such as Pearl Beach and Byron Bay was dramatic. In Currarong

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Currarong Caravan Park, 1960, photograph by Jeff Carter.

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INTRODUCTION

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many of the old fibro houses were bought with a view to restoration, undertaken in appreciation of the structures as examples of an essential Australian connection to the beach. Some were brought to life again in colours of bright lime or muted purple. Others got sympathetic extensions. But on a few blocks, clients enlisted architects to build new, more-luxurious holiday houses. Currarong was being gentrified. Among the newcomers there was a certain amount of disapproval of the large brick villas that seemed to have been dropped in from suburban cul-de-sacs far away. But without those, the little settlement that grew up near Abraham’s Bosom would not be the quintessential place on the New South Wales coast that it is.

‘They left the sea behind them long ago’ The idea for this book was conceived at Currarong, over the course of several family holidays there some years ago. As a historian I had made a point of visiting the Aboriginal overhang, which survived with its shell midden as profound evidence of an ancient human attachment to this coast. Its longevity was all the more remarkable when compared to the remaining vestige of the Merimbula – barely visible after less than a century. On one occasion we rented a 1950s-era fibro house, faded green and furnished with a display cabinet filled with cut glass and figurines. The original light fittings and the cornices suggested some attention to design and detail when the house was built. This had been a family home before it was a holiday house. It was as if the owners had just got up and left. And, indeed, they had – to the big brick veneer house next door where summer heat and winter cold were not so extreme. I realised one could look at the architecture of Currarong with the eye of the archaeologist, as evidence of the various waves of occupation. The stark little ‘fibros’ long used as holiday shacks, and possibly humble homes, were eventually joined by the brick villas of more affluent retirees and permanent residents. In the 1990s came the restorers, those in search of an

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A handful of small tractors are still used to launch boats in Currarong. This one was photographed in Piscator Avenue in 2013.

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‘authentic’ Australian beach house to preserve and make comfortable. Several in this group, it transpired, came from my own part of Sydney. Lastly there came those who could afford architect-designed homes, built from scratch. Pondering the buildings I was struck also by the recentness of this ‘European’ Currarong – and not just when compared to the deep history of Aboriginal occupation. Talk of the place once being a fishing ‘village’ made me wonder about the original dwellings. Where was the 19th century Currarong that surely gave rise to the naming of Piscator Avenue and Fishery Road – the working settlement that must have existed before the holiday settlement developed? The truth is, of course, that the place was not even a century old – as I discovered when I encountered Frank Young’s story and writings in a history published by the local Progress Association. Currarong began, like so many other little places, as a 20th-century holiday destination. Thinking about this story led to the realisation that the broader history of the New South Wales coast existed largely in a series of disparate local histories, small museums and interpretative signs. There was, of course, much material in libraries and archives and some of it had been used to produce thematic histories of shipwrecks, steamers and lighthouses. I discovered Leonore Coltheart’s comprehensive study of harbour works and Geoffrey Dutton’s exploration of the relationship between art, literature and the rise of Australia’s modern beach culture. No one, however, had written a whole history of the New South Wales coast or, it seems, of any Australian coast. My attempt to do so is, not surprisingly, delivered with some qualification. In the interest of readability, and achievability, not every town, cove, boat or person of note is dealt with in the same amount of detail. Many do not appear at all. None of that necessarily implies the insignificance of subjects missed. Rather, in tackling such an expansive area, I have settled upon topics that form the basis for each chapter. The culture of the first coast people is inevitably one of those, as is the continued Aboriginal occupation

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of the coast. My understanding of the pre-contact world of Aboriginal people is informed, unavoidably it seems to me, by accounts penned by the usurpers in the 19th century. Some of the oral tradition of the first people was, no doubt, passed down through generations. However, much of the lore and custom that existed in the years immediately after that world was turned upside down has survived because of colonial accounts. The stories and habits are, of course, mediated by the outlook of those who recorded them. I have attempted to present a necessarily nuanced reading of these accounts, supported by contemporary Aboriginal accounts and archaeological investigation. The very notion of a New South Wales coast only emerged after the navigator James Cook charted the eastern edge of Australia and was compelled to think of a name for the place he claimed for George III. However it was not until Arthur Phillip and John Hunter delivered eleven shiploads of convicts, soldiers and sailors to the King’s new possession that New South Wales was geographically defined with a western border running down the middle of the continent. And it was not until the various colonies were established within this huge landmass that the present-day coast of New South Wales was finally defined. My early discussion takes in the longer shoreline in the context of imperial exploration but really focuses upon the place we know today as New South Wales. However, European knowledge of the coastline to the north and south of the first settlement in Port Jackson – Sydney Harbour – did not develop quickly. Shipwreck, convict escape and the desire for cedar did more to expand the limits of European settlement along the coast than any official desire to occupy or fortify the place. In general I have been guided by secondary accounts where they exist but have also allowed the primary sources to determine the narrative that has emerged. The story may meander somewhat as a result but I trust it retains its relevance. I encountered the story of William Hargraves’s shell-collecting, for instance, while researching the field trips of Isobel Bennett and Elizabeth Pope in the Australian Museum archives. This, in turn, illuminated the

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Unrenovated (left) and renovated (right) fibro cottages in Currarong in 2013.

significance of shells in the gradual acceptance of Darwinism in Australia – for me an unexpected aspect of the coast’s place in our cultural history. Exploring the cultural dimension of our beach culture, pioneered by Geoffrey Dutton, I realised how recent is the current obsession with sand and surf. A revolution occurred in our relationship to the beach around the turn of the 20th century. Australians learned to catch waves, first with their bodies and then on boards. It began at Manly – by then a suburb of Sydney. That revolution laid the foundation for the coastal culture we regard today as uniquely Australian. Before that the European inhabitants of New South

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Wales maintained a decidedly English attitude to ‘sea bathing’ developed over a century at the coastal resorts such as Brighton, where waves were few and far between. It is no accident that the name Brighton was reiterated in colonial New South Wales so frequently. While white Australians were happy to ramble around ocean beaches they preferred to swim in the calm waters of Sydney Harbour or the relative safety of sea baths and rock pools. During that century or so colonists, at least in New South Wales, also avoided living on or near the beach. The present-day obsession with securing a house close by the sand, preferably with views, is almost as new as our love

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of surf. ‘Marine villas’ were built in the early colony. Captain Piper’s home on absolute waterfront in Sydney Harbour was perhaps the first and, importantly, had antecedents in the English resort culture. But, as with bathing, the preference in house-building was for sites near sheltered waters in harbours or along rivers. There were exceptions such as Bronte House, above today’s Bronte Beach, and Noraville built in the early 1850s on a lonely, dramatic central coast headland. I have described these houses at some length, both as under-appreciated precursors to the 20th-century developments in beach housing, and as interesting exceptions to the general rule that, in a sparsely populated colony, absolute coast frontage was often exposed and difficult to access. It was also, perhaps, a bit unappealing. For a fundamental theme that emerged from my research was the ambivalent and marginal place occupied by the coast and sea in the cultural consciousness as that developed through the 1800s. With eyes turned towards the wealth that might be created within, there was relatively little interest in exploring coastal narratives or themes in art or literature. Sydney Harbour was something of an exception in the visual arts. However, as I suggested in my earlier history of that extraordinary waterway, the harbour did not represent Australia until very late in the piece. Founded by a great maritime nation though it may have been, Australia has only recently been identified with its coast – Sydney Harbour, the Great Barrier Reef, the many beaches. The idea is epitomised by the artwork selected for the invitation to the opening of the new Australian Commonwealth Parliament in 1901. There, juxtaposed with a mature Britannia and the coast and cliffs of Dover, is young Australia beside a gum tree and sheep. The point was reiterated by Henry Lawson five years later when he wrote, ‘The spirits of our fathers rise not from every wave, / They left the sea behind them long ago …’ By then, however, the sea-bathing mania was already taking hold and exactly the opposite would soon be true – so the spirits of our fathers [and mothers] became immersed in every wave. With that embrace of a leisure coast, the artwork and words flowed more freely.

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Though the early coast may have been largely ignored by artists and writers it necessarily held a fundamental importance for the colony as a transport route and as a fishery. People were drawn to the north and south coasts in search of precious cedar and, after that, cleared the land to harvest other plants and raise livestock. The timber, sugar, butter and bacon they produced came back to the capital in sailing vessels and steamers, many of them built on the very coast and rivers they navigated. People tried whaling and caught fish. Ports were constructed in unpromising bays and rivers made dangerous by sand bars that sent many to their deaths. For 150 years there was shipping traffic up and down the coast. But it vanished almost overnight when the economics and logistics were no longer profitable. During that time there were hopes, too, that major ports would be established to rival Sydney’s harbour – in Port Stephens, in Jervis Bay and Twofold Bay. However, the dominance of that first port would persist. Much of the story that follows describes the practical relationship with the coast that unfolded in spite of its cultural invisibility, so that our present leisurely love affair with places like Currarong might be seen in some context. The web is, indeed, intricate and complex. Trying to document and present the whole as a narrative has been challenging. But this is a first attempt so others might follow. Where the legislative definition of the coastal zone is limited to the area that lies within one kilometre of the sea or related waterway, my exploration sometimes takes a more historical approach to terms such as north coast or south coast. The beaches and headlands were long regarded as inhospitable, so east-flowing rivers and their estuaries attracted settlement and industry and those sites became regarded as ‘coastal’. Grafton, sitting on the Clarence River some 25 kilometres from the Pacific Ocean, was therefore referred to as a ‘sea port’. I have written this history to some extent as an outsider, one who still aspires to owning a coast house, who does not surf and only rarely messes about in boats; one who has long abandoned his futile attempts to catch fish. However, I am lucky enough to scuba dive on occasion, and beneath the

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Norman Lindsay and John Longstaff's design for the invitation to the opening of the Parliament of the Commonwealth 1901 showed Australia as a country defined by its interior rather than its coastline – sheep, gumtrees and wide open plains. By contrast Britain is depicted by the Channel Coast.

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waves have stroked a gigantic blue groper, seen sleeping turtles and watched weedy sea dragons defying the current despite their apparent fragility. Those moments and the many holiday rambles and swims have reinforced my sense of wonder that so much beautiful coastline is still there and accessible. To some extent this is an accident of history and geography. This long coast (some 2100 kilometres without counting islands) accommodates a relatively small population that has only quite recently discovered its benefits. And yet the fact that so much coastline survives in the public estate is the result of the decisions and actions of forward-thinking and tenacious people. The competing claims on the coast are the subject of my final two chapters. Our relationship with this remarkable place is always unfolding and what is here today may be gone tomorrow.

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1: Natural histories

‘… we know practically nothing …’ In the summer of early 1946, two biologists travelled down the New South Wales south coast with the intention of exploring the intertidal zone – that band of rock and sand sometimes under water, sometimes exposed. Isobel Bennett and Elizabeth Pope were able to leapfrog from one waterfront settlement to another between Coalcliff and Bermagui. These were small ports and villages, established over the previous century to service the mining and agricultural communities spreading out behind them. Bennett and Pope were accompanied by the geneticist Helen Turner and, when circumstances permitted, the women stayed in those little hotels that had survived the exigencies of the world war that had just ended. Otherwise they camped out, especially if an early rise was necessary to catch a low tide. At Narooma they probably combined comfort and convenience by

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booking into the Beach House Private Hotel. In Batemans Bay they dined at the California Red Star Cafe before retiring to tents pitched near some old fishermen’s huts. Beside another campfire at Tuross Heads the women catered for themselves, eating what was probably standard fare for the residents of this coast – fresh oysters, potatoes, lamb chops and string beans. Collectors and the curious may have combed these beaches and headlands before, but Bennett and Pope were breaking new ground in marine biology. They had with them lists of molluscs, crabs and other creatures compiled during excursions around Sydney’s shores and waterways the previous year, and were comparing these with the species encountered as they moved progressively south. The women ticked off the animals they saw and noted their abundance and location within the intertidal zone. They also observed changes in rock types, making reference to the pioneering work of another woman, the geologist Dr Ida Brown. Such were the advances in hand-held camera technology the biologists were able to photograph the specimens and places they found. It was some of the first research on intertidal ecology undertaken anywhere in Australia. In 1948 and 1949 Bennett and Pope extended their work down to Twofold Bay and around the Victorian coast, then repeated the process all the way north to Brisbane – this time accompanied by their mentor and senior colleague, William Dakin professor of Zoology at the University of Sydney. The research informed Australian Seashores, a popular but scholarly work first published in 1952, and revised and reprinted many times since. Bennett, Pope and Dakin became aware of a gradual change in species composition along the coast. Some warm-water animals and plants that flourished in tropical waters could survive in the temperate waters that extended south to Sydney at least. By examining the flora and fauna of the open coastline, as opposed to the sheltered bays already well-explored, they found evidence of a ‘cool-temperate shore region’ extending from Twofold Bay around to the south-western coast of Victoria. That revelation, in particular, advanced the understanding of Australian biogeographic zones as those had first been laid out in 1903 by Charles

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Hedley, curator of molluscs at the Australian Museum. Hedley proposed that the stretch of coast from eastern Victoria up along New South Wales to Moreton Bay, and including Tasmania, be called the Peronian region – in recognition of its ecological distinctiveness and in honour of the French naturalist Francois Peron who had conducted some of the earliest comprehensive collecting of Australia’s marine species. Remaining stretches of coastline were named after others who had contributed early on to the European understanding of these environments: the Solanderian, along the Barrier Reef and the Damperian, along the north-west coast of the continent. Along the south coast was the ‘Adelaidean’, subsequently renamed the Flindersian region. Hedley had pondered the difference between species found in Twofold Bay and those seen further around the Victorian coast and wondered whether this was evidence of the ‘Bassian Isthmus’ – the stretch of land, once a wide plain, that had connected Tasmania to the mainland but which had narrowed and disappeared as sea levels rose. His suggestion, not unfounded, was that the ancient land bridge separated colonies of marine creatures with long-lasting effects. Bennett and Pope’s work placed far more significance on water temperature in the spread and variation of marine fauna and flora. They surmised that species would surely have spread, in the absence of an isthmus, if conditions had permitted. They also confirmed the existence of a subregion or ‘province’ within the Peronian and went further by suggesting that this area – starting around Bermagui, ending at South Australia and including the whole of Tasmania – be regarded as a separate cool-temperate region. They proposed the name Maugean for this zone and, by doing so, Peronian became the region for New South Wales alone. Working as professional scientists in male-dominated research institutions, Bennett and Pope were also pioneering new ground for women. Serendipity had played a part in Isobel’s career. A freewheeling childhood that included plenty of playtime on crab-infested mudflats of Oxley Creek near Brisbane was brought to an end by a change in family circumstances in

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early adolescence. By the 1930s she had received a good education at a girls’ school but Bennett was taken out of school after her intermediate certificate to go to business college. A family move to Sydney was followed by a chance meeting with William Dakin on a cruise to Norfolk Island. This led first to research work for his upcoming history of Australian whaling and then a temporary position on the zoology staff at Sydney University. Bennett admitted years later: ‘...I knew so little about it I had to go home and look up the word zoology’. She stayed on and, though never receiving formal qualifications, took practical classes in dissection, began her field trips and taught. And though she never studied formally, Isobel’s abilities and knowledge were recognised in 1962 when she became the first woman to receive an Honorary Master of Science degree from the University of Sydney. By contrast, Elizabeth Pope worked her way along a newly emerging academic pathway that Isobel had missed. She studied zoology – a subject never before offered by the girls’ school she attended in Sydney, Sydney Church of England Girls Grammar School (SCEGGS) at Darlinghurst. Pope was admitted to Sydney University on a scholarship in 1931 – 50 years after the first female student had been enrolled but still one of a minority of women on campus. William Dakin supervised her Masters thesis on the flora and fauna of Long Reef, just north of Sydney, and it was through this association that Elizabeth met Isobel. Pope was appointed as a Scientific Assistant at the Australian Museum in 1939, on a salary that was two-thirds of the equivalent male pay. She remained there until retiring as Deputy Director in 1971. Bennett and Pope were two parts of a remarkable Sydney-based triumvirate of female marine scientists. Joyce Catherine Allan was the third. Allan started work as an assistant to Charles Hedley at the Australian Museum in 1917, the first woman to work there. By the time Isobel and Elizabeth were exploring the north and south coast for William Dakin, Joyce Allan had succeeded the respected Tom Iredale as Conchologist. She would become Curator of Shells in 1949 and later was the first woman elected as a Fellow of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales. Australian Shells was reprinted

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The dust jacket for the 1958 edition of The Seahorse and its Relatives. Several specimens painted here by Joyce Allan came from New South Wales. The big belly seahorse (left of the title), then named Macleayina abdominalis after William Macleay, was caught at Merimbula while the red weedy sea-dragon Phyllopteryx taeniolatus (top-right) was caught at Manly.

twice after its publication in 1950 and became a standard text. Allan also contributed her expertise on molluscs to Australian Seashores; Cowrie Shells of World Seas followed in 1956. Allan retired from the Museum that year but continued to work as an illustrator, completing the drawings and watercolours for The Seahorse and its Relatives, which she co-authored with Gilbert Whitley in 1958.

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This unidentified photograph from Elizabeth Pope’s papers probably shows William Dakin and Isobel Bennett on a rock platform at Long Reef, c.1945.

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The convict artist Richard (TR) Browne’s watercolours show a blue groper, Maori wrasse, yellow leatherjacket, and Australian salmon, from Select Specimens From Nature of the Birds Animals &c &c of New South Wales Collected and Arranged by Thomas Skottowe Esqr., 1813.

Allan was acknowledged as a co-author on the cover of the book that featured her paintings. But a clearer indication of the professional hierarchies that still operated in mid-century Australia was evident from Australian Seashores, in which Dakin was referred to as sole author and Bennett and Pope as assistants. Professor Dakin had, in fact, died two years before the book’s

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completion and it was Isobel and Elizabeth who saw the project through to completion, having contributed much by way of research along the New South Wales coast. Nonetheless biology, including the study of marine environments, was one of the more permeable professions for women. It was more welcoming than ‘hard’ sciences such as physics and more accessible than jobs practising or teaching architecture or law. Joyce Allan’s ability with a pencil and brush provides a clue to this; natural history illustration had long been an accepted pursuit for European women. Art gave women access to science. In New South Wales this association stretched all the way back to the founding of the colony. The first specimens of animals and plants were packed off to genteel studies aboard transport ships returning to Britain after depositing that country’s unwanted convicts on the far-away coast. The English natural history illustrator Sarah Stone never saw that ‘fatal shore’ but in 1789 she painted some of the first marine specimens sent back from there to London, including at least six fish from Sydney. The specimens, which had been collected by Surgeon John White, arrived at the privately-owned Leverian Museum in Leicester Square, where Stone had already painted many exotic creatures – among them possibly specimens brought back from Australia by James Cook in 1770. White’s specimens were exhibited in August 1790 after Stone rendered them in watercolour. Engravings of these, and other illustrations of the colony’s extraordinary flora and fauna, appeared in White’s Journal of a Voyage to New South Wales published in the same year the specimens went on display. The naval surgeon and gentleman naturalist had been contracted to write, for publication, a journal account of this unprecedented endeavour before the First Fleet embarked in May 1787. The strangeness that characterised so much of the fauna led White to remark that ‘A certain likeness runs through the whole’. An appetite for illustrations of exotic new species had been whetted by the drawings and descriptions that returned to Britain with Cook. Even when surrounded by squalor and privation, those of a ‘philosophical’ mind would agree with the colonial cleric Reverend Thomas Palmer that, ‘this is

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a land of wonder and delight... it is a new creation; the beasts, the fish, the birds the reptiles the plants, the trees the flowers are all new’. In Europe there was unbounded enthusiasm for the observation and description, comparison and classification of species following the publication of Carl Von Linnaeus’s binomial schema for understanding the natural world, Systema Naturae, first printed in 1735 and expanded in subsequent editions. And competition developed among those who could afford to amass natural history collections. The addition of previously unknown specimens from ‘new worlds’ satisfied the thirst for status, as well as knowledge. From 1793, collectors could find Australian parrots and mammals, stuffed and sometimes posed, in the laneway shops of London. Shells were popular too. They were beautiful and, once the animal inside had been killed and removed, shells were durable. Unlike stuffed creatures of feathers and fur they were impervious to insect infestation. Not all came from the local coast. The loveliness of Pacific shells such as the nautilus created a market for which Port Jackson was merely a convenient conduit. As prices in the town rose, the naturalist and surgeon Joseph Arnold relied upon Aboriginal people to bring him ‘coral, shells etc’. These were presumably local. He could obtain them ‘cheaply’ by trading old clothes and biscuits as opposed to the finder’s fee of five pounds or a gallon of rum demanded by European gatherers. The trade and zeal for collecting continued as the colony grew and British occupation spread. In 1819 the convict William Vaux, returning to England as a free man, likened his ship to Noah’s Ark so full was it of specimens alive and dead. Sometime around 1820 two fine collectors’ cabinets were crafted of red cedar. One found its way into the household of the Governor, Lachlan Macquarie. Folding panels and drawers were painted in oils, possibly by convict artist Joseph Lycett, showing coastal scenes from the Newcastle area. Within the compartmentalised drawers shells, seaweeds, coralline and other marine specimens were arranged along with butterflies, birds and insects. Most of the specimens were gathered around Sydney and Newcastle and they were laid out to maximise dramatic and aesthetic effect rather than

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to demonstrate any great scientific principle. Nonetheless, the sheer mass of specimens spoke of the diversity of nature on the new coast and the delight that produced. Few collectors were as feverish as William Hargraves, son of Edward, the man who famously claimed to have discovered gold in the colony in 1851. Edward Hargraves, enriched by the reward money received from a colonial government appreciative of the revenue that gold would bring, built a handsome house of cedar called ‘Noraville’ on the coast north of Sydney. Young William combed the beaches near his father’s house ‘picking up shells, seaweed, curios and other strange things washed up by the waves’, much of which he gave away. In 1866, when Hargraves was in his mid-20s, the huge storm that famously sank the steamer Cawarra also blew vast numbers of shells on to the beaches between Tuggerah and Lake Macquarie. By then William knew enough to determine rare types and he took his haul to the dealer Richard Rossitter, whose shop in lower George Street was well-positioned to lure sailors hoping to make a few extra shillings by selling specimens acquired on Pacific voyages. Hargraves traded his shells for others he thought more valuable and became an avid collector – someone driven by the quest for bargains, treasures and those missing pieces necessary to complete a set. Rossitter introduced William to the conchologist John Brazier and he then mixed with the elite of the city’s naturalists, including men such as Dr James Cox and William Macleay. Hargraves built a large collection and, in his own words, ‘devoted the whole of my spare time collecting, classifying and arranging it’. This zeal took him along the coast between Jervis Bay and Port Stephens, sometimes sleeping in his boat ‘under rock shelters’ and, in summer, on the sand. He dredged Sydney Harbour ‘from Lane Cove to the Heads including parts of Middle Harbour’, and ‘boarded every whaler arriving in Port Jackson’ in the hope of buying shells before they found their way to the dealers’ shops. The collector introduced himself to fishermen from Port Stephens to Kurnell and invited their children to find shells for him. He was sure to do

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the rounds of the fisher families after south-east or easterly gales had littered the beaches with treasure. On those occasions Hargraves went bearing gifts: ‘a bottle of whiskey for the men and a parcel of lollies for their children who were capital collectors’. On other occasions Hargraves roamed Sydney’s maritime precincts, the Rocks, Balmain and Pyrmont, where he knew ‘many sailors and their families resided’. In his handwritten memoirs Hargraves freely admitted to ‘peering through open doors and windows’ to see if there was anything of value adorning a table or mantle. Often the windows themselves were ‘held open by a fair sized shell ... whenever I saw anything worth having I would offer to purchase and often I secured rare and scarce shells in this way’. In a Kent Street house, not far from the Darling Harbour docks, William spied the highly desirable and beautiful shell of an east Australian gastropod he identified as Volute marmorata (now called Amoria (Cymbiolista) hunteri or Hunter’s marbled volute). Unable to rouse anyone inside, he entered the house uninvited only to be confronted by a woman ‘just emerged from the bath tub’ who responded to his explanation and apology with the declaration: ‘It’s not shells you’re after young man and if you don’t clear out at once I’ll call my husband’. The hunt for species of the fan-shaped bivalve Trigonia (now known as Neotrigonia) had seriously depleted its numbers by the end of the century. The living shell was in demand because, outside Australian waters, it had been hardly known as anything other than a fossil. In 1874 Hargraves turned up at least 25 of them as he dredged the harbour off Sow and Pigs Reef. It was a doubly lucky find because the crew of the visiting British survey ship HMS Challenger were dredging at same time without success. A gift of precious Trigonia secured an invitation aboard and a chance to meet the scientists involved in the most comprehensive expedition of marine biology and oceanography then mounted. By 1877 declining health forced Hargraves to sell his collection, then housed in ‘6 large cedar cabinets about 5' x 4' with 24 drawers in each’ and valued at £1600. It was a huge sum, equivalent to at least eight years wages

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A watercolour by Sarah Stone, c.1790 shows an anchovy, flute mouth and remora sucker fish.

A shell drawer in the collector’s chest owned by Lachlan Macquarie. Both shell compartments were divided in this star pattern.

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John Hunter was the second-highest ranking officer on the First Fleet. He nonetheless found time to create at least one hundred paintings of flowers, birds, fish and mammals. This watercolour of pink five corners, a common heath plant along the coast from Sydney southward, was painted between 1788 and 1790.

for a shipwright in full-time work. Hargraves offered it to the merchant, banker and benefactor Thomas Walker for half that amount on condition that it be donated to the Australian Museum. The collection, as it finally sat in 144 drawers, comprised mainly Australasian species, ‘arranged according to the most recent classification of the British Museum’. Many came from the New South Wales coast. It was delivered to the Museum on 30 June 1877.

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The Town and Country Journal described the collection’s educational value as evidence of Darwin’s theory of evolution ‘that all animated nature springs from the one source’. It was a significant observation, for when On the Origin of Species was published in 1859 it had few supporters in the colony – even among the scientific elite. Now its premise was widely accepted. Indeed 50 years earlier, when the Colonial Office was broaching the idea of a Museum for New South Wales, the notion of the ‘mutability’ of species, of their change over time, was a marginal theory at best. Charles’s grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, was among the first to articulate the idea in 1794 with the publication of Zoonomia; or the Laws of Organic Life. The incredible collections, which laid out the diversity of life on earth for the pleasure of the wealthy and learned, were more commonly seen as evidence of God’s infinite creativity. To explain such diversity in terms of evolution challenged divine inspiration. In 1829, as the first appointment was being made to the Australian Museum, the biblical orthodoxy, which held that the earth was created in 4004BC and was therefore less than 6000 years old, seemed less and less plausible. As the collections and studies grew, theorists were forced to consider the incongruous location of fossils and rocks and the vast spans of time necessary to make mountains and shift continents. When confronted with the presence of fossilised marine shells on hillsides far from the sea, many took refuge in the Old Testament’s account of a Great Flood. The ‘Noachian Deluge’, it was argued, had distributed the life forms of the ocean across continents and, presumably, killed some off in the process. It was still a troubling idea, given the accepted perfection of God’s original creation, but at least it explained the apparent reality of organisms that had ceased to exist. But, by 1877 when the Town and Country Journal could enthuse about ‘extinction’, ‘ancient rocks’ and the ‘marvellous manner’ in which Hargraves’s myriad shells showed the links between species, many ideas had changed. The shells donated by Hargraves joined the Museum’s other collections of mammals, reptiles, birds, the skeletons of the ‘five principal races’ of humans, and the tools and weapons of Aboriginal people. By then professionals and amateurs – the religious and the secular alike – shared a desire

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to explain the ever-lengthening time frames for natural and human history. The place of God in these schemes varied but, as the 19th century drew to a close, few white Australians doubted that their ‘race’ represented the summit of human development and that the natural world was there to be exploited and shaped so that they might maintain that place. Some latched on to the Darwinian phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ to explain the dominance of European races and the apparently ‘inevitable’ demise of indigenous people. Hargraves’s shells also complemented a large collection of fishes, many of which were caught in Australian waters. In 1877 there were as many as 1870 specimens in the collection. Some would have been dried mounted skins, others pickled in bottles. Most, however, were on display for the edification of the public. Like the plethora of possums, eggs and Aboriginal artefacts, many of the fish had arrived over the years as donations. The George Street fishmonger, Thomas Wilson, was a generous provider in 1854 – perhaps motivated by the publicity received in April that year in the Illustrated Sydney News for donating an ‘Australian Globe Fish’, or puffer fish. The Museum received from him a sea perch, a ray-like angelshark, a sawfish, a ‘crab prawn’, and ‘a new species of glyphisodon’ – possibly a pretty Port Jackson damselfish. At the other end of the social scale, William Sharp Macleay, too, was a regular contributor of fish. Presumably his donations were duplicates of specimens he already held in his own natural history collection at Elizabeth Bay House. He had inherited both the house and the collection from his father Sir Alexander Macleay and the harbour-side villa became a scientific salon. Indeed the new owner’s hermit-like possessiveness drew satirical comment from others used to a more open house. It was a ‘Bleak house blears blindly o’er Eliza’s Bay / Chill as the owner’s hospitality’ in the words of one poet who went on to warn the ‘Chance pic pic pilgrim, seeking scallop shell’ for he would incur the wrath of ‘this high Admiral.’ There Macleay entertained the likes of visiting ornithologist and artist John Gould and biologist Thomas Huxley, who later told his host that

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he knew ‘no finer field for exertion for any naturalist than Sydney Harbour itself’. It was in that waterway that Huxley began the research on physalia – bluebottles – that secured for him election to the Fellowship of the Royal Society of London at the relatively tender age of 26. ‘My scientific career’ he later noted, ‘practically commenced with work done in Australian seas’. Huxley was impressed by Macleay’s theory of natural classification, called the quinary system, but became the most vocal proponent of evolution after Darwin’s ideas were published in 1859. Macleay knew and respected Darwin and was one of the first in the colony to receive a copy of On the Origin of Species. But for his part William could not accept evolution, even as an amoral process set in train by the Almighty: ‘It is far easier for me to believe in the direct and constant government of the Creation by God than that He should have created the world and then left it to manage itself, which is Darwin’s theory in a few words’. William Sharp Macleay died in 1865 and the house and its contents passed in turn to another in the family – his cousin William John. Made wealthy by wool, the younger William added to all parts of the natural history collection – marine specimens in particular. Some were found on the harbour beach at the bottom of the garden where he went armed with a pistol in case he should he encounter trespassers from the city that was encroaching on the once-peaceful bay. Sometimes William ventured to the noisy, stinking fish markets in the adjoining cove. His wealth also permitted him to fund collecting excursions as far afield as Port Stephens, Jervis Bay and New Guinea. Macleay was a classifier not a theorist and, like his older cousin, was wary of grand explanations that might unite his myriad specimens but undermine other beliefs. At the first annual meeting of the Linnaean Society of New South Wales, which he helped to establish in 1874, William noted that the idea of evolution ‘for so long unpopular’ had become ‘the fashionable faith’. For Macleay, however, it remained an unproven hypothesis that had, in turn, spawned a host of ‘barren theories’. Consequently he advised his colleagues:

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‘We cannot do better in the present state of Natural History in Australia than confine our attention to observing, cataloguing and describing’. As Macleay expanded his own fish collection, the Australian Museum’s new curator, Edward Ramsay, was doing the same with the one under his control. Ramsay was an acolyte of Macleay and it was Ramsay who took possession of Hargraves’s shell donation. He set about increasing the rate of fish acquisitions at least fourfold through an active programme of purchase and exchange rather than the passive acceptance of donation. Ramsay then appointed the Museum’s first dedicated ichthyologist, James Ogilby, who published A Catalogue of the Fishes of New South Wales with their Principal Synonyms in 1886. Classification and the discovery of new species remained important but attention was turning to the broader study of fish along the coast. Although New South Wales had been claimed and slowly occupied by the British from the beginning of European colonisation, its coastline – with the obvious exception of Sydney Harbour – was still barely explored in terms of marine science. This apparent paradox has to do with the mix of geopolitics, economics and science. Much of the earliest and most intensive biological examination of Australia’s foreshores occurred along other potentially contested coastlines to the north, south and west, by scientists on British and French ships that were seeking to either consolidate possession or challenge it. The diplomat and naturalist Comte de Castelnau, who was one of the first to study the fish of Port Jackson in the mid-to-late 1870s, highlighted some of the problems faced by Australian ichthyologists; namely the plethora of species, their similarity, the difficulty of preserving specimens and the absence of existing studies. His Catalogue of the Fishes of Port Jackson was published in 1879 and, though it inspired subsequent studies, also led to confusion because of problems with Castelnau’s classifications. Nonetheless, the 1880s were productive years for marine biology in New South Wales. The visiting Russian scientist Nikolai Miklouho-Maclay helped to establish a marine biology station, albeit short-lived, at South Head in 1881.

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Among the various gentlemen and professional scientists working in the area was the Catholic cleric Father Julian Tenison-Woods whose Fish and Fisheries of New South Wales was published in 1882. William Haswell pioneered work on marine crustaceans which was complemented by William Whitelegge’s listing of the invertebrate fauna of ‘Port Jackson and neighbourhood’ including sponges. John William Brazier published notes on harbour molluscs. Edward Ramsay was an ornithologist by training and his interest in fish was driven in part by commercial imperatives. Politicians and others had been frustrated by the insignificant size of the New South Wales fishery for years. It was, in the words of one, a ‘postponed industry’. Research on the habits and distribution of local species, particularly edible fish, promised to improve catches. In 1879 and 1880 Ramsay sat on a Royal Commission inquiring into the ‘state and prospects of the fisheries of the colony’. Ogilby wrote Edible Fishes and Crustaceans of New South Wales, printed by the colonial government for the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893. This probably drew upon ongoing work on the food, migration and reproductive habits of Australian fish, which was also sponsored by the government. Despite this work and the vast collections assembled, there was still so much to learn. The ocean depths were more inaccessible than the densest forest. Trawling, for science, was described by Elizabeth Pope as a ‘lucky dip’ in the 1950s. It could not have been any easier in 1898 when the fisheries trawler HMCS Thetis dragged the water and bottoms between Port Stephens and Jervis Bay in the hope of turning up unknown animals. Some, like the blotchy Thetis fish or ocean perch (Neosebastes thetidis), came to bear the name of the vessel that ‘discovered’ them. Three hundred fish species were registered. But even then the Australian Museum’s man aboard the vessel, Edgar Waite, bemoaned the extent of the accumulated knowledge: the fauna of the waters which break upon the Australian coasts as a whole has been but little examined ... we know practically nothing of the habits of the fish we wish to secure.

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‘… a variety of flowering shrubs abound …’ The coastline that the Thetis passed along is, in fact, hardly more than 6000 years old. This figure does not come from the biblical age of the earth accepted by many in the early 1800s. Rather, it reflects the sea level attained at the end of the last great glacial thaw. Around 18 000 years ago, before the melt, the coast was as far as 30 kilometres east of its present position. The

Norwegian-born Harald Dannevig was appointed by the Government to research the State’s fisheries in 1902. He immediately established a hatchery and research centre at Port Hacking near Cronulla. Dannevig (centre with moustache) is shown here aboard the purpose-built research trawler Endeavour in 1913. The vessel, with Dannevig aboard, was lost without trace in 1914.

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larger landmass that existed then included Tasmania and New Guinea and is sometimes called Sahul. The sea level has, in fact, risen and fallen many times over hundreds of thousands of years so some elements of the present-day coast can be dated back 120 000 years when the sea was lapping the shore we know today. Most beaches, estuaries and coastal lakes, however, have been formed in the past 6500 years. The sand is primarily quartz or silica mixed with minerals like rutile and zircon, particularly on the north coast. Rock fragments can be washed from the hinterland and headlands, crushed shells are added to the mix and the combination is stirred, moved or pounded by waves. Waves build beaches by transporting the necessary sand. The biggest have been created in areas where the waves are largest. The same wave power, however, can strip a beach of its sand. Those with coarse sand tend to have a steeper surf zone. More ‘mobile’, fine sand is generally associated with gentle gradients. The beaches around Jervis Bay are some of the whitest in the world. The sand there was sifted by the wind and leached when the bay floor was dry dune thousands of years ago. Rising waters, and wave action, between 10 000 and 6000 years ago moved the whitened sand to create the existing beaches. The rock beneath the sand and in the headlands and shelves is much older. Along the ‘sandstone’ coastline from Port Stephens to the south of Jervis Bay it is up to 270 million years old – which means it was formed 150 million years before the landmass that became Australia separated from Antarctica in the last stage of the disintegration of the supercontinent Gondwana. On the foreshore at Ulladulla, hard fragments of metamorphic rock can be found embedded in the sedimentary siltstone – deposited as ‘drop stones’ by glaciers 300 million years ago. Some of the hard metamorphic and igneous rocks on the far south coast were created up to 500 million years ago. Where the rock is hard, beaches tend to be smaller and fewer in number. On the south coast, from around Bateman’s Bay, they make up only half of the shoreline. The rest is headland and rocky shore. When the rock is a soft type, such as sedimentary sandstone, beaches are longer. The state’s

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longest are to be found north of the Clarence River. Sandy beaches comprise 86 per cent of the coastline between Fingal Head and Iluka. There are more than 130 estuaries along the New South Wales coast. These are transitional places where fresh water mixes with salt and there is a permanent or intermittent connection to the sea. Many estuaries are the mouths of rivers and creeks. The larger rivers on the north coast follow a meandering course before opening into the ocean. Often these waterways shoal into ‘deltas’ of soil and sand and some shoals have formed permanent islands. The lower Clarence has so many sand islands that the river is split into numerous watercourses. There are around 90 coastal lakes, which can be open to the sea or temporarily closed by shifting sand or more ancient dunes. Between The Entrance and Forster on the mid-north coast these water bodies are so numerous and large that the coastline appears on the map as hardly more than a series of thin strips separating lake from sea. The vegetation that grows from the beach frontal dunes back to the hind dune and hinterland has adapted over millenia to shifting sands and soil fertility, and differing regimes of wind and rain. With their spiky leaves and spiny flowers many of these plants were quite unlike anything the first Europeans who happened along this coast had ever seen. The fascination the flora inspired is reflected in the array of paintings executed on Cook’s voyage and those that followed. There were far more plant pictures than there were images of fish. Surgeon Bowes Smyth of the First Fleet was not trained in botany but his observations of the country around Sydney Harbour reflected the general interest in plants among the educated and upper classes. In 1788 he wrote in his journal: ‘In those places where trees are scarce, a variety of flowering shrubs abound, most of them entirely new to an European and surpassing in beauty, and number, all I ever saw in an uncultivated state’. Smyth might well have been describing the coastal heath within easy reach of the camp in Sydney Cove – a landscape that can be found up and down the coast. At long sandy crescents, such as Seven Mile Beach near Gerringong, coast spinifex grass typically covers the first foredune. Wattle

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(Acacia longifolia), coastal tea-tree (Leptospermum laevigatum) and bottlebrush (Banskia integrifolia) grow behind – getting taller as the shelter from the wind improves. The spinifex thrives when covered by sand while the bottlebrush extracts all the phosphorus it can from poor soil with its fine clustered roots and the help of symbiotic fungi. The coastal tea-tree withstands salt spray and grows behind the dunes and over headlands in extensive stunted thickets. There it provides shelter for small mammals and food for the honeyeaters that flit in and out of the grey–green foliage. The tea-tree, wattle and banksia, together with grevilleas, inhabit much of the heathland that runs along the coast. The paperbark (Melaleuca quinquenervia) does well in waterlogged clay and saturated sandy soil close to the coast. Its adaptability is reflected in the plant’s range, from the mid-south coast of New South Wales all the way to the north of Queensland. Melaleuca is so prevalent around Myall Lakes on the mid-north coast that the lake water is stained tea-brown from the paperbark tannin. Some plant communities have developed with a dominant species that can comprise more than half the apparent flora. The Melaleuca is one that forms forests of ghostly white trunks that deaden sound with their papery bark. The Sydney red gum (Angophora costata) transforms the landscape with smooth sinewy trunks of red–orange in areas from the central to south coasts. Trees up to 20 metres tall grow incongruously in poor sandy coastal soil, sometimes with roots winding around rock outcrops for stability. The salt-tolerant cabbage tree palm (Livistona australis) grows along the length of the New South Wales coast. Often it emerges from the surrounding canopy, but at Mungo Brush, within Myall Lakes National Park on the midnorth coast, its fan-like fronds create a canopy that shuts out most sunlight, restricting the growth of other species so that the overall impression is one of a haphazard plantation. Littoral rainforest, conversely, is characterised by the abundance of species albeit with a dominant type – often lilly pilly, brush box or tulipwood. The lushness and height of emergent trees belies an often-poor soil

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of litter-covered dune. As its name suggests, this forest can grow down to the beach and it rarely develops more than two kilometres from the sea. The closed canopy it creates maintains a microclimate of moist cool air even while exposed sand bakes in summer sun only metres away. Subtropical rainforest once extended for 75 000 hectares, spreading on the rich volcanic basalt soil behind Byron Bay and around the Richmond and Clarence rivers on the far north coast. Up to the mid-1800s this was the

This photograph shows Seven Mile Beach from Gerringong, probably in the 1920s or 1930s and after a century of land clearing. This is one of the longest beaches on the coast and unusually large for the south coast. The natural vegetation grows in bands on the dunes that back the beach. Spinifex and pigface give way to banksia and coastal tea-tree, then to blackbutt and bangalay forest and pockets of littoral rainforest that are now classified as endangered.

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biggest expanse of rainforest in Australia. It was called the ‘Big Scrub’ by the Europeans who, by 1850, had penetrated its seemingly limitless depths. Within a century and a half they had reduced it to just 100 hectares; and this made up of isolated pockets of timber. The Europeans were drawn to the Big Scrub by the remarkable red cedar (Toona ciliata) that grew east of the Great Dividing Range and right down along the coastal rivers. In a land where so much was alien Europeans

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Lionel Lindsay’s etching At Port Macquarie shows what could be the melaleucas that grow around Lake Cathie and Lake Innes.

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recognised this tree as a type of mahogany and, indeed, it does belong to the same family as the Big Leaf and West Indian mahoganies of South America and the Caribbean. There is much about the cedar that distinguishes it from other natives. Where many Australian species are unique to the continent, Toona ciliata also grows in South-East Asia. It is deciduous in a land of evergreens. Familiarity was not the main attraction, however. The newcomers loved the beautifully grained timber that was light, buoyant, durable and

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easily worked – unlike the other hardwoods that blunted axes and exhausted sawyers. Cedar was never a dominant species, rather, individual specimens dotted the forests. Nonetheless there were once thousands throughout the north-coast rainforest and all the way down the coast past the Shoalhaven – anywhere that topography and geology created a suitably moist environment. It is now rare in all these regions.

‘I need to get to the East Australian Current’ There are forests beneath the water, too. Like their terrestrial counterparts marine plants are dependent upon sunlight. In clear water this ‘photic depth’ can extend down as far as 70 metres. Kelp often grows in such densities that it forms a canopy over the rocks and seafloor. It is a temperate and coolwater dweller and is less common in warmer tropical waters where coral dominates. The range of the common kelp (Ecklonia radiata) includes the whole of the New South Wales coast. However Tathra, on the far south coast, marks the northern limit of bull kelp (Durvillaea potatorum). There it is stunted but at Green Cape, a further 50 kilometres to the south, it stretches to its maximum length of around eight metres. Water temperature is all-important – just as Bennett and Pope suggested. It can vary along the New South Wales coast by as much as seven degrees, from 19.4 to 27.3°C around the Solitary Islands off Coffs Harbour, to a range of 12.3 to 23.7°C at Eden just north of Green Cape. Kelp and coral, the latter at its southern-most point on the coast, can both be found at the Solitary Islands whereas coral is largely missing from the south-coast foreshores. The New South Wales coast, then, is a transitional zone between tropical and cold-temperate seas. The water temperature along this coast is governed mainly by the East Australian Current (EAC), flowing down from Queensland with an intensity

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that varies with the seasons and the presence of the El Niño and La Niña Southern Oscillations. These effects influence rainfall on the east coast and increase or decrease the strength of the EAC respectively. Sometimes the current dissipates around Seal Rocks, in other seasons it can push past Green Cape to Tasmania. At its strongest the EAC runs at three kilometres an hour. The current has flowed for millennia but many, if not most, Australians only became aware of its effect through the hugely popular 2003 animated film Finding Nemo. In that story a tiny eastern clown anenomefish called Marlin must get from the Great Barrier Reef to Sydney Harbour to find his son Nemo – taken by a diver for his tropical fish collection. The only way to do so is to locate the great southern flow of water that will take him there, so Marlin seeks the help of a migrating turtle: “I need to get to the East Australian Current.” The film won critical and general acclaim and it was praised by marine biologists, too, for its scientific accuracy. Eastern clown anenomefish do sometimes turn up in Sydney Harbour – carried down by the current along with other tropical strays. Twenty-five per cent of fish species found in the harbour are at the southern extent of their range. Tropical and temperate waters support a great diversity of fish species, though none of these appear in the numbers found in cold northern seas where the upwelling of nutrients is greater than occurs on the narrow Australian shelf. Over 570 marine species have been recorded in Sydney Harbour alone – greater than all those found around Great Britain and nearly six times more than the marine fish species of Sweden. Wrasses (Labridae) are the most common family of fish in Sydney Harbour and among the rocky reefs. Their prevalence is due in large part to the wide variety of habitats and diet they are adapted to. Some are cleaners, removing parasites from other reef dwellers. Others eat urchins in the sparsely vegetated and exposed rocky barrens. Many prefer the shelter and food found in kelp forests. Larger types such as the crimson-banded wrasse (Notolabrus gymnogenis) can crack shells as hard as abalone (Haliotis spp).

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Wrasses bring the colour of tropical waters to temperate seas. Many are brilliantly multi-coloured but the adult male eastern blue groper (Achoerodus viridis), conversely, appears as a uniform azure so deep that it is almost purple. It is the largest of all the east-coast wrasse species. Like many others in the family, these fish are born as females but can change sex and colour after they have bred. The shift is apparently due to size and the relative numbers of males and females. Slow moving, highly visible and spectacular in maturity, the territorial blue groper was killed in large numbers by spear fishers in the post-war years. The fish can grow up to 50 kilograms and the biggest individuals taken were at least 35 years old. New South Wales blue gropers were first protected in 1969. Large as old gropers can grow, they do not approach the size of the biggest fish of the coast – the large sharks. No other animal so embodies Australians’ historical ambivalence towards the coast and the sea. It has been the hated ‘monster’ of the deep since Europeans colonised the coastline. Australian Museum curator George Bennett described the killing of a four-metre bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) in Sydney Harbour in 1858. The animal was chased upon sighting then harpooned, beaten and drowned before its carcass was put in a tent for public exhibition – an entertainment that netted its captors the considerable sum of £80. After that the battered specimen was added to the list of donations to the Museum’s collection. For at least a century sharks were killed in great numbers – out of spite, often for sport and more recently for food. Other ecological changes almost certainly contributed to the decline. Several of the species that occur along the New South Wales coast are now threatened. Probably the most vulnerable is the grey nurse (Carcharias taurus), known in other waters as the sand tiger or ragged tooth shark. So depleted were its numbers by the last decades of the 20th century that, in 1984, the grey nurse of New South Wales became the first shark species in the world to receive total protection. Little was known about the animals even as they were being hauled out of the water. And like so many Australian marine species there is still mystery surrounding them. Much of the information about their migratory

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habits comes from records of those who hunted the animal. Indeed, it was the Game Fishing Association of New South Wales who took measures to protect the species by banning the taking of grey nurse sharks by their members in 1977. The shark moves along the coast southward in summer, when the EAC is flowing strongest, and northwards in winter when the current is weak. But there is uncertainty about its feeding habits other than at the few remaining schooling areas such as South West Rocks. The largest animals in coastal waters are not fish but mammals. Whales, dolphins and others cetaceans are descended from the first mammals to return to oceans emptied of large marine reptiles, in a process that began around 50 million years ago. In evolutionary terms it was remarkably quick for such a dramatic transformation. Unlike seals, whales spend their entire lives in the water, with the rear limbs of their ancestors not having just changed into flippers but replaced by a powerful fluked tail. They are adapted perfectly to a life of suspended animation in water and are unable to breathe easily when removed from it. A beached animal slowly suffocates as the weight of its huge overheating body presses in on its lungs. Sperm (Physeter catodon) and blue (Balaenoptera musculus) whales have occasionally visited the coast but the most frequent travellers are the humpbacks (Megaptera novaeangliae) and southern rights (Eubalaena australis). These animals head north along the east Australian coastline in winter to mate and calve after building up their reserves of blubber over the summer in the nutrient-rich waters south of New Zealand. Similar migrations occur along the West Australian coast and South American and African continents. In the southern seas the ocean’s biggest animals feed on some of the smallest. Humpbacks and southern rights sieve krill, small crustaceans, through plates of fibrous and bendable baleen, which continues to grow during a whale’s life, like fingernails do for a human. Though both are baleen whales, the humpback also belongs to the group known as rorquals, distinguishable by throat pleats that allow them to expand the circumference of their throat as they take in huge quantities of water. So while the right whales tend to skim the sea, the humpbacks are gulpers.

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James Cook’s voyage up the east coast of Australia in 1770 resulted in some 100 birds being added to the compendium of species known to Europeans. Colonists were particularly fascinated with the honeyeaters, pigeons and colourful parrots of the heath, woodland and forest but they also painted and described shore and water birds.

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This watercolour of a pied oyster catcher (Haematopus ostralegus) by an unknown artist is one of 100 paintings of Australian birds from 1791–1792 collated in an unpublished album. Called ‘redbills’, they were frequently noted by coastal explorers. Both the pied and sooty oystercatcher are territorial and lay their eggs in indentations in the sand, making them vulnerable to predation and disturbance. The caption for this painting reads: ‘The male and female are always seen together on rocks and bare points but have entirely left the harbour from being frequently disturbed …’

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An exquisitely detailed watercolour of a Japanese snipe (Gallinago hardwickii), also called Latham’s snipe. This painting appears in the same album as the oystercatcher but is probably the work of a different artist. This species, one of several shore and lake birds that migrate to the Australian east coast from the northern hemisphere, breeds in Japan before flying south. The birds frequent permanent and temporary wetlands, usually freshwater, and can be found inland as well on the coast.

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The Australian pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus) is among the most common of Australian coastal birds, also occurring around inland waterways. The species was immediately familiar to Europeans because of the similarity to those found in the northern hemisphere. This painting was completed in 1888 by Neville Cayley Sr. His son Neville Jr, born on the NSW coast at Yamba in 1887, became Australia’s best-known ornithologist and bird artist.

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Coast A watercolour by naturalist and retired teacher, Edward Gostelow, showing Gould’s petrel (Pterodroma leucoptera), the wedge-tailed shearwater (Puffinus pacificus) and the sooty shearwater (Puffinus griseus). In the 1930s and 1940s Gostelow endeavoured to paint every recorded species of Australian bird. Upon his death in 1944, 820 paintings representing 700 species were bequeathed to the National Library of Australia.

Our knowledge of whales is as imperfect as our understanding of much of what lives beneath the waves. And, as with the grey nurse shark, it was information gleaned from slaughter that first shed light on the behaviour of whales in Australian waters. William Dakin was one of the pioneers. He used the logs of whaling ships, with their records of kills and whale types, to plot the location of animals over time. So social history informed natural history. It was that research that set the young Isobel Bennett on her career in marine science.

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‘… colonised by sea …’ On the New South Wales south coast, a channel flows from Burrill Lake through a sand bar to the sea. When the water runs fast, young fish stay close to the oyster encrusted rocks – schooling by instinct and swimming against the current to maintain their position. The channel fills and drains the estuarine lake, which becomes less brackish as it narrows into a small creek that winds back into the hinterland. Tucked within one of the lake’s many arms, and only a short walk over the headland to the coastline, is a wide, deep sandstone overhang. It is moist and cool in summer but big enough to contain dry recesses in winter. The shelf is surrounded by sclerophyll forest and ferns grow in the gully that is fed by a freshwater creek running over one end of the overhang.

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For 20 000 years or more this was a home to people. It is one of the oldest known inhabited sites on the New South Wales coast. The span of time during which this site was inhabited extends back beyond the current Holocene period, which began around 10 000 years ago, to the late Pleistocene – the time of the last great ‘ice age’. When archaeologists began excavating the shelter in 1931, some of the evidence of its past occupation was already lost. A local landowner had decided that the floor deposit of shell, roof fall, ash and dirt would make ideal top soil for his garden and orchard. However, there was much more shell and stone material in the other layers and a second dig in the late 1960s provided better evidence of the age of the shelter and its use through to relatively recent times. Five layers went down to sandstone bedrock, taking the investigators back to a time when the coast was as far as 30 kilometres to the east and the shelter, therefore, was an inland site. Then its occupants subsisted on animals and birds in the woodland that covered this area. They might have encountered megafauna, now extinct. And yet in one of the oldest clay strata the archaeologists found the cast of a shell, probably an edible cockle. So far down, it could only have been carried in from some distance, as an ‘artefact rather than food’. For the archaeologist it suggested ‘an economic link’ with the estuarine environment some kilometres away. But the shell’s function might also have been social, perhaps as a keepsake brought back on the long walk from the shore to this inland home. Possibly, too, if the overhang was inhabited by non-coast people, it was an object exchanged as something that signified a place far away – just as in more recent times beautiful baler shells found their way into the dry interior of the continent from Australia’s north coast as part of a system of trade in symbolic rather than functional possessions. The coast from where the Burrill Lake cockle came was a colder place than today. So too was the ocean. So much water was locked up in glacial ice that the sea was 130 metres below its present level and the east coast ran continuously from Tasmania to New Guinea. The Australian continent, as we now know it, did not exist. Instead this was the huge landmass, Sahul.

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Scientific opinion about the arrival of people there has still not settled on the detail but it is probable that humans came to the continent at least 50 000 years ago. It is quite likely they disembarked from watercraft of some form on the north-west coast while sea levels were low enough to allow island hopping from South-East Asia. Archaeologists do agree that humans were present at Lake Mungo in central New South Wales around 45 000 years ago. There is evidence to suggest that they had reached Tasmania 20 000 years after that. In this formulation the occupation of southeast Sahul coincided with the arrival of modern humans in Europe, and the consequent demise there of Neanderthals. The famous ‘Red Lady’ remains, found in a cave at Paviland in south Wales, have been dated to 26 000 years ago and probably represent one of the earliest modern inhabitants of Britain. That was a cold, harsh time when the occupation of Britain was intermittent and dependent upon a pre-Channel land bridge from continental Europe. One theory held that the colonisers of Sahul were already marine people who would have logically used cultural knowledge, and the access provided by water, to move around coastlines. There they established habitations as specialised shore dwellers. It is possible that Australia ‘was colonised by sea from an island world by people who probably derived from cultures adapted to fishing and shellfish gathering’. But inland sites such as Lake Mungo suggest more conclusively that people occupied the east coast by coming overland. The cockle cast at Burrill Lake is ancient evidence, nonetheless, that people travelled between the late Pleistocene coast and the hinterland. The sea level rose from 17 000 to 6000 years ago, as water was released from melting glaciers – sometimes slowly, occasionally very quickly. As the ocean advanced, the marine people of Sahul retreated to become the coast dwellers of Australia. By the end of this process the Burrill Lake overhang was one of many places of human habitation along a new coast. From around 5000 years ago the inhabitants of the rock shelter were getting most of their food from the estuarine system that had developed a short distance away. Shellfish, rather than finned fish, came to form the major part of their diet of protein and cockles would not have been an oddity.

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At similar sites, such as Currarong just to the north, people ate shellfish as well as seabirds and the occasional seal and beached whale. The presence of fish bones and shell hooks suggests that the Currarong people were anglers as well as gatherers. To be fishers of this sort they chipped, ground and filed turban shell to form the shiny, alluring hooks that were attached to the end of fibrous line made from twisted bark strands. Hooks were variously sized and shaped depending upon the intended catch. This was a relatively new technology, no more than 1000 years old. Hooks were used from New Guinea all down the Australian east coast with the exception of the lengthy stretch of coastline between the Keppel Islands, at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef, and Port Macquarie. The gap raises many unexplained questions about the transmission or independent development of technology. Did the prevalence of rocky foreshore inspire the creation of these hooks? Is it possible that the technology was introduced to the central and south coasts of New South Wales by Polynesians from the east? There were other differences. The people of the subtropical coast seemed to have made greater use of fishing nets woven from palm fronds, reeds or vines. And spears they shaped by the 1700s differed from those to the south. They had a single point rather than the multiple prongs that were tied and gummed to shafts from Nambucca down the coast. The advantage of the former is the concentration of power at one point, which must have been a benefit if striking a large fish with the hope of a quick kill. It might have been that the same spear was used for hunting on land and in water. The multi-pronged spears, on the other hand, spread the target area, which must have helped while aiming at a fish beneath the water where refracted light can cause distortion. These spears probably held their flapping prey with less chance of the animal slipping off to swim away. By the late 1700s angling was apparently women’s work, while spearing was a task for men. Before the invention of the hook, spears were probably the main method for harvesting finned fish so it is likely that women were the primary gatherers of shellfish. The introduction of the hook, however, seems to have added another skill to the repertoire of Aboriginal women.

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During seasonal events, such as the summer running of Australian salmon or the autumn spawning of sea mullet, groups of men waded into the sea to strike among the schools. Solitary species like groper or cod could be targeted in rock pools or off sea ledges. One account of spear fishing around the Macleay and Nambucca Rivers in the 1840s noted that ‘a few minutes’ work was enough to procure ‘sufficient fish for the whole tribe’. Some fishing spears were barbed with kangaroo teeth or shell. Earlier weapons might have been tipped with stone, which could explain the archaeological discovery in 1907 of dozens of expertly crafted tips, which became known as ‘bondi points’ after the beach on which they were first uncovered. The brittle sandstone that characterises the coastal geology north and south of Sydney is not suitable for tool cores, though it is ideal for grinding and filing. Effective cutting edges or points sharp enough to pierce animal skin require hard stone such as quartz, chert and silcrete. This was traded or exchanged over distances so that it could be used by those who lived in sandstone zones. At other sites, such as Dark Point near Myall Lakes and Schnapper Point between the Clarence and Richmond rivers, the fortuitous exposure of ancient river pebbles amidst more recent dunes provided the first Australians with a supply of raw material for stone implements. This led to the establishment of tool-making sites – open-air factories. From the Pleistocene to the Holocene eras, stone scrapers, choppers and knives tended to get smaller and more finely made. But the invention of the shell hook in the recent Holocene seems to have been part of a transition from the use of stone to that of organic material, at least in coastal zones. Razor-sharp shells, so readily available along the coast, replaced stone knives as cutting edges, and as serrations to increase the lethality of spear ends. Bone was also used both for spear tips and as awls to perforate the animal pelts worn in colder times. While carefully ground axe heads remained in use as vital and prized possessions, the smaller stone objects that survived in the tool kit of Aboriginal people into more recent times were used for shaping wood – for the creation of items such as canoes, shields, clubs, boomerangs, spear shafts and containers. In these times there was less emphasis placed

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upon working rock with precision – possibly the ‘stone age’ was giving way to another epoch of ‘raw materials’. The axes must have helped to cut the cabbage palm trunks that were used as basic but serviceable bridges spanning creeks around the Illawarra. They would also have been used to cut lengths of bark which were then stripped from trees in winter to make canoes, the ends of which were tied together with twine or vine. This binding distinguished the canoes of southeastern Australia – called ‘nawi’ around Port Jackson – from those made in Port Macquarie resident and amateur ethnographer Thomas Dick was intensely interested in the culture of the Aboriginal people of that area. He befriended several and they agreed to pose in scenes that purport to depict pre-contact culture. Dick’s own knowledge and the confidence he enjoyed with his subjects have meant that his photographs are accepted as largely authentic. This image of a group working stone on the beach c.1905 suggests that knowledge of such techniques survived into the 19th century.

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the far north of the continent where the bow and stern were sewn together or the hull was carved from a log to create a dugout. In Tasmania, reeds or bark strips were bundled together to form three hulls in a manner similar to the watercraft of the ancient Assyrians. Some vessels were relatively quick to produce, serving an immediate need to cross a waterway. Others demanded time. To the Europeans who first saw them in the late 1700s, these were often little more than the crude vessels of a primitive people. But there was expertise in choosing the time to cut and prise the bark – usually a wet winter or spring. To skill was added the strength and endurance necessary to climb a trunk and chop the required length with a stone blade. The watercraft produced were remarkably swift and stable. European accounts suggest that stringybark canoes from the south coast were robust enough to venture out onto the open sea. When those assessments were being formed in the late 1700s, canoemaking was apparently men’s business. On the far north coast, women spent much time weaving exquisite bags and baskets from bark fibre, fronds and rushes. Presumably the skill used in the manufacture of these was transferable to the creation of the large fishnets that were another feature of the region. Some endemic coastal plant species were especially useful. The soft papery bark of the melaleuca made ideal slow-burning torches. Its easily stripped bark could be used as a ‘raincoat’ or as caulking material to fill holes in leaking canoes. When crushed, the leaves release an essential oil that provides relief from headache, colds and tired muscles. The single, straight flower shaft of the grass tree, Xanthorrhoea, made perfect spears and gum from the plant was used extensively as an adhesive. At various points along the coast people built fish traps by constructing stone walls in tidal shallows. There were at least three types designed for different sites. Crescent-shaped barriers placed near a tidal shore caught fish as the water receded. Stone mazes trapped fish in ‘low energy’ estuarine and tidal situations, while V-shaped constructions gathered fish in streams. On the north side of the Arrawarra headland, on the far north coast, at least two walled ‘rooms’ were built in the tidal area to function as mazes or pens.

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In the 1800s, and probably much earlier, ‘catching pens’ were manufactured from melaleuca branches. Called ngullaungang by some on the south coast, they were laid across inlets or ocean shallows with a gate to allow fish to enter and so be speared. There were similar technologies being applied across the globe. The English, or at least Anglo-Saxons, were using brushwood weirs to funnel and catch fish on coastal estuaries by the year 1000. Fire was an essential part of utilising the sea’s resources. By the 18th century, torches made from melaleuca bark were held aloft while night fishing to aid visibility and attract fish – particularly between seasonal runs. Fire was, of course, used to the cook the catch. Shellfish may have been cooked by steaming the mollusc in its shell, a technique still used in the far north of Australia. Oysters, of course, could be eaten raw. Sometimes cooking occurred within moments of hooking or spearing a fish and clay, sand or seaweed pads were commonly placed in canoes to act as hearths. Fire was central to Aboriginal life. Embers or slow-burning material such as bark were routinely carried from place to place – presumably to avoid the difficulty of repeatedly igniting a fresh flame through the friction created by drilling a piece of twig on a flat plane of timber. Coastal people also used fire to clear the land, like their counterparts inland. ‘Firestick farming’ was undertaken to clear underbrush that impeded movement across the land and to create ‘pasture’ for grazing prey animals such wallabies. Native perennial grasses could be relied upon to produce green shoots whenever they were burnt and for inland groups this was essential. For coastal people it supplemented their bounty of seafood, but they burnt widely nonetheless. As Europeans first encountered the New South Wales coastal territories they commented repeatedly on the park-like landscape – grassland extending between stands of trees and, according to Sydney Parkinson, ‘quite free from underwood’. In the process, this fire regime promoted the growth of certain plant species that depended upon the flames for germination, while precluding the distribution of others that did not respond well to burning. It followed that the resulting habitats influenced the type of animals found along the coast. The first Australians, then, shaped the landscape they inhabited.

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59 Aborigines hunting waterbirds, a watercolour by Joseph Lycett c.1817.

Aborigines spearing fish, others diving for crayfish, a party seated beside a fire cooking fish, a watercolour by Joseph Lycett c.1817. The canoe, which has the gathered bow and stern typical of NSW watercraft, is pulled up on an ocean shore, suggesting it was seaworthy.

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Convict artist Joseph Lycett apparently enjoyed some degree of intimacy with the Awabakal or Worimi people around Newcastle, depicting many aspects of Aboriginal culture there. This watercolour from around 1817 shows fishing by torchlight.

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Artist Louis Auguste De Sainson travelled to Australia on the French ship Astrolabe in the 1820s. These two lithographs show indigenous huts in Jervis Bay (bottom) and in King George Sound in Western Australia (top). Other colonial images suggest that rounded huts such as this one were also made on the NSW south coast.

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But while they made extensive use of fire, these people, whether coast dwellers or inlanders, never discovered metallurgy. Neither was it introduced to them by others as was the case in ancient Britain, which became one of the ‘crucibles’ of bronze-age manufacture around 4000 years ago. There the knowledge of sourcing and smelting ore over intense heat – possible with the discovery of the potential of charcoal – drifted across from the east where it had been known for two millennia. The social and economic links between Britain and the continent, which evolved over thousands of years, contrasted with the relative isolation of Australia. Asians did visit the far north in the centuries before European arrival. But though they introduced metal objects, the means of making them seems not to have been shared. The visitors did influence canoe design in communities around the Torres Strait and they might also have introduced the domesticated dog that became known as the dingo. But while these animals found their way to the south-east, there is no evidence that knowledge of sails and outriggers was passed down that far. Rapid technological development and innovation is usually dependent upon a critical mass of people as well as cross-cultural interaction. Populations grow when food surpluses can be assured and, in Europe and the Middle East, this followed the establishment of sedentary agriculture, which overcame the vagaries of hunting and gathering. Australia did not have the soil or the endemic plant and animal species necessary for cropping or grazing to occur spontaneously, so the population remained comparatively small. Nor were agricultural crop species introduced before European colonisation. At what might have been a peak in the 1700s, a few hundreds of thousands of people were spread across many millions of square kilometres – living in small groups, probably family-based clans affiliated with larger ‘tribes’. It is likely that as many people lived in the British Isles alone, only a fraction of the Australian landmass, by the end of the Bronze Age around 3000 years ago. The highest densities in Australia were along the eastern coast where the forests were productive and where, above all, the sea, rivers and estuarine waters, like Burrill Lake, contained an abundance of protein-rich shellfish. In the 1800s,

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the mouth of the Richmond River was probably one of the more populated regions in Australia, with four people per square kilometre. People exploited one food source before moving on to another. But they did so within defined and well-known territories. To supplement what the sea provided, birds, bats, and land mammals were caught. The starchy, toxic nut of the burrawang or cycad needed several days of preparation before it could be consumed, as with the sea squirt, called cunjevoi, which was cut from wave-washed rocks. Fern roots, fruits and wild spinach all added vitamins to a diet that meat alone could not provide. For those who could access nearby islands by canoe there was the possibility of additional food sources – birds, eggs, and seals. This was the case on the south coast at Barunguba (Montague Island), Bowen Island in Jervis Bay, and Boondelbah and Cabbage Tree islands off Port Stephens. Giidany Miirlari (Muttonbird Island) near Coffs Harbour became a nursery for burrowing wedge-tailed shearwaters, ‘mutton-birds’, in summer and early autumn. Easily fabricated bark shelters and knowledge of overhangs, like those at Burrill Lake and Currarong, must have aided the Aboriginal people’s mobility on land. To the far north there is evidence that larger, more permanent huts were being built close to reliable sources of protein – namely oyster beds and vast fruit-bat colonies in the coastal rainforest. As they responded to seasons and fluctuations in the supply of resources within their territories, the first Australians developed an affinity with the country they traversed – its palm forests, rainforests, heathlands and dunes. The landscape came to provide both physical sustenance and deep spiritual meaning.

‘ … but now they are Elders of the sea’ There may have been as many as 17 languages spoken along the presentday New South Wales coast by the late 1700s. Common words and coherent dialects allowed communication between people whose territories adjoined

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each other, and probably between groups immediately beyond neighbouring country. Someone from Botany Bay might have been able to speak to another from around Jervis Bay, some 150 kilometres to the south. A Minjungbal person from the Tweed River in the north, however, would have had great difficulty communicating with their Bidawal counterpart on the far south coast. Whether any two such individuals would have ever had occasion to meet, separated by such a distance and so many territories, is unclear. But neighbouring groups certainly did gather for large ceremonies. One European account of a male initiation ceremony on the Tweed River in the 1860s referred to messengers being sent around to ‘all tribes within a radius of 40 miles’. These people travelled slowly to the chosen place, bringing with them stones to place in a ring of mounded earth, which they also helped to prepare. Within this circle the ceremony was enacted. Despite the disparate languages, there were common elements to rituals and beliefs up and down the coast. In the south the Yuin also prepared a circular ground for the initiation ceremony they called Bunan. Groups, from as far north as the Shoalhaven and inland to the mountains, came together for these ceremonies. Here the boys who were becoming men had a single front tooth removed – another ritual and sign of initiation repeated up and down the coast and to the west. Rituals and laws affected most, if not all, aspects of Aboriginal life. Access to certain places and knowledge of particular stories was determined by gender or seniority. Knowledge was bestowed by initiation and the stages of initiation were displayed by body decoration in the form or scarification and apparel. The skin of both men and women was ritually cut and patterned at particular times, probably with shell knives. Around Sydney, only initiated men wore waistbands or headbands. Women, conversely, appear to have given up their waistbands when they married. Most, if not all, members of Sydney clans wore a bone pushed through the septum. Around the northern rivers senior women might wear a headband made from the tail of the dingo.

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Preparation and consumption of food might be proscribed depending upon gender, status or one’s totem. First Fleet officer David Collins noted that the people around Sydney Harbour and possibly Botany Bay shunned stingray as food, which may indicate that fish’s status as a totemic animal. Neither was it eaten on the far north coast where the ancestral hero Yahbirri had forbidden it. Another account, penned 100 years later, held that among the Tharawal, recent initiates were forbidden to eat the flesh of snapper, gropers and eels or male koalas, possums or short-nosed bandicoots. Pregnant women, young girls and uninitiated boys did not eat any schooling fish, believing that such consumption would deter other fish from coming into the shore. When a man caught a fish he necessarily cut it into portions so that one-quarter was kept by the fisher and the remaining flesh given to others, in the expectation that this sharing would be reciprocated. In 1795 the indigenous world that Collins observed was already changing. The disruption that flowed out from the settlement at Sydney Harbour was so profound that much of the indigenous knowledge of traditional law and ritual had dissipated by the end of the following century. The European ethnologists who followed in Collins’s intellectual wake in the 1870s and 1880s recorded beliefs, rituals and custom that were practised and understood by an ever-diminishing circle of elders. Though men such as Alfred Howitt and RH Mathews relished the complexity of what they heard and saw, their accounts were probably incomplete and necessarily mediated. They were men from an industrialised, market-based society that celebrated constant change in the form of ‘progress’; a society that defined itself historically, in time, against its apparently static ‘primitive’ antecedents. And yet they were trying to understand a people for whom boundaries of place and action were all-important while past, present and future were often indistinguishable. Everything was governed by principles established in the ‘Dreaming’, a period long ago that was nonetheless manifested in the present through landform and life. This was not a culture immune to change, as the history of technological and ecological adaptation suggests.

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Change, however, was absorbed within a system of belief predicated upon continuity; time became far less important than place. Nearly two hundred years after that first contact, white Australians were coming to terms with the significance of land or place for Aboriginal people – helped by poets, artists and anthropologists such as WEH Stanner who studied colonial texts and continued to speak to law-makers in areas where tradition had been less affected. Stanner concluded that Aboriginal people viewed their territory as ‘hearth, home, the source and focus of life, and everlastingness of spirit’. Land underpinned the relationship of people to each other. The territories of coastal people were filled with significant sites and markers such as natural features, bora grounds, carved trees and, sometimes, stone or earthen circles. Totems connected people to the animals of an area and initiation ceremonies and the gradual imparting of knowledge of place strengthened this link. Protocols for entering another’s territory were strictly observed. On the New South Wales south coast this included drinking an offered blend of earth and water, by which the visitor gained permission to eat and drink widely in the territory of the host. The transgression of these or other laws could result in large set-piece battles or the trial by ordeal of an individual. To coastal people, the expanse of the sea must also have featured in the definition of place and, therefore, self. It could hardly have been ignored. It was there as a perpetual vast otherness stretching, like the sky, beyond sight to somewhere that could only be imagined. The sound of the sea, the constant roar of the waves rolling to shore, carried for kilometres inland. Practically, it brought forth food. Spiritually, it figured as the place of origin from where ancestors came. While the land boundaries of Aboriginal groups along the New South Wales coast were recorded by encroaching colonists, little was noted of an equivalent of the marine territories that still define the Meriam, Yolgnu and other people of the ‘top end’ of Australia. It is reasonably clear that the islands of Sydney Harbour were shared places for the clans who occupied

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territories bordering the waterway, as was the harbour itself. Possibly the water close around territorial foreshores was proscribed space. While it is known that the island Barunguba was frequented for ceremonies by the Yuin people from that part of the south coast, there is less certainty about the relationship between people and the stretch of sea between the island and the mainland. It is difficult to imagine, however, that a people so attuned to their environment did not attribute significance to currents, eddies, winds and diving birds as their counterparts to the north continue to do. That the people of the New South Wales coast had an affinity with the water is indisputable. They swam to catch fish and perhaps for fun. They knew when the schools were due for their runs up the coastline. They could handle their bark craft with consummate dexterity within closed waters and for the more dangerous trips out to offshore islands. Where the Yolgnu people from Arnhem Land in the far north reiterated sea stories from the Dreaming by painting designs onto bark featuring squid, turtles and sharks, the people of the New South Wales coast inscribed soft rock near the water with images of fish, turtles, whales and people. The sandstone around Sydney became a veritable gallery of art. Echoes of a pre-contact connection to the sea do come down through the decades of disruption via a resilient oral tradition and the colonial notes and ethnologies recorded in the 1800s. Many of the descendants of those coast clans still live near the sea and coastal rivers and refer to themselves as ‘saltwater people’. The present-day Yuin elder, Max Dulumunmun Harrison, tells his people that polished rocks on one south coast beach represent ‘the souls of the departed’. Spirits move between land and sea because ‘most of whales and fish were once Elders on the land but now they are Elders of the sea’. The whale Gurawill once beached itself for the benefit of people. Then some of the men would get their great spears … thick spears that were carved from hardwood trees, and drive them into Gurawill … they would lean against the spear and tilt it so the whale would start to roll over … This would allow the spirit of the whale to leave the body. Then the

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message would get out and all the different clans and mobs would arrive to feast on the whale that had given up his life so that law could be known.

Another version of the Yuin whale story was related to RH Mathews when he traversed the south coast in the 1880s and 1890s compiling word lists and recording ritual and stories. Killer whales, or orcas, drove the larger whale to the shore upon the urging of the people on the beach: When the natives observe a whale, ‘m¯urrira’, near the coast, pursued by ‘killers’, ‘manana’, one of the old men goes and lights fires at some little distance apart along the shore, to attract the attention of the ‘killers’. He then walks along from one fire to another, pretending to be lame and helpless, leaning upon a stick in each hand. This is supposed to excite the compassion of the ‘killers’ and induce then to chase the whale towards that part of the shore in order to give the poor old man some food. He occasionally calls out in a loud voice, ‘Ga-ai! Ga-ai! Gai-ai! Dyundya waggarangga yerrimaranhurdyen’, meaning ‘Heigh-ho! That fish upon the shore throw ye to me!’

Perhaps the earliest account of this relationship between people and cetaceans was penned in 1823 when the magistrate and poet Baron Field described the practices of the Wodi Wodi people of the mid-south coast. There, too, it was ‘porpoises’ – probably orcas – who were departed elders providing for their people by chasing other whales into the beach: ‘The Natives … by no means attribute this prize to chance, but to the providence of the Spirits of their Fathers, whom they believed to be transformed into porpoises, after death, and who, in that shape, drive the whales on shore’. The spirits of the dead were variously thought to return to the sky or across the sea from where ancestral and creation beings, like the all-powerful ‘father’ figure called Baiame or Daramulan, came. Perhaps because adjoining land territories were occupied by other groups with their own Dreaming, the sky and sea were voids to be filled by ancestors and myths of direct relevance to those who looked up and out. Dreaming stories featuring ancestral arrival by sky and sea, rather than land, were told on both north and south coasts. To the north there were variations of a story involving three seafaring brothers who first made landfall at Yamba, in one instance, and Evans Head in

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another. They were the ancestors of the people of these places. In 1892, the Rev. Hugh Livingstone recorded another version of the story in the Byron Bay district: Long ago, Berrung, with his two brothers, Mommon and Yaburong came to this land. They came with their wives and children in a great canoe, from an island across the sea. As they came near the shore, a woman on the land made a song that raised a storm, which broke the canoe in pieces, but all the occupants, after battling the waves, managed to swim ashore. This is how “the men”… [the] black race, came to this land. The pieces of the canoe are to be seen to this day. If any one will throw a stone and strike a piece of the canoe, a storm will arise, and the voices of Berrung and his boys will be heard calling to one another, amidst the roaring elements.

Far to the south the Wodi Wodi believed that ancestral animals, in human form, travelled from across the ocean in a huge canoe obtained by the trickery of a starfish from his friend, the whale. Upon discovery of the theft the furious whale beat the starfish so that it assumed its subsequent tattered form and sought seclusion beneath the sea. After the arrival of the ancestors, the canoe was sunk and became the island Ganman-gang, near the entrance to Lake Illawarra. The whale, feeling wronged, remained in the ocean to travel up and down the east coast. For the Wodi Wodi, the mountain called Kulunghutti, or Coolangatta, was the point of departure for dead souls returning across the sea. Some details of this belief were related to Mathews by an Aboriginal elder towards the end of the 19th century. When Mathews climbed the mountain he found three pairs of grooves in the rock, each representing the tracks of the departing souls of men, women and children: A very long stem of a cabbage tree, imperceptible to human vision, reached from some unknown land across the sea to this rock. When a blackfellow died, his soul went in the night to the top of the rock, and standing there for a few moments, looked out towards the sea, which is about two miles distant. Then he slided down the hollow grooves, one foot resting in each, and when he got to the lower side of the rock he could distinguish the end of the long pole, on to which he jumped, and walked away along it to the sea coast and onwards across the expanse of water.

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Prominent landforms such as islands, rivers and mountains typically originated during the Dreaming through the actions of creation beings. Sometimes sites were, themselves, connected as kin. The sacred Yuin mountain Galaga had a son nearby – the island Barunguba. For the Wodi Wodi people, the Five Islands off the Illawarra coast were originally the daughters of the west wind, Oola-bool-oo or Oola-booloo-woo. Stories such as these confirmed an essential relationship of people to creators and place. There is another set of narratives common to both coastal and inland people that make reference to the falling of the sky. One, from the south coast, describes a huge mass of molten red heralding the descent of the stars and the movement of the sky. Another from the same region equates the sea with the fallen sky, loosened from its lofty position by the shaking of a great ancestral spirit attempting to return to its home. A third story from the north coast talks of a spear coming from the sky and a great flood that changed the coastline. The prevalence of the basic story suggests a shared experience. One interpretation holds that the myths refer to the same cataclysmic environmental event – possibly a comet called ‘Mahuika’ and the great wave that might have followed it some 500 years ago. In other stories shared by Aboriginal people in Victoria and New South Wales, the sky was held aloft by props at the distant edges of the world. These, too, describe a catastrophe, but one that was far more recent than any tsunami. News of tumbling props and the falling sky began to drift down to Victoria in the first decades of the 19th century. An old man called Berak, who had grown up there near the Yarra River, recalled the messages coming to his people when he was a boy. The collapse began in the east – where pale strangers had arrived from across the sea.

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3: Claiming the coast ‘ … until we fell in with the East Coast of New Holland’ The British first glimpsed the east coast of Australia through the uncertain light of dawn. The honour fell to Zachary Hicks, first officer of the Endeavour. His commander, James Cook, acknowledged as much and named the landfall Point Hicks. It was 19 April 1770. Cook thought he and his crew were the first Europeans to lay eyes on Australia’s eastern edge and he was probably right. But there is a chance that others had passed that way 250 years before. The Portuguese reached the Moluccas in the early 1500s and New Guinea two decades later. With audacity and a good deal of avarice they had signed the Treaty of Tordesillas with the Spanish in 1494, dividing a globe, as yet not entirely known in Europe, into two spheres for conquest or trade. The Moluccas lay at the eastern extremity of a series of Portuguese outposts in Africa and Asia. The

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Spanish got most of the Americas and the Pacific. A series of maps, produced in Dieppe in the middle of the 1500s and inspired by Portuguese reports, show a landmass called Java La Grande filled with strange peoples, animals and plants, and extending southward from the East Indies. It might have been Australia’s east coast. If so the Portuguese were venturing into Spanish territory and may well have wanted to keep their findings a secret. By the end of the 1500s, progress in navigation and cartography could give historical certainty to European discoveries. The little country of Holland had cast off Spanish rule, built a trading empire of its own and followed the Portuguese to the East Indies – propelled by the profits to be made from spices. If the Portuguese were not the first Europeans to lay eyes upon an Australian coast, whether it be north, east or west, then that distinction can be attributed to the crew of a tiny Dutch East India Company trader called Duyfken, or ‘Little Dove’, who saw land along the western side of the present-day Cape York Peninsula in 1606. Taking advantage of trade winds that blew eastward across the Indian Ocean, many more Dutchmen fell in with the continent’s west coast. One of them, Dirk Hartog, nailed a plate to a post to prove his visit. Parts of the new territory were given Dutch names, Edel’s Land, Leeuwin’s Land and Peter Nuyt’s Land along the southern coast. In 1642 Abel Tasman, also sailing for the East India Company, caught the bottom end of a place he called Van Diemen’s Land, in honour of the official who sent him on his voyage. In time it became known as Tasmania, named after the explorer himself. Tasman made the first European claim to Australian territory, by right of discovery, with a flag and a pole planted into Van Diemen’s Land. It was Tasman who, two years later, suggested the name New Holland for the larger landmass that was slowly taking shape in the European imagination and on the charts that guided them around the world. His voyage around the north of that continent in 1644 led to the drafting of the socalled ‘Tasman Bonaparte map’. This and other Dutch maps informed the British. So when, in January 1688, William Dampier made landfall on the north-west coast of the continent, the first Englishman to do so, he knew he

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had ‘fallen in’ with the shore of New Holland. Some charts showed a conjectural east coast. It was this shore that James Cook knew he had found when the Endeavour made landfall off Point Hicks in April 1770. Cook was in the Pacific Ocean to deliver an English astronomer to Tahiti to observe the Transit of Venus. But a set of ‘Secret Instructions’ from the Admiralty outlined the secondary purpose of the voyage, namely to proceed

Melechisédech Thévenot took existing charts including those of Abel Tasman and produced this 1663 map showing the extent of European knowledge of New Holland.

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In 1770 Cook had with him Didier Robert de Vaugondy’s 1756 chart of New Holland, with its conjectural east coast. When Cook sailed west from New Zealand he was certain to fall in with that coast.

south and west as far as New Zealand to determine if a ‘land of great extent’ existed above 40° latitude. The location of a southern continent which, it was believed, counterbalanced the northern landmass was still exercising the imagination of kings, navigators, map-makers and merchants. Should he find that continent, Cook was to carefully assess its harbours and coast for future navigation, the potential of its waters for fisheries, the presence of

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This 1779 map, engraved by William Whitchurch, shows Cook’s course up the east coast. Bass Strait has yet to be discovered.

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useful minerals and the fertility of the soil. In short, he was to determine its value for Britain. The navigator was also to observe the natives of any such land and, upon their ‘consent’, take possession of ‘Convenient Situations’ for the King. If the continent was uninhabited, Cook was to set up ‘Proper Marks’ and claim possession as ‘first discoverers’. The Endeavour sailed to the south-west from Tahiti and, as expected, encountered New Zealand, then only partially drawn on Dutch charts. In accord with his orders Cook explored that land for six months and, by circumnavigating the islands, proved that they were unconnected to any other landmass. That done, though without finding the ‘Southern Continent’, Cook fulfilled his obligations and had only to return home. Given a choice, the commander would not have sailed west towards New Holland at all. There was no mention of that place in the secret instructions; New Holland was not the great south land. Cook’s own preference was to keep searching for the ‘Southern Continent’ by sailing east as close to the bottom of the world as possible. Had he done so the first European charting and descriptions of the Australian east coast might have fallen to another party with very different consequences for the pattern of colonisation that followed. But the Endeavour was in no condition to endure the cold southern ocean in winter. Instead, it was agreed that the company would return to England via the East Indies and so should, as recorded in Cook’s ship log for 31 March 1770, ‘steer westward until we fell in with the East Coast of New Holland’.

‘… all they seem’d to want was for us to be gone’ Travelling in an arc from New Zealand, the Endeavour was on course to meet the small archipelago to the north of Van Diemen’s Land. After slow progress, a butterfly, a gannet and a clump of seaweed prophesied the presence

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of land. Then the ship was buffeted by strong winds from the south-west and, in response, Cook tacked towards the north, escorted by a pod of leaping porpoises. The coast that nature pushed him towards extended to the west and the north-east, as far as the eye could see. So, pondering Tasman’s journal, Cook wondered whether this place and Van Diemen’s Land was ‘one land or no’. It was the mainland and the Endeavour continued from Cape Hicks to the north-east, blown by gales and squalls. It was surrounded at times by waterspouts, as the sea was sucked up into the clouds by turbulent air. The naturalist, Joseph Banks, was on board the Endeavour with the approval of the Royal Society. He noted in his journal that these marvellous apparitions were ‘perfectly transparent and much resembled a tube of glass or a column of water, if such a thing could be supposed to be suspended in the air.’ The gentleman naturalist and estate owner had given up luxury and paid handsomely to accompany Cook on this journey of discovery. Banks let few events go by without a journal entry. His enthusiasm for surprises remained high even after 21 months of smelling salt, tar and tallow candles, while cooped up with a company of 93 sailors, marines, scientists and servants. At noon that day Banks and his colleague, the artist Sydney Parkinson, saw another column – this one on land. It was smoke ‘ascending out of a wood near the sea side’. The smoke came from fires made by the Yuin people who might have been cooking, burning-off or signalling the presence of a strange object or animal heading north. As the number of black columns increased in the days that followed, Banks ‘supposed’ wryly that ‘the gentlemen ashore had a plentiful breakfast to prepare’. Sydney Parkinson wondered whether they were, in fact, trying to communicate with the ship. Both those Australians and the free-ranging Britons defined themselves by their relationship to sea and coast. Both imagined places that lay beyond the horizon. But Cook’s was a maritime as well as a marine culture so he and his colleagues were able to travel to those imagined lands in search of wealth and power and scientific answers to the questions of planetary movements, the layout of the earth and the organisms that inhabited it.

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Off this new coast, in 1770, Cook could discern a country with ‘a very agreeable and promising aspect’. And having charted coasts from Canada to New Zealand he knew the ‘smooks’ were more than scrub fires – they were ‘a certain sign’ that the country was inhabited. Just what the local people made of the English vessel – were they able to see it without the aid of a spyglass – is, of course, less certain. It did not rise and fall quite like a whale and, in any case, this was too early for those creatures to be moving up the coast. The three sets of sails appeared perhaps as wings or a permanent blow of water. Though it sat several kilometres inland, the sacred mountain Gulaga was a landmark that could be seen out to sea and so was a useful point of reference for a navigator. Cook called the rise Mount Dromedary because it looked to him like a double-humped camel. This and other names seemed to have been communicated quickly to the crew for they appeared repeatedly in the daily journal entries of Lieutenant Hicks, Gunner Forwood and others as they tracked their progress along the new coast. Cook’s bearings were accurate but sailing at this distance from the shore inevitably resulted in errors of detail. He called the lump of land below the sacred mountain, Cape Dromedary, and it appeared on his chart as a bulbous headland. It was, in fact, the Yuin initiation island, Barunguba. Two decades later it was recognised for what it was – a separate outcrop – and became Montague Island, named after an English Earl by the master of one of the many convict transports that followed in Cook’s wake. Farther along, but still off the Yuin people’s coast, Cook spied the extraordinary dome-topped mountain called ‘Dithol’. To an Englishman’s eyes it resembled a dovecote and so became ‘Pigeon House’. Again the literate among the crew followed suit and they plotted the ship’s progress in their own logs accordingly. In this way the coast became collectively known to a new group of people with different points of reference, different ways of seeing. Each log entry was accompanied by the careful assessment of position, the sounding of water depth, samples of the sea bottom, the observation of wind – considerations and skills that had brought this company of men from one side of the world to the other.

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By now the British could see the people who made the fires. The beach was the point of this first visual contact for, while they were invisible in the heath and forest, the figures stood out in relief against the cream-coloured crescents of sand. Still, at a distance of eight kilometres, all that the young master’s mate Richard Pickersgill could make out were human shapes, apparently ‘naked and very black’. James Cook could not decide whether this ‘darkness’ was ‘the real colour of their skin or clothes they might have on’. At times the Endeavour struggled to make progress against the East Australian Current. On 27 April, nine days after landfall, it was also at the mercy of variable winds and moving backwards. Cook’s tacking brought the ship close enough for the company to see those on land more clearly. They were just south of a place that the Tharawal-speaking people there knew by the name Woolyungah. Decades later the colonists who followed Cook heard that word, or at least its echo, and named the place Wollongong. Four men were observed walking quickly along the shore. Two of them carried a small canoe, which Cook and Banks hoped they might launch and paddle to the ship. Instead, they sat on some rocks and watched the strange object out to sea. The crew of the Endeavour had survived a series of confusing and often violent encounters with local people during their circumnavigation of New Zealand. Undaunted, almost driven, Cook seemed determined to establish communication on this coast. So, at some risk to himself and ultimately his men, the navigator squeezed into the Endeavour’s smallest boat with Mr Banks and five others. Pulled by a pair of oars the boat approached the shore but turned back for fear of capsizing. In this case it was the surf rather than spears that thwarted the first European attempt to step onto an east-coast beach. The men on the rocks ran off. A better chance to come face to face with the local people came the next day when the Europeans found the best option for shelter and fresh water they had yet seen on the coast. Before entering this wide bay, the crew had unwittingly passed the territories of several groups. Now they were anchored in a well-populated haven occupied by the Gweagal people. Men, women

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and children frequented the shore and the ship anchored off the site of what Mr Banks described as a ‘village’ of huts. None of the ship’s company could recognise the words of the locals but the meaning of raised spears was plain. A thrown offering of beads and iron nails – much sought after by the Maori – did nothing to foster a welcome so, as they dodged projectiles, Cook’s party fired at one of the Aboriginal men peppering his leg with small shot. Possibly fortified by past rites of passage into manhood, this warrior stood his ground and took up a shield to defend himself against another round. More spears were cast and another shot fired before the Aboriginal people retreated into the woods. It was an inauspicious beginning to an eight-day stay, and an equally unfortunate prelude to colonisation. Throughout, the ship’s company gathered as much as they could carry. Grass was cut to replenish the stores for the livestock still aboard. These would be the first of many sheep and cattle to taste Australian pasture. As the bay was full of fish the men, too, ate well and healthily. Leatherjackets and stingrays abounded and the latter were so large and numerous that the captain called the place Stingray Bay. While sustenance prompted much of the take, the spirit of enquiry and the urge to observe was also strong. Banks set out to get as many birds as he could, not to eat but to stuff. Coming across a covey of quail he resisted the temptation to shoot the lot because, as he recorded in his journal, his ‘business’ was ‘to kill variety and not too many individuals of any one species’. By that, the sixth day, he noted that his collection of plants had grown ‘so immensely large’ that extra care was needed to ensure they were completely desiccated before being packed. So a ship’s sail was spread out on the shore and the stock of special drying papers, filled with dozens of leaves and flowers, was laid in the sun while Mr Banks walked around carefully turning his precious specimens till their moisture was gone. Later, as Cook contemplated the extent of the ‘botanizing’, he renamed the harbour Botany Bay. The Europeans were as curious about the human inhabitants of the bay as they were about its plant and animal life. Cook applied his ‘Secret Instructions’ and set about observing ‘the Genius, Temper, Disposition and Number

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of the Natives’ encountered on this coast. Despite the antagonism, there must have been some close communication, for three word lists were compiled in this week of encounters which included the local terms for head, hand and blood: ‘gobera’, ‘dammira’, and ‘mula’. Remarkably, Cook seemed unaware of his crew’s fraternisation for he noted on the eve of departure that ‘we were never able to form any connections’ with the bay’s people. Together, however, the captain and his men assessed and collected the technology they found. Pronged spears, with their fish bone barbs, were correctly identified as tools for fishing. With the sense of entitlement that often accompanies ‘rational’ enquiry, 40–50 of these ‘fishgigs’ were taken from one vacated campsite in exchange for somewhat less useful ribbons, beads and cloth. Canoes were appraised with mariners’ eyes – they looked crude but were remarkably serviceable and ‘so light that one man may carry them’. The Europeans sifted through campfires for evidence of the local diet. Gunner Forwood concluded that the inhabitants ‘live entirely on fish’, an idea supported by his commander. Cook’s observational skills were keen for he also noted that the stingrays upon which the Europeans feasted were not obviously a part of these meals. He did not venture to explain this but it is possible that the great flat fish carried totemic or moral significance for the Gweagal. If this was the case the very visible killing of these creatures may have added to the distress caused by the intrusion. Certainly the shooting of so many parrots was not appreciated for, when the dead birds were offered to the local people, they reacted with disgust. Yet, while the journal notes of the Europeans themselves leave little doubt that the locals feared the newcomers, there was an apparent inability to comprehend the profound impact of their arrival and the accompanying desire of these coast-dwellers to be left alone. Nothing that was said or done could allay this – ‘all they seem’d to want was for us to be gone’ wrote Cook in his journal. Stories of the first violent encounters and the strangeness of the ensuing week certainly lived on with the Gweagal and their descendants. For a people whose creation stories were replete with extraordinary transformations

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and powerful beings there was, not surprisingly, a mythical quality to the accounts of the Endeavour’s arrival. The ship was thought to be a floating island in the recollection of one. Another man recalled stories of the coming of a great giant waterbird with its sails presumably resembling wings. The men on board looked like possums running over the bird’s body. On land they were seen as devils. The Gweagal were, no doubt, relieved to see the ‘great bird’ float away from their home in the bay. Cook and his crew would encounter another group of coast dwellers in the far north after his ship ran aground on a labyrinthine coral reef and he sought refuge for repairs in a river that would be named ‘Endeavour’ after the ship it sheltered. In the course of six weeks spent there the Europeans learned much more about Australia’s first people, adding words like ‘kangaroo’ to the English language. Had better communication been established with the Gweagal in Botany Bay, the Europeans would have known these unusual mammals as ‘patagorang’. Later, Cook penned his famous summary of the coast people: … they may appear to some to be the most wretched people upon Earth, but in reality they are far more happier then we Europeans … They live in a Tranquillity which is not disturbed by the Inequality of Condition: the Earth and Sea of their own accord furnishes them with all things necessary for life … In short they seemed to set no Value upon any thing we gave them … they think themselves provided with all the necessarys of Life and they have no superfluities.

Cook’s impression showed both respect for a culture confident in its own terms and disquiet at his own society’s ‘Inequality’ and avarice. However, the distance between sentiment and service could be vast. So nothing Cook thought about a contented people best left alone could stop the dutiful navigator from claiming all he had seen for his King. On 22 August 1770 he hoisted the English colours on a small island off the long northern tip of the continent and ‘in the Name of His Majesty King George the Third took possession of the whole Eastern Coast … together with all [its] Bays, Harbours Rivers and Islands’ from that most northern spot down to 38° latitude, the first landfall at Point Hicks.

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In doing so Cook treated the whole coast as one of the ‘Convenient Situations’ referred to in the ‘Secret Instructions’. However, those same Instructions had stipulated that possession of such ‘Situations’ could only be gained with ‘the Consent of the Natives’, if the land was inhabited. The ‘Hints’ on correct exploratory procedure that accompanied the official instructions, provided by the Earl of Morton, were equally unambiguous. The President of the Royal Society, which had helped to organise the voyage, stipulated that occupants of newly discovered territories ‘are the natural, and in the strictest sense of the word, the legal possessors of the several Regions they inhabit. No European nation has a right to occupy any part of their country, or settle among them without their voluntary consent’.

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This 1780s engraving from an artwork by Sydney Parkinson shows ‘Two natives of New Holland advancing to combat’. Quite possibly these were Gweagal men from Botany Bay.

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All of that seemed to count for nothing. Cook set up the requisite marker indicating his claim but set aside the presence of the people he had so admired. The contradiction is all the more remarkable because the navigator clearly had both possession and ‘natives’ in mind at the same time. His sympathetic description of the latter appeared in the ship’s journal shortly after he rationalised the former. Possession, instead, came by the ‘right of discovery’ of an uninhabited land. The ostensibly empty east coast had never been ‘seen or viseted by any European,’ so it was now the property of Great Britain. It was a doctrine familiar to Europeans and one devised to forestall the conflict that might easily follow imperial expansion in the age of exploration. Accordingly, Cook also acknowledged the right of the Dutch to that part of the continent they had seen first. Presumably this was everything from the Duyfken’s landfall on the eastern side of the Gulf of Carpentaria down to Van Diemen’s Land where Abel Tasman had actually placed a Dutch claim. Cook then had second thoughts, possibly in a moment of reflection over the vagaries of international law or the judiciousness of conceding the right of possession to another, albeit friendly, power. Having penned the concession into his journal, Cook crossed it out. The indecision was reflected in imprecision, for the navigator set no western boundary. Though it clearly began at the top of Cape York and ran down to Cape Hicks, New South Wales just merged into New Holland at some point inland. The navigator’s apparently willful blindness to the political presence of Aboriginal people might have been encouraged by Joseph Banks who did not hold the locals in such high regard. Despite being a member of the Royal Society, Banks paid little attention to the humane ‘Hints’ offered by its President. For him the coast was so ‘thinly inhabited’ that its population counted for nothing in the scheme of empire. As Banks recorded in his journal: We saw indeed only the sea coast: what the immense tract of inland country may produce is to us totaly unknown: we may have liberty to conjecture however that they are totaly uninhabited. The Sea has I believe been universaly found to be the cheif source of supplys to Indians ignorant of the arts of cultivation … should a people live inland who supported

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themselves by cultivation these inhabitants of the sea coast must certainly have learn’d to imitate them to some degree, otherwise their reason must be supposd to hold a rank little superior to that of monkies.

So by this wishful thinking and dubious logic it was the very saltwater culture of the coast people – their reliance on the sea – that convinced Banks that the interior was empty. More arguments for assuming ownership of the place followed as the influential Mr Banks and others championed the colonisation of the new possession after their return to London. His advocacy occurred in the context of the social upheaval that accompanied extraordinary technological and economic change. Britain’s gaols and prison hulks were filling with unwanted felons – the product of rapid urbanisation and industrialisation. The overflow had previously been shipped off to Britain’s North American possessions but the ‘loss’ of these lands to independently minded colonists from 1776 onwards created the need to find another solution offshore. Possibly, too, the flax and pine that grew in apparent abundance in the Pacific could be used to supply Britain’s all-important navy. On a more philosophical level, the right of ownership was equated with labour and agricultural production. So it was held that the simple fishers of the New South Wales coast were little more than rootless nomads without the claim to land or the legal consequence that came with tillage. A negotiated acquisition was unlikely, Banks argued, for the local people had shown no interest in the European goods that might entice them to trade their country away. And what of the risks entailed in simply turning up and occupying a part of the coast, despite the presence of ‘natives’? When asked questions along these lines in May 1785 by those charged with considering colonisation, the Commons Committee on Transportation, Banks recalled the weapons gathered up at the Endeavour’s first anchorage: ‘They were armed with spears headed with fish bones but none of them we saw in Botany Bay appeared at all formidable’. Indeed it was there, where the Gweagal had wanted no part of the British, that Banks suggested a penal colony be established. The

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This version of James Cook’s chart of the east coast, replete with names, was published by W Strahan and T Cadell in 1773. Point Hicks is at the far left. Mount Warning and Cape Byron are located between the 28 and 29 league marks.

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‘rage for curiosity’ that prompted the examination of Aboriginal technology had, in this instance, served the interests of the nation as well as it did science.

‘… returned from the sea to visit them again’ Cook named many places on his way up the coast. Some, such as Mount Warning and Danger Point, were labelled for the benefit of subsequent navigators. Others, like Cape Byron and the unexplored Port Jackson and Port Stephens, commemorated mentors and men of high office. Smoky Cape and Indian Head were yet more ironic acknowledgments of an indigenous presence. It is clear, however, that Cook did not immediately have a name for the ‘coast’ he claimed on that August evening in 1770. Only later did he consider the appellation ‘New Wales’ – possibly in honour of King George’s eight-year-old son, the Prince of Wales. Then, perhaps after recalling that ‘New Wales’ was already a coastline in Canada, Cook inserted the name ‘New South Wales’ into his journal. It was some time before the name New South Wales gained currency. The continent remained ‘New Holland’ in the minds of many for another three decades and, for just as long, the penal colony itself was referred to as ‘Botany Bay’, the intended founding place. But Botany Bay was, of course, a false start. The colony was established to the north at Port Jackson – the remarkable waterway that in time was called simply Sydney Harbour, after the little cove where the colonists first pitched their tents. The place that Joseph Banks had advocated turned out to be quite inadequate for settling 1000 convicts and soldiers. There was too little reliable water and not enough shelter. Port Jackson, on the other hand, was magnificent. On 26 January 1788, the fleet of 11 vessels left Botany Bay for the harbour just to the north to angry cries from the local people. It was much as Cook had experienced 18 years earlier.

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Arthur Phillip was the man charged with governing the first European settlement on the east coast – or indeed anywhere on the Australian continent. This presence added weight to the British claim to the place, at least in the European mind. Accordingly Phillip’s instructions placed a definite western boundary on the King’s possession along longitude 135°E. The new line accorded with the bisection of the globe drawn up in the old Treaty of Tordesillas and suggests the British were cautiously aware of the potential territorial rights of Portuguese and the Dutch who were still present in the islands to the north-west. The continent was now divided down the middle into New Holland and New South Wales and, for the first time, the coastline of New South Wales had a beginning and an end. It was Phillip who took the risk of quickly relocating that strategic first settlement from the disappointing Botany Bay to the unknown waters of a harbour merely glimpsed in passing. Within days the waterway was being surveyed and its depths plumbed by his second-in-command, John Hunter. Port Jackson certainly afforded shelter and fresh water but the soil was sandy and infertile. So, five weeks after anchoring at Sydney Cove, the Governor was compelled to investigate the other nearby harbour referred to by Cook – Broken Bay – in the hope of finding the arable land upon which self-sufficiency and success depended. He took one of the small open boats that were standard accoutrements for British naval vessels and headed north out of the heads. Powered by wind and oar Phillip and his band spent eight days exploring a water system even larger than Port Jackson. Its southern arm alone apparently surpassed that harbour in splendour. Phillip described it as ‘the finest piece of water’ he had ever seen and called it Pittwater after the British Prime Minister whom he obviously admired. The steepness of the foreshore, however, precluded settlement and the governor had to look elsewhere for the farmland he needed. He found it at the western extremity of Port Jackson where clay overlay sandstone. Rose Hill became the second settlement for the colony, one that Phillip wished he had established as its first having spent so many months watching crops wither in the unforgiving dirt around Sydney.

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The Governor gave the town he laid out there an Aboriginal name, Parramatta – a reference to the people of that area and their name for the place where eels swam. This recognition of a resident indigenous population with such an obvious attachment to place belied, yet again, the assumption that the coast was ‘thinly inhabited’ by nomads. The newcomers could only guess at how many people lived around the harbour from the few they saw on beaches and headlands, and the number of canoes pulled up on the shore. But Phillip estimated that there were as many as 1500 in the vicinity of the harbour. He knew early on that each group had its own territory. With this came awareness that the company of 1000 newcomers was upsetting the balance of people and place – first around the cove that the harbour bands called Warrane and then to the west at Parramatta. However, there was never any questioning of the European right to stay. For their part the harbour people realised that the newcomers were taking possession and not simply passing through. Having shared fish and water in the first weeks, they retreated to the woods and a cycle of violence and retribution ensued. Phillip’s was the impossible task of establishing amity with a people whose sites of sacred and practical significance he was occupying and destroying. The governor’s desperation drove him to kidnap three indigenous men in the hope of establishing a rapport. One of these, Bennelong, did become an intermediary and, for his part, made the most of the collapsing social order to improve his own position. But, by late 1789, Phillip’s diplomacy was somewhat less urgent. Disease had swept the waterway and as many as half the indigenous population were dead. Phillip spent much of the rest of his five-year term pondering the problems that arose from establishing an open-air prison on a remote coast with a population often wracked by hunger. Convicts fled – sometimes in boats they had pirated, sometimes on the transports that hunted whales after delivering their human cargoes. The plan had been to turn felons into farmers and then deter these unwanted Britons from returning ‘home’ by giving them land upon completing their sentence. The prospect of owning a patch of soil

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was something that few could hope for in the old country. But it was difficult even keeping emancipated prisoners from leaving on the first boat out. The building of a new society was predicated upon the dispossession of an ancient one. Phillip handed out enough Aboriginal territory to the west of Sydney Town for 68 small farms. By the end of the 1790s a great deal more had been granted on the vast Cumberland Plain to the south and west and along the fertile flats around the Hawkesbury River, which was reached by sailing north out of the heads and then along the length of Broken Bay. The formulation of the plans and instructions that guided Phillip owed much to the world view of the Home Secretary, Lord Sydney, whose influence was acknowledged when he became the namesake of the first cove occupied. The emphasis in the instructions prepared by Sydney was on settlement and self-sufficiency. While it was hoped that Norfolk Island, considered part of New South Wales by the British, might provide a strategic supply of timber for naval masts and flax for sail cloth, trade with foreign ports was forbidden. So, too, was the construction of private vessels that might undertake such exchange. Not surprisingly, Sydney and his fellow Lords were ‘desirous’ to learn of other ‘ports and harbours upon the coast’ but it seemed not to be a priority. In the instructions issued to him Phillip was asked to explore these only when the two ocean-going vessels at his disposal – the Sirius and the Supply – could be ‘conveniently’ spared. As it turned out, that time was still some way off. The Sirius was sent to bring much-needed supplies from Cape Town. Then it was wrecked on the difficult coast of Norfolk Island while delivering convicts to relieve pressure on resources around Sydney Harbour. There, crops continued to fail, fish proved elusive, a second fleet of convicts arrived and the colony teetered on the brink of starvation. Without the official vessels or compulsion to explore the coast, incidental information trickled in by other means. Sometimes this came from the fishing boats that ranged beyond the heads in search of a much-needed catch. In August 1791 a convict transport took shelter in a large southern bay that had been passed by Cook without comment. An officer, Richard

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Published in 1787 by Robert Sayer, this map shows the east coast of Australia complete with profiles and chart of Botany Bay, the intended destination of the First Fleet.

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Bowen, named it Jervis Bay. It was explored a little more in November that year when the convict transport-turned-whaler Matilda entered and its master confirmed the good anchorage there. He produced a chart that would serve the purposes of navigation until the 1830s. The whaling captains were apparently the most curious. For Judge Advocate David Collins, the first chronicler of the new colony, there was rather too much exploring and not enough whaling. So Port Stephens, only noted and named by Cook, was first explored and sketched in 1791 by the crew of the Salamander, which had taken to chasing sperm whales after offloading convicts. However, white ‘settlement’ and knowledge of the coast had already seeped much further than the administration knew. Living amongst the indigenous people at Port Stephens were four escaped convicts, led by a man called Tarwood, who had washed up there in the boat they had pirated from Port Jackson in October 1790. It was more than 140 kilometres north of the harbour they had fled. The Worimi apparently received the white men as ancestors, ‘returned from the sea to visit them again’. The escapees were discovered only by accident when, in 1795, the naval ship HMS Providence took shelter after being blown all the way past Port Jackson in a gale. The men were duly returned south to the colony where they related stories of life among the Worimi. After more than four years there, the Europeans left behind wives and children and, presumably, some bewilderment. Tarwood and his colleagues had, in fact, narrowly missed capture just weeks before – by a survey party sent to properly investigate the bay. In February 1795 Deputy Surveyor-General Charles Grimes gathered enough information to sketch a map of the place and note some navigational necessities – high and low tides, the best course of entry, the shoals and the freshwater rivers that fed the harbour. With food shortages overcome and agriculture on a better footing, it was now convenient to explore the coast. The contours of landscape and the depth of water could be understood and translated to paper with relative ease for the purposes of colonisation. Understanding the people who lived there, however, was typically difficult

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for the uninvited Europeans. ‘Welcomed on shore with a dance’, Grimes was then nearly speared. What transpired to change the mood is seemingly lost to the historical record and, indeed, may never have been apparent to the surveyor such was the confusion of these first contacts and the ‘eyeless judgement’ the colonists applied to their own actions as they moved into Aboriginal country. Consequently Grimes dismissed the Worimi as unfriendly and saw no purpose in a second visit to what he considered a useless and dangerous place. Port Stephens was visited again, in 1797, when a search party arrived chasing yet another group of escapees. The place had served as a haven once and might have done so again. The reason for Lieutenant John Shortland’s long and furious pursuit was the loss of the Government’s best boat, the locally built Cumberland, which had been pirated by the convicts while en route to the Hawkesbury laden with supplies for the new farms. So small was the fleet at Governor Hunter’s disposal that he could spare only two rigged rowing boats for the chase. One went north, the other headed south. Shortland’s two-week quest failed to find the absconders but, on his way home, he did discover another harbour and a river he called the Hunter. Both had been missed by the boat that had carried Grimes home – such were the vagaries of exploration. At the Hunter River Shortland found large amounts of high quality coal ‘lying so near the waterside as to be conveniently shipped’. Coal had powered the iron furnaces of Britain for centuries. The country was now dependent upon steam and power engines. The Endeavour, itself, had been a collier before its refit for discovery – one of a huge fleet of sturdy ships that transported coal along the English east coast. The robust design of these carriers made them particularly suitable for long sea voyages. But Britain’s new penal colony did not yet have a steam engine to use the fuel. Coal could be burnt in colonial stoves and fireplaces with greater efficiency than wood. Wind and muscle, however, powered all the boats, carriages and mills of New South Wales – so it was the fuel’s potential as an export commodity that was most exciting. As Shortland proudly predicted in a letter to his father, coal would be a ‘great acquisition to the colony’.

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This was not the first coal discovered on the coast. Earlier, in April 1797, chunks of the black mineral were picked up off a beach to the south of Sydney at a place that would be called Coalcliff . Again it was chance rather than purpose that played a part. The discoverers, in this instance, were some straggling survivors from the Bengal trader Sydney Cove, sent north to get help after their vessel was wrecked on a tiny island off northern Tasmania. Exhausted and near death they used their find to make a warming fire at the end of a 450-kilometre coastal trek which took them from a sweeping beach, not far from Cook’s first landfall at Point Hicks, up to Port Jackson. There was a published narrative of that journey – written by William Clark, one of only three who survived the six-week walk. Clark possessed a sensibility that absorbed the aesthetics of the country in spite of his physical ordeal, or perhaps in an attempt to overcome it. He was clearly one familiar with the contemporary idea of the ‘picturesque’ – that a landscape can give delight through variability. In some respects sensual enjoyment of the picturesque ran counter to the ‘rational’ scientific enquiry that underpinned the investigations of Cook and Banks. But both evinced the power of the European urge to observe the world they were traversing. In the far south, a battered and hungry Clark nonetheless encountered country that was ‘beautiful and picturesque in appearance’. The party walked across ‘a delightful plain’, the appeal of which must have been heightened by the ease of access. And somewhere just south of Jervis Bay – by which time Clark was surely exhausted – he had ‘a pleasant walk about five miles along the sea coast’. This was clearly a well-inhabited coastline. Clark’s party met several indigenous groups as they made their way north. While some of the interactions were hostile, many were friendly. Indeed, the three that completed the journey could not have done so without the ‘hospitality’ of the people they encountered who, having overcome their astonishment, shared fish and fresh water with the strangers – just as the people of Port Jackson had done. ‘They viewed us most attentively’, wrote Clark, ‘They opened our clothes, examined our feet, hands, nails &c., frequently expressing their surprise by laughing and loud shoutings. From their gesture during this awkward review it

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was easy to perceive that they considered our clothes and bodies as inseparably joined’. In this first encounter, the presentation of strips of cloth as gifts or tribute was an important gesture – one that might have accorded with an established indigenous protocol of travel through another’s territory. That James Cook had such little success in this respect also raises questions about the mode of approach. The navigator appeared from the sea in a bewilderingly large boat full of men. Clark’s party originally numbered 17 – about the size of an indigenous band. They were men on the move coming over land and this may have assisted their reception to a people who themselves moved about. The coast people guided the newcomers across the rivers and headlands of their country with apparent equanimity for there was no suggestion that they were there to stay – that this was a portent of more visits and, ultimately, their dispossession.

‘… the investigation of the coast had not been greatly extended …’ It was the arrival of HMS Reliance in September 1795 that presaged a greater interest by the colonial administration in dedicated coastal exploration. The ship delivered a new governor – the experienced naval captain and surveyor John Hunter who already knew the harbour intimately. With him was the surgeon and naturalist George Bass, a man who possessed an intellect, energy and physical presence that impressed most who met him. One of these was the Reliance’s master’s mate, Matthew Flinders. The two were friends by the time they embarked. Upon ‘arriving at Port Jackson’, Flinders recalled in A Voyage to Terra Australis, ‘… it appeared that the investigation of the coast had not been greatly extended beyond the three harbours’. With Bass he formed a ‘determination’ to complete ‘the examination of the east coast of New South Wales,

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by all such opportunities as the duty of the ship and procurable means could admit’. But the urge to explore had probably taken hold of both men prior to their departure from the navy yard on the Thames. Bass had clearly prepared himself for investigation for he brought with him his own small boat. Flinders had impulsively joined the Navy in 1789 at age 15, having been enthralled by Robinson Crusoe and the possibility it suggested of seeing remarkable lands and people across the sea. Once enlisted, ambition prompted him to emulate James Cook who had become the first and quintessential modern hero of European maritime expansion since his death in 1779. In Bass’s little craft, a tub called the Tom Thumb, and accompanied by the surgeon’s servant boy William Martin, they explored Botany Bay and the George’s River that flowed into it. The excursion in October 1795 was not official but it ultimately increased the spread of ‘settlement’ – this time into the country of the Bediagal people who would resist the cropping of their land into the next century. Both men received grants of land nearby as a reward for their effort. Five months later Bass and Flinders had acquired another small craft, called the Tom Thumb II, and headed further south to the country of the Wodi Wodi people in the Illawarra. The surf, storm and sunburn they endured on this trip nearly killed them but did nothing to quell their urge to discover. Flinders learned the valuable skill of handling a boat in the waves and they returned having named another coastal inlet – Port Hacking. The European settlement bled slowly to the west along plains and rivers. A mountain range that hazed blue in the distance blocked the flow and hid the vast unknown continent beyond the Hawkesbury and Nepean rivers. In 1796 Bass attempted to breach the range, originally called the Carmarthen Hills and then simply the Blue Mountains. But he failed, like several before him. Undeterred, he turned his attention back to the coast and, in August 1797, offered to follow up those reports of coal to the south of Sydney. Nearly blind with eye infection he stumbled determinedly through fern groves and around sea cliffs to discover a coal vein ‘about six or seven feet in thickness’, near where the emaciated survivors of the Sydney Cove found their few lumps.

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Hunter reported the find in a despatch to the Home Secretary and named Bass as the discoverer. The sailor-surgeon offered his services for ‘examining the coast to the southward of this port’. In December of that year, just before sunset on the first Sunday of the month, Bass and six others rowed a locally built whaleboat out of the heads and hoisted the sail. Flinders was detained in port by naval duties so Bass led this expedition, the first close European examination of the coastline. Along the way he referred to places named by Cook. To these he added others such as the Shoalhaven River, so-called because its mouth was ‘filled up by shoals of mud and sand’. There was little of the aestheticism of Clark’s narrative. These were notes made with a mind focused on the potential for settlement. The flood plain around was ‘rich and good’ but subject to flooding. Beyond, however, there were ‘many thousand acres’ of rich open land. Jervis Bay might provide good anchorage though the country around was ‘in general barren’. ‘Bateman Bay’, which had looked promising from Cook’s chart, disappointed for it gave no shelter except from a northerly wind and its beach was too affected by surf to lay a boat. Bass and his men were the first Europeans to go into Twofold Bay. Then he also sailed south beyond Point Hicks, to enter and name a bay he called Western Port. This was one of the great open boat voyages of the modern era. Bass returned convinced that a strait of water, not a bay, separated Van Diemen’s Land from the rest of the coast – just as Cook had wondered back in 1770. The surgeon and his friend Flinders confirmed this with another voyage in October 1798 in a colonial-built sloop called the Norfolk. Along the way they retraced the path of the whaleboat, calling again into Twofold Bay. The impression was a little more promising than that gained by Bass the previous year. There was ‘excellent shelter’, wood in abundance and what seemed to be the remains of a right whale on the shore. ‘This place will probably be of service to whalers’, they suggested. And indeed it would be. The men circumnavigated Van Diemen’s Land and, after reporting their discovery, the water between the island and the mainland was called Bass Strait, at Flinders’s request. Knowledge of it shortened the trip from Europe by days,

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something appreciated by people who knew the trials and dangers of ocean voyaging. For several years afterward the whaleboat was preserved on the shore of Sydney Cove as a shrine to Bass’s first trip and probably the man himself. But Bass had tired of the poor pay and prospects of a naval surgeon so he turned his mind to trade and enterprise. In 1803 he set sail for South America. It was his last voyage. Bass and his boat disappeared without trace somewhere in the Pacific.

‘… to penetrate further into the interior’ In the winter of 1799, with the southern coast cold and inclement, Flinders was sent north to investigate two ‘openings’ noted by Cook – Moreton Bay, named after the Earl who had provided the ethical ‘hints’ on exploration, and Hervey Bay. It was curiosity about the contents of the interior, as much as enquiry about the navigable coast, which prompted the voyage. With the Blue Mountains blocking westward exploration from Sydney, Flinders hoped that the discovery of ‘a considerable river’ might provide a way ‘to penetrate further into the interior’. The ever-interested and influential Joseph Banks – who had conjectured that the territory beyond the coast was uninhabited – supported such an expedition, complaining to the Colonial Office that a decade of occupation had revealed nothing about this apparently empty land. Some, it seems, wondered whether there was a sea within – a waterway like the Mediterranean. In 1798, Banks wrote that it was ‘impossible’ to believe that such a landmass did not contain large navigable rivers leading to the ‘heart’ where valuable ‘native raw material’ would be found. Flinders, then, was following in the wake of the Endeavour with the charts, notes and reputation of the great navigator uppermost in his mind. Knowing Cook had travelled along some of this coast at night, and so

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may have missed waterways or harbours, Flinders stepped ashore at what he took to be a large sandy harbour some three days sailing north of Port Stephens. He called it Shoal Bay and dismissed the place as shallow and inconsequential. It was, in fact, the entrance to the largest waterway on the east coast, called Briemba by the Aboriginal people who lived along it and the Big River, then the Clarence, by the Europeans who came later to cut its forests. Eventually the colonists named the town built there in the 1860s, Yamba, a derivation of the Aboriginal word for either headland or shellfish. Just as Cook had travelled with the Tahitian man Tupaia to act as guide and mediator, Flinders took with him Bungaree, a Guringai man from Broken Bay. At ‘Shoal Bay’ Flinders also emulated Cook by investigating a ‘native’ campsite. Together he and Bungaree examined three circular huts near the southern headland. These were elaborate constructions of paperbark-covered frames with walled entrances angled so as to prevent penetration by rain. One was big enough for as many as twelve people. The huts might well have qualified as ‘architecture’ in the lofty estimation of Joseph Banks. They certainly impressed Bungaree who had apparently not seen anything like them before. For this was the land of the Yaegal people and the Guringai man had not travelled much beyond Port Stephens. It was a voyage of discovery for him as well. Perhaps for that reason Bungaree took with him from the campsite a ‘hand basket’ so tightly woven from leaves that it could carry water. Continuing north Flinders also missed the mouth of the Richmond River and the Brisbane River that flowed into Moreton Bay. None of these were long enough to carry colonists into the ‘heart’ of the continent but they were significant waterways. Possibly obscured by surf breaking across sand bars or, in the case of the Brisbane River, a little archipelago that crowded the river mouth, they eluded Flinders’s investigation. So he could only conclude that ‘no river of importance intersected the East Coast’ from Hervey Bay in the north to the continent’s southern tip.

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Matthew Weatherhead’s ‘Plan of Jervis Bay on the East Coast of New Holland’ was published in 1794. Its title indicates that the name New South Wales was slow to gain currency even among British seaman.

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Robert Marsh Westmacott’s watercolour of Coal Cliff in the early 1840s shows the seams of coal and a landscape unchanged since it had been traversed by the survivors of the Sydney Cove and explored by George Bass.

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Coastal profiles were a means of visually identifying particular sections of coast, so as to aid navigation. The artist William Westall, who sailed with Flinders, completed these watercolour profiles of the entrance to Port Jackson and Broken Bay, and the coast near Cape Byron.

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Matthew Flinders’s 1814 chart of Terra Australis/Australia shows a continent finally taken shape and given a single name, although still divided between New Holland and New South Wales.

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The surveying of the New South Wales coast continued throughout the 19th century. This map of the coast traversed by Oxley was first published in 1865, following a three-year survey from 1862 led by Commander Frederick Sidney RN assisted by Francis Hixson, JT Gowlland and others. ‘East coast of Australia. New South Wales. Sheet V, Port Stephens to Tacking Point’, Tower Hill 1895.

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The apparent dearth of rivers along the east coast had Flinders wondering whether an ‘extensive strait’ might in fact separate New Holland and New South Wales from north to south. He suggested as much to Banks in a letter upon his return to Britain in September 1800, hoping that an expedition might be funded ‘to have the discovery of New Holland completed’. Investigating the continent had not been a priority for the Lords and officers in London, but they had already taken steps to further scientific and marine exploration by sending the specially designed survey brig Lady Nelson in March 1800, just as Napoleon Bonaparte approved a similar French expedition to be commanded by Nicholas Baudin. Flinders, however, proposed to explore the entire coast, a task that required two vessels. His plan was approved and an ex-collier turned naval escort was duly renamed the Investigator. As commander, Flinders was instructed to sail along the south coast of the continent, still incompletely charted, to look for an opening ‘to an inland sea or strait’. He would assess the ‘manners and customs of the inhabitants’ and any natural resources ‘useful to the commerce or manufactures of the United Kingdom’. He was then to proceed to the north and north west of New Holland, to investigate any ‘valuable harbours’ and passages of advantage for the merchant ships of the East India Company. In the course of fulfilling most of this from 1801 to 1803, Flinders circumnavigated the continent – paying little attention to the coast he had already explored north and south of Sydney but again taking Bungaree with him. On the continent’s southern coast Flinders crossed paths with the French navigator Nicolas Baudin whose scientific investigation was infused with some political intent, evident in the Frenchman’s naming of that territory, Terre Napoleon. The chart Flinders produced after returning to England in 1810 incorporated his earlier surveys and was the first to accurately present the continent’s coast in its entirety. He called it ‘Terra Australis or Australia’, the names he had proposed to Joseph Banks in a letter back in 1804. Both referred to the ‘south land’, so New Holland and New South Wales became, in effect, the long sought-after southern continent.

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‘… to take possession in His Majesty’s name …’ Had Flinders remained in the colony he would have been given command of the first ship sent out to counter possible French claims to the coast. As it was, the Lady Nelson arrived in Sydney Harbour under the command of James Grant in December 1800, two months after Flinders’s departure for Britain. The vessel had innovative ‘sliding keels’ which allowed it to negotiate just two metres of water. Grant carried with him the Duke of Portland’s ‘open instructions’ to Governor Hunter by which the commander, himself, was to conduct his exploration. They echoed the secret instructions given to Cook back in 1769 and, though both this expedition and that of the Investigator in 1801 evinced the patronage and scientific interests of Joseph Banks, Imperial imperatives were hardly disguised. The commander of the Lady Nelson was ‘to take possession in His Majesty’s name’ of useful hitherto ‘unknown parts of the coast’, with the consent of any inhabitants should there be any. He was to find safe harbours and travel up rivers to assess the country for ‘anything useful to the commerce and manufactories of Great Britain’. On his outward journey Grant did explore the ‘unknown’ coastline to the west of Western Port. The Lady Nelson became the first vessel to exploit Bass and Flinders’s shorter route to Port Jackson – passing through Bass Strait from the west. It was the first to enter Port Phillip Bay in which the city of Melbourne would later be founded. In Flinders’s absence Grant revisited the coastline close to Sydney. On a voyage to Jervis Bay he took with him Joseph Banks’s collector George Caley. There they shot and described many of the birds and considered the soil. Caley gathered ‘some curious plants’. Accompanied by an Aboriginal man from Sydney, Grant also contacted the local people who were strangely absent during Bass’s visit four years earlier. The impact of colonisation was already apparent this far south. The people there were familiar with blankets

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This illustration of the workings of sliding keels was featured in James Grant’s 1803 Narrative of a Voyage of Discovery.

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and several showed the scars that followed smallpox infection. The lieutenant took on board some human bones he was told by his Aboriginal interpreter were those of a white man ‘that had come in a canoe from the southward, where the ship tumble down’. These were, he concluded, the remains of the one of the survivors of the Sydney Cove. That year Grant was sent to explore the Hunter River. This time his party included the natural history artist John Lewin and the adventurous military engineer and surveyor Francis Barrallier. They spent four weeks investigating the river and its surrounds. The group confirmed the presence of vast amounts of coal, mined 40 tons of the fuel, and named the strangely shaped outcrop at the Hunter’s mouth Coal Island. It would later be known as Nobby’s. Grant and his colleagues also identified large numbers of cedar trees – the red ‘mahogany’ that was now highly prized in the colony for interiors, furniture and boat-building. The Hunter was commonly called the Coal River and a penal settlement was established there soon after Grant and his crew reported their findings. It quickly established a fearsome reputation as a place of secondary incarceration. Convict letter-writer Margaret Catchpole penned a sympathetic picture of Coal River exiles in prose that evoked at least one of the accents that resonated through the colony: ‘they have thar poor head shaved and sent up to the Coale river and thear Carrey from Day Light in the morning till Dark at knight and half starved …’ That place became Newcastle – a hopeful offspring of the English coal port brought to life by forced labour. In 1804 it was only the second major settlement on the New South Wales coast. Shortly after his Coal River exploration, Grant requested leave to return to Britain. Overshadowed by Flinders, his contribution to coastal exploration would be barely mentioned in colonial accounts and the histories that followed. But the Lady Nelson sailed on for another two decades, serving as a working and exploratory vessel and carting convicts, marines and supplies between Port Jackson and Newcastle. In 1811 it took the new Governor Lachlan Macquarie safely on his first visit to Port Stephens and he named the south side of the harbour, Nelson Bay, in appreciation. Six years later

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the Lady Nelson was sent to investigate the disappearance of the brig Trial. While the circumnavigation of the continent by the Investigator improved British claims to that vast landmass, the brig with the sliding keel did more to consolidate British occupation of the coast to the north and south of Sydney than any of its counterparts. In 1819 the Lady Nelson took the colonial surveyor John Oxley to chart the newly discovered harbour north of Newcastle. Oxley had stumbled upon and named Port Macquarie with great relief the previous year. It was a chance find for, by then, the barrier of the Blue Mountains had been breached and the way was open to the western plains beyond. Oxley went overland in search of the great inland river or sea that Flinders had hoped to find on his circumnavigation and which was still seen as the key to unlocking the occupation of the interior. Only after a dispiriting and inconclusive trek through flooded marshes and dry plains – the longest land journey then completed by Europeans – did Oxley turn for the coast. As he recorded in his journal, ‘to our great joy and satisfaction, we arrived on the sea-shore about half a mile from the entrance of what we saw (with no small pleasure) formed a port …’ On his way down from ‘Port Macquarie’ Oxley and his party had to negotiate a difficult series of waterways and washes that were not marked on Flinders’s charts. After arriving in Port Stephens he wrote to Governor Macquarie describing the deficiencies of offshore surveying: ‘we soon experienced how little the best Marine Charts can be depended upon to shew all the inlets and openings upon an extensive line of coast’. Another settlement followed these discoveries – this one the third on the long New South Wales coast. Like Newcastle, Port Macquarie was to be a place for banishment. For, by then, even the Coal River was too close to Sydney for the governor’s comfort. Convicts were escaping and going south in the hope of leaving on an outward-bound boat from Port Jackson, or disappearing into the town and its surrounds. The winds did their part to spread the European presence by accident rather than purpose. When, in 1823, John Oxley was sent north to survey Moreton Bay with a view to establishing yet another far-flung coastal

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prison, he found a white man already there. Thomas Pamphlett had lived near the bay for months with local Aboriginal people after his open boat was blown more than a thousand kilometres north from the Illawarra. Without compass or charts Pamphlett had no idea where he was until Oxley arrived. On his way to Moreton Bay, John Oxley examined the coast north of Cape Byron with more care than Matthew Flinders had exercised in 1799. There he discovered a large river he called the Tweed. It was a long way from Sydney and far further than the demand for land or resources had yet driven settlement. So this part of the coast remained unknown for a while longer. In 1828 a naval vessel called the Rainbow, sailing to Sydney from Moreton Bay, explored the Tweed and came across a larger river to the south, which its Captain, Henry Rous, called the Richmond. It was a discovery of ‘no ordinary value to the colony’ in the opinion of the Sydney Gazette, for which Captain Rous was due the ‘best thanks for his patriotism, zeal and dispatch …’ But, as was the case at Port Stephens, the desperation that grew from penal confinement had pushed European presence well ahead of official knowledge and purpose. So, on these apparently unknown northern rivers, Rous and his crew encountered white men escaped from mosquito-infested Moreton Bay. They were naked, having lost their clothes to the forest or, perhaps, after joining the Bundjalung people who had lived there for generations. Their presence anticipated the exploits of the escapee Richard Craig who later arrived without clothing at Port Macquarie having made the overland journey from Moreton Bay with reports of big rivers and limitless forests up north. The remarkable Craig then negotiated his pardon and a handsome payment for guiding a government boat back up to the rivers he had crossed where the cedar trees, now called ‘red gold’, grew in abundance. The British had established the Swan River Colony, later Western Australia, in 1829, thereby taking possession of an entire continent they now called Australia. Settlements on the west coast joined those along the east

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to justify ownership of the whole. Gradually, by political dictate rather than geological shift, the New South Wales coast contracted with the formation of separate colonies; Tasmania in 1825 and South Australia in 1836. The shrinkage continued in 1851 when Victoria was established and again in 1859 with the foundation of Queensland. Once more than 15 000 kilometres long, the coastline of New South Wales now extended for a little over 2100 kilometres – from the Tweed River in the north to Cape Howe in the south.

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4: Convicts, coal, cedar and cane ‘The foul air that is breathed there produces spitting of blood …’ Newcastle was a hard place. Coal might have inspired its borrowed name but it was a failed convict uprising out near the Hawkesbury farms that prompted the colony’s third Governor, Philip Gidley King, to fix a penal settlement on the coast there – well away from Sydney. In March 1804 the Lady Nelson led a small flotilla into the harbour at Newcastle loaded with 34 ‘deluded’ rebels who had escaped the noose, and enough military men to prevent their escape and force them to work. The convicts were to pay for their banishment with their own labour. Both coal and cedar had become the exclusive property of the Crown in 1801 so the government levied a duty on the mineral and timber shipped by private vessels and this offset the cost of punishment and exile. To further capitalise on the abundance of fuel and seawater, a coal-fired boiler was sent from Sydney shortly afterwards to

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manufacture salt for curing meat and fish. There was a suggestion that a fishery might be established too but, as was generally the case in the early years of Sydney, neither convicts nor soldiers had the skills to easily catch ‘the finny tribes’ of their new coast. In the absence of roads to any distant inland site, water still provided the best means of transportation. The sea allowed the new settlement to be supplied and its products returned effectively to Port Jackson. It was hoped that water would also serve as a barrier to those who sought freedom. The tiny place was first overseen by an ambitious and well-born 21-year-old marine officer, Lieutenant Charles Menzies. Governor King, was alert to the risks attached to coastal prisons and stressed to the young commandant the need to discourage communication between boat crews and convicts. One of his first acts as Governor had been to establish comprehensive shipping regulations for Port Jackson. Menzies received a set of signal flags to help regulate the arrivals and departures at Newcastle. All the convicts first exiled to Newcastle were Irish. There was a shared sense of oppression among them – one that fanned rebelliousness and heightened daring. Their captors were only too aware of the dangers of ethnic solidarity and so, two months later, ‘twenty Englishmen’ were thrown into the mix to lessen the ‘evil’ that would arise ‘than if they were all Irish’. Menzies initially reported that the prisoners set about their task of carting coal and cutting cedar ‘in the most cheerful manner’. But there was resentment and subterfuge behind the good cheer, and possibly some naivety on the part of the young Lieutenant. Plans to flee were being hatched. But not content to just escape, some convicts plotted to kill Menzies and his men before departing. The scheme was foiled within three months of arrival and the outrage of the gaolers was reflected in retribution: hard labour in double leg-irons and enough lashes to tear flesh from bone. Newcastle was always a place dominated by men even after the arrival of female convicts and a handful of civilians. By 1820 there were only 92 women and children, both free and un-free, in a population of around 870. So much in the minority, single convict women bore the brunt of the extra

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surveillance of the male prisoners and soldiers with whom they mixed. So through necessity, if not desire, most ‘took up’ with their male counterparts in the huts that were provided for convict lodging. Some formed liaisons with their captors despite rules to the contrary. Discipline, it seems, had relaxed in the decade or so after the departure of Menzies – to the extent that it was possible to smuggle rum from docked ships. But it was tightened again under the regime of Captain Wallis who also set about consolidating the township from 1816 to 1819. The settlement grew around a compact grid of streets that ascended the hillside, rising back from the single stone wharf – the focus of all maritime comings and goings – near the entrance to the sea. It was an aspect that provided protection from the buffeting south-easterly winds. The commander’s house sat on the top of the hill at the end of the ‘principal’ street – originally named in honour of the monarch George III who had sent James Cook on his first voyage and given his blessing to the colonial endeavour that followed. That street ran straight up from the dock and a shoreline called Regent Beach – possibly named in deference to the Prince who had assumed power from his ailing father. The town’s layout was in common with that other place of forced labour – the New World plantation. Elevation was salubrious and the lovely views were appreciated, but loftiness also clearly signalled the location of power. So Government House commanded both a view of the town and the attention of all who arrived by ship. Higher still, in terms of location and moral authority, was the Anglican church where English and Catholic Irish alike were required to attend Sunday service. A hospital was established in the original gaol house next to the beach, perhaps to catch the healthful breezes. Governor Macquarie certainly thought it was ‘well aired’. The scrubby vegetation around the building had been removed to improve surveillance and, thereafter, hospital staff were forced to do battle with creeping sands unleashed from the barren dunes. Scattered around the streets below were 70 huts housing convicts and amidst these sat the other sites of authority – a guard house, barracks and officers’ mess. Though the quality of the

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buildings may have diminished the impact, it was nonetheless a landscape inscribed with the markers of social hierarchy. Order, however, was most immediately imposed through punishment and work. Under Wallis, whippings became more frequent for convict men while women prisoners who disobeyed the rules were forced to parade in an iron collar – a sufferance that also echoed the plantation societies of the Americas. Under the command of James Morisett, from 1819, expressions of deference became customary. When ship-owner John Bingle strolled with the commandant ‘to see the beauties of the harbour [and], the splendid ocean views’, he noted that all the convicts they encountered stopped and took off their caps well in advance of Morisett’s passing. Governor Macquarie had insisted that punishment be inflicted sparingly and only upon certainty of guilt. But contemporary opinions of the regime as it operated varied. Some were appalled by what they saw as ‘arbitrary’ and harsh justice. Others applauded a strict but fair paternalism. In 1822 this was the view of lawyer and royal commissioner John Thomas Bigge who reviewed the settlement for a British Government concerned that the penal system of New South Wales had become far too lax and the threat of transportation to ‘Botany Bay’ no longer the deterrent it was intended to be. Bigge’s authoritarianism might well have been influenced by four years spent in the British slave colony of Trinidad. For his part, the private shipowner Bingle found the discipline ‘severe’ and ‘very un-English’. Those who avoided punishment still had to endure the rigours and tedium of work, and the hunger that accompanied inadequate rations. By 1820 all close stands of cedar had been cut out so gangs travelled for weeks on end as far as 100 kilometres upriver to find the surviving trees. These they felled and fastened together into rafts. Small shelters were erected on top and the men rode the makeshift houseboats for several days back to the settlement at the river’s mouth, subsisting on corn meal, salted rations and whatever they caught in the water or woods. Women were employed as servants or compelled to unpick old rope to make the oakum used for caulking the hulls of boats and ships.

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The layout of the convict settlement at Newcastle is clear in this 1818 engraving Newcastle, Hunter’s River, New South Wales. The engraving was made by the convict artist Walter Preston, or possibly by fellow convict Joseph Lycett, from an original drawing by Captain Wallis. Wallis supervised the creation of the engraved plates and published this and other views in Sydney and then London.

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From 1809 Newcastle’s convicts burnt seashells to make the lime needed for mortar. Sydney’s local shell deposits were already depleted as Port Jackson’s merchants transformed that town from a penal colony to a place of waterfront warehouses and impressive dwellings. The demand only increased with the arrival of Lachlan Macquarie, who had a vision of a metropolitan port distinguished by fine civic buildings and a modern stone lighthouse. However, shells were still plentiful up and down the coast. At Newcastle it was the Awabakal people’s vast middens of discards that provided the banks for the burners to quarry. So, somewhat poignantly, the legacy of centuries of Aboriginal occupation – of collecting and eating seafood near the waterways – provided permanency for the habitations of the usurpers. But lime-burning was an onerous job. It involved camping out on the beaches and river islands where the shells were found. The oysters were sharp and cuts were common. Smoke and ash stung the eyes. Spray from the sea mixed with the lime to create a salty alkaline solution that seeped through baskets, burning the shoulders of the men who carried them while wading out to waiting boats. To be sent to ‘the lime-burners’ became a form of exile within a place of exile. The physical impact of coalmining was probably worse. The first deposits tapped were at the base the seafront cliff, south of the river mouth. In 1817 a shaft was sunk at the top of this hill – immediately adjoining Government House. In the absence of a steam engine, and the ensuing racket, the commandant might have derived gratification at the sight of productive, even reformative, toil. Men winched the black chunks up in baskets from the bottom of the shaft and carted them down the main street to the wharf for shipping. Unseen in the narrow tunnel below, however, convicts crouched half-naked chipping away at the seam. It was dusty, damp work and respiratory complaints were common. William Evans, the Assistant Colonial Surgeon, had no doubt about the effects: ‘The foul air that is breathed there produces spitting of blood and difficulty of breathing’. However, it was the inefficiency of this system rather than its inhumanity that prompted calls for reform. Bigge, who heard Evans’s testimony

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This 1833 pencil drawing, attributed to artist James White, shows the Sophia Jane taking on coal at the Australian Agricultural Company’s Coal Works at Newcastle.

as part of his enquiry into Macquarie’s administration and its ballooning costs, recommended privatisation of the operation. Six years later, in 1827, The Australian could still condemn the ‘wretched state of Newcastle’ and the ‘waste of labour’ there. The newspaper called for the use of steam power instead of muscle. The British Government had, in fact, already acted on Bigge’s findings and offered Newcastle’s coal to the newly formed Australian Agricultural Company (AAC). Protected by a monopoly to

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mine for three decades, the AAC extracted its first load from a new pit sunk above the town. This one was a little way inland for seawater had, by then, seeped into the old government tunnel. The convicts stayed on in the coalmines as assigned labour but the Company did, indeed, introduce steam technology to move the coal from pit to sea. On 10 December 1831 Australia’s first railway took the fuel to the colony’s first operating steamship, the Sophia Jane. The Sydney Gazette was not alone in recognising the epochal significance of the moment: In an infant colony like ours, it is impossible not regard this event with feelings of mingled exultation and hope; for, when we view the opening of the coal-works on so extensive a scale, in combination with the now certain addition to the number of our new steam vessels, and the probable increase of other machinery, who can venture to say, to what extent these benefits may not long ere be carried?

The Company’s monopoly did not last its course and by 1847 others were mining coal nearby. In 1866, with its beginnings as a convict colony a living but receding memory, one ‘wandering’ newspaper correspondent, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1866, painted a word picture of a place given over to commercial mining and the maritime trade that supported it: ‘[Newcastle] is essentially a seaport and a coally seaport. An unmistakeable smell of tar pervades its atmosphere, and every third house sells slops, or ropes or blocks, or some other of the many other articles required by those who go down to the sea in ships.’

‘… ruins like Luxor’ The Australian Agricultural Company was formed in 1824 just after Bigge published his report. It capitalised on Bigge’s recommendation that ‘indulgence’ and ‘liberality’ be bestowed on those with the money and desire to take up land, run stock and cultivate crops.With a capital base of £1 000 000 the Company sought and received 1 000 000 acres of land – 404 600 hectares

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– to run sheep and capitalise on a temperate climate to grow wine grapes and olives. Its directors were English-based but the committee and shareholders included some of the richest merchants and largest landowners in the colony; Robert Campbell, the Macarthur family, Alexander Berry. The huge grant was to be selected and then run by an Essex estate manager, Robert Dawson. He decided upon Worimi land on the north side of Port Stephens. Dawson’s choice gave the Company at least 100 kilometres of coastline from within Port Stephens and up the coast to the Manning River. But, with the exception of the possibility of sea communication from the harbour, this shoreline was incidental to the Company’s purpose. Like most others who settled on the coast, Dawson was interested in production from the land rather than the sea. Even then it was a curious selection – one made quickly and with little knowledge of territory that had been only partially explored by Europeans. Much of the Company’s land to the east, near the coast, was unsuited to sheep or cultivation. But Dawson had travelled up the Karuah River, which emptied into the north-west side of Port Stephens, and thought the soil there was good. Indeed the farming settlements of Stroud and Booral were established there along the navigable Karuah. Plentiful oyster shells at the river mouth promised a supply of mortar and a harbour location seemed ideal for the purposes of shipping. So Dawson set out Carrington, the first planned company town in Australia. As one familiar with English estates he knew something of the power of landscapes and layouts, and the intention was to establish a village with consideration of sight lines and ‘a picturesque appearance when approaching the Settlement from the Water’. His plan was barely followed but the principal dwelling, Tahlee House, was built as an impressive bungalow overlooking the bay, catching the eye of arrivals and ensuring magnificent water views for those within. In the early 1830s Dawson’s successor, Sir Edward Parry, appreciated the aspect: ‘There cannot be a more charming view than from our windows.’ For Lady Parry the bath-house below afforded private relief from the summer heat.

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Parry was less impressed with the location of the township itself, however. He had extensive maritime experience whereas Dawson did not. To choose a shoreline without a deepwater frontage when there were supplies to be landed and produce to be loaded suggested a peculiar blindness to the practicalities of coastal settlement on Dawson’s part. ‘In several cases since my arrival’, reported Parry, ‘the bales of wool could only be shipped or landed by bullock carts driven into the sea the drivers wading higher than the middle. The endeavour to haul the boats over the sharp oyster shells, which abound near the shore, cuts their bottoms, and keeps them constantly under repair.’ Parry retained Carrington but swapped the eastern portion of the grant, including the apparently useless coast country, for grazing land further north. A large wharf was built on the river at Booral for shipping produce down through Port Stephens. By the 1870s Carrington was decrepit and largely abandoned. Remarkably, the main party of farmhands and Company officials were welcomed by the Worimi when they landed at their Port Stephens selection in 1826. The Aboriginal people even helped unload the baggage and supplies. During the next two years they became a surrogate labour force providing expertise developed over generations of life on the waterway in exchange for flour and tobacco. Some of their skills, such as fishing, seemed completely absent among the newcomers who had grown up near the sheep fields of England. ‘The natives kept up their friendly intercourse with us’, reflected Dawson, ‘… Their services had become almost necessary to the families in carrying water, collecting and carrying firewood, and supplying them with fish, which they did in abundance’. The indigenous people also carted the oyster shells for making lime and some crewed the Company boats. ‘Several natives attend us regularly’, noted the Company’s accountant, ‘our Boat’s Crew consists of six most excellent fellows who handle the oar with the expertness of experienced seamen’. The acceptance extended by this group of Worimi, whose territory included the Karuah River, may have been influenced by the exigencies of local politics – in particular, rivalry with another group near the coast and

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the potential protection afforded by organised Europeans. At least one of their people, a man known to Europeans as Ben, had experienced white settlement at Newcastle where relations between blacks and whites were relatively harmonious. There, in 1803, Menzies had enlisted the diplomatic services of Bungaree – the remarkable Kur-ring-gai man who sailed up the coast and then around the continent with Matthew Flinders. Aboriginal people were subsequently employed as trackers – hunting escaped convicts for a reward of ‘tobacco or corn or a piece of blanket’. Ben acted as a guide for Dawson and, like Bungaree, may well have become an intermediary, laying the groundwork for the coming settlement. Although they smoked and drank tea, and some adopted European clothing, Aboriginal workers did not completely conform to the social economy of the new settlement. The Worimi came and went as they pleased, showed little interest in a sedentary life and carried on traditional practices. Despite this cultural resilience, fraternisation brought with it the seeds of social collapse. By 1828 venereal infection was rife among the Karuah River people. Other diseases, such as measles, followed. In 1873, as Carrington itself teetered on oblivion, there were far fewer Aboriginal people left around the mouth of the Karuah – fifty out of an original population of perhaps five hundred. The rise of infection followed the increased use of convict labour at the settlement. These prisoners, it seems, were visiting the indigenous camps and spreading disease. The first of them were brought down from Port Macquarie at the beginning of the Port Stephens enterprise. That northern settlement had begun as a collection of shelters improvised from tea-tree branches near a beach on the mouth of the Hastings River in April 1821. Port Macquarie was established as a new place of ‘banishment’ because, by then, Macquarie deemed Newcastle too close to Sydney. Oxley had recommended the river’s south bank ‘immediately within the entrance’ for the laying out of a town. Here there was a ‘natural wharf’ and ‘numerous commanding positions from whence every operation either on shore or afloat may be overlooked’. But the Surveyor had been too sanguine

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about the navigability of the waterway. Like the other rivers that flowed into the sea on this coast, the Hastings had a sand bar that limited access and churned the water as the tide ebbed and flowed. The Lady Nelson, one of the first ships to convey prisoners and supplies, ran aground despite its sliding keel. It was hauled ashore and was still there when Macquarie visited his latest settlement seven months later to lament the damage to ‘the poor old Lady Nelson’. Within a year permanent structures were being built on the south side of the river mouth sheltering from the south-easterly winds, as at Newcastle. A flagstaff planted on a pyramidal outcrop announced the mouth of the harbour on the seaward side. A Government House was built ‘on a handsome esplanade open to the sea’ and, from 1824, convicts erected a suitably elevated Anglican church made from bricks held together with local lime mortar and pew boxes made from panels of rich red cedar. Indeed the settlement at Port Macquarie was another source of lime and cedar for ‘the Public Works at Sydney’ but there was optimism that more could be harvested there. A West Indian planter called John Gyles promoted the idea of growing sugarcane – though the latitude was not tropical. This, along with tobacco, was planted in the hope of producing the ever-popular rum and pipe fill, and repeating some of the success of the West Indian and American plantations. Despite being tended by a convict of Afro-Caribbean descent, and with some knowledge of sugar, the cane did not flourish. Neither did the tobacco leaf. In 1830, with recalcitrant convicts now being sent further north to Moreton Bay, Port Macquarie was opened to free settlers. Cropping there continued to confound the Europeans, however, and the intractable sand bar at the river’s mouth foiled attempts to establish the place as a major port for exporting agricultural produce from further inland. Many of those who survived the economic depression of the 1840s left, to chase dreams of gold in the 1850s. So by the century’s end Port Macquarie’s penal origins were still palpable beneath the subsequent accretions. Writer Francis Myers, whose job in 1886 was to promote the economic and aesthetic appeal of the New South

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This map, dated 1833, shows the coast relatively unsettled and uncharted beyond Port Macquarie in the north. The counties are shown, as are details of the harbours, including Twofold Bay. Note the extent of the Australian Agricultural Company’s land north of Port Stephens.

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Wales coast to visitors at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London, dismissed the place as remnant of a ‘decadent civilisation’ – built with convict labour in a time that was best forgotten. Its stone buildings, he wrote, lay ‘in ruins like Luxor’.

‘... almost beyond the pale of the law …’ Macquarie had been generous in handing out land to free settlers and emancipists. It was part of his vision of turning a convict colony into a prosperous civil society. So much so that when his successor, Thomas Brisbane, took over in December 1821 there were 13 759 hectares of promised grants waiting to be ‘confirmed’. The apparent disorder had been reported by Bigge and, in 1825, Brisbane was instructed to divide the colony into counties, hundreds and parishes so that land might be disposed of in a more methodical way, and valued in the event of sale. There were not the maps, nor the army of surveyors, necessary to complete this so in 1826, and again in 1829, limits were set on settlement until the administration of colonial expansion caught up with reality. In 1829 nineteen counties were proclaimed, extending as far west as the present town of Wellington and along the coast from the Manning River in the north to the Moruya River in the south. Port Stephens fell into the county of Gloucester, Newcastle and Broken Bay were in Northumberland, Port Jackson and Botany Bay were together in the County of Cumberland, Wollongong and the surrounding Illawarra coast were part of Camden County, and the coast from Jervis Bay to just south of Bateman’s Bay was in the County of St Vincent. Twofold Bay lay beyond the limits of settlement to the south of this, as did Port Macquarie and Moreton Bay in the north. It was an expedient measure designed to forestall, rather than prevent, the further spread of European occupation – but it did not even do that.

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Responding to a quizzical Colonial Undersecretary sitting at the administrative centre of empire in February 1831, Brisbane’s successor Ralph Darling alluded politely but pointedly to the practical gulf between setting boundaries and actually enforcing them in a colony of forested and far-flung frontiers: ‘it is impossible to prevent their sending their cattle to graze beyond those limits’. Darling’s successor, Richard Bourke, referred to the ‘obnoxious squatter’ and was clearly annoyed at those ‘influential’ colonists who set the bad example in the first place. The need to find pasture for the evergrowing flocks of sheep was another incentive for graziers to occupy the unsettled districts. From 1836, in the face of the relentless and unstoppable encroachments, licenses were granted for grazing the Crown Lands beyond the Counties. By the time Deputy Surveyor General Thomas Perry was despatched in the paddle steamer King William to report on the Clarence River area in 1839, accounts of opportunity and potential riches there had already circulated through the public houses and cedar-lined drawing rooms of the metropolis. Perry noted that ‘two hundred people of various classes – graziers, mechanics, farm servants and mariners occupy the country between the mountains and the sea’. There were undoubtedly a good number of sawyers as well, for the first boatload of Clarence River cedar had been felled and delivered to Sydney in 1837 after reports of the vast stands of the precious wood from convict Richard Craig. The cutting of the red timber along the coastal river flats of New South Wales had gained such chaotic momentum by 1826 that the Colonial Secretary, Alexander Macleay, rescinded all permissions to fell the trees on ungranted land – the so-called ‘unlocated Grounds’ – and set about establishing a new regime of fees, licenses and regulation. Cedar was then the third-largest export for the colony. Restrictions and duties had been imposed upon cedar-getters as early as the 1790s in an ineffective attempt to both preserve the resource and derive an income for the government. Now boats bringing timber to Port Jackson from the north and south coasts were compelled to wait at anchor:

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until the Master shall have reported his Vessel or Boat to the Naval Officer, and shall have declared, on Oath, the quantity of cedar on board, the place at which it shipped, whether cut on located or unlocated ground, the name of the Proprietor.

Failure to obtain a license carried with it the risk of prosecution as a ‘trespasser’. An improper declaration of a cargo might result in the seizure of the boat or ship that carried it. These controls were accompanied by a duty of a halfpenny per foot of the red wood. With tens of thousands of feet being cut, it added up to a considerable levy. But as a sign of rising democratic sentiment in a colony filling with free settlers and emancipated convicts, the newly established newspaper Monitor characterised the cedar duty as a tax that attacked the livelihood of the labourer – in this case the ‘industrious sawyer’. Such a tax epitomised the danger of authoritarian rule and the absence of parliamentary representation. So the newspaper, or at least its iconoclastic and crusading editor Edward Smith Hall, evoked the rights of free Englishmen and echoed the arguments of the erstwhile American colonists by declaring ‘no taxation without representation’. In doing so the editor went so far as to question the Crown’s very right to possession of the land: ‘The King is not the owner of our colony in the same sense as a man who has spent his labour upon it’, the paper claimed, ‘he is merely the Trustee of the land for the use of the Colonists’. Labour, mixed with land, equalled ownership. It was the same argument, borrowed from John Locke, which had been used to deny indigenous right of possession after Cook’s trip although, in this instance, the writer did acknowledge an original Aboriginal proprietorship in the ‘abstract’. There was no dwelling on this truth, however, for the target here was the King’s power and the notion of ‘absolute proprietorship’ of colonial land. For the Monitor, this was as unconstitutional and ludicrous as the proposal that the sovereign might ‘rent the Pacific Ocean which washes our shores’. ‘The whales and seals whereof’, argued the Monitor, ‘are only analogous to the grass and the cedar with which God has graciously and bountifully enriched the land’. It all belonged to the people. And the people, or at least

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the Europeans, were only too willing to take what they could get. Greed, necessity, a desire for freedom, and just maybe a belief in ancient rights of Britons, undermined Governmental controls on cedar-getting and occupation of the land. So much so that, by 1837, the more conservative Sydney Herald was calling on the Government ‘to put a stop to the wholesale system of robbery that is taking place in every district of the Colony, where there is cedar on unlocated ground.’ Just as bad as this ‘nefarious traffic’ was the behaviour of those who conducted it. The populist Monitor may have defended the ‘industrious sawyer’, but more often cedar cutters were characterised as rough and violent inhabitants of a shifting colonial frontier. At best they were the paradoxical harbingers of ‘civilisation’. By November 1837, the Sydney Herald was describing the ‘cedar grounds’, beyond the boundaries of settlement, as a frightening outland. They were the ‘resort of runaways and other bad characters’, and ‘almost beyond the pale of the law … The scenes of infamy and vice that are to be witnessed there … are horrible to contemplate’. The paper was reporting hearsay but the Surveyor Clement Hodgkinson observed the sawyers first-hand during an expedition along the coast from Port Macquarie north to the Bellinger River in the early 1840s. His account, published in 1845, presented a stark image of white men living as semi-wild nomads in the tangled forests of the coast – disturbing counterparts, in the European imagination, to Aboriginal people who by now were rarely accorded respect by the colonists taking their land. The cedar-cutters that Hodgkinson encountered lived ‘in pairs in the dense dark brushes’. They slept under sheets of bark before moving on in search of fresh stands of timber. Every ‘three or four months’, he wrote, the ‘sawyers travel down to the cedar dealers, who live at the mouths of the rivers, for a settlement of their accounts’. There they were paid in food and alcohol rather than currency. It was on the Macleay River, near Smoky Cape, that Hodgkinson witnessed one payday or its aftermath: ‘Men and women (for many of the sawyers have wives) lying day and night on the bare grass in a state of intoxication; and only recovering to renew their orgies’.

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Scenes like this may simply have confronted the decency of the editors of the Sydney Herald, but the social impact of the sawyers’ intrusions on the original inhabitants of the ‘cedar grounds’ went beyond effrontery. The surveyor reported the presence of drunken, brawling indigenous men at the Macleay River dealers’ camp and the ‘wives’ he referred to were quite possibly Aboriginal women – kidnapped, coerced, traded or enticed into partnerships with the European men. As Hodgkinson was making his notes, the recent history of contact around the Macleay was laid out unapologetically by a correspondent in the Sydney Monitor and Commercial Advertiser in July 1841. Relations between black and white were good, he admitted, but only because the Aboriginals had been made duly humble. The first step taken to reduce the Northern tribes to obedience, was not by conciliating their favour and praying for their forbearance, … not by fawning and caressing them. No! But by an armed display – by striking terror into their minds …

The letter writer concluded his report with a blithe account of the progress that followed in the wake of the terror: ‘Two new vessels are being built on the McLeay, for the coasting trade. Business on the whole is brisk. The demand for cedar being good’. However, the ‘humbling’ of the north coast people was not quite as clear-cut as this account suggested. While some were drawn or taken to the cedar camps, and the cattle stations that followed, many others kept their distance in the thick forest and along the un-colonised coastline. In the 1840s it was estimated that there were more than 400 Aboriginal people around the Macleay River. The district’s Commissioner of Crown Lands, Robert George Massie, admitted this was guesswork for most of these people were in a ‘totally wild and uncivilised state’. They carried on a traditional life without need for contact because of the abundance of resources provided by the sea and the waterways that flowed into it: ‘From the great facilities the rivers and coasts afford them for obtaining fish as an article of food, the natives of this district have less intercourse with the white people resident at the different stations than is generally the case in the interior’.

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Elsewhere there was resistance to the predation upon Aboriginal women and territorial incursion. Clement Hodgkinson was an astute and empathetic observer. He noted that ‘one of the chief causes of the hostility of the wild blacks, was their indignation at the encroachment of the white men on the prescribed haunts of the tribe’. The cedar-cutters’ own violent habits were widely recognised as a source of tension. During Hodgkinson’s excursions, several sawyers were killed by Aboriginal people from the Nambucca River area to the north. It was not an isolated incident but the widespread appropriation of land by squatters was probably even more damaging than the temporary presence of cedar-cutters. The violent cycle of resistance and retribution sometimes affected people entirely unconnected to the original events. In the 1840s Bundjalung men raided a newly established store on Pelican Creek, a tributary of the Richmond River near Coraki. They killed some of the Europeans there and in retaliation were themselves pursued north to the Evans River where the Aboriginal men were shot in a ‘crossfire’ set between riflemen on the shore and an anchored steamer. At Red Rock, some 30 kilometres south of the mouth of the Clarence, Gumbayngirr men were chased into the sea and shot. Flour was poisoned with arsenic and left as bait by settlers intent on delivering frontier ‘justice’ or setting an example. Clearly, by the late 1840s, indigenous people had developed a taste for European food – or possibly the ease with which it might be obtained through begging or ‘theft’. Clarence River settler Thomas Bawden recalled one mid-century instance of deliberate poisoning at Ramornie station just beyond Grafton: ‘They [Aboriginal people] robbed the hut but paid for their theft on this occasion for 20 of them were found dead at their camp after partaking of the adulterated food’. The perpetrators were tried but acquitted. Bawden’s frank lecture to the Grafton School of Arts in 1886 suggests that frontier warfare was discussed quite openly among whites as they recounted pioneering days and traced the origins of their growing North Coast communities. References to ‘wild blacks’ and their ‘outrages’ remained common in general historical accounts of the north coast well into the 20th century, but the causes of

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their ‘predations’ and the awful retribution they inspired tended to drop out of public discourse. In the various indigenous communities that remained along the coast, however, memories of massacres lived on in stories passed down into the century beyond. It was a complex process of contact and adaptation that unfolded as the coast and its hinterland were colonised. Aboriginal people themselves sometimes assisted the Europeans, whether by tracking escaping convicts, guiding the newcomers through the forests or locating the resources they sought. In the 1870s cedar-getter, Robert Dawson, recalled his days around the Richmond River in the 1870s: ‘We nearly always had a blackfellow with us, his keen eyesight being useful to pick out the bare branches in winter, or the delicate reddish green foliage of the cedars in early spring, from the dense interlocked foliage of other brush trees’. A call of ‘coo-ee’ alerted others to any finds. There was, sometimes, a remarkable accommodation of the intruders. At Carrington, on Port Stephens, assistance had been given from the very beginning, before the establishment of a local resource-based economy. Aboriginal people were drawn into the labour market if only on a part-time basis. The rewards, however meagre, became attractive or at least necessary. The gradual undermining of traditional structures and means of subsistence as a result of forest clearance and land alienation must have been one reason. Alcohol addiction was another. The ‘search for stimulants’, tobacco and tea in particular, might have also contributed to the allure of life on the fringe of European settlement. Robert Dawson was part of a second wave of cedar-getters, men who had settled with their families in the areas they were working. He was describing an era when the accessible cedar that grew around the Richmond River had gone and indigenous knowledge was needed to investigate the thick forests beyond. The easy trees had been discovered by boats plying the rivers and the felled logs were simply rolled to the water and then floated to waiting ships for despatch to Sydney. The exceptional buoyancy of cedar facilitated its own exploitation. ‘When river banks were exhausted’, recounted Dawson years later in 1938,

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non-navigable creeks were then followed up and flood waters were used to carry the timber, either in single logs or in rafts, to deep water, where vessels could lie. In the early seventies scores, if not hundreds, of stumps along the brush clad banks of the Back Creek [one of the tributaries to the Richmond] showed that a rich harvest of choice red cedar had been gathered in this way by early cutters of the forties or fifties …

Young trees were taken along with the large ones so that by the 1900s there was little coastal cedar left. Crops followed the cedar-getters – maize, sugar, cotton and bananas. Then came the dairy farmers. New land laws passed in 1861, and generally referred to as the Selection Acts, simply did away with the many previous attempts to control unauthorised occupation. By then the Monitor was defunct but its editor would have been pleased. Land ownership was now available to anyone who could afford the nominal deposit and was prepared to live on a selection for three years and ‘improve’ it. This meant clearing for crops or pasture. Where the sawyers had removed only cedar and a few other commercial species, the agriculturalists felled hundreds of hectares of semi-tropical brush forest. The fallen logs were left to rot and then they were burnt. A complex ecology was gradually replaced by monocultures of cane, banana and introduced grasses such as cocksfoot and then paspalum, which endured the humidity better than other feed and opened the way for dairying. But for the improvers of the 1880s the scrub was never-ending. The writer Francis Myers, who had continued north past the ‘ruins’ of Port Macquarie on his tour of the coast, was intoxicated by the transition from temperate to tropical climates. There were ‘New leaves, new flowers, new birds’ and the ‘density and glory and magnificence’ of the forest around the northern rivers had to be ‘seen to be realised … It is the country known as the Big Scrub, where everything is gigantic.’ The clearings were apparently inconsequential, so Myers could delight in the contrast between forest and sugar crop: ‘look at the cane besides the dark scrub, bright green or pale yellow, as varied in tint as wheat–fields between the time of bloom and the harvest’.

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Sugar failed around the Macleay, as it had at Port Macquarie, but it flourished further north on the Clarence and Richmond rivers. There were 75 mills operating around the latter waterway by 1875. The rivers were highways along which tugs and punts transported the crop to small mills. From there, steamers took sugar and molasses down the coast to Sydney. However, few of the small mill operators had the skills and capital to help them withstand market fluctuations or seasonal upsets. Neither did they have the time needed to perfect the process of turning cane into crystal. By 1891 only nine mills remained. The powerful Colonial Sugar Refining Company (CSR) had already consolidated its dominance through fostering small independent farms, which supplied the company’s huge, modern centralised mills. The company built workers’ housing and even introduced its own form of currency, after establishing the Clarence mill in 1869. There followed a mill on the Tweed and one at Broadwater next to the Richmond River, described as ‘by far the most important sugar factory … in the whole of Australasia’. Co-founder, Edward Knox, sent his twenty-three-year old son up from Sydney to work as the superintendent at the Clarence River mill just after it opened. Reflecting later on his appointment, the younger Knox characterised himself as ‘a motherless foal turned out to pick up a living in the cold, hard world’. But young Ned was clever, practical and, no doubt, tireless – the grandson of a Scottish merchant who traded around the Baltic Sea and son of a devout man who travelled to Australia in steerage to conserve the funds he intended to invest. Ned survived his stint on the frontier well enough to become General Manager of the flourishing company by 1880. He returned to the metropolis where his annual salary of £1000 and more was enough to fund the construction of a fine Gothic house built of Sydney sandstone and north-coast hardwood beams. Colonial-born Ned was, from childhood, a veteran of long sea voyages, having travelled with his parents to and from Europe. Unwilling to leave everything to the architect, or his wife Edith who chose the house style, Ned designed his own dressing

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room to be space-efficient along the lines of a ship’s cabin. The house, Rona, was named after an island in the Sound of Sleat between Skye and Scotland. Its extensive gardens overlooked Sydney Harbour at its fashionable eastern end, very near his father’s Italianate villa, Fiona. There, with a personal outdoor privy nearby, the General Manager could sit, read the newspaper and watch the harbour traffic. He must have seen his company’s ships, the Fiona and the Rona, steam past to deliver raw sugar from the north coast to the Clarence Wharf at CSR’s immense Pyrmont refinery in the industrialised western end of the waterway. In the early 1880s mill hands around the Clarence and Richmond earned less than £2 a week plus rations. This was thought to be a high wage for a farm worker, one inflated by the paucity of labour up north. For his part Francis Myers was struck by the poverty of the people he saw around the cane fields: ‘how is it that the men among them look so lean, the women look so slatternly, the children so poor … ?’, the writer asked. Presumably he was witnessing the results of under-capitalisation and poor experimentation. But Myers viewed society through the lens of race – as many of his generation did. He managed to find both metaphor and determinism in the relationship between people and landscape. Myers liked the Norfolk Island pines already common in European coastal settlements, for instance, because their straightness and height symbolised the supremacy of the newcomers over the indigenous peoples they were displacing. Trying to reconcile the poor white folk he saw on the north coast with this belief in racial dominance necessitated resort to another principle of late 19th century social thought – one that had its basis in both Social Darwinism and earlier rationalisations of slavery and indentured labour. Europeans, it was held, were simply not suited to physical labour in the tropics in the way that ‘coloureds’ were. So, as Francis Myers looked at the ‘paltry houses mourned over by the ragged bananas’ and contemplated ‘the poor human nature amongst the splendid vegetable growth’, he felt compelled to ask: ‘Does the white man fail in attempting the black man’s work?’ The answer was clearly ‘yes’. However, the writer found hope and justification in the nearby brush. Somehow there

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was racial fulfilment in taming the forest rather than working the fields that replaced it: There is more axe and saw work here, and so long as the white man wields these manly tools he seems to retain his native vigour – the hoe and the trashing-knife degrade him. Whenever he begins to use them he puts on the habits of the nigger, the looks of the Chinaman, the insolence of the Kanaka … it is better to forget him and consider the lilies, not of the fields but of the woods.

Myers might also have mentioned ‘coolies’. For, as north coast landholders looked to cut wage costs, they were employing more and more Indian workers who could be contracted to labour for less. There were 521 ‘Hindoos’ living around the northern rivers and on the coast by 1897. Along with a handful of Germans, French, Italians and Chinese, their presence added some diversity to what was an overwhelmingly Anglo-Celtic population. Not everyone, however, wanted to leave the cane-cutting to the ‘coloureds’. Indeed, despite the risk of racial enervation that Myers alluded to, there were many whites who wanted to work in the fields – particularly as prospects for other employment plummeted during the depression of the 1890s. So there came a backlash. Cane workers, farmers and local papers called for an end to the employment of non-white labour. The editor of the Richmond River Times campaigned for an excise on sugar grown by non-Europeans. In 1895 these concerns coalesced with the formation of the North Coast AntiAlien Society. At this time CSR was reluctantly enlisting large numbers of Indians on its Fiji sugar plantations. Ned Knox did not like the use of indentured immigrants there but they were better than ‘having [anything] more to do with Polynesians’. Ned Knox was, however, supportive of a white-only industry in New South Wales. So his company employed Europeans exclusively in the riverside mills of northern New South Wales. In 1896 Knox told shareholders that ‘White men can do all the work in connection with the cane in this colony’. The General Manager would have preferred to see ‘the destruction of the industry rather than take any part in the introducing of coloured labourers from India or elsewhere’.

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‘Tahlee House’ is visible in the foreground of this watercolour of Port Stephens painted by Augustus Earle in the late 1820s.

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A Conrad Martens 1848 oil painting, Brisbane Water, shows Aboriginal people at the foot of what is probably a red cedar tree. Such was the availability of good timber here that the foreshores were clothed with boat-building yards by 1900.

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Joseph Backler’s 1840 oil painting of Port Macquarie and the mouth of the Hastings River shows a busy waterway with a paddle steamer crossing the bar. The depiction of fishermen, seen here with seine net, is rare in artworks and photography of the 19th century. The gaol can be seen to the right and St Thomas’s Church on the rise to the right.

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In 1894 Edward Knox received an album of handpainted and photographic views of sugar operations in Australia and Fiji as a Golden Wedding Anniversary gift from the ‘Directors, Officers and Employees of the Colonial Sugar Refining Co’. These plates, showing the Sydney refinery at Pyrmont (right) and cutters and punts on the Richmond River (left), are the work of two of the colony’s leading artists, BE Minns and Frank Mahoney.

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The vehemence of the campaign against Indians and others ebbed and flowed on the north coast but the sentiment behind it reflected the national mood. The new Commonwealth of Australia passed the Immigration Restriction Act 1901, or ‘White Australia Policy’, which used a discretionary dictation test to keep out undesirable ‘races’ whether, like the Indians, they were British subjects or not. Those who were already in the country took to making a living by any means they could and many isolated householders on the northern rivers thereby benefited from the visits of Indian hawkers who had once been field workers. However, life became hard for those who knew only cane-cutting. In 1902 eight unemployed Indian men at Lawrence, near the CSR Broadwater mill, had saved enough money to buy a patch of land big enough to accommodate their families, but nothing more. When they asked for the opportunity ‘to take up land under the Crowns Lands Act’, to grow crops to support themselves, they were denied. The right to land was dependent upon far more than the expenditure of one’s labour – but then it always had been.

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5: Harvest of the sea ‘The fish of the Australian coast are very numerous … but little known’ Edward Knox’s sugar boats shared the Clarence River with a small but growing fishing fleet. In the 1880s the river, and the coast nearby, were becoming a significant source of fish locally and for the Sydney market. There were 56 licensed fishers working the waters there by the end of the decade. Their catch amounted to one-fifth of the fish shipped to Sydney from the north and south coasts. Nowhere, up or down New South Wales, were there communities given over entirely to the fishery business and its related trades as might be found along the English south coast from Clovelly to Mousehole where herring and mackerel were caught in locally-sewn nets and salted, packed in barrels assembled by resident coopers. But the mouth of the Clarence must have come close.

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A cannery was established at Iluka near the entrance to the waterway in 1889. Labels on the Co-operative Canning Company tins showed two fishermen hauling a seine net on the Clarence. Then came a name change or possibly the arrival of competition, because the quality of tinned flat-tailed sea mullet from the ‘Clarence River Fresh Fish and Canning Company’ was recognised with an award in the Fisheries Section at the 1893 Columbian Exhibition in Chicago. In 1899 the Shoal Bay Canning Company employed local boys on its production line. And, in 1903, Taylor Brothers of Sydney and Hobart built a ‘well-ventilated’ factory of hardwood boards and corrugated iron down the river at Maclean. There, fish were unloaded and gutted at the deep-water wharf and carted to the steam-powered works where they were brined, sealed into the tins and cooked. The technology was not new. The Royal Navy was issuing canned rations as early as 1814. Then, an elderly Sir Joseph Banks tasted and commented approvingly on food that had lasted two years in a tin. In New South Wales an English immigrant called Sizar Elliott processed cuts of beef in a bath of hot whale oil and became the pioneer of the Australian canning industry. He was motivated by the mass slaughter of livestock, and the waste of meat, that accompanied the economic crisis of the 1840s. Canning was one way to overcome the problem of transporting such a spoilable product as fish to its biggest market in Sydney. The Clarence River, for instance, was more than 500 kilometres north of Sydney and Byron Bay another 60 kilometres beyond that. Salting and smoking fish were more traditional methods of preservation that spanned cultures and centuries. The Chinese were adept at both. A group of them that were fishing the waters of Port Stephens in the 1870s might have been gold-seekers in earlier years. They hauled nets from the beach hoping to catch flathead, mullet and Australian salmon, which they cured near the simple beach huts in which they lived. The Illustrated Sydney News admitted that the smoked fish they sent to Sydney was ‘far superior to any imported’. They also supplied the small Chinese communities with salted fish, dried lobster, abalone and pickled sea mullet.

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This illustration of Chinese fishermen at Port Stephens was published in the Illustrated Sydney News in May 1874.

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But the local Chinese population was decreasing as the rush for gold waned and antipathy to Asians grew. ‘At one time a good market’, observed the Sydney merchant Chin Ateak in 1880, ‘… Not so good now; few people here – all gone away’. Ateak was answering questions at the enquiry into the state of the New South Wales fisheries and a group of Commissioners, including William Macleay and EP Ramsay, who considered Chinese cuisine ‘detestable’. Nonetheless he helpfully described his countrymen’s method of cooking salted snapper: ‘only steam it, rice at the bottom fish at the top; the steam comes up and cooks the fish, and makes the rice to be done …’ Methods for curing fish varied, along with the ethnicity of the fishers. At the same enquiry William Joell, a native of Bermuda and a Port Jackson

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This postcard shows fishermen netting mullet off the main beach at Byron Bay around 1900. The wharf is just visible in the distance to the left.

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fishermen for 21 years, described his warm-weather preserving technique, presumably practised where he lived in the closely settled working-class suburb of Balmain on Sydney Harbour. The odour must have mixed with the other smells of the western harbour – salt air, polluted water and coal smoke ­to produce a pungent sense of place: I have a peculiar way of salting my fish. I split them down the backbone and then rub in the salt on the scaly side thoroughly with the hand; I then cut across the fish, about an inch apart, and spread fine salt across it; then I lay the fish one on the top of the other, and let them remain there for the night; this is in the summer; I then take them and give one dip in fresh water, and then hang them out in the air, where I let them cure for three days.

There were those, such as George Hockey of Shellharbour, who simply shipped their catch in baskets in the hope that ventilation would keep the fish fresh. Consideration was also given to ‘well-boats’, vessels with a hold filled with sea water that might keep the catch alive on the way home. By century’s end, however, chilling or freezing was the main response to the problem of preserving fish for the local market. Commissioner James White, one of the last occupants of Tahlee on Port Stephens, was impressed with the frozen whiting he was able to buy from the new refrigeration works across the water at Nelson Bay – near the Chinese fishing huts. The fish stayed frozen despite a long boat trip on a searing summer’s day in January 1881 and ‘having been thawed by placing in cold water, were duly cooked and found delicious’. He fried the rest for breakfast and found them ‘as good as if fresh caught’. The NSW Fresh Food and Ice Company, established in 1871 by wool merchant, ship builder and grazier Thomas Mort, was offering frozen fish from the New South Wales coast to inland towns by 1891. Three years later the company opened a refrigeration works in a former cedar camp called Ballina, at the mouth of the Richmond River. However, much of the seafood that travelled for long distances up or down the coast to Sydney was packed in chests of ice to be sold ‘fresh’.

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Clarence River fishers used more than 3600 kilograms of locally produced ice in the summer of 1889 alone to preserve their fish on the twice-weekly trip to Sydney. The ice was better than nothing, but poor handling practices and the logistical difficulties of long-distance carriage in steamers often played havoc with the quality of the catch that ended up in the metropolis. The fishers blamed the city agents when their produce spoilt in the sun or on the concrete floor of the Woolloomooloo fish market and they had to cover the cost. Public servant and sailor, Alexander Oliver, had earlier described the system as ‘barbarous’. It certainly did not encourage the consumption of seafood. A near monopoly of ‘two or three wholesale dealers’ divided the daily catch ‘amongst a horde of brawling barrow and basket men’ who then circulated it to the city’s consumers in the absence of fish shops. The development of refrigeration technologies hardly made a difference, it seems, to the imbalance of power between producer and ‘fish agent’. According to one Government report, the latter conspired to keep prices artificially high in times of abundance by holding back stock in cool rooms for later sale while charging the fishers for the extra refrigeration. Relations between the producers and the ‘middle men’ were often fraught. It was the former who took the risks at sea and on the rivers. They despatched their catch on steamers, and later trains, hoping it would arrive in good time without being pilfered en route. They bore the brunt of bad weather, seasonal variations and fluctuating hauls. And yet, as the fishers perceived it, they rarely shared the profits gleaned from a product priced beyond the means of most – even in the harbour city, Sydney. In ‘the metropolis’, noted one sympathetic local paper, it was a food that ‘none but the better circumstanced can afford to touch’. However, those who caught the fish were some of ‘the most poorly paid men in the State’. Red meat, made cheap by the vast flocks and herds that had long roamed the interior, dominated the standard diet. There was an acrimonious relationship, too, between fishers and fishing inspectors who enforced net sizes and catching practices. The tension

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arose out of the need to regulate the industry ­– apparent by the mid1860s as fish stocks started to dwindle in Port Jackson. When illegal nets were seized the fishers were left without a livelihood. The fishing community – whom one commentator referred to pithily as ‘the ever-watchful offenders and their folk’ – often closed ranks against the government men. Scientifically inclined gentlemen had been trying understand the ecology of the coast since Surgeon White first gathered his fish and shell specimens for description and illustration in the 1790s. In the intervening 70 years, fishers had developed their own lore and attempted to harvest waters that sometimes teemed and were at other times seemingly empty. But the gentlemen and politicians wrote with frustration at the apparent parochialism of the industry, which did not adopt overseas technologies and practices. In temperate waters, with a south-flowing current, seasonal variations were especially important and, for many years, confounding. ‘Winter is the season of the fishermen’s discontent’, noted one commentator as late as 1910. The difficulty of catching fish in the winter months, and the consequent pressure placed upon the resource in the lean times, was recognised in the Act to Protect the Fisheries of New South Wales 1865. So to preserve the immature fish that were being gathered up and killed along with the edible stock, the legal winter width of the mesh in the main length of the net, called the bunt, was set at one-and-a-quarter inches. In summer, from September to March, it was two inches. Fishers were forbidden from setting stall nets, set across tidal waterways to trap fish, within one mile of a shore or river mouth at any time of year. The 1865 Act was the first law to protect fish or, indeed, any kind of fauna in New South Wales. Significantly it imposed conditions on what had been a free resource and its implementation began decades of bad feeling between commercial fishers and enforcers. Recreational anglers would not be subjected to restrictions for another century or more. The regulations and occasional inspection did little to solve the problem and the issue was

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revisited in the early 1880s. On that occasion the Commissioners, headed by William John Macleay, familiarised themselves with the standard international works on fish by Georges Cuvier, Achille Valenciennes, and Albert Gunther whose catalogue of fishes in the British Museum included Australian species. They read the locally based studies of Edward Smith Hill, Alexander Oliver and Count de Castelnau. EP Ramsay’s growing Australian Museum collection might have helped. The Commissioners even sought evidence from the fishers themselves. From these men they heard that fish stocks were declining as a result of pollution and increased water traffic in Port Jackson, the widespread use of small nets and the capture of immature ‘fry’. In the end the gentlemen of the Commission blamed the fishers for the ‘wanton destruction … of spawn and young’ and recommended the rigid enforcement of netting and seasonal restrictions. The evidence was often confusing and contradictory and the Commissioners admitted the limitations of all they had learned in the very first sentence of the report: ‘The fish of Australian coast are very numerous, though, as regards many of them, but little known’. There was some optimism as fishers spoke about untapped potential. When the little herring-like maray were running, the sea appeared ‘as if it were solid’, said one. The fish in Jervis Bay ‘would last forever’, opined another. So the 1880 report also concluded that, despite the ‘wanton destruction’, the fishing grounds off New South Wales had great potential. A second Royal Commission, which followed in 1895, concurred: ‘our fisheries … might be made one of the largest industries in the Colony’. The optimism ran counter to the assessment of Governor Hunter who, back in 1797, had questioned the ability of the industry to sustain the local population let alone supply an export market: ‘we have no fishing-banks upon this coast like those of the North Sea or Newfoundland’. John Hunter was probably closer to the mark. Temperate waters had a bewildering diversity of fishes but not the vast shoals of the cold northern oceans. Compounding this ecological truth was the legal reality that the sea’s resources were, as the Monitor alluded to when it attacked the cedar tax back in 1826, owned

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by no one person. In later years the results of this free-for-all was given a name, ‘the tragedy of the commons’: the rational exploitation of collectively held marine resources for individual gain without concern for the consequent destruction and the impact upon a wider interest.That idea was already coalescing in New South Wales at the end of the 19th century. Lindsay Thompson, Chief Inspector of the Fisheries Department that took on the new regulatory regime, was in no doubt about the conflict between ‘men who had hitherto considered the finny tribes in our harbours and rivers their legitimate and indeed absolute property’ and those, like himself, who saw natural resources as part of a more broadly defined ‘public estate’ in need of protection. Fishing was an industry dominated by small partnerships and families. ‘Too poor’ to experiment with technologies and techniques, in the estimation of one sympathetic commentator, they used nets, traps and lines that were, in the words of another, ‘about 200 years behind the times’. The range of the catch was limited by the vessels used; small boats, some under sail, others pulled by oar. In the early 1900s a few looked to coal-burning steam engines and petrol motors to power their vessels. But inboard engines were expensive. The less costly Waterman engine – the world’s first mass-produced outboard motor – was available in Sydney within months of its release in the United States in 1905. It could drive a skiff at eight knots, releasing fishers from the will of wind and tide, and the boundaries of stamina. A fleet of skiffs, however, was hardly the basis for an industrial revolution. Two decades later, small locally built ‘snapper boats’ were commonly powered by small motors and sails, but the risk remained high and the returns were often small. Dick Pearce fished out of Crowdy Head on the lower north coast from the 1920s. His snapper boat had a ‘flush deck that was always wet’. Working mostly on his own, Pearce was also without wet weather gear. He never wore shoes but this, it seems, was by choice: ‘it was far too dangerous. If you went over the side [in boots] you had no hope’.

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Two shark-fishing boats, each powered by a 12-horsepower diesel engine, were built in Sydney for Marine Industries Ltd of Port Stephens. Between 1927 and 1933 the Demon and the Devil caught 27 000 sharks in, and just out of, the harbour waters before the local population was so depleted that catching the remaining fish was not worth the effort. The sharks were caught in gill nets 300 metres long. Those that were not drowned before landing were clubbed and shot. The skins were used for shoes and luggage, the meat was dried for fertiliser or fed to cattle and the livers were rendered for oil. Some fins were exported to China for use in soup, but few Anglo-Australians were prepared to eat this most despised of fish until, of course, the flesh was sold as ‘flake’ accompanied by chips and sauce. Criticism of the destructive habits of fishers was accompanied by concerns at the limitations of their abilities. This was not completely paradoxical for it was held that the right mix of technology and expertise would lay the foundation for the large-scale industry that New South Wales deserved but that had been so long delayed. A properly regulated fishery that exploited the riches of the deep sea, beyond the well-harvested close waters north and south of Sydney, must surely be sustainable. In the absence of private means and interest, it was suggested as early as 1895 that the government buy a steamship to trawl the deep-sea fisheries. It fell to the first Labor Government of New South Wales, two decades later, to acquire a fleet of trawlers for ‘the people’. The Premier and one-time socialist, William Holman, was motivated by a philosophy that saw a role for the state in the conduct of enterprise, from planned suburbs to primary industry. In 1914 he sent the naturalist David Stead, then the State’s Chief Scientist, to look at the booming trawling industry in Britain where 120 vessels operated from Grimsby alone. Stead’s belief in the efficacy of trawling was apparently something of a conversion. Three years earlier he had dismissed the value of the deep-sea fishery, in favour of harvesting surface-dwelling species such as mackerel, tailor and kingfish. However, in England he bought three steel trawlers that were given Aboriginal-sounding names, Brolga, Koraaga and Gunundaal, for their Australian owners. Though recently launched, the

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vessels burnt coal – the age of steam power was only just beginning to give way to that of the oil motor. They started work in 1915 in the newly named South East Fishery from Port Stephens down to Bass Strait. By 1920 the original three had been joined by four more trawlers built locally at Newcastle, the Goonambee, Goorangai, Dureenbee and Dibblu. The new State Fishery, which Stead then headed, even opened its own fish shops to market the product. However, like the Government’s other endeavours, the fishing enterprise was undermined by a world war, which sucked up resources, divided the community and the Labor Party itself, and heightened antagonism to ‘socialistic schemes’. The public’s ongoing reluctance to eat fish did not help. The loss-making trawlers were sold to private companies by a conservative government in 1923. Through that decade and over the next twenty years, Red Funnel Trawlers competed with AA Murrell Pty Ltd and Cam and Sons whose fleet was established by a second-generation Italian fish-shop owner from Sydney Harbour, Carlo Caminiti. The popularity of fish and chips, an English working class staple by the end of the 19th century, had only gradually taken hold in Australia. However, there were numerous shops in Sydney by the 1930s and the public was also developing a taste for the long-lived, deep-sea tiger flathead that could now be scooped up by nets trawling the continental shelf at depths of 50 to 200 metres. Thirteen trawlers worked the South East Fishery in the 1930s and, despite the lingering effects of the Great Depression, there was an abundance of work and apparently of fish. But as the trawlers extended the range of the fishers, the problems of over-harvesting, re-emerged. Stocks of the tiger flathead, staple of the fish and chip shop, declined dramatically. The balance between economics, technology and an often-baffling marine ecology was as difficult to gauge as ever.

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‘… with ever so many whaling ships …’ Fishing boats had been heading down the coast to Bass Strait from Sydney Harbour for a century before steam trawlers started working the South East Fishery. Then it was seals that excited passions and promised riches and industry for New South Wales. For in those times the harvesting of any marine animal was regarded as a fishery and sealskins were, in the words of Governor King who succeeded John Hunter in 1800, ‘among the very few natural productions of the country that can be esteemed commercial’. Locally recruited men, some of them Aboriginal, sailed in locally built ships to the southern breeding grounds. They were following, almost literally, in the wake of Bass and Flinders. For their efforts, some were abandoned for years on islands around the southern coast of greater New South Wales and Tasmania – forced to live in turf huts lined with the skins of the animals they slaughtered. Meanwhile the western side of Sydney Cove was piled high with pelts and barrels of oil. Within 20 years, the vast colonies of fur seals and sea lions were devastated. Attention turned to the whale fishery that Arthur Phillip and others had hoped to exploit in the first years of colonisation. English whaling ships, of course, cruised the coast after they delivered their cargoes of convicts through the 1790s and those that still sailed the Pacific Ocean in search of sperm whales sometimes called in to Sydney Cove. Sydneysiders also knew of the free-ranging ‘Yankee’ vessels, which had rounded Cape Horn from the Atlantic to cross the Pacific, well before the ‘War of 1812’ made enemies of the Americans for a time. The Ann visited three times between 1805 and the outbreak of hostilities – presumably to resupply at the farthest point from its home in New Bedford, Massachusetts. In the early years, colonial vessels hunted predominantly the black whales – southern rights and humpbacks – that stayed close to the coast. Fostering an export trade in the far-flung penal colony was not a priority

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for public servants and politicians in London. Local merchants contended with duties imposed on colonial products imported into Britain, the effect of the powerful East India Company’s trading monopoly and the Navigation Laws, which precluded trade with non-British ships. The outlook for colonial whalers improved with the removal of the Company monopoly in 1813 and the duties on oil and bone in 1823, following the recommendations of Commissioner John Bigge. By the end of the decade there were predictions that as many as 20 vessels would be using Sydney as a base from which to chase the deep-sea sperm whales whose huge bodies and heads gave up ambergris for perfume and the finest oil for lubrication and lighting. In 1830 the Australian, the John Bull, and the Currency Lass were part of a colonial fleet of 22 vessels sailing out through the Sydney heads. Reverend Charles Wilton must have been pleased. As well as collecting sea shells around Newcastle and preaching in the church above its harbour, the science-minded cleric had just edited one of the colony’s first – albeit short-lived – intellectual journals. It was probably Wilton himself who penned the article titled ‘Australian Sperm Whale Fishery’ in the debut issue of the Australian Quarterly Journal of Theology, Literature and Science that appeared in January 1828. ‘Where should the child of England look but to the sea!’ it declared, while dismissing Australia’s agricultural prospects as a country with an ‘impenetrable’ interior: The sea is our birthright and inheritance. Nature herself seems to point out to us our proper path and our real interests, by keeping us constantly in sight of the ocean … she allures us to the almost interminable length of Coast, swarming with Whales, and interested by gulphs, creeks and harbours, without equals in the world, absolutely inviting us to make use of them.

These sentiments anticipated the thoughts of Charles Darwin who visited the place in 1836 in the Beagle and left underwhelmed by the arid pastures within but convinced that the colony was ‘sure to be a maritime nation’. For a short time it seemed that the success of whaling was proof of this. From

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A Frank Hurley photograph of the fishing fleet in Wollongong, probably from the late 1940s. It shows the small motor and sail-powered ‘snapper boats’ that could be found along the coast from the 1920s.

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The teamwork between killer whales (orcas) and whalers is clear in Oswald Brierly’s watercolour, curiously titled Amateur Whaling, 1847.

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Oswald Brierly’s sketch of the Aboriginal man known as James Imlay shows him wearing a breastplate, part of his ‘payment’ for work on whaling boats, and a waterproof sailor’s hat.

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Elliot Johnstone’s 1898 oil painting shows the Whaler’s Arms (right) in Gloucester Street, Sydney.

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The density of the coastal forest that confronted Europeans in the Illawarra is clear in this 1860 oil painting, Kiama Illawarra NSW by Henry Gritten. It was based on an 1830 sketch by the surveyor Robert Hoddle.

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1830 to 1832 its products made up 29 per cent of the colony’s total export income – more than all the wool shorn from the colony’s sheep. In 1831 the Elizabeth alone delivered 361 tons of sperm oil for its owner Robert Campbell Jr. It was a hugely valuable cargo, worth £22 000 and gathered over eighteen months. The hard men of the whaling ships usually docked between Millers and Dawes points, around from Sydney Cove, and made their way through the narrow cobbled streets to lodging houses and a plethora of pubs. They were welcomed in establishments with names such as The Whalers Arms, The Old Whalers Arms and The Whale Fishery Hotel. Harpoons and scrimshaw were as familiar to residents there as sheep shears and axes to the people of the interior. In 1901, an elderly and by then blind Eliza Walker could still recall in her mind’s eye the coming of the whalemen more than half a century earlier when she was the young daughter of a respectable newspaper proprietor: Often have I, from the slopes of the Rocks, witnessed the return to port of the whaling vessels laden with black and sperm oil, bone and tortoiseshell. The whalers, of course, at once started to have a merry time. This was a very lively port in those times, with ever so many whaling ships, colonial, Scottish and American, putting to land their oil and to refit for another cruise.

While the period through the 1830s and 1840s was the busiest for Sydney, many more whalers called in to New Zealand’s Bay of Islands or Hawaii far to the north-east. Direct Australian participation in the industry was small compared to the Americans, who also outstripped the British and the French. But the slaughter by all was unsustainable. When the western and southern Pacific was emptied of sperm whales the hunters headed north. Meanwhile the rush for gold in California and Australia turned some whalers into passenger ships and lured crews from their ‘wooden worlds’ to seek fortune on dry land. From mid-century Sydney hosted fewer of the stinking black ships.

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But while the number of wild whales declined, the population of farmed sheep soared. In 1851 there were nearly seven-and-a-half million in the colony. By century’s end there were 57 million, at least. They outnumbered people by well over ten to one. As New South Wales stood proudly ‘first of all the Colonies as a sheep-breeding country’, any exhortation to ‘look but to the sea!’ was sounding a little forlorn.

‘… for the sake of getting rich quick’ Lively as Sydney was in the 1840s, it hardly compared as a whaling port with Nantucket or New Bedford in Massachusetts, which alone was home to more than 400 ships. Twofold Bay, the colony’s only shore station, was even smaller. It had been established in 1828 to exploit the southern right and humpback whales that passed close to the coast. This was a seasonal enterprise, which used rowing boats to intercept the great mammals as they migrated, rather than ships to hunt them in the open ocean. But for the relatively small number of people involved it was a lucrative business. Between May and November 1840 there were more than 50 000 gallons of oil produced in the Bay – an amount equivalent to the cargo of 1800 barrels accrued by the Canton Packet in its three-year trek around the Pacific. Shore whaling at Twofold Bay was started by a Sydney merchant called Thomas Raine. It was carried through the 1830s and into the 1840s by three brothers – George, Peter, and Alexander Imlay. Newly arrived from Scotland, they took up land for grazing from the coast to the Lachlan River and so Twofold Bay also became a despatch station for livestock, wool and meat being sent to Sydney, Tasmania and South Australia. The German naturalist, Baron von Hügel, painted a rather bleak picture of entrepreneurial life on this coastal frontier after he visited Dr George Imlay’s dwelling and camp in 1834 – soon after the brothers started their Twofold Bay venture:

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The bark hut somewhat astonished me. I found it difficult to understand how a man used to a life of comfort … could bring himself to spend part of his life in such quarters, purely for the sake of getting-rich-quick … The floor was the one created by nature. On a table in the corner stood the larder of provisions to be consumed over the next few weeks.

Nearby, there hung the carcasses of a dozen bullocks and a ‘beef saltingdown works’ which processed cattle driven from the Imlay’s inland runs and employed the men outside the whaling season. George Imlay’s existence was not completely given over to frugality and Mammon, however, for lining the thin bark walls of his hut was a library of ‘about 100 books’. Imlay and his men shared the Bay with as many as 200 Aboriginal people. The doctor reported issuing blankets to 73 men, women and children in 1841. Usually naked in the warmer seasons, the young women wore small pieces of cloth at the Scotsman’s insistence – yet another instance of indigenous concession to European presence. In von Hügel’s assessment, the group had come there to live off the offal and bone discards from the slaughterhouse. No doubt they welcomed the easy food, and the tobacco that could be earned or begged, but the proliferation of shell middens, big enough to form ‘small hills’ and astonish the German, suggested a much longer occupation. The grazing licenses granted by the Governor sat well beyond the limits of settlement set only a few years earlier. Indeed both Raine and the Imlays leap-frogged the slow expansion along the south coast. The lure of cedar had pulled people down from Sydney just as it had pushed them up to the north. The lush semi-tropical forests around the Illawarra were being cut out in the second decade of the century. Then, the district was called ‘Five Islands’ – a name used first by George Bass and one that stuck because the place was most easily approached from the sea and distinguished by the small coastal outcrops. The small clinker-built vessels that despatched the precious timber to the Sydney market were called, accordingly, ‘Five Island Boats’. Further to the south, a little port town called Kiama began tentatively as an outlet for cedar and the growing quantity of dairy products. Originally the thick brush extended down almost to the sea. One writer likened the

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beach there to a ‘pirate’s isle’ as gangs of sawyers gathered around kegs of rum before loading the waiting boats. Before she decamped to Sydney, where she met and married the scientist Thomas Huxley, Henrietta Heathorn knew the place as a ‘small settlement [which] could boast only of a few cabbage tree huts one weatherboard and a most primitive inn kept by a delightful motherly, elderly woman’. Yet another enterprising ship’s surgeon and another Scotsman, Alexander Berry, did rather better just to the south after he secured a grant of 14 000 acres (5665 hectares) around the Shoalhaven River in the early 1820s. It was the land that George Bass described twenty-five years earlier as ‘rich and good’ but that most Europeans had ignored in favour of the Hunter district inland from Newcastle. Berry took on 100 prisoners in exchange for his vast free parcel and, in the bargain, considered he had done the colony a favour. He established a settlement in front of Coolangatta – the small mountain considered sacred by the Aboriginal people of the area and the landmark from which Berry took the name for his new estate. Without police or soldiers Coolangatta was managed as something of a benign autocracy – where ‘moral influence’ and the granting of extra rations rather than whippings and hard labour were used to modify behaviour. Berry’s convicts built Australia’s first canal, which joined the Shoalhaven and Crookhaven rivers in order to avoid the shallow and dangerous mouth of the former and expedite the passage of the small boats that carried produce from the estate. As a result of this engineering the Shoalhaven was closed forever to the sea. Aboriginal people were working with the new harvests on the fertile river flats by the end of the 1820s. Berry exercised his moral authority from afar for he spent most of his days in Sydney – some of them attending the legislature as a conservative law-maker. His various abodes overlooked the waterway that received cedar from Coolangatta and grain and butter from the pasture that replaced the forest. Berry traded along the north coast as well. In 1846 his schooner Coolangatta was driven aground and wrecked on the Tweed River loaded with local red cedar. In the process the name Coolangatta was seeded in a second

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settlement far away from the south-coast farm. The products from up and down the coast were landed at ‘Berry’s Bay’, part of another land grant that gave its namesake control of an extensive harbour waterfront near the metropolis. In the absence of Government towns like Newcastle, the Coolangatta estate was probably the largest convict settlement on the south coast. Governor Macquarie had considered settling Jervis Bay before deciding upon Port Macquarie for his secondary place of banishment. Indeed he hoped to establish a ‘chain of settlements’ from Port Jackson to Jervis Bay. But although the accounts of the harbour there were good, John Oxley’s assessment of the land around it was not and there was no township begun until 1841 when the prospect of shipping wool led to a small land boom at ‘Jervis Town’, ‘New Bristol’ and ‘South Huskisson’. Started in a depression the excitement was short-lived and by 1848 writer JP Townsend reported that there were ‘but two inhabited houses’. There were, then, few Europeans living between Coolangatta and Twofold Bay when the Imlays began whaling and shipping meat from its waters in the 1830s. That was still the case when flamboyant Scottish entrepreneur Benjamin Boyd set up business there in the 1840s. Few epitomised the quest for wealth better than Boyd. He arrived with the approval of the Colonial Office to develop ‘the resources of Australia and its adjacent islands’ and was received with some fanfare in Sydney Harbour in a splendid ocean-going yacht called the Wanderer in 1842. Boyd had established a bank to fund his planned extensive and costly enterprises, which included a fleet of three British-built steamships, already arrived in the colony, to carry the produce he planned to harvest and trade. Then, like the Imlays, Boyd secured land – some quarter-of-a-million acres of it – inland from Twofold Bay and he used the bay as a port from which to transport meat and wool north to a harbourfront home and wool-washing facility in Sydney. Boyd celebrated his own acumen and promoted his company by naming the Twofold Bay settlement, Boydtown. And again, like the Imlays, Boyd looked to tap the riches of both sea and land. So a second site called East Boyd was established as a rival whaling station.

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Boyd’s friend and future manager, Oswald Brierly, described a place barely changed by Europeans despite a decade or more of whaling: ‘Twofold Bay and its surrounding country was surely as primitive in its appearance at this time as when Bass first visited it in his boat in 1798’. Brierly’s first abode was a tent made from sailcloth and pitched on the beach near the future site of Boydtown. When the operation began at East Boyd a hulk, moored offshore, served as a headquarters before buildings, and more bark huts, were erected on land. Brierly was a marine artist whose interest in ships led to the friendship with Boyd in London and his unlikely management of a whaling station on the south coast of New South Wales. He kept a detailed journal account of his six years there, recording the activities and landscape with the eye of a painter and the pen of a writer. On 7 September 1844 Brierly observed half a dozen whalemen, ‘rough looking fellows’, lounging at their camp while ‘one of their number swept the horizon with his glass in search of a spout’. Below them … anchored in a little sheltered cove lay their Boat, the well sharpened Irons gleaming in the sun as the [craft] was rocked. Far from a scene of laziness if a whale is sighted the call is There she spouts! There again! And in one instant the sleepers are running down the rocks … in danger of breaking their necks – in a few minutes their Boat is out of the Bay.

A few days later he took time out to sketch the sea as the swell heaved past the lookout point: ‘Here the scene was grander than anything I had before seen – the whole weight of the South Pacific seemed to be rolling in.’ The artist-turned-manager sometimes joined in the hunt and surrendered to the excitement of the chase and the kill. He described such a scene in his journal and later painted it with oils: ‘At times after severe lancing the jet from the being may contain an [illegible] mixture of blood which spreads out and is frequently carried by the wind as a shower over the men + their boats. When this event happens the whalers say that the whale has “his chimney a fire”’. On another occasion Brierly experienced first-hand the danger of open boat whaling:

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I shall never forget the new + sickening sensation of finding the whale boat suddenly lifted out of the water by the rising back of the whale and the sliding gliding helplessly slipping notion of the boat as it shot down the back of the monster under us. The powerlessness of the situation flashed through the mind – oars were of no use. We were literally “out of our element” but truly only for a moment and then as we touched water again down the great tail of the enraged monster cutting our boat in twain … left us struggling for dear life and handicapped by a thick coat and heavy boots.

If Brierly’s unremitting employer had expected to have convicts assigned to him as free labour – as Alexander Berry had done – he must have been disappointed. For this source of labour dried up after the end of transportation in 1840. Faced with the expense of wage employment in New South Wales, Boyd turned to indenturing men from the New Hebrides and Loyalty Islands, and went down in history as the notorious pioneer of that form of race-based colonial servitude called ‘blackbirding’. Most of those hapless islanders found themselves on sheep stations, and then for only a short time. But some may have worked at Twofold Bay. What is more certain is the employment of Aboriginal people, men and women, in the whaling business. The Imlays had three Aboriginal boat crews comprising 18 men in 1842. The Crown Lands Commissioner John Lambie reported that they were paid ‘on the same terms as the whites’. Brierly noted instead that they were paid with clothing, provisions and engraved breastplates – a long-established and inexpensive method of acknowledging assistance and bestowing status. Whaling might well have permitted the indigenous people of Twofold Bay to dictate the pace of the change that had come upon them – for a time at least. There was relatively little pressure from a growing European population, relatively little threat of being displaced by sheep. And the work was seasonal so it was possible to accommodate two ways of life. In 1842 John Lambie observed that during the ‘fishing season’ the indigenous whalers ate with utensils, lived in huts and slept on beds. But when that was over, ‘they all returned to their tribes in the Bush’. Brierly described the people he saw there after the whales had gone: ‘The coast tribes still wandered along its

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shores, in their opossum cloaks, and subsisted … fully by hunting the kangaroo and some on fishing in their small bark canoes, upon the lagoons in its neighbourhood’. Brierly formed relationships with the indigenous people. He was very fond of a young man called Toby and ‘adopted’ an Aboriginal boy whom he named Oswald Brierly. Through this the name Brierly was introduced into the Aboriginal community where it would remain. The men to whom George Imlay gave blankets in 1841 were already identifying with dual European and traditional names. Nerrima, Anangi and Tackangua adopted the surname Imlay – presumably an indication of a particular bond with the Scotsman. As ‘James Imlay’, Nerrima was given a breastplate that bestowed upon him the titles of ‘King of the Tribe and Admiral of the Fleet of Twofold Bay’. The honour exemplified the patronising respect that characterised a part of the European attitude to Aboriginal people in the 1800s. Brierly was impressed by the boat handling of Yuin whalers just as the European settlers at Carrington had remarked upon the aquatic skills of the Worimi people around Port Stephens. And the people of the bay were excellent lookouts, able to spy a whale’s spout amidst the wave crests just as their counterparts on the far north coast could guide sawyers to a cedar tree in a forest of green. There was, it seems, an affinity with the natural world that suited them for work on the colonial coast. At Twofold Bay there was another, more spiritual, connection – with the whales themselves. Stories of ‘calling’ killer whales to bring the humpbacks and southern rights on to the beaches for food were probably generations old when they were related to the anthropologist RH Mathews in the 1880s. Forty years earlier Oswald Brierly was aware that the people of Twofold Bay regarded the killer whales that drove the others on to land ‘as the incarnate spirits of their own departed ancestors.’ So strong was this belief that they went ‘so far as to particularise and identify certain individual killer spirits’. This extraordinary relationship appears to have been replicated in the practice of shore whaling. Complex co-ordination and teamwork is a

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characteristic of the hunting habits of cetaceans – whales, porpoises and dolphins. Killers hunt down larger sperm and grey whales in packs off North American coasts. Off New South Wales, however, orcas worked with humans – herding humpbacks and southern rights within range of the rowers in the expectation that they would benefit from the kill. Brierly was sufficiently familiar with the phenomenon to describe it at length: In these waters there is often found in company with the whales a species of large porpoise with blunt head + and large teeth. This animal is known as a killer – These killers will frequently attack a whale + at times succeed in worrying it like a pack of dogs. The whalemen are very favourably disposed towards the killers … they regard it as more likely to find an easy prey in the whale when assisted by their allies the killers.

The slain whale would either sink or be pulled under by the killers only to rise again a day later like an elongated balloon, inflated by the gases of its own decomposition. By then, as Brierly observed, ‘the killers have eaten the whales tongue’. The ‘delicacy’, he conjectured, was regarded by the killers as their payment. Never, however, did he see one of the orcas attack a human, in or out of the water. Boyd could not sustain his operation, even with the help of the killers. Six years after its founding, the business empire was on the verge of collapse – over-extended and dependent, in large part, upon a bank that was itself part of the consortium. The entrepreneur also found himself in competition with the government. His plans for a privately developed town in Twofold Bay coincided with the establishing of an official settlement there. That place was named Eden, after a Colonial Secretary rather than any biblical paradise. Though Boyd Town quickly outgrew its counterpart, Eden endured as the government port with a small customs house, a post office and plans for a lighthouse. The latter put an end to Boyd’s intention to have his own light perched on the southern headland although he did build an extraordinary square tower from perfectly cut blocks of Sydney sandstone inscribed, on top, with the name ‘Boyd’. But, without government consent, the light was never installed.

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In 1848 Boyd’s friend Oswald Brierly saw a tide that was turning and left to pursue adventure and artistic views along the continent’s far north coast aboard the survey ship Rattlesnake. Boyd’s empire collapsed the following year and, without admitting defeat, the man himself left the colony in his beautiful yacht to pursue wealth on the Californian gold fields. When that eluded him he returned to the Pacific, ever in search of opportunity. Ben Boyd vanished without trace in the Solomon Islands. Much of what he built at Twofold Bay disappeared too. So, at century’s end, there was little more than an inn, an unfinished church and a darkened tower standing blindly on the point.

‘… from that moment my sympathies were with the whale …’ Boyd did leave a legacy. One of his old employees, Alexander Davidson, carried on shore-whaling from the bay long after the company closed up. Davidson was not the only one to do so, but he was the most successful. The family-run station at the Kiah River, near East Boyd, became the oldest of any in Australia. Davidson and his wife Jane acquired Boyd’s Tower and the family kept watch for whales from there. The four sons hunted the ‘great fish’ with their father for a while, but it was the grandsons George and Archer who took this unique form of bay whaling into the new century. In an age of steam ships and exploding harpoons, the Davidson men set out in open boats with hand-held weapons of sharpened Sheffield steel. They continued to employ Aboriginal crewmen. The orcas, too, kept arriving each year with the annual migration of the humpbacks and the relationship between the whalemen and killers became closer than ever. It was said the animals preferred to work with the Davidsons rather than the other crews and could identify the family’s green-painted boats as they rowed out from the Kiah. The animals were, in turn, given names – some after the Aboriginal men

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The killer whale in the foreground of this photograph by Charles Wellings has herded the prey between itself and the whaleboat. The man at the bow is ready to throw a harpoon.

who hunted with them. One was ‘Albert’ presumably taken from Albert Thomas, another was ‘Charlie Adgery’. There was ‘Brierly’ named after an Aboriginal man who in turn took his name from the manager of Boyd’s station. Most famous of all was ‘Tom’, whose bent dorsal fin distinguished him from the rest. The killers worried the whales into the bay and the crews chased them down. A barbed harpoon was thrown, which tethered the animal to the boat so that the anguished creature pulled its nemesis around until exhaustion took over. The kill occurred when a lance, longer than the man who handled

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A bloated whale carcass at the Kiah River station, Twofold Bay c.1900, photographed by George Wellings.

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it, was hurled into the back of the whale eviscerating the lungs so that the animal drowned in its own blood. The Davidsons were good at what they did. George was an expert lancer – a ‘master whaler’. In 1910, his brother Archer broke a world record for killing a blue whale with a hand lance. The species is the biggest to have ever lived on the planet. A child could swim through the animal’s largest artery. Archer’s prize was nearly 30 metres long. After the killers had had their fill and the bloated carcass re-emerged, it was the turn of man to tow whale. The creature was taken to the quiet cove near the Kiah where it was cut up and the blubber torn off with a winch and rope. This was boiled down for oil in large cast iron vats – try pots – some made in the foundries of Sydney, others as far away as Millwall on the Thames. The flexible baleen that strained plankton in the whale’s mouth was used as ‘whalebone’ for corsets and umbrellas. That the meat had become rank did not matter for, unlike the Yuin, European Australians did not eat whale. Synthetic materials and steel were replacing whalebone by the time Archer Davidson slew the giant blue whale in Twofold Bay. The large-scale refining of terrestrial oil in the United States from the 1860s was providing a new fuel for lighting. The rise of that industry also spelled the demise of the American whaling fleet. But in the 20th century new uses were found for whale oil in soap and margarine manufacture. And it remained a highly prized lubricant. Steam and motor ships fitted with harpoon guns and the means to process whales at sea were built to extend the hunt to previously unexploited waters. Some of these vessels anchored in Jervis Bay for a season in 1912 much to the displeasure of the new Royal Australian Navy, which was building a base there. The Navy won and the whalers moved on. After that, Australian whaling was carried on largely from the west coast of the continent. Norwegians came to dominate southern whaling in the early 20th century. So much so that, in 1930, David Stead chastised his government for allowing the ships of another nation to exploit seas that ‘geographically’ belonged to Australia. There were echoes of Reverend Wilton’s exhortation,

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George Davidson poses with a whaler’s lance at the Kiah River station, Twofold Bay in the late 1920s.

one hundred years earlier, to look to the sea. The ‘father’ of steam trawling, Stead was ever optimistic about the ocean’s resources. He was confident that there were plenty of ‘great blue whale’ off the east and west coasts and urged the large-scale refining of whale oil in Australia. Others, however, were concerned that the new factory ships were depleting southern whale populations – just as the vast fleets of wooden whalers had done half a century earlier in the Pacific and Atlantic. By then the Davidsons’ operation was an anachronism. While Stead was imagining a renewed industry somewhere along the coast, the marine biologist William Dakin visited Twofold Bay to talk to George Davidson and photograph him at the tumbledown station for his upcoming study of Australian whaling, written with the help of his new research assistant Isobel Bennett. Dakin called the place a ‘museum piece’ and marvelled at being

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able to stand in a whaleboat that conjured up images from Herman Melville’s great novel Moby Dick. George Davidson blamed the demise of the family’s business on the lingering effects of World War I while Dakin simply saw an outdated enterprise unable to compete. Still others noted the declining numbers of black whales and, with them, the killers that assisted the whalemen. Indeed the death of ‘Tom’ in 1930 seemed to sound the death knell for whaling in the bay. His demise was widely reported and the whale was described as the ‘last of his tribe’. It was a reference, perhaps, to the close relationship between Aboriginal people and the killers but more probably it simply echoed white Australia’s tendency to associate indigenous people with the fauna of the country. Just what the local indigenous community thought when Tom was discovered washed up on a beach seems not to have been recorded. George Davidson gave in to sentiment and towed his ‘old friend’ to the whaling station, cut the flesh off the carcass and boiled the bones so that Tom’s skeleton might be preserved. Six years later, the master whaler killed his last whale – single-handed at the age of 70. Whether he was driven by economic necessity or obsession, in the manner of Melville’s Ahab, is unclear. In any case he could not secure the animal on his own and its carcass was found days later and left unprocessed. Davidson’s feats were already legendary. In the heyday of the business, the hunts he led were watched from the heights around the bay, a spectacle for locals and tourists alike. In August 1918 the slaughter of a southern right whale and its calf took ten hours of chasing, harpooning, towing and lancing – with the whaleboats followed by a launch crammed with sightseers. The hunt was reported in the metropolitan press as ‘one of the most exciting witnessed at Eden for some years’. There was, however, a new sentiment emerging. In response to a similar account a decade later, scientist Walter Froggatt made a plea for the end to such killing. Both Froggatt and David Stead were naturalists and pioneering conservationists but on the issue of whaling they had divergent views. Where Stead was apparently sanguine about the sustainability of the

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industry, Walter was not – particularly when cows and calves were being killed. There was a simple rationalism in his argument, just as there was with the criticism of small-net fishing. To take of the young of a species was to jeopardise its future. But Froggatt, then in his 70s, added another moral dimension to his case against whaling – it was extraordinarily brutal. This cruelty was amplified by a growing empathy with the whale that did not exist with other marine species. So in a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald in August 1928, Froggatt painted an emotive word picture of a ‘gallant’ mother ‘protecting her baby’ against the ‘united enemies’ of men and orcas. It was an expression of disgust with none of the thrill that characterised other accounts from Oswald Brierly to William Dakin. The mood was changing, too, among the Davidson family. George’s daughter Elsie witnessed a whale hunt as a 15-year-old girl. As she neared the end of her life, some 70 years later, Elsie recalled the emotions evoked on that clear winter’s day in Twofold Bay: I heard this terrible tragic moan and it seemed to come under the water and up the other side of the dinghy and it was full of pain and tragedy and fear. And from that moment my sympathies were with the whale because I knew that it was the end of it, it was dying … and that is my last memory of whaling … not a very good one. I hated every thought of it.

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6: Boats on the coast

‘… in a brig of my own …’ The old whaleboat in Twofold Bay that excited William Dakin was clinkerbuilt with overlapping planks that curved to create a broad beam between bow and stern, so they resembled the ventral pleats of the baleen whales it had chased down. These craft were long, light and shallow – built for speed and able to negotiate rough, open water. As examples of marine design their lineage has been traced back to the boats that carried Vikings around Europe a thousand years ago. The Davidson’s boats at Twofold Bay were among thousands of small watercraft plying the New South Wales coast and its rivers throughout the late 1800s and into the 20th century. At Ballina, far to the north, the local policeman utilised skills acquired in the shipyards of Liverpool to craft a cedar-wood rowing boat that was light enough to be hauled in and out of

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rivers in the process of bringing law and order to the Big Brush. Other vessels carried people and possessions, helped to harvest the waters and saved those in distress. Not all were as sleek as the whaleboats of Twofold Bay. Flat-bottomed, square-ended punts were used to ferry heavy loads of oysters from the leases of Port Stephens and the lower Hunter River at Newcastle. They were also poled through the mangroves to cut and stack the wooden stakes used for oyster cultivation. It was work carried out by men and women from the ‘river families’ – at least until the mangroves were cut out in the 1930s. Shallow rowing boats trawled for prawns on the same waterway. While one person rowed, another walked the bank and the net was dragged in between. During the Depression of the 1930s there were as many as 26 of these craft working the river, with unemployed coal miners joining the professional prawn fishers to take up a life on the river bank that provided food and a meagre income. Built shallow so they did not run aground, the prawn skiffs could only be pulled by oar – without a keel or centreboard a sail full of wind would have driven them ashore at every bend in the river. These boats were variations of the watermen’s skiffs that ferried people and goods to and from larger vessels in the Port of Newcastle and Sydney Harbour well into the 1900s. The skiff, in turn, evolved from the highbowed wherry navigated by Thames River watermen and seen from the early days around Sydney. At Newcastle, the colony’s second harbour city, the Towns brothers built sleek shallow rowing boats at Dempsey Island on the river from the 1850s. Their ‘butcher boats’ were so good that crews could travel nearly 50 kilometres down the coast to head off sailing ships in order to win victualling contracts. At century’s end watermen and farmers from upriver negotiated the waterway between the giant colliers, pulling up their skiffs at the Market Street ‘boat harbour’ just inside the river’s mouth. When that landing was resumed by the railway, another was constructed nearby with a gentle gradient of stone, criss-crossed by battens to provide grip while the rowers clambered on or off.

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Before the Sydney Harbour Bridge spanned that waterway in 1932 and motor vehicles came to dominate the city’s transport network, skiffs were a quick and casual means of crossing the water for work or play. Long rowing boats could be seen in their dozens, beached or moored in the myriad harbour coves. Through the 19th century and into the 1900s, Newcastle and Sydney watermen remained busy, long after their counterparts on the Thames had their centuries’ old services eroded by a succession of river bridges. Sydney’s watermen managed to hang on until the 1930s, providing a service in the water city akin to the gondoliers of Venice. The tradition of local boat-building was already nearly a century-and-ahalf old when Sydney’s long awaited Harbour Bridge opened. The industry had developed despite the intentions of Lord Sydney and his colleagues as plans for the penal colony were being drafted in 1786. Back then, watercraft of any kind offered the hope of return or escape, so their construction was strictly controlled. There was no mention of the need for shipwrights; it was to be a place of exile, first and foremost. Nonetheless someone among the first colonists knew something of boat-building, and no doubt necessity focused their ability. A vessel with a bulbous bow and spreading beam was built on the shore of Sydney Cove in 1789. It took people and supplies up and down the harbour’s tidal estuary, between the struggling first settlement and the second town, Parramatta. The design did not inspire admiration and the vessel, formally christened the Rosehill Packet, was generally referred to as ‘the lump’. With the arrival of two more convict ‘fleets’ by early 1792 there were ‘3 or 4 ordinary shipwrights’ available for government work. Phillip would have preferred one or two ‘good’ ones instead. His despatches to Whitehall were often tinged with the note of frustration. The governor repeatedly requested more boats for use in his coastal colony and when one did arrive ‘in frame’ Phillip was not confident that his men had the skills to assemble or even crew the vessel. In time a government boatyard was established on the west side of the cove in the charge of a master boatbuilder who had fifteen other ‘shipwrights, caulkers, boatbuilders, labourers, watchmen’ at his

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Skiffs pull up at the Market Street wharf in Newcastle c.1900. The steps evince an intimacy between city and waterway.

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disposal. It was there that the ‘excellent’ whaleboat that took George Bass on his epic voyage south was built. A decade earlier, Phillip’s only instruction on the subject was in the negative: no seaworthy vessels were to be built by ‘private individuals’. This discouraged escape and protected the trading monopoly of the all-powerful and influential East India Company, which had no interest in seeing an imperial outpost develop with home-grown merchants who might challenge their share of the Asian trade. Yet colonial accounts refer to the private ownership of boats within two years of the arrival of the British. Clearly people were crafting vessels of some description for themselves from early days. In 1791, responding to convict escapes rather than any deference to the Company, Phillip was compelled to restrict the practice even further. He did not want anything larger than fourteen feet constructed – hardly more than a dinghy. This instruction fell by the way after the first governor left in 1792. The following year passage boats were conveying people up and down the harbour for a fee. They were probably English-style wherries, considerably longer than the regulation fourteen feet. When Governor Hunter arrived in 1795 there was an open market for boats. It was, he noted, ‘a liberty (which had) crept into the settlement in opposition to all former orders and regulations’. Such liberties made life difficult for anyone attempting to maintain order on a convict coast. Consequently vessels were numbered and boatbuilding regulated. Shortly after, the construction of ‘any boats whatever’ for the use of ‘private persons’ was banned altogether. Hunter’s order seems to have been as ineffectual as Phillip’s fourteenfoot rule in the face of the material demands of everyday life and business around Sydney, the Hawkesbury and Botany Bay. The penal settlement was inevitably transforming into a complex civil society made up of convicts and their emancipated peers, servants, free settlers, Aboriginal people, merchants, sailors and the military. Sydney’s harbour, in particular, was a highway and it was filling with those needing to carry themselves and their goods from one place to another. In 1803, one boat-owner was quick to use the pages of the colony’s newly launched first newspaper, the Sydney Gazette,

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to sell his twenty-one foot passage boat. Thirty years later there was obviously some pride in the development of local skills and the adaptation of the wherry design. Then, the Gazette was advertising a ‘crack wherry’ built in Darling Harbour. It was ‘a beautiful specimen of colonial ingenuity’. Boat building was almost certainly men’s business. Navigating the vessels, at least professionally, probably was as well. However, commercial boat ownership could be a shared enterprise, at least in the years before women retreated into the home with the rise of a wage labour market. In 1803 Ann Mash was the ‘licensed proprietor’ of a passage boat that ran between Sydney and Parramatta. She transgressed when her vessel tied up at an unauthorised landing – somewhere other than the public wharf on the west side of the cove near the town market. Restrictions on boat-building may have been impractical but the regulation of traffic in the convict port was still enforced. For her offence Ann had her cargo of two bags of sugar, one chest of tea and six pieces of calico confiscated. Sydney’s best known and wealthiest female boat owner was Mary Reibey. Her story exemplified the emergence of the commercial port from the strictures of its convict origins. She was nothing if not resourceful, and lucky. Reiby had been transported for horse-stealing as a girl called Molly Haydock. Remarkably, she committed her theft while masquerading as a boy and was sentenced in that guise. Molly was fortunate to escape the noose and receive a sentence of seven years transportation. In Sydney Molly became Mary. In 1794 she married the sailor Thomas Reibey and began a most successful commercial partnership leaving the past behind her. For his part Thomas was in port as a crew member of the convict transport and whaler Britannia. That ship, itself, had played an important part in the development of Sydney’s commercial life when it was commissioned by officers of the New South Wales Corp to bring food and goods from the Cape colony in South Africa to the impoverished settlement. In the process, the military men created a trading network that competed with the official supply chain operating out of the government’s Commissariat Store, thereby laying the foundations for a market economy.

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In time the Reibeys established a timber yard and store on the cove. A boat called the Mercury was built in their own shipyard there. It was one of many constructed on the mudflats to the east of the murky stream that had once provided good water for the colony. At more than 50 foot and 44 tons the Mercury was capable of ocean voyages, like the other private schooners and sloops built there. Many of these vessels headed down to Bass Strait with crews intent on killing seals. The Reibeys used the Mercury to extend their commercial reach beyond the harbour’s estuary and the farms at the end of the Hawkesbury River, all the way to the islands of the Pacific, India and China. Thomas survived the perils of the sea but succumbed to an exotic disease he contracted in Bengal in 1811. Mary inherited the business she had helped to run, and expanded it. She lost the Mercury at the Shoalhaven in 1813 while the vessel was waiting to sail with a cargo of south coast cedar but there were other vessels over the years. In 1818 Mary had at least two – a 44-ton schooner, the John Palmer, and the substantial 136-ton brig Governor Macquarie. That boat was comparable in size and capacity to the Lady Nelson, which was then supplying Government settlements up the coast. Mary’s brig was aptly named as it had been Macquarie who finally lifted the ban on local large boat building in 1813. Mary proudly referred to both vessels in a letter to an English cousin describing family affairs and a voyage to Van Diemen’s Land ‘in a brig of my own commanded by my son Thomas ...’

‘… the finest structure of the kind I have ever seen’ Sydney’s harbour remained the centre of the colony’s shipbuilding and repair throughout the 19th century. The 30 years after restrictions were lifted saw a remarkable amount of construction there. One shipyard on the harbour produced a steam-powered paddleboat, ‘the first that ever appeared in this

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country’, two months before the English-built Sophia Jane arrived from England to ply the Newcastle run in 1831. That ‘maiden specimen of steam naval architecture’ was called the Surprise. It slipped into high water in Neutral Bay, where uninvited foreign vessels once anchored. Floating ‘gracefully in her element’, it was, according to The Australian newspaper, ‘a beautiful model’. Even more remarkable perhaps was the launch of two more local steamers within months of the Surprise – built not in Sydney but up the sparsely settled coast. The William the Fourth took its name from the last of Britain’s Hanoverian monarchs. William was clearly respected in contemporary New South Wales, partly for simply being King but also because of his naval experience and interest. If that was the intent behind the naming of the paddlesteamer, the association did not impress the visiting Englishman Godfrey Mundy when he paid for passage on the ‘wretched little tub of a steam-boat’ to the Illawarra years later in 1849. Mundy thought it ‘absolute disloyalty’ to name such a vessel after ‘England’s Sailor King’. The maritime associations and tributes flowed freely for the King during his reign and beyond his death in 1837. In 1831, the William the Fourth slipped into the Williams River, also named after the ‘noble sovereign’ at Clarence Town – a reference to his former identity as the Duke of Clarence. In 1839 another steamer, King William, delivered the surveyor Captain Samuel Perry to the Clarence River, so-named in that year. The William the Fourth was built of flooded gum and ironbark, cut from the surrounding forest by two Scottish immigrants, William Lowe and James Marshall. Lowe called his bush shipyard ‘Deptford’ after the grimy Thames dock where he had once worked. Whether this christening was motivated by sentiment, irony or a sense of humour is uncertain but the two places could have hardly have been more different. Affection and familiarity meant that the William the Fourth became simply, the ‘Billy’. In September 1831 the vision of an ocean steamer on stocks on a remote river bend moved one correspondent for the Sydney Gazette to describe his ‘astonishment’ at stumbling across such a ‘noble vessel’ in such a place.

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The Williams River was a deep, clear watercourse ‘without a single rock or bank to impede its navigation’. It emptied into the Hunter just north of Newcastle. The ‘Billy’ travelled the 110 kilometres downriver under sail because it was launched without an engine. It must have been a cautious voyage for its crew and an extraordinary sight for onlookers. In later years such navigation was called ‘gutter sailing’ and the vision of boats making their way along the serpentine coastal waterways became commonplace. Rivers were the colony’s natural canals – the quickest way to access both coast and hinterland. Consequently major river towns such as Grafton were referred to as ‘sea ports’ despite their distance from the ocean. At the end of its first river trip the ‘Billy’ took to the sea, bound for Sydney carrying a load of cedar to make the trip pay. There it had its steam engine fitted to begin 33 years of service along the north and south coasts. The ‘Billy’ got a side-lever engine, the offspring of the great beam engines that had pumped water from Britain’s mines, filled its working canals and driven the country’s mills and factories for 50 years. Side-lever marine engines were simple, durable and relatively cheap – ideal for the commercial fleet that would consolidate European occupation of the colonial coast. The ‘Billy’s’ was imported from Liverpool but another, installed into the paddle-steamer Caruah for the Australian Agricultural Company, may well have been built near Carrington. That vessel slipped into Port Stephens in the colonial spring. It was the third to be launched in 1831. The early paddle-steamers had relatively little carrying capacity because the engines and coal they used took up so much space. The vessels sacrificed this for regularity and punctuality, which must have translated into profit when the primary purpose was transporting people and mail and the sight of steamers was soon commonplace. When the Eagle was launched from Thomas Chowne’s Pyrmont yard in 1848 there had already been 15 paddleboats churning the coastal waters of New South Wales. Seven years later there were 45. In his journal, the visiting naturalist Baron von Hügel wrote sardonically of his experience in the sailing vessels that transported him up and down the

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New South Wales coast when breeze and tide permitted in 1834: ‘A ship is a glorious invention in a favourable wind, but without this it is a piece of dead wood’. Nonetheless because of their capacity, sailing vessels would dominate the coastal carrying trade for several more decades. Hundreds of schooners, brigs and barques were built along the coast into the 1880s and 1890s. Skills and enterprise transplanted from Scotland were as important in this business as they were in whaling. Scotch Town on the Macleay River near Kempsey was home to several Scottish immigrants including Captain Alexander Newton who lived in a cedar cottage overlooking the river on which he built his vessels. He later established the Pelican Shipyard on the Manning River, further south, and launched at least one vessel in each of the 40 years he worked there from the late 1830s. George Dent maintained a similar rate of construction at Jervis Bay after establishing his business in 1861. Fifty years later his yard produced a ferry, the Lady Denman, for Sydney’s harbour – designed by that waterway’s foremost marine architect, Walter Reeks. The shipwrights initially went where the timber was, and the demand for transportation provided work. Up the north coast this meant following the cedar-getters and building boats in makeshift yards along river banks – sheltered and close to the forests that supplied both building material and cargo. Rivers, rather than exposed bays and harbours, became the centres of shipbuilding – just as they had been in Britain. When the cedar was gone, contracts might be signed with farmers in need of a vessel to carry produce. Some shipwrights like Alexander Newton established permanent businesses, others were itinerant. When one-time Royal Navy officer William Wynter took up land on the Manning River he made sure his substantial labour force of 28 included a boatbuilder and two shipwrights. But where permanent yards were built the forest thinned. In 1868 Booth’s mill and shipyard on the Manning was cutting so much timber – 30 000 feet each week – that ‘logs of any worth’ had to be ‘drawn a very long distance’. By then William Yabsley had erected a huge boat-building shed near a junction of the Richmond and Wilson rivers at Coraki. It was as extraordinary an expression of functional vernacular design as any of the great woolsheds

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William Yabsley’s boat-building shed and timber mill at Coraki, c.1880.

that would rise from the western plains and northern tablelands. Visiting newspaper correspondents continually marvelled at the scale and design of the structure. Yabsley’s shed was 50 metres long and 10 metres high with the trunks of 30 ironbark trees nearly one metre in diameter used as posts. The main pitched and shingled roof accommodated a sail-making loft and so was angled upwards at the front. Wing-like roofs on each side gave the place

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the appearance of a great bird on the verge of flight. One writer referred to it as ‘the finest structure of the kind I have ever seen’. This Sydney Morning Herald correspondent was accompanying the Premier John Robertson during his visit to the Richmond in August 1869. Yabsley’s shipyard amazed newcomers just as the ‘Deptford’ yard at Clarence Town had three decades earlier: ‘To see such a place as his in such an out-of-the-way location was a great surprise’. The Yabsley family were the first Europeans to set down roots in this part of Bundjalung country. The name of the place, Coraki, was a corruption of the indigenous word for ‘a meeting of the waters’. William Yabsley had arrived in Sydney as a carpenter’s mate in 1838 aboard the Beagle on its second visit to Australia. Yabsley jumped ship like hundreds of others wanting to start a new life. He escaped his captain and the water police by heading north to the outlands of the Richmond River where, presumably, he hoped to live ‘beyond the pale of the law’ like so many others. And like others seeking anonymity and a livelihood Yabsley cut cedar in the ‘unlocated’ lands. However, he was anything but the dissolute sawyer of journalistic accounts for, after being joined by his wife Magdelan, Yabsley returned to the trade he knew best – boat-building. He left the exposed river-mouth port of Ballina, where he traded cedar, for a sheltered arm of the same waterway where he built his shed. A schooner called Providence was followed by two others called the Pelican and the Coraki. Then the trading screw-steamer called Examiner was built with two engines to help it ply the river before its sails carried it economically to and from Sydney. The design for this vessel, the biggest Yabsley attempted, was probably drawn from his own copy of Shipbuilding Theoretical and Practical, the work of the great Glaswegian marine engineers William Rankine and James Napier. In 1875 the Coraki shed produced another steamer. This one was called the Beagle, after the vessel that had delivered Yabsley to the colony and from which he fled. But by then the runaway had become a celebrated pioneer – ‘a true friend of the Richmond River’.

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‘… the greatest hive of industry in Australasia’ Twenty-five years earlier the colony’s shipwrights and boatbuilders, in Sydney and along the coast, were producing more vessels in terms of tonnage than were being imported from overseas. Thirty-eight were built around Sydney’s harbour in 1849 alone but the situation changed dramatically in the following decade. In the late 1850s there were ten tons of foreignbuilt vessels operating along the coast for every ton of local craft. Curiously, demand for shipping was never greater as the population surged in the wake of the discovery of gold – more people, in turn, demanded more imports. But the deficit was filled by foreign-built vessels. Part of the paradox can be explained by the fact that ships were getting bigger and most of the large vessels bought for colonial use were built overseas. Foreign tonnage, therefore, comprised a greater percentage of the overall New South Wales fleet. Then there was the impact of the gold rush itself. Labourers all over Sydney left to pursue dreams of instant wealth on inland rivers and hills. Workers were scarce and wages subsequently went up, making it harder to build boats. This situation was exacerbated by the repealing of Britain’s Navigation Laws in 1849, which had protected that nation’s shipping monopoly over its imperial possessions just as earlier legislation had shielded the East India Company from competition. Foreign ships could now legally trade with the Australian colonies and, most importantly, British and colonial shipowners were able to buy vessels from North America and elsewhere. Cheap oak and pine from the vast forests of the United States and Canada meant that North American ships comprised half the tonnage used in Sydney in the 1860s. Discounted sailing ships would flood the local market again in the 1880s and 1890s as steam and steel finally replaced wind power and wood. If competition was keen in wooden boat construction, it was even more intense for vessels of iron and steel. Far from damaging Britain’s shipbuilding

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industry, the end of the Navigation Laws ushered in a period of supremacy for that nation’s slips and workshops. The protective mercantilism of the ‘old’ Empire, which operated when New South Wales was first colonised, gave way to free trade which strengthened Britain’s imperial power in its last phase before the outbreak of war in 1914. For a time, in the late 1800s, Scotland’s river Clyde was the centre of the shipbuilding world and Britain’s domination of trade and sea lanes reached its zenith. Faced with such competition from ‘home’ and North America it is remarkable that a colonial industry survived at all. But it did. Even when there were downturns in construction, the slips of Sydney were busy servicing the vessels that brought immigrants and mail or carried people up and down the coast. The 1850s saw the completion of three of the harbour’s largest facilities to cater for large new steam vessels – the government’s Fitzroy Dock on Cockatoo Island, Thomas Mort’s dry dock at Waterview Bay on the western harbour and the Australasian Steam Navigation Company’s (ASNC) yard at Pyrmont. Mort’s dock, cut out of the stone foreshore, was the biggest of its kind in the colony while the ASNC imported a patent slip capable of handling ships up to 2000 tons. When work began on assembling this infrastructure in 1854, the Company had just taken possession of the 700-ton City of Sydney – recently slipped from a Glasgow yard and newly arrived with 60 mechanics to fill the gap in the local workforce. The British shipyards were already vast with an average workforce of 600 men. There were, after all, 23 million people living in England, Scotland and Wales in 1860. New South Wales, by contrast, had a population of around 357 000. Nearly one-quarter lived in greater Sydney. And yet, remarkably enough, the larger city yards employed several hundred men each. Four hundred, reportedly, worked in and around the ASNC slip in 1868. The workforce at Mort’s Dock, where several firms leased facilities, was estimated at 1000 in 1886. In the first decade of the next century the complex of shops, warehouses and factories on Waterview Bay spread over 18 acres. Then, the Company congratulated itself on 50 years of shipbuilding and engineering with the observation that where ‘once was a thinly-peopled

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hamlet amid the primeval ti-tree bush of Balmain’ now was ‘the greatest hive of industry in Australasia’. From the mid-1800s, Sydney’s waterfront pounded with the sound of metal being shaped for maritime use. In June 1867, the noise and reverberation created a lingering impression for the Sydney Morning Herald reporter visiting the ASNC’s engineering shop at Pyrmont: the ‘clanging hammers, the crash of the steam engine, the incessant whirl and birr of innumerable wheels are all silenced before the heavy overpowering thud! thud! of the giant steam hammer’. The sights, sounds and smells were similar across Darling Harbour, on the western edge of the city, where various shipyards and engineering firms lined the foreshore. One of the biggest, PN Russell’s foundry and engineering works, produced metal plates and parts for coal-burning vessels and, indeed, for all manner of enterprises including sugarcane mills. Molten metal was poured from ladles big enough to contain four tons of the glowing liquid. Lathes could work wheels more than six metres across. ‘With such an establishment amongst ourselves’, declared the Sydney Morning Herald in 1861, ‘there seems little need to send home for machinery which could be as well got up here as any machine works in Great Britain’. Impressive as William Yabsley’s shed on the Wilson River undoubtedly was, it did not embody mechanised production and massed labour in the manner of the big Sydney establishments. At Coraki, as all along the coast and in the smaller yards around Sydney, vessels were built by a handful of men and boys. The working relationship between master, employee and apprentice was necessarily intimate, maybe even pre-industrial. Perhaps because of the sense of artisanship there was a strong urge to become one’s own master as soon as conditions permitted. ‘In this trade’, observed one special reporter, ‘men only work for an employer when they have no job of their own on hand and will leave him whenever they hear of a new undertaking on their own account’. By contrast wage labour dominated in the great urban shipyards and engineering shops of Sydney. So it was here, as much as the colony’s coal mines and shearing sheds, that an Australian working-class culture was

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Frederick Garling’s watercolour shows the Australasian Steam Navigation Company’s patent slip at Pyrmont in the 1860s.

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Frederick Garling’s watercolour Coasters off North Head shows the conditions faced by these small open boats in the mid-19th century. Despite the apparent safety of Sydney Harbour, some 88 vessels were lost just outside the heads and within the waterway up to 1920.

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The paddle steamer Kiama, shown here in an 1860 watercolour by Frederick Garling, was typical of many that plied the coast from the middle of the 1800s. It was purpose-built of iron in Glasgow in 1854 for the New South Wales trade and served mainly with the Illawarra Steam Navigation Co from 1859 to 1876.

fostered and the foundations of a union movement established. The conflicts that emerged between employers and employees in and around the slips echoed down the years. Sydney’s shipwrights were the first workers in Sydney to form a trade ‘society’. That was in 1829 when the economy was still served by ‘unfree’ convict labour, mercantilism governed the thinking of the empire’s administrators and working men in New South Wales had yet to gain any voting franchise. With a modern political economy in place by the 1860s the Shipwright’s Association was employing the language of labour, capital and class

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conflict: ‘Self preservation is the first law of nature, hence working men unite in this great age of societies’, observed the Association’s Secretary J Gallagher, ‘… The power of the purse once held by the masters is now shared by the workmen’. That share was 12 shillings a day – twice the amount earned on the Clyde. Gallagher defended it on the basis that it reflected the quality of the work done: ‘The lowest tender is not always accepted. Nor is the cheapest way of doing a thing always the best’. Three-and-half pounds a week was a good wage but maintaining this hard-won rate was a matter of survival as well as a point of principle, for work was rarely available all year round. Where the ship and yard owners blamed the shipwrights for undermining the competitiveness of colonial shipbuilding, Gallagher accused the employers of bad management. His members’ wages were surely offset by cheap colonial timber and local coal. The ‘masters of Sydney should not complain’, he argued with his mind on those who had left the ranks of labour, ‘they have risen from the condition of journeymen shipwrights and have realised a handsome fortune’. For their part, the shipyard owners wanted wage flexibility. In hard times men should expect to earn less – otherwise competition was impossible and the yards would lie idle. That is what happened repeatedly at Russell’s yard from 1856 to 1861. In 1859 the workforce went on strike and was sacked. Management then brought out 95 British iron moulders as ‘Assisted Immigrants’ to take their place. They were met by the local men as soon their ship dropped anchor and ‘informed’ that they had been ‘sent for to reduce wages’ and therefore there were no jobs for them in Sydney. The outcome was bad for all sides. Russell had to order parts from Britain to fulfill orders while colonial workers went back to work for less than they earned before the action. The immigrants were discharged within 12 months though they had come expecting permanent employment. Relations between Russell and his workforce never recovered. The Darling Harbour works closed altogether in 1876 after yet another dispute, this time over the introduction of the eight-hour day.

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The split between John Cuthbert and his employees was more sudden but no less acrimonious. Cuthbert’s yard at Millers Point was one of the largest on the harbour. Its owner lived within walking distance of his premises, like many who worked there. And for years Cuthbert enjoyed good relations with his men – up to 400 of them in busy times. But Cuthbert also personified the journeyman shipwright who had ‘risen’ from the ranks and, at a trades hall meeting on 15 May 1871, he was condemned as an uncaring ‘capitalist’ for attempting to reduce wages to 10 shillings a day. Solidarity was the only course for working men. If they did not ‘act unitedly’ Sydney’s shipyard workers would have ‘wages on a level with those in Europe’. There were displays of solidarity among the ‘masters’ as well. Cuthbert was feted by fellow industrialists at a gala dinner on 29 May. On that occasion the master shipwright accused the Shipwright’s Association of fostering division between the working man and his employer. In doing so it had become a ‘curse to society’.

‘Hurry, hurry, hurry …’ John Cuthbert died three years later. His yard closed and Sydney lost one of its most successful shipbuilders. For before all the trouble, he and his workers had been extraordinarily productive. They built the colony’s first ‘man-owar’ – a ketch called Spitfire armed with a sophisticated traversable cannon. The business specialised, however, in steamers for the coastal shipping companies. Among them was the Coolangatta completed in 1864 for the Illawarra Steam Navigation Company (ISNC). It had a stern-mounted paddle, like an American river boat, to take people and produce along the Shoalhaven River. The Coolangatta was followed quickly by the 400-ton steamer Comerang, also for the Illawarra Company. It was a flat-bottomed vessel designed by Cuthbert himself for negotiating coastal rivers and the sandbars that ran

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across their entrances. The Comerang ‘slid majestically’ into the harbour in front of a cheering crowd as yet another example of the colony’s progress in the ‘noble art’ of shipbuilding. Sydney’s newspapers carried international and domestic shipping news in columns of classified advertisements so that its citizens could daily acquaint themselves with the arrival of all manner of goods and the impending departure of vessels that might transport them to the outports. Readers of the Sydney Morning Herald on 27 December 1847 knew that the steamship Phoenix was leaving for the Clarence River in two days, or they could disembark from the iron steamer Shamrock at Twofold Bay before it proceeded on to Melbourne and Launceston. Travellers to that southern whaling station also had the option, probably cheaper, to board the ‘powerful cutter’ James and Amelia. Those wishing to go to the Richmond River needed to prepare to depart the following day upon the schooner Sarah. That vessel would only continue up the river to North Arm, however, should ‘sufficient inducement offer’. Nearly every river or port had its own steam-shipping concern at some time from 1840, when the Hunter River Steam Navigation Company was established as Australia’s first shipping concern. The vessels they ran were often named after a coastal town or locality. On the north coast there were variously the Richmond River Shipping Company Ltd, the Richmond River Co-operative Steamship Company Ltd, the Tweed River Steamship Company, the Manning River Steam Navigation Company, the Macleay River Steam Packet Company, and the Bellinger Shipping Company. In 1891 the Grafton Steam Navigation Company merged with John See and Company to become the famous North Coast Steam Navigation Company (NCSNC). The ISNC, created in 1856 from the merger of two existing shipping businesses and in partnership with landowner Edye Manning, dominated the southern routes. It survived the construction of the Illawarra rail line in 1888 better than the Shellharbour Company, which folded in the face of so much competition. By 1876 ISNC vessels were leaving Sydney for Wollongong and Kiama three times a week and Shoalhaven, Gerringong, Ulladulla,

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Batemans Bay, Bermagui, Merimbula, Tathra and Eden almost as frequently. They mainly carried people and dairy products. Distance from the metropolitan market meant that butter was loaded at the closer ports while the more durable cheese became a feature of the far south coast on estates like Thomas Mort’s spread at Bodalla. And then there were the pigs. For where milk was separated to make butter and cheese swine could be fattened on the whey produced in the process. The ISNC carried so many of the terrified creatures, and to such a rigid schedule, that their steamers were known as the ‘pig and whistle fleet’. The Darling Harbour wharf at which all disembarked consequently became the ‘P and W’. The company bought its finest vessel to date in 1909. The 1122-ton Merimbula was equipped with refrigerated holds and comfortable accommodation. By then cabins afforded passengers some privacy and quiet where before curtained berths ringed the saloon with its drinking and loud conversation. Seventy-five years earlier, on the Sophia Jane, which shared the Newcastle to Sydney run with the William the Fourth, sofas were designed so that they might be transformed into two-storey bunks. It was an ‘ingenious arrangement’ that impressed Baron von Hügel far more than his fellow firstclass male passengers who, upon retiring, proceeded to throw ‘pillows to and fro, waking up the people who were asleep’. It might have been the Merimbula that carried Henry Lawson back to Sydney from the far south coast, stopping to load at every port. The poet and writer was not one to romanticise life on the land but on this occasion he much preferred the country’s interior to the ‘hopeless and forbidding’ coast that belied the wealth within. His terse account of the passage, ‘Bermagui – In a Strange Sunset’, reflected this antipathy, as well as his disapproval of the ‘haste, razor-edged competition and greed’ of the shipping companies and an accompanying fear of capsizing in an overloaded vessel. The ISNC lost the steamer Bega in such circumstances that very year: Darkness falls. Flares glaring on wharf and deck. Long sawn timber swung aboard and below with amazing clumsiness and carelessness. Hurry, hurry hurry ... Chaff goes ashore ... More cheese comes on board. Cheese, butter,

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eggs, sawn timber, calves, pigs and sleepers, and in the season, wool! … Hatches left off, with chain around, to give air to stock. Roaring of young bulls, blowing of calves, grunting and squealing of pigs in cattle hold – and ditto in saloon smoking room, for they’re drinking a bit … Sailor says there’s queer cattle in the saloon sometimes.

The Merimbula was wrecked near Currarong in 1928. Where Lawson looked upon the coast and its busy traffic with revulsion, the writer Francis Myers thought it wonderful. In his 1886 travelogue the ‘shriek of the innumerable steam-pipes … and the thunder of the coal into the ships’ holds’, on the Newcastle to Port Jackson run, were a sign of progress, of time quickening. These boats represented a new age following on from Aboriginal Australia and the convicts: ‘for in the scarce completed century that makes the history of the eldest Colony of Australia it may almost be said that two or three forms of civilisation have lived and died’. The Hunter River Steam Navigation Company had expanded its business and, in 1851, changed its name to the Australasian Steam Navigation Company. The Company’s patent slip and noisy workshops on the Sydney Harbour foreshore grew quickly as the rush for gold stimulated business – particularly in the inter-colonial trade. The ASNC developed a monopoly over trips beyond the northern rivers to Moreton Bay, and Port Curtis where yet another gold rush was creating another ebb tide of fortune hunters. When, in 1859, this became the Queensland coast, the ASNC dominance was challenged by competition in the newly created colony. In response, the Sydney-based company used its financial strength to fund a ‘rate-war’ with the Queensland Steam Navigation Company and prosecuted the corporate battle until it took over its rival. The tactics typified the ASNC’s methods in a highly competitive market. Where price-cutting was not an option, deals were made with other companies and dominance maintained over agreed sections of coastline and trade. By 1880 the ASNC had 21 steamers in its fleet. But seven years later the company was itself swallowed up by a consortium led by the British

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India Company. A new entity emerged – the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company with a board dominated by British and Dutch directors. Foreign control of the old ASNC reflected the wider reality of overseas shipping to Australia. As a sense of colonial identity, even ‘Australianness’, developed this undoubtedly contributed to the ‘national distrust’ of the big ship owners whom Henry Lawson referred to derisively as ‘the shipping push’. The ASNC fuelled this antipathy as early as 1878 when it added the volatile issue of ‘race’ to class solidarity by employing poorly paid Chinese seamen as ‘blacklegs’ to replace striking local sailors. In the eyes of working people who were defining themselves against Asians and ‘blacks’ as part of a rising ‘white Australia’ it was much worse than importing English iron moulders. The Company lost on that occasion, as did the local Chinese community, many of whom were set upon when xenophobia was stoked by rhetoric. In the following decades there were more disputes on the decks and docks of New South Wales as seamen and wharf workers united in opposition to their ‘profiteering’ employers – much as the shipwrights had done before them. The colonial shipping companies, like the shipyard owners, pointed to the pressures of foreign competition while their workforce fought for higher pay and better conditions. Ripples from these disputes extended far beyond the maritime industry to shape industrial relations in the new Commonwealth of Australia. The huge Maritime Strike of 1890 ended badly for seamen but ultimately helped to give political voice to working people through the consequent formation of the Australian Labor Party, and an acceptance of arbitration as a means of settling disputes. In 1919 sailors found their position strengthened by a shortage of labour after the devastation of the Great War. Duly radicalised they challenged that arbitration system with an agenda of ‘direct action’ and prolonged stoppages. One sympathetic politician described ships on which they worked as ‘the slums of the sea’ with sleeping quarters ‘in some cases not fit for a dog’.

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The longest strike in the industry’s history – fourteen weeks – won major concessions for sailors and led to reforms in the arbitration system, a general increase in the basic wage and the introduction of wage indexation. The union’s success in 1919 had the paradoxical effect of both strengthening the State-managed arbitration system and further radicalising seamen who remained suspicious of negotiated settlements. Their leader in the dispute, Tom Walsh, became a founding member of the Australian Communist Party whose ideology of irreconcilable conflict between labour and capital influenced the union for decades to come. Seamen benefited, too, from the country’s first Navigation Laws, implemented in 1921, in the wake of the strike and after a decade’s delay. With this legislation the interests of coastal shipping companies and their sailors were, for once, aligned. For the nation’s coastal waters became the preserve of Australian-registered vessels and Australian crews employed under Australian conditions. Such protectionism echoed the old British Navigation Acts and, indeed, in the process excluded most British shipping from the coastal routes – along with the ships of other nations. The threat of competition from foreign companies and foreign crews receded, to the relief of both employer and employee. The Seamen’s Union and Waterside Workers Federation would come together decades later, in 1993, to form the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA). During the intervening decades industrial action, another world war and profound technological change had improved working conditions and pay for all. The maritime unions remained brotherhoods – almost exclusively male, intensely loyal to their group and always aware of the division between employee and boss. At issue often was the ‘closed shop’ or exclusive employment of a unionised workforce. But the new container ships, mechanisation and workplace reform also reduced job numbers, so by 1994 there were only 3600 waterfront workers around the country where once there had been 30 000. Despite the end of much of the local coastal trades in the post-war years, sailors survived a little better. There were still more than 8000 in the 1980s.

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Militancy remained, fuelled as much by a pragmatic desire to retain the few surviving jobs as by ideology. Significantly it was the MUA that buoyed the hopes of a dispirited labour movement in 1998 when it defeated attempts by stevedore company, Patrick’s, and a sympathetic conservative government, to break down one of the last bastions of unionised labour. The final great waterfront battle of the 20th century polarised New South Wales, and the nation, as earlier confrontations had done. The National Farmers Federation supported Patrick’s but the MUA won in the courts and, perhaps, in the arena of public opinion as scenes of lockouts and confrontation at sites such as East Darling Harbour palled. The antipathy towards Patrick’s in 1998 echoed the distrust of the ‘shipping push’ among previous generations. So, too, rural support for the stevedore company had a precedent in the loyalty displayed to the shipping firms by communities that depended upon their business in earlier years. For the steamer trade was integral to the pattern of life in coastal communities before alternative means of transportation were offered. The ‘sea is the only highway’ was an oft repeated refrain. Some measure of the affiliation between steamer companies and their customers was displayed in 1917 when, for ten weeks, the North Coast Company – the old NCSNC – enlisted the help of customers to load and unload their vessels after class solidarity compelled wharf workers to strike in support of comrades from a Sydney tram depot. And fond memories of the company remained strong long after the ships stopped running. White-coated stewards tending tables decorated with damask and smart crockery bearing the NCSNC insignia added a sense of occasion to travel and undoubtedly considerable pride of place. In the early 1980s one local historian and longterm resident of the Richmond River area, Glen Hall, recalled the texture of coast life in the age of steamer travel with some wistfulness and little doubt about the reasons for its passing: There are some among us still living (including the present writer) who can recall travelling to Sydney and return per NCSN Co steamers, and it should go on record that it was really first class travel.

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But it was crippled by the ‘Wharfies and the Seamen’s Union’, and a government that did not want shipping to compete with its own railway system: ‘Together they brought to an end a very picturesque and even romantic era in the history of the river’. The North Coast Company closed in the summer of 1954, just two years after its counterpart to the south, the ISNC. Another local historian, this person a former south-coast wharf worker, saw things differently and attributed the demise of coastal shipping to the persistence of hard competition and the ascendancy of a different technology – the motor vehicle: A lot of people said “You bloody wharfies, you were the ones who buggered the shipping up”. But that’s not true … The big American trucks were starting then, and they got all the butter and cheese and all the things going to Sydney and they cut the price. The ships had nothing to take …

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7: Harbours and lights ‘… the receipt of produce and goods is always uncertain and unsafe’ Ongoing industrial disputes and competition from the railway, which enjoyed subsidised freight rates and provided a good passenger service, were undoubtedly critical in the decline of coastal shipping. However, there were many coast and river people who welcomed rail as a reliable alternative to the vicissitudes of sea transport. ‘As long as dwellers in these northern coasts are without a railway … the receipt of produce and goods is always uncertain and unsafe’ wrote one Manning River newspaper correspondent in 1890. Similar sentiments were expressed about the south coast. The steamer wharf at Tathra, which was built in 1862 with money from the ISNC and locals, was not always open for business. Classically educated residents of New South Wales may well have known that the vanquishing north wind was worshipped by ancient Athenians, but it was

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nonetheless unwelcome at little Tathra. In 1886, the Town and Country Journal observed: When old Boreus comes from the north east, or old Neptune and Aphrodite have a little family jar in the offing, woe be to the vessel which tries to touch at Tathra … The bay is of great capacity and no obstructions and perhaps man’s ingenuity might improve it, but a railroad could be built at less cost.

Road transport certainly compounded the effect of the railways. It was not just the ‘big American trucks’ – the celebrated 1949 launch of Australia’s own people’s car, the Holden, was a premonition of things to come. Private ownership of vehicles kept growing in the decade that followed, undermining the passenger trade. Cars gave people unprecedented freedom to travel where and when they wanted. Trucks provided similar flexibility, delivering their loads door-to-door. And then there was the disruption to trade during World War II with the crippling prospect of replacing an ageing fleet after that maelstrom. The post-war costs far exceeded those met in the 1920s and 1930s – whether the vessels were built locally or in the great shipyards of Scotland. Economics, technology and politics combined to create a perfect storm. Not that nature had ever made it easy for ships working the New South Wales coast. Sydney’s magnificent deep harbour was the only waterway on the coast that provided safe access and shelter without the need for extensive modification. Sand bars and shifting shoals complicated entry to most rivers and the smaller harbours like Wollongong, Kiama and Ulladulla were only ‘snatched from the sea’ by harbour works. Tathra was safe when ‘Boreus’ was not the dominant wind. Both Jervis and Twofold bays opened to the southeast and were therefore exposed to winter gales. Though sheltered, Port Stephens was naturally shallow and in need of dredging. On the north coast, river floods regularly washed away landforms and infrastructure, and shifted sandbanks. There were five inundations on the Manning River between 1867 and 1872. In 1929 another torrent temporarily removed the river’s problematic sand bar but littered the entrance and

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beaches with broken wood, cream cans and animal carcasses. Floods in 1949 and 1950 disrupted the North Coast Company’s trade and put the little vessel Bangalow out of service for a month. Then, as if to underline a point or at least put a full stop at the end of the story, the Richmond River swelled and filled the Company’s Lismore office within days of its closing in 1954. A display model of the old 1906 steamer Brundah was carried out by the water and buried in mud. But while the government was subsidising state-owned trains to compete with the private shipping companies, it was hardly neglecting the steamer trade. Vast sums were spent on sea walls, dredges, pilot stations and lighthouses in an attempt to make the rivers and coastline navigable. By the mid-1920s nearly £434 000 had been spent on the Richmond River alone. The port revenue gathered from timber, sugar, butter and maize was the fourth-highest in the state but it did not cover the costs. The Clarence had soaked up even more money as schemes attempted to ‘train’ the sands and create a more or less permanent deep-water channel for navigation. In the 1920s the outports were losing money for the Navigation Department that administered them while fees gathered from Sydney’s busy harbour, Port Jackson, netted a surplus for the Sydney Harbour Trust that had presided over the modernisation of facilities with the construction of finger wharves. It was with this deficit in mind that the ‘Buchanan Report’ of 1926 suggested continued dredging of the Richmond rather than completing costly capital works planned in 1888. The finding upset locals who had held out hopes for a deep-sea port at Ballina to rival Port Jackson and Newcastle. Those around the Clarence, however, were cheered by Sir George Buchanan’s assessment of their waterway. It was possible, he thought, to create ‘a port for deep-sea shipping’ as far up as Grafton with the implementation of proposals from 1888 and ‘a constant policy of deepening, flood regulation and estuarial reclamation’. Buchanan was talking about a ‘future’ port but engineers in the Department of Public Works immediately baulked after their assessment of the expense. To construct a port at the river’s mouth would alone cost at least £1.7 million and a rail link would then need to be built to

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Grafton. The cost of ‘training’ the recalcitrant river was already approaching half a million pounds – twice what had been recouped from port fees. Engineering and dredging all the way to Grafton would take £10 million. Buchanan’s report was completed at a time when disaffection with the ‘Sydney interest’ and the power of the metropolis was running high in northern New South Wales. All roads, rail and shipping routes seemed to lead to the big city. South Grafton Mayor Earle Page co-founded the Federal Country Party in 1920 to represent rural communities while interest in decentralisation was aired through the ‘new state’ movement which even entertained the possibility of a north coast and hinterland secession from New South Wales. It did not help the cause of solidarity that Sydney’s working waterfront had just been refitted with new finger wharves and approval given for the construction of a harbour bridge at an estimated £4 217 000. It was not the first time such ideas had been expressed. In the 1860s, within a decade of responsible government, dreams of regional greatness coalesced around lobbying for a railway – not to Sydney but from Grafton to Glen Innes so that the wool of the New England plateau could be channeled to the Clarence for despatch by steamer. The east–west rail line never eventuated. When English harbour engineer Sir John Coode drafted large-scale plans to improve the river entrance in 1888 they were accepted only in part by the Department of Public Works. Local newspaper proprietor and northcoast advocate George Varley asked the rhetorical question ‘Is this a little more Centralization?’ The answer was yes because the Sydney-based bureaucrats and the interests they served harboured a ‘desire to limit this port to a petti-fogging trade with Sydney’. In fact, work on the ever-changing entrance to the Clarence had begun in the early 1860s when Grafton was described by Bailliere’s New South Wales Gazetteer as a ‘sea port’ and locals were imagining the town as a ‘future London’. By then the sandbanks that fooled Flinders had been rearranged again by water flow so that the entrance was narrower and a single spit of vegetated land extended down from the north where before there was a ‘false channel’. The man charged with making sense of it all was EO Moriarty,

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Frederick Schell’s engraving Circular Quay, Sydney Harbour from the mid1880s shows the coast’s crowded primary port. Decentralists wanted this business shared among the other ports along the coast.

the Chief Engineer of the Harbours and Rivers branch of the Department of Public Works, created when the colony became self-governing in 1856. Irish-born Moriarty had gained experience with breakwaters on the Isle of Portland. His father was the harbour master for Port Jackson, his grandfather a Vice-Admiral. Built over two decades, Moriarty’s walls helped to stimulate a local population ‘boom’ at Yamba and Iluka and create a large island of redirected sand off the southern bank where there was none before. Not everyone was happy with the result and Coode’s scheme, which dismantled some of the walls and reassembled the rocks in the middle of the river to create a central channel. In the early 1900s breakwaters where built extending from the north and south banks. The hard work of quarrying and dumping rock to create these walls was repeated on rivers up and down the coast so that the curvaceous shorelines of sand and rock were overscored or extended by long straight lines of dark

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basalt boulders often quarried from nearby headlands. By the end of the first decade of the new century, nearly one-and-a-half million tons of rock was used for breakwaters and training walls at the Richmond River alone. The work was completed mostly with wage labour. But at the Macleay River, from 1889, prisoners were marched out from the new prison at Trial Bay to break rock. It was an echo of earlier times when, on the curve in the coast at Wollongong, convicts laid down a breakwater to create an artificial harbour – a local equivalent to the cut-stone cob walls that protected small English ports. That project, intended to provide an outlet for dairy products, involved sending two men down in a diving bell. The one used at Wollongong in 1840 was recently built in Sydney and probably copied from another imported from Britain to remove a sunken hulk from Sydney Cove and construct the new ‘Circular Quay’. These were ‘wet bells’ – open at their base with air pressure keeping the water out as long as the thing remained upright. Air was replenished by hose and pump. The work in Sydney was so hard and thankless that it even attracted the sympathy of onlookers in a town used to the sight of convict gangs and the degradation they entailed. Setting explosive charges and shifting rock within such a device was dangerous and cold enough below the relatively calm harbour. The experience of descending in an iron bell beneath the heaving sea at Wollongong could only have been terrifying. The colony’s first ocean breakwater was begun at Newcastle under the order of Lachlan Macquarie and the pier became yet another public work to bear the name of the great improver. It joined the south headland to Nobbys Island in an attempt to calm the turmoil at the river mouth that was so ‘fearsome’ it made ‘the most intrepid sailor tremble’. In 1836 the traveller and writer James Backhouse made the same observation with some pucker after a sickening entry that required tacking back and forth in gale-force wind: ‘The harbour is not of easy access’. The pier took more than 20 years to complete and when all was done Nobbys was only half as tall – the top 46 metres of soil and rock had been taken for the wall. Even then the breakwater was only partially successful; ships were being cast on to the Oyster Bank opposite into the 1900s.

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The port had become busier in the mid-1800s as coal was despatched to Sydney, to Victoria and all the way across the Pacific to California. Newcastle’s coal fuelled the infrastructure of frenetic gold rushes on both sides of the Pacific. Nonetheless a proposal in 1854 to level Nobbys altogether and use the stone to build up the breakwater was met with horror by locals. George Barney, the engineer who made the suggestion, had already demolished the pyramidal rock called Pinchgut in Sydney’s harbour to build a fort – much to the disgust of some who thought the work an act of vandalism. There was similar sentiment in Newcastle where petitions were signed to save ‘the beautiful landmark called Nobby’. Better that what was left be preserved to adorn the coast and accommodate a lighthouse. And so it was. Work also began on reworking the river channel and improving harbour facilities at Newcastle. The population doubled in six years to 1861 with the influx of labourers, artisans and their families. Such was the demand for coal that by 1900 Newcastle was the fifth-busiest ‘harbour’ in the world with hydraulic cranes and long lines of rail trucks loaded with black rock. The colliers that queued along Bullock Island, later Carrington, were still mainly sailing vessels – a near-obsolete technology employed alongside the newest. Then in 1914, steel manufacture joined coal exporting. Cheap, abundant fuel had attracted the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited (BHP) steelworks and this, in turn, encouraged heavy shipbuilding and repair. A new state dockyard was opened opposite the steel plant on Walsh Island, an artificial landmass named after the engineer who designed it. These docks replaced those on Cockatoo Island in the middle of Sydney’s harbour – relinquished to the Commonwealth Government and its new Navy in the wake of Federation. As luck would have it, the work all happened in time for World War I. The continuation of the public enterprise was ensured by the same Labor government that was investing in the deep-sea trawler fleet and its attendant fish shops. At Newcastle the costs of engineering were shared between the government and BHP. The riverbed was so deeply dredged that it rivalled Port Jackson for clearance and the shape of the river mouth was profoundly changed. When the distinctive shark’s fin shape of Nobbys had

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This 1900 map of the Richmond River entrance at Ballina shows shoaling, and the training walls, breakwater walls and extensions completed and planned.

National Shipwreck Relief Society certificate. Note the orphaned girl beside the symbolic woman. Established in 1877 the Society also set aside funds for medals to award in recognition of heroism at sea. In the 20th century the Society recognised acts of valour independent of shipwrecks. This certificate was awarded to Alfred Southerby in 1908 for rescuing a girl in Kerosene Bay, Sydney Harbour.

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Colonial Architect James Barnet significantly improved maritime safety on the coast with his many lighthouses. These are the original plans, drafted in 1880, for the lighthouse tower at Green Cape on the far south coast.

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This 1959 map of Newcastle Harbour shows the extent of harbour works that had turned the river mouth into a constructed landscape. By the end of the century Newcastle had lost its steel works, shown along the left bank of the river. However, it was one of the largest coal-exporting ports in the world. From The Ports of New South Wales Australia, Maritime Services Board, Sydney 1959.

Port Kembla was established south of Wollongong in the 1890s to service coal shipping. This 1959 plan shows the works necessary to create a commercial harbour in the absence of natural features. Ironically shipping has largely vacated Sydney Harbour, the best natural deepwater harbour on the coast, as that waterway has been given over to residential development. Port Kembla, along with Botany Bay and Newcastle, is now one of the State’s three major ports. From The Ports of New South Wales Australia, Maritime Services Board, Sydney 1959.

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been reduced to a mound at the end of the breakwater, that small part of the coast bore little resemblance to the place the Awakabal people had to themselves hardly more than a century earlier. Close up, the coastal breakwaters looked impregnable with boulders that dwarfed the men that had moved them. But on the government’s engineering maps they appeared more like tremulous lines extending into the sea, something that better reflected their vulnerability. For such was the power of the ocean in storm that the walls were often breached and washed away. The crisscrossed timbers of the jetties that could be seen protruding from the coast in the mid-1800s could only ever have seemed fragile when the sea was pounding. Indeed those built by the government at Woolgoolga and Coffs Harbour needed substantial repair just two years after they were built in 1892, despite being made from durable local hardwood. An earlier structure built at Byron Bay lasted rather better, much to the annoyance of Richmond and Clarence river residents who saw the development of that ‘comparatively open beach’ for a sea port as a waste of money and further evidence of the influence of the ‘Sydney interest’ – in this case politicians and influential businessmen who owned land nearby. Nonetheless the decision nurtured the local dairy industry that was now starting to mirror that of the south coast as cows grew fat on rich pasture planted on basalt soil. In 1921 one-fifth of the state’s butter was being produced at the Norco factory there and Byron’s jetty hosted 321 arrivals. By then the jetty also supported the offal pipe for the town’s abattoir so that the structure attracted even more sharks than steamers. Beaches had one advantage over rivers – they were not blocked by dangerous sand bars. However they were only viable as sanctuaries if the water close to land was deep and there was a headland to provide relief from the wind. The Sydney shipbuilder and trader, Captain John Korff, thought he had found a likely site when, in 1847, he sheltered for four days at a beach north of the impassable Bellinger River bar and leeward of the south-easterly. ‘Korff’s Harbour’ became Coffs Harbour.

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The jetty at Catherine Hill Bay, north of Sydney, photographed in 1894. The jetty was built by the Wallarah Coal Company to load coal from the nearby mine. South coast collieries, such South Bulli and Clifton, had similar braced-timber structures.

The selectors who eventually drifted there in the early 1880s took territory still occupied by substantial numbers of Gumbayngirr people whose lives in the thick brush and on the beaches followed the patterns of their ancestors. Despite the disruption caused to the original inhabitants the few hundred newcomers were characterised, to other Europeans, as a heroic vanguard endeavouring to convert an empty ‘wilderness’ into ‘a million smiling homes’. One of them told a reporter that he had decided to settle there because of the promise of a jetty from where his crops could be despatched. But without means to market his produce, by 1889 his family had become

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‘all like savages’ subsisting on corn meal, arrowroot and milk. He feared foreclosure and losing his son to the reformatory ship Vernon then anchored off Cockatoo Island in Sydney. Though it may have been too late for that settler, the government came good for the small white community at Coffs and their neighbours at Woolgoolga with the start of two jetties that very year. The one at Coffs protruded half a kilometre into the ocean – more than enough to accommodate the steamers then plying the coast. When the swells were big, however, the ships had to stand off for fear of buffeting the structure. On those occasions passengers were unloaded like chattel, swung ashore in baskets suspended from derricks. To reduce the effect of swells, breakwaters were built here too. The northern one made unceremonious use of the Gumbayngirr’s sacred domelike island, Giidany Miirlari, as the end point for a long rock wall. Those Aboriginal people who had not been sent south to the Yellow Rock Mission may have watched the work from their humpies near the beach. The southern breakwater was constructed similarly at South Coffs Island. Back in 1889 one local booster had made the claim that this beach was the only location ‘worthy of being called a harbour’ between the Manning River and the Queensland border. By 1924 the place actually resembled one.

… the loss of so many valuable lives … Locals were reminded again and again of the vulnerability of beach harbours even as they tried to create their haven. Parts of the unfinished southern breakwater wall at Coffs Harbour were washed away on three occasions between 1919 and 1921. In that year the residents of Byron Bay received a similar lesson. The North Coast Company’s best and biggest steamer, Wollongbar, was hit broadside by six waves as its captain tried to dock. Loaded down with bacon, butter and bananas it bumped along the bottom and was

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then beached. The vessel sat upright on the sand, apparently undamaged, but nothing could be done to refloat it before water entered and wrecked it. Insurance covered the cost and commercial confidence, or at least determination, prompted the company to order a replacement straight away. The Wollongbar II looked just like its namesake – only bigger. It was the last steamer the company commissioned. Oil was replacing coal just as coal had superseded wind power. The loss of the Wollongbar was a spectacle rather than a drama. No one died and thousands came from far away to look upon the ship stranded on Byron’s beach like a great whale. By then some 1300 vessels, large and small, had been wrecked on or near the New South Wales coast. There was untold drama and tragedy entailed in this litany of loss. Sometimes vessels simply disappeared after embarking and the details were never known. Before the introduction of ship-to-shore wireless communication in the early 1900s, tracking a vessel’s progress depended upon sightings by land or sea. With no witnesses or survivors there could only be mystery. The schooner Admiral Gifford sailed into oblivion with a handful of passengers and some cargo between Port Macquarie and Sydney in October 1834. When nothing more was heard by December the shipping news could only report, by deduction, the ‘melancholy loss’ of the ship. A small entry in the Sydney Gazette listed the disappeared: Mrs. Thompson, wife of the Clerk of Works, and two children; a young female emigrant named Watts, who was proceeding to Sydney to be married; a young man from London named Marriott, who emigrated about two years ago; Mrs. Tregurtha, wife of the master; a carpenter, late in the employ of Major Innes, with the master and four seamen, making in all twelve human beings, who have met a premature grave. 

And that was the end of the matter in the press. Friends and family were left to deal with personal loss and imaginings of what had occurred. The terrible mysteries continued well into the era of steam and up to the wireless age. In September 1911 the Rosedale headed out from the Nambucca River and vanished. All that could be done was to ask for sightings.

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The remains of the Newcastle and Hunter River Company’s paddle steamer Maitland, which was wrecked just north of Broken Bay in 1898 with the loss of as many as 36 lives. The steamer sailed into a gale and the high seas extinguished the boiler fires, so the vessel was pushed onto rocks without power. This photograph was taken by Albert Perier not long after the event.

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One farmer several kilometres from the sea reported the sound of a steam whistle drifting eerily in for an hour during the early morning. The steamer was lost as the coastal radio service was being established. In 1912 the Navigation Act made it compulsory for ships carrying 50 people or more to have ‘efficient apparatus for wireless communication’. The legislation would not have helped the Rosedale, however, for there were only 24 people aboard. Occasionally the uncertainty ended well. When nothing was heard of the Vixen for three weeks after it left Sydney for Newcastle on the 17 July 1847, the schooner was feared lost. It turned up at the Bellinger River, several hundred kilometres north of its destination, having been blown out to sea. Turning near-disaster to advantage, its master proceeded to the Richmond River and returned to Sydney with a load of cedar two months after its original departure. Shipwreck reports were often brief and to the point, even where death was involved. The grisly story of the Atlantic unfolded with a notable lack of emotion in the papers after the vessel was found capsized with a huge load of north-coast cedar off Newcastle in October 1876. There was no sign of the crew until the schooner was towed to port by steamer when a decomposed body and other remains – two feet, two hands, and the skin of another ‘with nails still attached’ – were found. The awful job of confronting ‘the offensive smell’ and searching the waterlogged vessel was undertaken by local residents in the presence of water police. If the identities of the deceased were known they were not reported in the press. Human drama was by-passed but the practicalities of business were pursued. There followed a ‘respectful’ public request to the owners for ‘compensation’ by those who had brought the vessel in. The cargo of valuable cedar was eventually auctioned off on a nearby beach. At other times, however, death and destruction on the coast elicited great emotion and sympathy – particularly when enquiries were held and details published. The 17-man crew of the Yarra Yarra died on the notorious Oyster Bank at Newcastle when the collier was hit by huge waves on a Sunday morning following a night of ‘unabated fury’ on 15 July 1877. In

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contrast to the fate of the Atlantic, this story was related at length in the press with drama and pathos. The Yarra Yarra had been a well-known and muchloved vessel before being converted to a coal carrier. It was built in Scotland for the ASNC as a passenger steamer on the Sydney-to-Brisbane run, and given an Aboriginal name that might have referred to flowing water. A month after the sinking the Illustrated Sydney News printed a lengthy account of the disaster and a eulogy to the vessel: ‘Poor old Yarra! Good old ship ... what steamer was as popular as the “magnificent iron” Yarra Yarra?’ Most people, however, were moved by the human tragedy of it all – in particular the death of the mate William Millet, whose body was the only one recovered. Millet had been a strong swimmer and decorated hero of previous shipwreck rescues. Perhaps for this reason the end of the Yarra Yarra was the catalyst for a group of prominent citizens to form an organisation, long mooted, to support the families of dead sailors. The National Shipwreck Relief Society of New South Wales was established on 25 July 1877, just nine days after the steamer went down. Among them was Captain Francis Hixson, President of the Marine Board, itself established in 1872 to manage navigation and lighthouses after the amalgamation of the Steam Navigation Board and the Pilot Board. The Seamen’s Union collected funds from members to support their own – as they did after most disasters. The Society, by contrast, was both a charity and a mutual organisation. It solicited donations but also offered a form of income insurance for seafarers. Those who joined paid 12 shillings per year and could expect to receive £5 if wrecked. A widow would receive £12 upon the death of her husband. This amount might have offset four months income for a family of an ordinary seaman, ‘left at the mercy of the world’. Beyond that the future was uncertain. Three decades after its founding, the Society had paid over £21 400 for relief. Details of the Yarra Yarra’s demise circulated quickly because, as often happened, the event was witnessed by spectators who had gathered despite the weather, to watch the disaster unfold and experience the ‘thrill of horror’. It then became the subject of a coronial inquest into the death of William

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Millett. The questions that followed reflected concerns at the practices of the shipping companies and the administration of maritime safety. The Yarra Yarra, it was thought, had been overloaded like many other vessels working the New South Wales coast. Hixson’s own Marine Board was criticised for allowing this to become routine practice. The harshest words appeared in the Lismore press: As members of the Board are mostly shipowners, their apathy in neglecting to prevent the overloading of vessels (which has so often caused the loss of so many valuable lives and brought sorrow upon the homes of the mariner) have laid them open to the suspicion of interested motives.

But for the people of Newcastle the recriminations circulated closer to home. They were forced to confront the failure of their own pioneering lifeboat service. The rescue vessel had not even been launched during the disaster. One cannon shot, fired to call the men to duty, was not followed by the second needed to launch the boat. Possibly the rain had dampened the explosive charge of the signal gun but the inaction was never properly explained and unproven fault lingered despite the enquiries. ‘Oh! Shame on those who should command/But are not at their post/And help may be denied to them/ When they shall need it most’, was the punitive judgment expressed in one poem penned to dramatise the disaster. The Newcastle lifeboat service had been a source of both pride and disappointment for the people of that port since the first vessel arrived in 1838. It was unique on the coast – a volunteer service begun with a petition to the Governor for help after one shipwreck too many. The authorities responded quickly enough by calling tenders for the construction of two rescue vessels, one for Newcastle and the other for Port Jackson. Within a year of petitioning the governor, Newcastle received a standard whaleboat, but ‘without hands to man her’. So the crew was made up of local sailors, fishermen and harbour pilots who, in any case, knew the waters and coast better than anyone else. There were mistakes and, on occasion, understandable hesitation. Open whaleboats were unsuited for the job of ploughing through stormy seas. By the 1860s technology had advanced so

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that lifeboats were built with high, enclosed bows and sterns allowing them to self-right after capsizing. In this regard colonists benefited indirectly from the philanthropy of the wealthy patron of the Royal National Lifeboat Institute in Britain who funded a competition for lifeboat design. The men inside the new boats wore huge, ribbed, cork-filled vests. But the volunteers risked their lives whenever they went out. And sometimes they died. Newcastle got its last lifeboat in 1897, a big, self-righting vessel made of mahogany and called Victoria. It was built by the British company Forrest and Sons who had come to specialise in the business. Then the crews were employees of the Pilot Service who received a bonus, one pound per month, for the extra risk. They saved 32 people when the French barque Adolphe blew onto the Oyster Bank in 1904. The operation ended in 1946 after harbour works and the size of vessels offset the danger at the harbour’s mouth. Both the lifeboat service and the National Shipwreck Relief Society had emerged out of the concerns and actions of coastal communities. The Pilot Service, however, was an official initiative begun within five years of British colonisation to guide ships carrying convicts on the final leg to the place of exile. The ships of the ‘Second Fleet’, which straggled into the harbour at Sydney in 1790, had to find their own way using the charts drawn up by officers from the First Fleet. However, from 1792, a man was stationed at the South Head of Port Jackson with the double duty of catching fish for the struggling town and boarding ‘all ships coming into the harbour’ and piloting them to the settlement. Pilots were licensed but had to provide their own boats and pay crews often made up of whaling men laid up because of the paucity of quarry or fed up with a hard life on ships that stank of blood and blubber. Competition was a way life here as it was in the whaling ‘grounds’, so the pilot crews vied with each other for ships to guide, dependent upon the fees paid for their income. Some ranged as far south as Jervis Bay in search of wayward shipping. Stations were established elsewhere on the coast as settlement spread – Newcastle in 1817, Yamba at the mouth of the Clarence in 1862. At Port Macquarie convicts were crewing the boats as late as the 1830s raising

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suspicions that they might pirate a ship and flee. Technology caught up with Sydney’s pilot service when the Thetis, locally built at Mort’s dock, was commissioned and steam finally replaced oars and sail in 1871. In line with this modernisation the pilots became ‘salaried officers’ rather than contracted crews racing each other for business. At Newcastle the whaleboats remained in service until 1897, pulled up at the Pilot Station next to the new lifeboat.

‘… illuminated like a street with lamps’ In 1818, the pilot Robert Watson became the colony’s first lighthouse keeper, maintaining the beacon in the first tower completed on the coast, at South Head. The Macquarie Lighthouse replaced a simple fire fuelled by coal or wood and lit to alert masters to the entrance of the harbour since 1793. By the time the regular flash of the lighthouse was operating at South Head, Mary Reibey and many like her had made the harbour a place of business as much as servitude. Governor Lachlan Macquarie was determined to build for civility and commerce, as well as law and order and he would do more than any of his predecessors to set down the infrastructure of coastal navigation. The South Head tower was followed by the breakwater at Newcastle and a coal-fired iron beacon on Signal Hill there. But while Macquarie’s superiors in Whitehall admitted the need for a lighthouse at Sydney, they rebuked him for spending so much on it and, indeed, not seeking permission in the first place. It would be another 40 years before the next tower was built. Again, the situation changed dramatically in the 1850s. After the granting of responsible government, the Department of Public Works was reorganised to better cope with the infrastructure required by a population soaring after the discovery of gold at the beginning of the decade. Customs and excise on ever-increasing imports, along with income from the sale of land, the export of gold, wool and coal, and public borrowing, helped to finance a boom in the construction of railways, public buildings, bridges and

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harbour works over the following half century. The separation of Queensland in 1859 removed responsibility for that long length of coastline from the decision-makers in Sydney. The Clarence River works were part of the new programme. So too were lighthouses. Twenty-two had been built along the New South Wales coast by the time the colonies federated in 1901. The Harbour Master, Merion Moriarty had urged back in 1852 that lights be built at Jervis Bay, Nobbys, South Solitary Island and Moreton Bay as coastal traffic was increasing. The first two were agreed to reluctantly but little progress was made. It took two devastating shipwrecks in quick succession to get the colony’s second and third light towers built. The loss of the Dunbar with 121 lives near the entrance of Port Jackson in 1857 shook the city. The following year a red and white striped tower called the Hornby Light had joined the Macquarie Lighthouse to better mark the harbour. Newcastle got its first tower that year, on top of Nobbys. These structures were designed by the Government Architect Alexander Dawson, as was the fourth lighthouse on the southern edge of Jervis Bay at Cape St George. It was more the potential for disaster than its realisation that prompted the decision to place a light there. The coast to the south was already called ‘Wreck Bay’, probably because of the loss of the convict ship Hive in 1835. There had been no other reported calamities but captains knew that strong south easterlies could blow a vessel into the great arc of the bay with little hope of escape. Opinion was divided among those in the Pilot Board about the suitability of the suggested location on the cape, but when the structure was complete all agreed that the actual position was wrong. Despite a visit by the architect and drawings for the contractors, the lighthouse had been incorrectly sited – not on Cape St George but two kilometres north of it. The mistake exemplified the difficulties of co-ordinating such work between the metropolis and remote sites. Whether it arose because of poorly drawn plans or self-interest and expedience – the new site was closer to the quarry that provided the building material – the error was disastrous. In foul weather the Cape St George light proved to be more hindrance than help and over the

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following 30 years Wreck Bay truly earned its name with five vessels going aground. The loss of the Walter Hood in 1870, with 12 lives, was detailed in the newspapers for days. Life at a remote lighthouse was a curious mix of the freedom that comes from inhabiting a near-empty landscape and the regimentation that follows such responsibility. Furthermore, the social hierarchies that were commonplace in the 1800s must have sat awkwardly with the intimacy and isolation that affected the families of both the keeper and his assistants in the lighthouse compound. Wicks had to be perfectly trimmed and the lens cleaned without a scratch. The clockwork mechanism that kept the light rotating needed to be wound throughout the night. Regulations and instructions published in 1858 also outlined the requisites of character – both for the keepers and their kin: ‘Light Keepers are required to be sober and industrious, cleanly in their persons and linen, and orderly in their families’. Despite the infrequency of visitors, the men were expected to wear a uniform every day. When Cape St George was opened in 1860 this was a blue jacket and ‘cloth or other trowsers’. It was expected that all would attend ‘Sunday worship’. Presumably, where isolation precluded travel to church, a service was led by the Principal Keeper. To supplement dry provisions, those at Cape St George could catch fish and gather wild honey from bush hives. Goats thrived in the barren place and thereby provided milk and meat. The human population on the cliff top expanded and contracted as babies were born and personnel changed. Edward Bailey replaced the third assistant keeper after that man was killed by a horse in the early 1880s. Bailey and his wife Honoraria eventually added 11 children to the settlement. Perhaps out of desperation he took to shark fishing to add to the family’s diet. Climbing down to the wave-washed rocks was dangerous, standing out there for any length of time was even more so. In January 1895 Edward was swept off and drowned as his feet became entangled in his own line. Two boys witnessed their father’s death. The body was never recovered – apparently taken under by the ‘monsters’ that Edward himself was trying to land.

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The mistake at Cape St George was not rectified until 1899 when a new tower and another compound were built on Point Perpendicular at the north side of the Bay. The decision for that site had been made some years earlier by Marine Board President Francis Hixson, and James Barnet, Dawson’s successor as Colonial Architect. It was one of their last collaborations – the two had worked closely together for nearly 30 years situating and designing lighthouses so that the coast would, in Hixson’s words, ‘be illuminated like a street with lamps’. Sixteen were built from Green Cape in the south to Fingal Head near the Queensland border during Barnet’s tenure from the 1860s to 1890. While the local contractor for the former light went broke trying to match his quote, there were no repeats of the blunder at Cape St George. At Crowdy Head, 350 kilometres to the north of Sydney, the job of making Barnet’s design manifest fell to a local man, John Smith, who took his five sons with him to help. There, ‘on a headland clothed in beautiful brush’, they cleared a patch and constructed a keeper’s cottage and a tiny tower of stone and brick, brought up from the metropolis by boat. The great glass light came by sea when the job was nearly completed. It took Smith and his boys 18 months to complete so, in the process, they built themselves a house and garden on site as a base from which to work. For one of the sons, Albert, it was the experience of a lifetime – a chance ‘to have a good time … at the seaside’. The memories stayed with him into old age: ‘Several times we saw several waterspouts travelling a few miles out … Once we saw a school of mullet passing the Head and it took two hours to pass’. The lens that went into that remote little tower had come all the way from the Birmingham works of Chance Brothers – like most of the other optics used by Barnet. The architect took advantage of developments in lens technology not available when the first Macquarie Lighthouse was built. The ‘Fresnel lens’, invented in the 1820s, concentrated light via a series of concentric glass prisms rather than a simple concave reflector. By mid-century these looked like extraordinary crystal beehives. They revolved in a shallow ‘bath’ of mercury to minimise friction and each was set up with its own signature flash created by a combination of frequency and the occasional use of

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colour – red and green – so that mariners could better determine their position on the darkened coastline. Without the haze and fog of the northern oceans, the lights of New South Wales reached out farther than comparable counterparts in Britain and North America. Barnet’s tower designs varied like the mechanical pulses they emitted. Some of this was determined by the topography. Where a headland was sufficiently elevated, such as Crowdy Head and Tacking Point near Port Macquarie, a truncated tower was all that was required. By contrast, the Green Cape lighthouse extended up 29 metres. The architect relished variation – as a visual aid to the navigator but also to add beauty to the coastline. While most of his towers were cylindrical, Green Cape was octagonal with a stepped foundation. Barnet experimented with techniques and materials – motivated by the practicalities of construction in remote locations and the aesthetic possibilities afforded by technology. When completed in 1883, the unusually shaped Green Cape tower was the first cast concrete lighthouse in Australia. On Montague Island, finished two years earlier, Barnet made use of the huge outcrops of granite. The Yuin people living on the coast nearby would still have known these as part of the spiritual being Baranguba, son of the mountain Gulaga who had left his father to go to sea. At the hands of Barnet’s master masons they were split, cut into perfect blocks and fitted together to create a beautiful round tower. Left unpainted it seemed to erupt from the natural rock beneath. In the context of the immensity of the coast it was a tiny pillar on an offshore outcrop – but its flash could be seen for more than 30 kilometres around. The Montague Island Lighthouse became the fourteenth ‘lamp’ on the coastal highway. A decade later nine men, women and children shared the place with an unknown number of feral rabbits and goats. Then, one world-weary reporter from the metropolis characterised their lifestyle in a manner that loudly echoed James Cook’s assessment of the coast’s original inhabitants back in 1770: These people are contented enough, and perhaps there are few of us in the bustling crowd, surrounded with problems that are driving the world crazy, as happy as the residents of this lonely sea-girt island.

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8: Defending the coast ‘… only white people should inhabit Australia’ James Barnet’s retirement in 1890 should have been an occasion marked by celebratory speeches and expressions of gratitude. Instead, it was overshadowed by scandal and ill-will. Work on a coastal fortification at the entrance to Botany Bay had gone badly awry. The concrete used was defective and Barnet, as head of the office that supervised the work, was held responsible by the Royal Commission convened to examine the mess. In the end it was left to the Colonial Architect himself to outline a long career in which he attempted to balance competing demands while delivering public works necessary for an expanding colony. So, in a letter written to acknowledge his own forced retirement, New South Wales’ last ‘colonial architect’ wrote: Throughout my long term it has been my earnest and anxious endeavour to have in all cases buildings designed suitable for their purpose … always

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having in mind that in buildings for the Government utility and durability, with due economy are supreme requirements … at the same time attention has been paid to architectural effect …

Barnet had surely been one of the busiest men in the colony. Lighthouses aside he designed or collaborated on hundreds of buildings between his appointment as Colonial Architect in 1863 and retirement nearly 30 years later. Barnet’s 1864 extensions to the Australian Museum accommodated the growing collections of fish, shells, bones and boomerangs – and the crowds interested in understanding them. His grandiose ‘Garden Palace’ sat unobscured above Sydney Harbour in the lovely Botanic Gardens. It crowned the waterway with a magnificent dome that spoke of civilisation transplanted more than any other building in the continent’s first city – at least for the four years it survived before burning down in 1882. Sydney was the colony’s biggest population centre by far. With over 100 000 people in 1895 the harbour city itself had five times as many people as the next largest, Broken Hill far to the west. There were another 300 000 people in Sydney’s spreading suburbs. Most of the rest of the colony’s population – graziers, croppers, labourers and others – lived in or around the small towns of 1000 to 4000 people dotted throughout the interior. But the influence of the colonial architect could be seen throughout. In the regional centre of Bathurst, there was an impressive Barnetdesigned courthouse designed to both administer the law and signify its authority. In Goulburn, Albury and elsewhere post offices, equally imposing, marked the spread of reliable communication. In several of these, the architect’s signature loggia suggested a rational civic culture with roots firmly planted in the Renaissance. The coastal settlements were still mostly small and strung out. Nonetheless, they too were graced with the civilising touch of Barnet’s architecture. With fewer than 2500 residents by 1895, Kiama had earlier received a handsome Italianate post office that looked almost incongruous as it sat on the rise above the sea, on a dusty road and surrounded by little else. With fewer than 3500 residents, Wollongong still got its square courthouse in the

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mid-1880s. At the far north, Ballina stood at the mouth of the Richmond with around 1300 people. Its conjoined courthouse and post office sported a large clock tower. There was an elegant two-storey square courthouse at little Maclean, which sat amidst cane fields on the Clarence River with a population of less than one thousand. As the regional centre, Grafton had a suite of suitably impressive structures including a classically designed courthouse and Renaissance-style post office, both by Barnet. Its population in the 1890s was well over 12 000. The maritime equivalents to these civic buildings were Customs Houses. Barnet worked on two, one at Sydney and the other in Newcastle. The latter, begun in 1877, was a dignified structure that marked the significance of the coal port with its population of around 10 000. It was designed by Barnet with the help of fellow architect Edmund Spenser, and looked like a regional post office with a clock tower placed asymmetrically at one end and a loggia running along the length of the building. But a careful eye could pick the difference. The ‘noble’ tower of Newcastle’s Customs House held a Tornaghi clock – made by Angelo Tornaghi, the Italian immigrant whose high-quality time-pieces, tide gauges and barometers were standard equipment for Government departments – and, higher still, a time-ball. This fell at 1 pm each day, triggered by an electrical signal from Sydney Observatory for the benefit of ships’ captains wanting to set their all-important marine chronometers while in port. In effect, the customs service came into being in 1800 with the declaration of port regulations and the appointment of the first ‘naval officer’ to collect fees and charges on imports to Sydney. The impetus had been a desire to regulate the trade in liquor undertaken, in large part, by army officers. The naval officer was responsible for checking all goods before they were unloaded, for levying fees and for finding stowaways – deserters or convicts. The position, therefore, was an important one and, until it was salaried in the late 1820s, very lucrative. Remuneration through commission on goods arriving made its most famous office holder, Captain John Piper, rich. His commission financed the loveliest house in Sydney Harbour, Henrietta Villa

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The Customs House at Newcastle, possibly photographed in the 1890s. The time-ball is at the top of the tower.

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There were many others keen to profit from the importation of spirits and tobacco. A high duty and an unquenchable demand, made smuggling these goods very attractive. Those waterways closest to Sydney – Botany Bay and Broken Bay – were the most frequently used for illegal importation. Newcastle was also a smugglers’ haven. Commonly, goods would be landed legally in Sydney for ostensible transhipment without duty payment to New Zealand or the Pacific as barter. Off the coast, however, smaller vessels would take on the spirits and tobacco, land them again illegally and transport the untaxed merchandise for competitive but profitable sale in Sydney. The practice prompted officials to station customs men at Newcastle, Broken Bay and Botany Bay as early as the late 1820s. In the 1840s far-flung Eden got its modest Customs House around the same time that a somewhat grander premises was built at Sydney. But with so many landing places along the coast the task of policing was nearly impossible. In time, customs officers were also responsible for quarantine and immigration. They monitored the condition of ships arriving with free immigrants in the decades after the end of transportation in 1840. Sydney had long had a cosmopolitan tone by virtue of its harbour, but the place remained overwhelmingly British in its make-up. The regions were even more so. With the discovery of gold, however, Chinese men became a very visible minority – in town and on the diggings. In 1861, a decade after the rush started, there were 13 000 of them in a colony of just under 358 000 and their presence attracted hostility from European Australians. The authorities, fearing disorder, passed the Immigration Restriction Act 1862. It fell to Customs officials to enforce its aim of keeping out the Asians before they stepped upon the cut stone of the new Circular Quay. One thousand and thirty Chinese people arrived in that year but only 63 in the next. The numbers dwindled but by the end of the next decade concern at the presence of Asians was rising again among Anglo-Australians, from the roughs who attacked fishmongers, fruiterers and furniture makers in the streets of Sydney, to the Premier, Henry Parkes, whose government passed the Influx of Chinese Restriction Act

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1881. Where the maintenance of public order might have motivated the earlier legislation, now concerns about race and ‘maintaining’ a white Australia were becoming pre-eminent. Amidst the noise and traffic of the working waterfront Customs Officers might be faced with the decision of whether to fine a captain, who had knowingly carried more than the allowable ‘one Chinaman for every 100 tons’ of shipping, or prosecute the illegal immigrants themselves, or both. The Customs men were required to determine the validity of exemptions claimed either by resident Chinese returning or British subjects. They confronted distressed people claiming no knowledge of the law or insisting their stay was only temporary. Often the unwanted arrivals came without the means of returning to China – ‘The Flowery Land’ – for the voyage out typically incurred debts that were to be paid by hard work in Australia – the ‘New Gold Mountain’. Most arrivals came with the intention of returning having acquitted money owed for both journeys. In the meantime they lived frugally and remitted earnings to families in China. Inevitably, a trade in falsified documents developed and, with profits to be made by delivering indentured labour, there was a trade in people too. Sometimes both men and goods were smuggled. In July 1890 Customs officers boarded a ship arrived in Sydney from Hong Kong and over two days of searching found 20 000 cigars ‘secreted in all conceivable places’ and eight people nearly frozen to death in the ships’ cool room. By then the authorities were able to enlist the new dry-plate photographic technology to assist in the documentation and regulation of the human tide. Chinese crews were routinely photographed upon arrival so that their identities could be checked when they left. Such documentation presaged the gradual introduction of passports in the first decade of 20th century. The belief in the need to preserve a ‘white Australia’ extended across the colonies and intensified as the new century grew closer. It was based upon assumptions about fundamental differences between ‘races’. These distinctions were usually qualitative so there was a hierarchy of human types topped by whites, with black people at the bottom.

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Few could deny the work ethic of the ‘Asiatics’, who fell somewhere in the middle of the table of human worth, but this only fuelled the fear that they might dominate Australia’s relatively small white population. Sheer numbers were one concern. Miscegenation was another. In 1897, the Australian Star was probably right when it presumed to speak for the majority on the matter: ‘It is the wish of the community that only white people should inhabit Australia … the Australian type must be kept intact, and its physique protected’. White Australians’ sense of self, indeed their sense of superiority, was grounded firmly within the British Empire. But they, even more than their brothers and sisters at ‘home’ in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, emphasised the racial component of this association. For Europeans, in a sparsely populated island continent between ‘Asiatic’ seas and the vast Pacific, race was integral to cohesion and identity. It was also the source of great anxiety. So while there were Asians and Indians who were also British subjects, this made them no more welcome in white Australia. A priority for the Commonwealth government in 1901 was the drafting of an Immigration Restriction Act that could keep out non-whites, wherever they came from, with the application of a dictation test. One that required arrivals to speak English was ultimately rejected because it would discriminate against Europeans or, indeed, British folk whose culture was still grounded in Gaelic traditions. Instead, an ability to speak a European language was enough to get past the gatekeeper at the customs desk. The Imperial Government in London disapproved, not least because the language test infuriated their new allies – the Japanese. But the Australians stood firm. It was a clear sign that the one-time colonists, though still loyal Britons, were prepared to take an independent course when they saw fit. ‘We want a White Australia and are we to be denied it because we shall offend the Japanese or embarrass his Majesty’s ministers?’ asked Welsh immigrant and Labor man Billy Hughes – whose new Federal seat of West Sydney took in the waterfront suburbs of Sydney’s working harbour: ‘We have come to the parting of the way’.

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‘… a flotilla of her own …’ Fear of Asians and ‘coloureds’ dominated the national psyche as Federation loomed, but for much of the previous half century white Australians feared attack by other Europeans. Indeed the colony was founded in the context of imperial rivalry. The first fortification built on the New South Wales coast was, in fact, French – a ‘stoccade’ of two guns erected by the crews of the Boussole and Astrolabe upon the orders of La Perouse on the shore of Botany Bay after the British had vacated that harbour in favour of Port Jackson. Within two months the French left the bay, and the continent’s east coast, to the British. Securing supplies of naval timber and flax, and the establishment of a strategic eastern base in the event of war with Spain, were among the advantages mentioned when the possibility of colonising New South Wales was first being considered in London in the 1780s. However, there was little reference to these aims in the final plan or the instructions given to Governor Phillip. It was not until the expeditions of James Grant and then Matthew Flinders were mounted to investigate and ultimately secure the continent for Great Britain – just as the French were revisiting the place with an interest both in the extraordinary natural assets and the possibility of acquisition. The naturalist Francois Peron was observing more than fish and flowers when he visited Port Jackson in 1802. Assessing the harbour’s defences for his political masters, he later reported that ‘Today we could easily destroy it. We shall not be able to do so in twenty-five years time’. When the Duke of Wellington vanquished the French at Waterloo in 1815 after a protracted war, Sydney was protected by batteries on each side of the cove; one dating from 1791 on the west at Dawes Point. A new fort on the east called Macquarie was begun in 1817 but its effect was more aesthetic than practical. Another fort, begun on the hill above the town out of fear of convict insurrection in 1804, never received its guns and became a signal station instead. Guns of varying serviceability guarded the lower

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harbour from an emplacement cut by convicts into the sandstone of Georges Head. These were the only fortifications on the coast. Enhancing the colony’s defences was difficult and protracted when the support of the Colonial Office was only lukewarm. The sense of neglect and vulnerability became acute in 1847 when British troops were transferred from Sydney to New Zealand to fight Maori warriors in the Land Wars that followed the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi. Governor Fitzroy’s despatch to Earl Grey, the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, spoke of the colonists’ ‘great dissatisfaction’ and ‘sense of injustice’. Most telling of all was the feeling that the colony was ‘without any protection from foreign aggression’. This nervousness was voiced again in 1854 as Britain declared war against Russia to begin what became the Crimean War. Sitting on the western rim of the vast Pacific Ocean there were many in Sydney, and probably elsewhere along the coast, who feared attack from Russia’s newly reinforced fleet based far to the north. One letter writer to the Sydney Morning Herald foresaw warships from Kamchatka in the northern Pacific heading south to ‘plunder’ Sydney and Melbourne: ‘we may all some fine morning be awakened with the noise of a few Russian frigates thundering away at our doors …’ Residents must have been painfully aware that Fort Denison, begun on Pinchgut Island at the entrance of Sydney Cove in 1840, was still not completed before the end of the Crimean War. Its guns were finally installed in 1857. By 1859 Sydney town was finally protected by five batteries, including nine new shore-based guns at Macquarie Point and Kirribilli. Ships of the Royal Navy were always welcome in the harbour and their officers, at least, enjoyed an especially high standing in Sydney society. ‘The navy ought to feel flattered by the manner in which they are received by Sydneyites’, commented army officer Godfrey Mundy with a hint of envy, ‘the appearance of a man-o-war in the Cove is the signal for all sorts of gaiety and hospitality’. There was no naval base in 1846 when Mundy was in port, and warships were only ever visitors. Permanent deployment began with the creation of the Australian Division of the East India Station in 1848. This followed in the wake of the first New Zealand Land Wars when the Admiralty

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agreed that something more than an annual visit by a warship was prudent – not so much to deflect an attack upon Sydney as to project some degree of naval power beyond the colonial coast. The 1850s was a decade of change for local and Imperial attitudes towards colonial defence – just as it had been for the colony’s commercial shipping. The completion of major dock facilities – government and commercial – was, of course, important for both. The Crimean War had been an obvious catalyst for the colonial focus on defence. So in 1855 New South Wales built its first warship – not for the Royal Navy but for colonial use. When the armed ketch Spitfire slipped out of John Cuthbert’s productive Millers Point shipyard in April, the Empire described it as ‘an event of more than normal significance in these days of alarm and dread of hostile invasion’. The paper suggested hopefully that the launch ‘may be considered the advent of a period not far distant when New South Wales shall possess a flotilla of her own capable of defending her sea coast from all foreign invasion’. Volunteers were being mustered on land. Most were armed with rifles but Newcastle got its first defensive cannons when a contingent of volunteer artillery was sworn-in in August 1856. The Act authorising the formation of a ‘Volunteer Corps’ was passed by the new colonial government four years later. Apart from those in and around Sydney, Newcastle was to receive artillery and rifle volunteers and the ‘seaport towns’ of Eden and Grafton would each get a company of rifles. In 1859 the Admiralty elevated the status of the Australia Division to that of Naval Station in its own right. The change was both a concession to colonial nervousness and an appreciation of strategic realities surrounding the Russian scare. It also reflected a re-evaluation of the worth of colony once dismissed as inconsequential in military terms. The one-time prison was now a source of gold and a major exporter of wool and meat to Britain. Furthermore New South Wales had taken up self-government in 1856 – so there was some expectation in the Admiralty and the Colonial Office that the colony would contribute more to its own defence.

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John Skinner Prout’s 1842 lithograph, Port Jackson from Dawes Battery, also shows Fort Macquarie on the east side of Sydney Cove.

The new Station was established on Garden Island, modestly at first and then, in the 1880s, with greater determination once its role as a suitable home for the navy had been agreed upon. Fort Macquarie and Dawes Point were two other options. The Admiralty would argue with the colony about cost-sharing for much of the island’s time as a Royal Navy station, before it was finally transferred to the Commonwealth of Australia in 1913 to become the main east-coast base of the Royal Australian Navy. In the meantime the Australia Station contributed to the colony’s sense of security and Imperial belonging. Inadvertently it swelled the numbers of skilled migrants. For between 1852 and 1901 some 10 000 sailors deserted British ships while in the colony’s ports. Navy men made up the majority of these after 1857. The numbers are extraordinary and the consequent impact upon the effectiveness of the Station must have been substantial. The flagship HMS Pearl lost 40 per cent of its company while deployed in Sydney

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between 1873 and 1877. Nearly as many jumped ship from HMS Nelson in 1882 alone – 193 sailors out of a complement of just over 500. Most fled upon arrival or just before their return to Britain. Following in the footsteps of earlier deserters, like the shipbuilder William Yabsley, they hoped to make a new life employing skills learnt in the service of the crown. Experience with steam machinery drew some to work on the expanding rail networks or in the sugar mills of the Clarence. Like Yabsley, many of these illegal immigrants made the transition into civilian life to become the ‘nation builders’ so beloved of journalists and poets. Colonial aspirations for local navies persisted, nonetheless, creating other problems for the Imperial Government. While the presence of military assistance paid for by the various colonial governments was no problem, the reality of two naval forces operating in the same area raised the issue of divided authority and confusion over aims and strategy. There was also the question of international law on the high seas. What was the legal status of a colonial warship engaged in action beyond local waters if it had not been commissioned by Britain? The House of Commons passed the Colonial Naval Defence Act 1865 in an attempt to clarify these issues. It gave the Australasian colonies, including New Zealand, the right to raise their own flotillas for self-defence. Colonial ships were accorded the ‘status and rights’ of British men-of-war. The Victorians were the most eager of all. They subsidised a state-of-the-art ironclad gunboat called Cerebus. With the continent’s main naval base in its home port, the New South Wales government could afford to be more sanguine. It acquired two small torpedo boats that were docked a little way back up the harbour on the site of Alexander Berry’s old store and wharf and, for a while, a part of Berrys Bay was known as Torpedo Bay. The issue of land defence, conversely, was comparatively straightforward. The Imperial Government wanted that to be a colonial responsibility. In 1870 the last of the regular British troop contingents left New South Wales and the colony was in the hands of local militia. There followed almost immediately a revision of Sydney Harbour defences and consequently

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modern guns and fortifications were installed at George’s Head, Bradley’s Head, Middle Head and South Head. These developments, and the absence of a colonial navy, apparently prompted Peter Dodds McCormick to emphasise colonial defence of the land that was ‘girt by sea’ in his patriotic song ‘Advance Australia Fair’, first performed in Sydney in 1878. The third verse of the original composition declared: ‘Should foreign foe e’er sight our coast, /Or dare a foot to land, / We’ll rouse to arms like sires of yore, / To guard our native strand … Fear of another confrontation between Britain and a rejuvenated Russia prompted a further report on the state of defences in all the colonies in 1876. Sir William Jervois assisted by Major Peter Scratchley made more suggestions about Sydney’s defences and, for the first time, recommended that other parts of the New South Wales coast be fortified as well. Botany Bay was an obvious choice as the back door to the city. Jervois recommended that five guns be installed on Bare Island to be operated by 80 men in bombproof barracks. That would be the fortification that ended James Barnet’s career. Forest and surf, it was thought, precluded threats from other parts of the coast north to Broken Head. Dismissive of the strategic value of any other place, Jervois concluded that Newcastle, alone of all the other outports and rivers, should be fortified. Newcastle’s Fort Scratchley, named after its designer, was begun in 1881 on the sea cliff where exiled convicts had sunk the colony’s first coal mine 75 years earlier. The compound with its barracks was completed five years later. Fort Scratchley’s first guns were muzzle-loading artillery pieces firing over an open parapet. In 1892 sophisticated breech-loading guns were installed. Mounted on a rotating base they were raised up through a slitted roof when ready to fire and, upon discharging their six- or eight-inch shells out to sea, ‘disappeared’ with the recoil back into an enclosed emplacement. The point was to make the fort as invisible as possible to enemy gunners. Conversely, it took practice and skill to be an effective gunner at Scratchley, where the men had to take into consideration variations in tide and swell when they aimed at their moving targets.

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Three huge guns capable of firing eighty-pound projectiles protected the entrance to the harbour from casements buried in the side of the hill. The sound of the blast in the concrete enclosures sent the crews partially deaf with ‘gunner’s ear’. The cordite charge they used was also highly volatile and liable to ignite with the slightest friction. Standard issue hobnailed boots were a liability in this respect so, to avoid sending a fireball through the network of vented, white-washed tunnels, men shuffled around in hempcovered ‘magazine shoes’. Everything used in the subterranean world of Fort Scratchley was made from leather, wood, cloth, copper or bronze – inert

Fort Scratchley viewed from Nobby’s breakwater in the mid-1880s. The three casements protecting the harbour entrance can be seen clearly.

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materials that could not create a fatal spark. Newcastle’s fort was welldesigned and, unlike its counterpart at Bare Island in Botany Bay, well-built. The latter, with its ‘rotten’ concrete bunkers, was decommissioned by 1902. Scratchley remained a defence establishment until 1972. The fort that was conceived in the context of one defence scare was ready for the next. Colonists looked nervously out to the Pacific again in 1885, their anxiety fuelled by both a sense of isolation and newly found wealth. The mood was reflected in newspaper reports and letters. On 14 April 1885 the Clarence and Richmond Examiner printed an account of Russian cruiser

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sighted off the New South Wales coast. Two days later a correspondent to the Sydney Morning Herald wrote of a Russian count who had gathered information about Newcastle’s coal resources by plying his informants with ‘champagne’. The letter writer made an immediate logical leap to the likelihood of Russian soldiers landing at Lake Macquarie or some other unprotected piece of coastline to attack Newcastle from the land. Coal reserves there made it ‘extremely probable the port would be the first object of attack’ with a blockade of Sydney to follow. Five days later another letter in the Clarence and Richmond Examiner, signed by ‘Humanity’, voiced the vulnerability felt in the colony’s far north: ‘Remember we are a rich district without so much as a solitary gun, or even a torpedo, and vessels of 1000 tons can run right up to Grafton’ (italics in original). The Jervois enquiry had assessed the defences of all the colonies and recommended new guns for Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Hobart as well as Sydney and Newcastle. The colonies themselves were now starting to approach defence as a common concern – a precursor to, and catalyst for, their Federation. It was in the vast Pacific, rather than the Indian Ocean, that they came to suspect limits to Pax Britannica and the effective reach of the Royal Navy. Even before the Russian scare of 1885, the Australians were calling for a British ‘Monroe Doctrine’ in the Pacific – a declaration that would create a buffer of islands off-limits to rival powers in the manner of the original Monroe Doctrine that had, since the 1820s, defined the United States sphere of influence in the Americas. They urged the British to annex Fiji in 1870 as the presence of European cotton planters, including Australians, caused a breakdown in law and order there. The British eventually agreed and the New South Wales Governor Sir Hercules Robinson was sent to the islands in HMS Pearl to hoist the British flag in 1874. In 1883 Queensland went as far as to occupy the eastern half of New Guinea in order to forestall reported German designs on the territory. But where the colonists were focussed on immediate threats to their coasts, the British had a global empire to defend. So a deal was struck with the Germans, which gave them north-east New Guinea in return for support with the British

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annexation of Egypt. Consequently, in October 1884, the Australian Squadron flagship HMS Nelson steamed to Port Moresby to raise the Union Jack and announce the British protectorate. British diplomatic compromises and the limited protection afforded by coastal forts only increased the colonial yearning for ships dedicated to the defence of the coast and its shipping. But greater protection came at a cost and the manner in which this was shared between the Imperial Government and the colonies was vigorously debated. As a result of an agreement reached in 1887, the British Parliament’s Australasian Naval Defence Act 1887 laid out the colonies’ joint responsibility for the funding of an Australasian Auxiliary Squadron for just that purpose. In September 1891 five cruisers and two torpedo boats steamed into Sydney Harbour to augment the Admiralty’s Australian Squadron at Garden Island. The colonies were to pay for maintenance, upkeep and a percentage of capital costs. The 1887 agreement gave the colonies some control over the movement of the auxiliary vessels – another concession to local nervousness and funding. But almost immediately the Admiralty adopted a quite contradictory strategy based upon the ‘Blue Water’ theory of Sir John Colomb. His doctrine set out immutable principles of naval warfare and emphasised the need for complete supremacy of the open seas, a supremacy that could only be achieved by concentrating naval resources under one authority at the greatest point of danger. Coastal fortifications and squadrons were, in Colomb’s mind, ineffective in terms of defence. An enemy must be denied use of the oceans altogether. The shift resulted in a renewed warship-building programme in Britain, after many years of decline. John Colomb’s concern was defence of the British Isles but the implications of his work for the Australian colonies were profound for it caused the Admiralty to focus on naval needs and deployment at the centre of the Empire rather than its periphery. Two further developments exacerbated the divergence between defence and foreign policy perspectives at the Imperial centre and its edge. Federation consolidated the common interest of the former colonies. While Britain remained the ‘Mother country’ for many and Australians dutifully, even

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eagerly, went to war on ‘her’ behalf in South Africa, the new Commonwealth defined its national interest differently. The threats Australian politicians perceived were both regional and racial. They were willing, therefore, to maintain a race-based immigration policy despite British wishes to the contrary. It was race and its heightened significance for white Australians that added import to the second development – the rise of Japan as a military power. Concern over this eclipsed both fear of Chinese ethnic ‘contamination’ and Russian coastal raids for the Japanese, it was thought, had the ability to invade. Their defeat of the Russian fleet in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 and 1905 served to underline that point. Furthermore it seemed that the Japanese, with their ‘teeming’ millions had the motivation to conquer a near-empty Australia. The unsettling reality that an Asian state might be more than a match for a European nation led many writers and some politicians to evoke the threat to racial purity, Christianity and ‘white civilisation’ itself. The term ‘yellow peril’ entered local parlance and informed a genre of invasion fiction, which presented various scenarios, from Japanese soldiers landing in the far north to ships appearing off Sydney Harbour and overwhelming the local, obviously inadequate, British squadron. The 1902 British–Japanese alliance, secured to counter Russian power in the Pacific, only highlighted the distinction between Australian and Imperial interests. All the time the popularity of building a local navy was growing. It was fuelled by fear but also a sense of ‘national’ self-respect, as one Hunter resident made clear in the Singleton Argus as early as November 1878: ‘Some people think that England should defend us, and would have us, who are rich enough to defend ourselves, cling like a baby to our mother’s apron string’. But any hopes of building upon the Auxiliary Squadron were apparently dashed in 1902 when the Admiralty’s First Lord, the Earl of Selborne, reaffirmed Britain’s adherence to the ‘Blue Water’ strategy: ‘there is no possibility of the localisation of naval forces … the problem of the British Empire is in no sense one of local defence. The sea is all one and the British Navy, therefore must be all one’. Under new arrangements the Auxiliary Squadron, over which the colonies had felt some proprietary rights, was scrapped

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rather than renewed. Instead, eight Royal Navy cruisers were to be stationed in Sydney. It was an ex-Royal Navy officer Captain William Rooke Creswell who, as a long-term resident of the colonies, did as much as anyone to argue the case for an Australian-controlled, and crewed, navy in the years before and after Federation. Creswell was not just attempting to shift strategic thinking, he was hoping to counteract deep-seated cultural predilections that apparently kept Australian-born men and boys from taking up the sailor’s life – whether civilian or naval. As one former Commodore of the Australia Station, Rear Admiral Bowden-Smith, observed in 1896, locals were allowed to volunteer for the Royal Navy but few chose to do so: although on half-holidays Sydney harbour is crowded with sailing boats of every description, the true Australian-born does not appear to take readily to a seafaring life as a profession.

Creswell took issue with this belief. ‘Australia has inherited her due share of the Nation’s genius for sea enterprise, either for war or commerce’, he argued in 1901. Furthermore he saw his adopted home as first and foremost an island nation rather than a land of forests and pasture. Australia’s primary strategic interest, therefore, was in protecting its coasts and sea lanes – for these were fundamental to its survival. He proposed a naval policy that would develop the ‘qualities of race’ and that ‘sea profession’ which brought the British to Australia in the 18th century and had secured it ever since. Training Australian sailors was a major part of his proposal. The construction of a reserve flotilla, the genesis of a strong local navy, was another. Creswell’s advocacy carried little weight with Australia’s first Prime Minister, Edmund Barton, but found favour with Alfred Deakin who, as Barton’s successor, was instrumental in shaping an independent foreign and defence policy in the years leading up to World War I. It was not long before Deakin’s support for an Australian navy was taken up with equal enthusiasm by the Labor Party. For his part Creswell was appointed the first Director of

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Naval Forces – the head of the disparate and antiquated vessels inherited by the Commonwealth from the various colonies. Deakin had been an architect of the White Australia Policy and one of the first to see the Japanese as adversaries – not as multitudinous inferiors, but equals capable of taking the country either through immigration or invasion. It was this regional threat that fired his enthusiasm for an Australian naval force. It was a commitment to white Australia, too, that won over the Labor Party. On 13 December 1907 Deakin spoke to Parliament of the new strategic environment in which the ‘comfortable outlook’ afforded by relative isolation had ‘passed away’. With the British preoccupied with the rise of German naval power in the northern hemisphere, it could not be assumed that the Royal Navy would be available to defend its former colony in the south. ‘Australia requires to hold her own’, he maintained, ‘while Britain’s navy is looking after itself’. This position was, in effect, a repudiation of the ‘one sea, one navy’ policy. It was also an affirmation of the idea that Australian interests might diverge from those of Britain. A month later Deakin unilaterally invited the United States’ Navy’s ‘Great White Fleet’ to visit Australia during its world cruise flying the American flag and displaying that country’s new naval power. In the absence of British endorsement this was a remarkably independent appeal to another potential ally, and protector. Racial affinity and mutual antipathy to the Japanese underpinned the initiative. In August 1908 people travelled from across the state and up and down the coast to see the fleet in Sydney Harbour, its first Australian port of call. The naval vessels were followed into the harbour by North Coast steamers. Hundreds of thousands lined the shores and thousands more crowded on small boats to get a closer look. Sixteen white battleships at anchor impressed Australians with America’s naval might. The term ‘crimson thread of kinship’, once used to describe bloodties with Britain, was now applied to new friends from across the Pacific.’ … In the harbour of our seas …/ You found a brother of the blood, to / Welcome your White Fleet, / To strengthen crimson kinship ties,/ And o’er seas kinsmen greet; …

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The extraordinary display of American might was followed in 1909 by revelations about the relative impotence of the British. The ‘Dreadnought crisis’, which caused a public panic in Britain and Australia, arose from the fear that the German naval-building programme might threaten the Royal Navy’s safety margin of superiority in capital ships. The crisis evoked calls from local ‘imperialists’ to assist the ‘mother country’ and, when the Fisher government refused, these same ‘imperialists’ called for the citizenry to donate sufficient funds for a new Dreadnought to help offset the deficit. For the most part these were people who still believed in the ‘one sea, one navy’ policy and the efficacy of paying a subsidy for Royal Navy protection rather than acquiring a navy of one’s own. The Commonwealth Government was relieved of the need to make a decision when the affair was overtaken by a major Imperial defence conference at which the Admiralty itself suggested that Australia acquire a ‘fleet unit’ that would be one part of a ‘Far Eastern Fleet’. The fleet would operate under local command with Australian crews while other units stationed in China and the East Indies would be supplied by the British and the New Zealanders. In time of threat all units would come together to meet the common foe. The proposal was a concession to Australian defence concerns and the result of a reappraisal of the strategic environment in the Pacific, including the rise in the standing of the Americans in the Dominions. It appeared to be a perfect compromise and the Australian government agreed. The fleet unit was to comprise a battle cruiser, three light cruisers, six destroyers and two submarines. Most of the vessels were built in Britain but four destroyers and one of the light cruisers would be constructed at Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour. British shipwrights assisted with training a local workforce in the fabrication of modern warships, a programme that was intended to improve shipbuilding techniques across the country. When the first of these, the destroyer the Warrego, was launched in April 1911 thousands gathered to watch yet another harbour spectacular and the event was reported widely in the regional press. Citizens on the Richmond River and elsewhere read the rousing words of Labor Prime Minister Andrew Fisher

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upon the ‘launch of the first Australian built ship of the Australian navy’. Three months later, in July, the still incomplete fleet unit formally became the Royal Australian Navy. Two years after this, the Royal Navy’s Australian establishments, including Garden Island, were given over or sold to the Commonwealth. On 4 October 1913 the extant elements of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) steamed into Sydney Harbour to replace the vessels of the Australia Station. Events had moved extraordinarily quickly between Australia’s acceptance of the Eastern Fleet idea in 1909 and the realisation of its own navy as a fleet unit of that larger force. But in the meantime the British had had second thoughts. The worsening relations with Germany focussed minds again on the need for consolidating forces in the northern hemisphere, so notions of a new Eastern fleet were shelved even as the Australian fleet unit was being built. Winston Churchill, who became the First Sea Lord two years after the 1909 conference, simply reiterated the need to prioritise security at the centre of empire, dismissing the need for independent fleet units. Having apparently won the argument for a navy of their own, the Australians found themselves potentially alone. The fleet’s homecoming however, was always going to be momentous. The flagship HMAS Australia sailed through Sydney Heads on 4 October 1913 followed by the cruisers Sydney and Melbourne, the borrowed cruiser Encounter and the destroyers Warrego, Yarra and Parramatta. Three more destroyers and the cruiser Brisbane were yet to be completed at the Cockatoo shipyards. Two submarines would arrive in 1914. The Sydney Morning Herald inevitably compared the occasion to the arrival of the Americans five years earlier and christened it a ‘Great Grey Fleet’: [It was] a smaller but a greater thing to us than the warships of the United States. We were conscious of the pride of ownership as we watched that thin grey line over the water come creeping on from the east and growing larger and larger as it came.

A hot air balloon, operated by an ‘aeronaut’, hovered some 2000 feet above South Head to add to the sense of occasion and thousands crowded the

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foreshores to cheer, just as they had done in 1908. And ideas of race, national identity and the need to protect the ‘purity’ of both were again alive in the minds of the revellers. Nationalist tunes were played around the harbour city. One was mentioned in particular – Randolph Bedford’s newly penned ‘national song’, ‘Australia: My Beloved Land’. Its second verse was unambiguous. Australia should ‘keep ever pure from alien stain’ for its riches were ‘only for the white.’ Despite the abandonment of the Eastern Fleet idea, there was much talk of Imperial unity and the need to support Great Britain in its hour of need. But there was reference also to the fleet as a tool of Australia’s singular foreign policy needs. ‘Small though our voice is it is now articulate’, noted George Pearce who had supported the creation of the fleet unit as Defence Minister in 1909, ‘The arrival of the fleet compels British statesmen to have regards to the problems of the Pacific’. The nation was now a naval power in its own region: ‘The star of Australia’s destiny has risen over the Pacific’. In October 1913, the Royal Australian Navy seemed to embody the country’s identity as a ‘land girt by sea’; a land whose interests were inextricably linked to the security of its coasts and its surrounding oceans. Attorney General Billy Hughes spoke for many when he equated the fleet’s arrival with the consummation of the nation: ‘Australia has assumed the toga of nationhood’. Defence Minister Edward Millen thought it the most memorable event since the arrival of Captain Cook: ‘As the former marked the birth of Australia, so the latter announces its coming of age.’ In that year, too, a naval college was established in Jervis Bay in anticipation of that harbour becoming the main port for the nation’s newly declared capital, Canberra. But when war did break out the following year there was little threat from Asia or the Pacific; the Anglo–Japanese alliance remained intact. It was a war fought mainly in the northern hemisphere so, remarkably, after such a struggle for naval independence, Australia’s ships operated under Admiralty command. RAN vessels, including the Australia and the Sydney, did escort an expeditionary force up the Australian east coast to New Guinea where they dislodged the German colonists who had been present there since the

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compromise of 1883. Australia lost one of its two submarines in that action. And German raiders did venture south to Australian waters to lay mines and disrupt sea lanes. One German ship, the Emden, was sunk by HMAS Sydney in the first and most significant engagement by the RAN. In the early months of the war the presence of HMAS Australia in the western Pacific surely kept the German Pacific Squadron at bay. However, when the flagship did head north it missed the one great set-piece naval battle of the war at Jutland and was employed primarily on patrol work. By the Armistice of 1918 most Australians had served King and country on land. Nearly 60 000 were killed and well over 150 000 were wounded in the mud of western Europe and the dust of the Middle East. Ultimately it was blood and sacrifice during the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign in 1915 that gave rise to a second and more enduring myth of national birth, Anzac Day. And after so much had been made of the creation of the nation’s navy, it was bushmen–soldiers rather than the sons of British ‘tars’ that came to epitomise the Australian ‘type’.

‘… while human nature remains unregenerate’ World War I came closest to New South Wales by way of the German raider Wolfe which laid contact mines off Gabo Island just to the south of Cape Howe in 1917. The steamer Cumberland, heading for Britain with frozen meat, wool and ore, struck one of these and floundered for weeks before sinking to the east of Green Cape on tow back to Eden for repairs. The State Government then recommissioned the three steel trawlers it had bought for the south-east fishery, just before war broke out, as mine sweepers. For a time the Brolga, Koraaga and Gunundaal fished for explosives instead of flathead. There was more concern locally about the ‘enemy within’. The appalling slaughter in Europe, and the patriotic fervour stirred up to make sense of

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Louis Benzoni’s patriotic song of 1914, ‘Good Old Australia’, featured HMAS Sydney on the cover of the sheet music. The lyrics reaffirmed kinship relations with ‘homeland’ Britain in its time of need.

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The steamer Cumberland floundering off Gabo Island, July 1917, after colliding with a German mine. The exploding mine caused extensive damage to the steamer, which was ultimately lost.

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it, unleashed bigotry towards those of German descent. Often these people were immigrants, welcomed before the war as new white Australians. Some 6890 Germans, including 141 women and children, were interned as enemy aliens regardless of their citizenship or residential status. Divided according to ‘class’ or social rank to lessen the chance of tension while in captivity, around 500 of wealthiest and best educated were packed into coastal steamers and sent to the old colonial gaol at Trial Bay on the mouth of the Macleay River. Banished to this lonely coast the internees made the most of their new home. ‘We have an ideal bathing beach, very fine sand, a few hundred metres long’, wrote one of them. The prisoners built beach huts and a waterfront cafe called ‘The Artist’s Den’. They supplemented their rations with fresh fish. But salubrious surroundings notwithstanding, these people were confined against their will. In response they formed a highly cultured but insular community that dismissed the Australians who had imprisoned them – themselves the descendents of convicts – as ‘vulgus est stultum’ (common and irrational) in the words of one scholarly inmate. The fighting stopped in 1918 and many of those who had been rejected by their adopted country began the uneasy process of reintegration. Some simply left. But victory over Germany did little to ease Australians’ sense of vulnerability. While RAN vessels had been given over to British command during the war, the view remained that there were two maritime spheres – the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea on the one hand and the Indian and Pacific oceans on the other. Japan continued to pose a threat in the latter. Indeed its power had been enhanced by the acquisition of German Pacific territories in Micronesia under the post-war mandate approved by the new League of Nations. Joseph Cook was the Prime Minister who approved the transfer of naval command at the outbreak of the war. As deputy prime minister at its conclusion he requested the help of Lord Jellicoe, commander of the British Fleet at Jutland, to review Australia’s security and naval needs. Jellicoe agreed that Japan was a potential threat to British interests and was the most likely

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power to invade Australia despite its allegiance during the war. He resurrected the idea of an Eastern Fleet large enough to deter a powerful Japanese force. He foresaw a significantly enhanced RAN as part of this fleet. Instead of locating small units around the continent’s vast coastline, Jellicoe suggested Australia’s navy be concentrated near the population centres from where it could draw its personnel. In the first instance this would be Sydney Harbour or Port Stephens. As the fleet grew to its recommended strength a western base at Cockburn Sound on the west coast might be built. The recommendations for an expanded RAN and Royal Navy pleased Prime Minister Billy Hughes. His naval advisers urged him to adopt the report. But convincing his fellow Australians of the need to spend so much more on defence after four years of bloodshed and sacrifice was another matter. For their part the British were reluctant to commit to the construction of an Eastern Fleet but agreed to fortify a naval base at Singapore, which would be able to accommodate various existing squadrons – including the RAN. The Admiral’s suggestion of an Australian base at Port Stephens delighted the decentralists. It was also endorsed by the former Captainin-Charge of Naval establishments in Sydney, Lieutenant Commander CH Rolleston. Rolleston’s writings appeared in the mainstream press and the journal of the Navy League, a ‘Voluntary Patriotic Association of British People’ dedicated to promoting the primacy of the navy. Its Australian branches sponsored Sea Cadet Corps and aimed at ‘keeping alive the sea spirit of our race’. Port Stephens was, in Rolleston’s estimation, a ‘really wonderful harbour’. Though Sydney’s harbour was well endowed with dock facilities, it was also congested and busy. At Salamander Bay, within Port Stephens, 30 big ships could be berthed without interference from commercial traffic – while coal and iron was a short distance away in Newcastle. Rolleston’s enthusiasm for the place was such that he went one step further and suggested it should be chosen, over Singapore, as the site for the British Pacific Naval Base. Singapore might be useful to defend the Malay archipelago and India, but was not the best location to deter a Japanese invasion of Australia – the outcome Rolleston thought most probable. Such

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a proposal was never likely to be considered by the Admiralty but it did express the ongoing sense that Australia’s strategic concerns were not necessarily those of Britain. It seems that Rolleston was unaware the question had already been decided at the Washington Naval Conference in 1921. Held principally to resolve the on-going issue of naval rearmament between the British, Americans and Japanese and of achieving a power balance in the Pacific, the Washington Conference produced several pacts. One of them – the Four Power Treaty between Britain, the United States, Japan and France – did away with the Anglo–Japanese Alliance. It set Singapore as the eastern-most limit for British bases, not including Australia; Hawaii as the western-most point for the Americans; and restricted Japan to bases within its home islands. The Conference also reduced the size of these navies. Singapore, as a result, would be a base without a permanent fleet. In the end the Pacific Ocean, it was hoped, might again live up to its name. But speaking in Parliament in July 1922, Prime Minister Billy Hughes thought the Treaty’s ‘guarantee of peace in the Pacific’ would always be fragile ‘while human nature remains unregenerate’. As a Dominion within the British Empire, Australia’s ships were counted among those of the Royal Navy. And so it was decided that HMAS Australia, the vessel that had symbolised the nation’s coming of age just a decade earlier, would be towed from Garden Island out through Sydney Heads to a point some 50 kilometres off the coast and sent to the bottom. This decision was opposed to the end. The mood for more military spending might not have been strong but the destruction of existing ships was something else. ‘One wonders what kind of fools we had looking after our interests at the Washington Conference’, was one question posed. The President of the nationalistic and staunchly white Australian Natives Association wrote to Hughes’s successor, Prime Minister Bruce, relaying the sentiments of ‘nation-wide horror’ and urging him ‘to preserve for us and for generations yet unborn the emblem of greatness which bears our name’. The scuttling had been planned for the Anzac Day, which was already becoming the country’s national day. However, it was brought forward to

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allow participation from Britain’s Special Service Squadron – namely the battle cruisers Repulse and Hood visiting Australian coasts to reassure Australians about the reach of the Royal Navy and the umbrella provided by Singapore. The North Coast Company steamer Pulganbar, loaded with up to 1000 people, was just one of the vessels that headed out to witness the event. The solemnity and sadness was unprecedented for such an occasion. On 12 April, the day of scuttling, the Sydney Morning Herald noted that when ‘the waters of the Pacific shall have closed over her still fluttering flag … Australia will have lost … not only a ship but a sign’. Within four years of considering a dramatic increase in its naval capacity, the Australian Government was now comprehensively reducing it. Activity at Cockatoo and Garden islands was wound down over the course of the decade. The Naval College at Jervis Bay, opened barely a decade before, was closed and the staff and cadets sent to Flinders Naval Depot to save costs. The Sydney, Australia’s most successful warship, was cut up at Cockatoo Island – its forward mast and bow salvaged to adorn the Harbour foreshore. The onset of the Depression made things worse. In 1931, the country had just four active warships and the morale within the service was low. The engines of the seaplane carrier HMAS Albatross were sabotaged by disappointed personnel – though they had been built by Australian hands at Cockatoo. The nadir of naval cutbacks coincided with the rise of a militant Japanese nationalism. Right-wing elements in the Japanese army and navy exploited the long-held sense of injustice against the west and the division of spoils after the war. Opposition was violently repressed and the warrior’s creed of honour and duty applied to all. Japan left the League of Nations in 1933 after it annexed Manchuria. The assumption of total power by the Japanese militarists had not been inevitable but Billy Hughes saw it as a vindication of long-held views: ‘the East, roused from its age-old slumbers, has awakened’ wrote Hughes in his 1934 book The Price of Peace. By then the Australian Navy was again being rebuilt. Two armed sloops were laid down at Cockatoo Island, and the ship that would be the second HMAS Sydney was bought from the British. The Labor leader Jim Scullin

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protested that all Australian ships should be built in Australian yards but the legacy of the long-delayed launch of HMAS Adelaide, seven years in the making at Cockatoo, lingered to shake confidence in local abilities for years.

‘… their front row seat in the Pacific War’ World War II began in Europe, just as the first had done. And despite Japan’s demonstrated expansionism and hostility, Australian ships again sailed around the world in support of Britain. German raiders ventured south to disrupt Allied shipping, as they had in the previous conflict. One of them, the Pinguin, left Bremen in June 1940 loaded with 300 mines. It arrived off Sydney in October 1940, laying mines there and along the Newcastle coast before heading back south to unload more of the explosives in Bass Strait. The Pinguin claimed its first victim when the North Coast Company steamer Nimbin hit a mine off Norah Head on a summer afternoon in early December 1940. Named ‘the tin hare’, the vessel was one of the fastest on the run and was the first of the new stock of Danish-built motor vessels commissioned by the Company. It went down with seven of the crew. Five months later, the Red Funnel fishing trawler Millimumul caught a mine in its net. It exploded as the crew tried to free the thing – seven of them were killed and the trawler sank in minutes. The survivors spent a night in the lifeboat before being picked up by the ‘sixty miler’ collier Mortlake Bank. The faces, names and suburbs of the dead and the five who survived appeared straight away in the Herald giving immediacy to the sense of loss. The boat was the sixth vessel sunk in Australian waters since the war began, and the second off New South Wales. Like the North Coast Company, Red Funnel lost vessels through both enemy action and military requisition. There were simply not enough boats for all the work that came with war. Just as the Brolga, Koraaga and Gunundaal

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The scuttling of HMAS Australia off the coast of Sydney in 1924, photographed by Edward Searle.

were used to clear mines in 1917 so, too, the fishing boats Durraween, Goolgwai, Korowa and later the Nanagai made the transition from civilian vessels to warships in this new conflict. Without these, or the Millimumul, the company had only the Bar-Ea-Mul to trawl for fish off Sydney Heads with crewmen who must have been mindful of the fate of their colleagues. Carlo Caminiti’s successful fishing company lost the Alfie Cam, the Mary Cam, the Olive Cam and the brand new Patricia Cam which gave up its nets for a 20-mm cannon and two machine guns.

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The war became truly global when the Japanese bombed and torpedoed the American naval base at Pearl Harbor on the morning of 7 December 1941. That attack in the eastern Pacific coincided with the invasion of Malaya in the west. The aggression seemed to realise Australian prophecies of an expansionist Japan. The moment of the attacks may have been a surprise but the approach of war had long been signalled by Japan’s aggression in China and its alliance with the fascist powers in Europe. The British battleships HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales were already in Singapore, in accordance with the strategy that had underpinned the construction of the base. The creation of the Eastern Fleet, so long postponed by the Admiralty, finally came about on 8 December. But two days later the two ships were sunk and with them went hopes of the naval defence of Singapore. It was an awful demonstration of strategic and tactical error. The island was taken by the Japanese on 15 February 1942. With the fall of Singapore, the 8th Division of the Second Australian Infantry Force, stationed there to stop the southward advance of any Japanese army, effectively ceased to exist. Nearly all of its members became prisoners of war. From that moment until, at least, the American defeat of the Japanese Navy at the Battle of Midway, Australians lived with the fear of a Japanese invasion. Japanese submarines began prowling the New South Wales coast and anti-tank obstacles were unloaded onto its cities’ beaches. In April 1942, the whole of Australia, and RAN units operating around its coast, were placed within the South West Pacific Area under American command. Hostilities with Japan, therefore, had brought the Americans back to Sydney Harbour and the trans-Pacific ‘cousins’ were united against a common Asian enemy – an alliance many had hoped for back in 1908. Indeed some might have been reminded of the Great White Fleet visit when, in May 1942, the heavy cruiser USS Chicago, the destroyer Perkins and large tender Dobbin sat anchored in the Harbour with seven Australian warships including the cruisers Canberra and Adelaide.

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It was this impressive assembly of naval force that lured three large Japanese submarines, I-22, I-24 and I-27, to the waters off Sydney in May 1942. Such an important naval base was, not surprisingly, well protected. Six outer electrical sensor loops, two inner loops and a boom net guarded against surprise attack. Leisure craft were banned east of the Harbour Bridge and launches armed with depth charges patrolled the harbour within. On the last night of May, the Japanese vessels each launched a midget submarine with the purpose of entering the waterway and sinking the Chicago and as many other vessels as possible. One was caught in the boom net, forcing the crew to self-destruct. The other two evaded detection and, in a night of high drama, 19 Australian sailors were killed when the dormitory ferry Kuttabul was sunk by a torpedo meant for the Chicago. A second submarine was destroyed in the harbour and the third was so crippled that it sank off the northern beaches after escaping the harbour. The attack gave Sydney-siders what, one American officer, called ‘their front row seat in the Pacific War’. A week later residents of both the harbour city and Newcastle became more than spectators when two of the ‘mother’ submarines began bombarding the coast. Ten shells were fired into Sydney’s eastern suburbs, and 17 into the waterfront precincts of Newcastle. The Newcastle Morning Herald had already advised local people of procedures to be followed in the event of a raid. Among other items of commonsense it was suggested that they ‘turn off the gas and the refrigerator … [and] pull down the blackout screens before switching on the lights’. People were advised to ‘muzzle’ the pet dog if taking it to the air-raid shelter, ‘otherwise it might become terrified and bite someone’. When the shells did start thumping in on 8 June, reporter Dymphna Cusack witnessed and described scenes in the shelter for the following issue of the Newcastle Morning Herald: The faint gleam of a torch showed us a group of people already in the shelter. Old women and young; men and boys; tiny children. All absolutely quiet; not a whimper, not a moan. I felt like a ship making port … A shell went over with its crescendo whine. A man near me said: ‘They brought their own music with them’ …

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The gunners of Fort Scratchley returned fire, trying to pick the target by the flash of its gun in the gloom out to sea. It was the first, and remains the only, time a New South Wales coastal fort has engaged an enemy. The attacks on Sydney and Newcastle signalled the beginning of a prolonged submarine campaign along the coast aimed at disrupting the sea lanes that linked Whyalla , in South Australia, to Port Moresby and Darwin, with Sydney in between. As many as 10 Japanese and at least one German submarine attacked ships travelling north or south. No one died when the I-21 shelled Newcastle in June, but the following year the submarine sank the Newcastle-based Iron Knight off Bermagui killing 36 men. Sixteen-yearold John Stone survived the quick sinking and the experience stayed with him until he was an old man: I never got over the side, it just went from under me. I remember getting sucked down with it. How I came up, I don’t know. I got hold of a smoke flare and I thought, “Now if I can hold my breath long enough, I will definitely come to the top,” which I did. But when I come up, I didn’t know where I was and I couldn’t hear a soul and I just yelled out, “Anyone there?” They were bit away from me, on the raft. Then how I managed to … I wasn’t a bad sort of a swimmer and it got me out of trouble.

The attacks were unrelenting through the first half of 1943. In April, I-180 sank the North Coast Company’s pride and joy Wollongbar II with three torpedoes. The ship was taking a load of meat and Norco dairy products to Sydney from Byron Bay but did not get past Crescent Head. One officer, Will Mason, was knocked unconscious and woke up in the water surrounded by boxes of butter. Like the Iron Knight, Wollongbar II disappeared in a moment. Mason clung to a crate until he saw a near-sunken lifeboat. He climbed aboard, bailed water and eventually saved four others. And there they drifted from morning till afternoon, still amidst thousands of butter boxes, watching out for more survivors but finding none before they were picked up by a fishing trawler. There were at least two Japanese submarines operating off the north coast in that week. Three days earlier on 26 April, the I-177 torpedoed the

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merchant ship Limerick south of Byron Bay where it was part of a convoy of five being shepherded by two minesweepers. Tom McLean was a medic on one of those, HMAS Ballarat. He recorded the sinking with dry humour in a secret diary. The seas were ‘rolling drunk with occasional bursts of pile driving to break monotony’. Mclean had put on his Mae West life jacket anticipating the worst when there was a ‘vivid blood red flash’ and ‘a thundering detonation and refrigeration ship Limerick takes a “tin fish” and Ballarat loses her first ship of the hundreds she’s convoyed since commissioning’. It went ‘down to “Davy Jones”’. Convoys had begun in June 1942. They were an anti-submarine tactic tested in the Atlantic by the British. There was safety in numbers when the ships were escorted. In the Atlantic, German U-boats hunted in packs but the Japanese submarines off the Australian east coast operated singly. The steamer Wollongbar II at the Byron Bay wharf, where it was a regular sight, not long before it was torpedoed in 1943.

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They simply trawled up and down the sea lanes waiting for a target. These submarines were large vessels – the I-21 carried a seaplane and a crew of 96. Nonetheless, single subs were hard to spot from the air and the sea. An echo device called the Asdic helped detection underwater and naval officials remained hopeful of success because, theoretically at least, the coastline acted as a ‘fence’ limiting the escape route for the submarine. Despite all this, the sinking of submarines off Australia was rare. Next to Townsville, Sydney Harbour had the most anti-submarine and mine-sweeping vessels stationed in its waters but finding enough convoy escort vessels was still a problem. John Curtin was stating the obvious when he remarked in 1942 that ‘there is a grave shortage of ships everywhere’. In response there was a huge building effort, made all the more extraordinary by the pressure of repairing damaged vessels. There were just 14 warships with five principal support vessels in service when the war began in 1939. At its end the RAN had 153 warships, 67 support craft and 143 vessels requisitioned from their commercial owners. The construction involved yards all around the country. Of the 56 minesweepers that were commissioned as RAN vessels, 19 were built on the New South Wales coast – the majority at Mort’s dock in Balmain. Sydney Harbour was the busiest naval base on the coast. Cockatoo Island dockyard produced three fast Tribal class destroyers, the sloops Parramatta and Warrego II, the frigate Barcoo, two cargo steamers the River Clarence and the River Hunter and an assortment of smaller vessels. Battle repairs included a makeshift bow for the huge, heavy cruiser USS New Orleans, which lost its entire front end to a Japanese torpedo off the Solomon Islands. Truncated and blunted, but miraculously still afloat, the ship was sailed backwards from the Solomons to the nearest heavy dock, in Sydney Harbour. Fifteen US Navy, eleven RAN and nine Royal Navy vessels were repaired at Cockatoo Island. Men and materials from Cockatoo were transported to the liner Queen Mary, anchored mid-harbour, to convert it into a troop carrier. Had the Captain Cook graving dock been ready at Garden Island the conversion may

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have taken place there. But that facility, the biggest engineering project in the country’s history, took well over four years to finish. It was not until March 1945 that it was able to accommodate the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious in March 1945. The Illustrious was, by then, part of the newly created British Pacific Fleet, a successor to the ill-fated British Eastern Fleet established just before the Japanese overran Singapore. It was hoped the new Pacific Fleet would, when hostilities ended, give Britain a crucial presence in the Far East. Sydney Harbour became its base. It was an interesting, perhaps ironic, culmination of decades of indecision and reversals in Whitehall and by the Admiralty regarding the existence and location of an eastern fleet. The war finally brought the navy to Port Stephens – after so many years of wishful thinking. A fort was built on the prominent Tomaree Headland, which dominated the entrance to the harbour and HMAS Assault became a training base for the amphibious landings that were a feature of the Pacific War. The installation was short-lived but at its busiest in 1943 more than 140 vessels were stationed in Port Stephens. Australian and American defence personnel occupied shores that had previously seen just a few holiday-makers. The US Officers were housed in the headquarters of the Game Fish Club while their enlisted men camped in tents near Little Beach and Shoal Bay. Each day men stormed the beaches nearby, rehearsing landings on enemy-occupied islands far to the north. To the south of Newcastle, at Rathmines, the country’s largest coastal saltwater lake became a base for Catalina and Kingfisher flying boats. Three thousand personnel crowded the camp on the shore of Lake Macquarie, while dozens of seaplanes floated out on the water. Aircraft from Rathmines took part in the pivotal Battle of the Coral Sea, which denied the Japanese navy access to Port Moresby. Among them were the long-winged Catalinas, capable of flying vast distances over the sea like the albatrosses they resembled. Aircraft were also stationed at Moruya and Nowra on the south coast and the field at Evans Head, in the far north, was the largest training facility in the southern hemisphere. Defensive machine-gun posts were easily made

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by burying an open-ended iron drum just large enough for a man to stand and turn in. The floor was concreted and a post for the machine gun sunk in the middle. Crews practised their bombing and strafing along the dunes to the north and south before being sent to do the same in Europe and the Pacific. Both allied and enemy aircraft could be monitored at the many radar stations that dotted the coast. Apart from those near airfields there were

Catalina flying boats on Lake Macquarie, c.1944.

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stations at Port Stephens, North Head, Collaroy, Dover Heights, Newcastle’s Ash Island, and Saddleback Mountain behind Kiama. The buildings at the Catherine Hill Bay station were built and arranged so as to blend into the miners’ village that was already there. Improvements to the fortifications in Sydney Harbour, Newcastle and Wollongong were suggested soon after Japan’s invasion of Malaya. Guns at Cape Banks in Botany Bay took the place of the ineffective Bare Island battery, long decommissioned. A second fortification at Newcastle, called Fort Wallace, had been built in 1913 to make good a blind spot in the defensive arc of the Fort Scratchley guns. After the fall of Singapore the range of the guns was altered to take in land targets so that they might engage a force already ashore. Wollongong and Port Kembla were protected by Fort Drummond on a rise behind the long beach at Wollongong, a battery on the Kembla breakwater and another to the south on the prosaically named Hill 60 at Illowra. At Fort Drummond the military occupied an area containing some cottages and a dairy farm. After considerable delays two 9.5-inch guns were installed in a reinforced concrete bunker and test-fired in March 1943. The construction of the Hill 60 battery in 1942 displaced members of the local Aboriginal community. They had used the site to spot migrating fish for generations and, more recently, had established a fishing camp, which supplied local Wollongong and Sydney. It was for them an important place – one that had links to traditional patterns of life while providing the means of economic independence and fruitful interaction with the white community. At other locations residents made their own preparations for an invasion many thought likely. Writer Kylie Tennant lived in Laurieton, ‘a fly-speck fishing village’ on the coast just south of Port Macquarie during the war. She observed as a Great War veteran called Mr Hoschke created ‘a replica of the best and deepest trench ever dug on French soil’. Zigzag-shaped with a duckboard floor and sand-bagged parapet, it was large enough for the airforce to swoop, as if targeting an enemy position. Children, ‘drilled to a hair’, were marched into the hole as if participating in a real raid. In bad weather it

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Tank traps on Stockton Beach, c.1940.

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‘formed a natural reservoir of yellow mud and water and no threats of punishment could keep the boys out of it’. While trench construction had been the work of local men, Laurieton’s women pasted linen soaked in ‘evil smelling glue’ to windows to prevent them shattering in a bomb blast. Swimmers and surfers around Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong had to contend with the tank traps and barbed wire that lined the city beaches from 1942. Hundreds of pyramidal concrete blocks and long wooden poles were placed along the sand and in lagoons from Stockton near Newcastle to Illowra on the south coast to hinder any Japanese attempt at a beach landing. When the Pacific war finally ended in August 1945 these were quickly salvaged and re-used. In December, Wollongong firm JN King and Sons advertised the sale of 1400 timber piles, presumably still useful after three years stuck in sand and saltwater at the ‘Corrimal Tank Trap’. And when wild weather battered the coast in the first few years of peace, dozens of redundant concrete traps helped forestall the erosion of the Stockton ‘seafront’ and the collapse of waterfront gardens and homes in the Sydney suburb of Collaroy. The Collaroy blocks re-emerged in 1967 after waves again eroded the post-war embankments. The pyramids sat on the sand like forgotten relics from a time when coast dwellers readied themselves for attack by sea. Swimmers, surfers and fishers now flocked to the beach and the ocean’s threat came mainly by way of waves and rips, and sometimes sharks. For by then, a post-war decade of unprecedented prosperity, the New South Wales coast had been re-established in the collective consciousness as a place of fun and recreation.

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9: Embracing the coast

‘… what it is to be Australian’ Max Dupain spent his war years devising methods of concealment. As a member of the Sydney Camouflage Group, the photographer experimented with colours and patterns to disguise objects in the landscape and then took pictures from the ground and the air to document the result. Dupain was one of several artists working with camouflage. Indeed, the camouflage group had been established because of the initiative of the art patron and practitioner Sydney Ure Smith who, in the months before the outbreak of war in Europe, approached the Navy to offer the services of his peers ‘for camouflage study’. The Group included defence personnel as well as artists but its chairman was the tireless zoologist William Dakin. The professor had a high regard for the photographer. Their mutual interest in camouflage came from a shared fascination with form and its

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Untitled [Mother and Child, 1937], photograph by Max Dupain from a later print.

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effect on perception. Dakin drew inspiration from the marine creatures he studied – octopus that could shift shape and change colour, and striped fish whose outlines were disrupted by their banding. Dupain had the eye of an artist, and a Modernist at that. Before the war he was taking photographs of machines, buildings, bodies and landscapes in which shape, shadow and line interacted to produce something much more than a documentary record. The beach was a perfect place for exploring such interests both because of its topographic features, and its familiarity – Dupain, himself, was a surf bather. In one untitled study from 1937, sand dunes provided an empty backdrop for two human figures – a nude mother and child. There is a formal association between the undulating dunes and the curves of the torsos. But in this instance the power of the photograph comes less from the composition than its apparent detachment from history. Without clothes to place or date the people, the scene seems intentionally primeval. The similarity to some of Thomas Dick’s posed photographs of Birpai people 30 years earlier is striking. It was as if Dupain’s mother and child were the first inhabitants of the Australian coast, the first of a new coast people. Dupain’s most famous photo was taken that same year. Sunbaker was similarly timeless but far more sculptural. It showed the head and shoulders of a man pressed against the sand. There were no dunes here, just a big sky behind to accentuate the form. In the context of an earlier era the image could conceivably have depicted a shipwrecked sailor washed up with remnant droplets of the cruel sea beading on his skin. But most looking at the uncaptioned photo at the time of its taking would have recognised it as a picture of a beach-goer. For in mid-20th century New South Wales, the cultural currency of maritime disasters was fading rapidly while photographs of swimmers and beach scenes were commonplace. Their prevalence reflected a beach culture that, although recently developed after a long gestation, was well established. The photograph was taken while Dupain was holidaying at Culburra on the New South Wales south coast. The idea suggested itself spontaneously after a friend emerged from the surf and threw himself down on the

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‘Sunbaker’, 1937 photograph by Max Dupain printed in the 1970s.

sand. But the perfect exposure and perspective suggest the taking of this photograph owed more to skill than luck. Unpublished for decades, it was used as the signature image for a retrospective of the photographer’s work at the newly opened Australian Centre for Photography in 1975. The curator of the Sydney show, Graham Howe, chose the photo: ‘I said, “Max this is the one that says Australia. It conveys what it is to be Australian”’. A great many agreed with Howe and the photograph became arguably the country’s

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most iconic image. It was a long way from the flocks of sheep, the bushmen, even the statuesque Anzacs, that had dominated the nation’s sense of self for much of the previous century.

‘To those who are fond of tracing the progress of countries …’ The public reception of the Sunbaker was the culmination of an emotional association with the New South Wales coast that, for Europeans, had begun just over 200 years before. By the 1970s that association was primarily expressed through action – body surfing, board riding and sunbaking – and the aesthetic depictions of these activities in paintings and photographs. Just as ‘beach-going’ as a pastime conveyed what it was ‘to be Australian’, the beach became a definitive landscape. However, before that relatively recent and unequivocal embrace at the end of the 1800s, there was ambivalence about the coast in general. Through much of the 19th century, its place in the collective consciousness of Europeans, as that might be reflected in visual art and writing, was marginal compared to the vastness of the interior with its real and imagined wealth. Images of Australian coastlines and their inhabitants were created in the course of British and French voyages of discovery along the south, west and north of the continent. But having established themselves in Sydney Harbour the colonists had little artistic interest in the scenery, flora, or fauna immediately beyond that home waterway for 25 years or so. The field of view spread only gradually with the establishment of Newcastle as a secondary prison and port. Lieutenant Thomas Skottowe, the commandant there between 1811 and 1814, was, in the estimation of the surgeon William Evans, an indulgent officer. Whether he ‘indulged’ the convict artist Richard Browne is not clear but Skottowe managed to convince his ward to produce more than 30 watercolours of insects, reptiles, birds, mammals and fish,

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as well as indigenous people, from the Newcastle area. To these Skottowe added his own descriptions and observations and lists of alternative names including Aboriginal terms. Completed by 1813 the manuscript was apparently based in part upon the previously published natural histories such as that of Surgeon John White. Skottowe’s lavishly illustrated natural history was an extraordinary record of place and a memento of his service on the fringe of empire. The temporary laxness in the penal regime at Newcastle ended when Captain James Wallis assumed command in 1816. The punishments increased but this did not mean an end to the art – Wallis saw himself as an artist worthy of an audience. His Views in New South Wales was a set of exquisite engravings created by the convict Walter Preston from original works by Wallis and possibly the two-time forger Joseph Lycett. In the absence of purpose-made plates, the images were cut on copper sheets originally intended to protect ships’ bottoms from marine borer. Most show scenes in Sydney Harbour, Port Jackson, but there are rarer views beyond the heads – notably around Newcastle. One of these shows a well-ordered town clinging to the edge of a coastline distinguished by the shark’s fin appearance of Nobbys Island. There was an attempt to depict the distinctive flora as well as recognisable topography, so a grass tree sits alongside what might be ‘anglicised’ banksias. The views were first made available to the local market and advertised through the Sydney Gazette. When Wallis returned to Britain with the plates in 1819 they found a larger audience. The views were published in London in 1820, and again in 1821 with a map of Port Macquarie and surrounds – not long ‘discovered’ by John Oxley. The prints also had a symbolism that would have been obvious for viewers in the colony and in London. In the darkened foreground of one Newcastle view an Aboriginal couple are seen sitting near a fire amongst the rocks and flora. Their presence was typical of the genre. They are there to emphasise the imposition of European civilisation by way of comparison. As much as they evinced an intention to realistically portray the natural landscape, the

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prints were a reassuring account of spreading order. That it was an achievement of which Wallis was proud was clear in the 1821 edition: To those who are fond of tracing the progress of countries … these faithful representations of the incipient state of a Colony, which is in all probability designed, at no very remote period, to become the mistress of the Southern Hemisphere, it is conceived, cannot but be gratifying.

Another extraordinary set of paintings by Lycett show a landscape devoid, for the most part, of any sign of European presence but peopled instead by the Awabakal people going about everyday practices. Lycett must have spent some considerable time in the field to gain the trust of the local Aboriginal people. He witnessed and then painted ceremonies by night. He showed various scenes of fishing and hunting. The artist may well have held to the idea that these first people of the coast were destined to be displaced by the newcomers, but this body of work has no discernible metaphor or caricature to suggest that. There is just genuine interest and apparent respect. So much so that the art has resonated through the centuries inspiring pride and reinforcing culture for the descendants of those first coast people. ‘It’s up to you the reader to judge for yourself these facts’, suggested Shane Frost in 2006, ‘but as Awabakal people we look into every one of Lycett’s paintings and see not just people and landscapes, but our family, living and going about their lives in our country, just as our ancestors have done for thousands of years’.

‘Here will be found breadth, grandeur’ After Lycett’s time, artistic attention turned to the wealth and drama generated in the interior with gold, flocks of sheep in their thousands and forests that stretched forever. And, as it was easy to dismiss the original inhabitants, all was apparently empty and there for the taking. The interior conjured emotion in abundance, for artists and writers – fear, hope, curiosity,

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delight and melancholy. It also helped to define an identity very different from Britannia, ‘ruler of the waves’. As the new century turned, New South Wales, as with all the Australian states, was foremost a ‘land of sweeping plains / Of ragged mountain ranges / Of droughts and flooding rains’ – albeit rimmed, as the poet Dorothea Mackellar conceded in passing, by a ‘jewel sea’. The colonial culture that emerged in New South Wales was distinguished from its British progenitor by a lack of interest in the coast and sea. There are few sailors’ shanties referring to any Australian coastline. Instead ballad and folklore are almost universally set in the interior. The absence is particularly acute in representations of the working coast. There was no colonial equivalent of JMW Turner’s Romantic and picturesque representations of fishers who braved storm and high sea or picked over their catch in baskets on the beach. These people, and indeed sailors in general, are virtually invisible in the art of the colony despite their importance to the small towns up and down the New South Wales coast. They are similarly absent in photography and literature. The writer Louis Becke’s fleeting impression of fishers at Port Macquarie around the turn of the century is interesting as much for its exceptionalism as the manner in which it compares the Australian ‘sailorman’ to his English equivalent: These Australians of British blood are leaner in face, leaner in limb than the Kentish men, and drink whiskey instead of coffee or tea at early morn. But see them at work in the face of danger and death on that bar, when surf is leaping high and a schooner lies broadside on and helpless to the weeping rollers, and you will say that a more undaunted crew never gripped an oar to rescue a fellow-sailorman from the hungry sea.

One obvious explanation lies in the scale of the two places. New South Wales, indeed the continent, had a huge coastline compared to Britain but this meant it also had an interior vastness that captured the imagination. Rather than follow the sterile edge for its own sake, there was a need to see inside so that what had been claimed for empire in the abstract could be measured in detail and exploited.

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Some painters did, of course, depict the coast or aspects of it. There were those labelled ‘marine artists’, such as Joseph Fowles who arrived in 1838 and made his name immediately with a series of ship paintings set around Sydney Harbour. But like other professional artists Fowles followed the market for views and went on to draw and paint mainly buildings and horses. Frederick Garling, by contrast, grew up in Sydney after arriving in the port town as a boy in 1814. He learned his art from the visiting painter Augustus Earle who, himself, created some of the most compelling views of Sydney Harbour and the immediate coast in the 1820s. From the 1830s Garling’s fascination with shipping and all it represented was expressed in his art and he reputedly painted every ship that came into the harbour. Perhaps because of Earle’s tutelage Garling also captured context and, in doing so, celebrated the vitality and drama of the coastal traffic more than any other artist. Robert Marsh Westmacott’s paintings of the south coast in the 1830s and 1840s were late renderings of the earlier topographic tradition, which typified the many views of Sydney Harbour. That he was a military man rather than a trained artist links him to predecessors such as John Hunter and William Bradley – men who travelled in the course of duty and for whom knowledge of one’s natural environment was crucial to success and survival. These officers were fired by curiosity for all that was new around them and they were adept enough with a brush to give expression to that wonder. Westmacott probably sketched and painted as he accompanied Governor Bourke along the south coast between 1834 and 1836 while serving as aide-de-camp. Later, after resigning his commission Westmacott bought land at the Illawarra and undoubtedly became more familiar with the area. His painting of his cottage ‘Bulli’ at Sandon Point is remarkable for its intimacy and its representation of domesticity at the ocean’s edge. The original watercolours that were gathered in two albums reveal a very personal and intimate coast. Eighteen of his views were published in England in 1848. They sit easily within the picturesque tradition of landscape art, where the scene is presented as if it is a picture –­ framed by elements such as trees and full of varied interesting landform and detail.

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Of all, Oswald Brierly came closest to creating the drama of Turner’s seascapes, images such as the realistic Shipwreck (1805) or the more diffuse and abstracted Whalers (1845). Amateur whaling, or a Tale of the Pacific, painted in 1847, was strikingly similar to Turner’s contemporary work in its use of colour and evocation of haze, spray and motion. But Brierly made his paintings as a result of his management of the whaling station. As with Lycett at Newcastle, his pictures were serendipitous in that the artist was present for reasons other than his art. It seems, however, that there were relatively few professional artists in New South Wales who were prepared to travel in search of coastline to paint or draw between the 1830s and the 1880s – the period during which the colony shifted from its penal origins and consolidated its wealth, and identity, with sheep, meat, gold and coal. Making a living as an artist in New South Wales meant portraying what was popular or relevant. There was little apparent interest in the coast as either emblematic landscape or familiar terrain. The exception was always Sydney Harbour. There were dozens of artists, local and foreign, who delighted in depicting that waterway. It may well have been that the accessibility and beauty of the place, the dramatic cliffs and waves at its heads, and myriad coves within, meant there were generally fewer views created of other parts of coast. The harbour might have sucked the subject dry. In the case of Conrad Martens, who lived close to its northern shore, Sydney Harbour offered immediate access to studies of rock, sky and moving water. It was also a good source of sales to those who wanted their harbourside homes or favourite views immortalised. Martens did travel – shortly after he first arrived in 1835 and again following the hard times of the 1840s when he was compelled to seek out commissions. The artist completed coastal sketches of Tahlee House on Port Stephens and down at the Illawarra where the forest and lake were popular subjects. He sketched Coolangatta for Alexander Berry in 1860. But when committing to paint places beyond Sydney Harbour for aesthetic interest or sale, he chose mostly inland grazing runs, lakes, mountains and forests.

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While the picturesque piqued interest, paintings in the Romantic style usually presented sublime scenes that awed with expansive vistas of trees, mountains and rocks. In Oswald Brierly’s Twofold Bay paintings, it was the waves and thrashing whales that were awesome. This art aimed to grip the emotions, inspiring wonder at least – and sometimes horror and fear. Martens studied the 70 prints in Turner’s Liber Studiorum and recommended their lessons to others in a public lecture in 1856: ‘Here will be found breadth, grandeur.’ Occasionally he evoked the sublime in Sydney Harbour. His 1854 painting of the heads during a storm showed the full force of sea at the harbour’s mouth. It was one of four renderings of the scene; three others were completed the previous year. They were Martens’s most dramatic seascapes. The waves in the last work were huge and made more prominent by the crests that were highlighted against the gloom of the sea and sky, so that they almost leap from the paper. The work was sold immediately for the considerable sum of £21. The buyer was wool broker and shipyard owner Thomas Mort who may have appreciated the artwork’s value as a reminder of the dangers of ocean-borne trade that delivered him wealth.

‘The awful emblem of Eternity! …’ Few who had travelled by sea or lived near the coast in the 19th century could have doubted its life-threatening power. While in Britain, Turner captured this in paint Ann Radcliffe, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Lord Byron did most to portray the unforgiving sea in words. In Byron’s epic poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, written between 1812 and 1818, the sea is present throughout as a reality and a metaphor while the hero travels the world as an outcast. The poet and Childe Harold were well known on the Empire’s farthest coasts. ‘Never perhaps did poetic work excite more attention, or receive more general applause’, declared The Australian in 1832, ‘Lord Byron was, by universal consent, considered as the first poet of the age’. Excerpts of

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Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage were reprinted over the course of several weeks in Sydney’s Monitor in mid-1827: ‘… Adieu adieu my native shore / Fades o’er the waters blue; / The Night winds sigh, the breakers roar, / And shrieks the wild sea-mew … For the Romantic, the sea was a free spirit. To contemplate it, particularly from the shore where the elements collided, was to invite profound insight and visceral emotion: ‘There is a rapture on the lonely shore’ declared Harold. The ocean held fascination in Britain, in part, because it was a perpetual wilderness where few such places remained on the mainland. In Australia terrestrial wilderness was abundant enough to fulfil any emotional need for it. Romantic sea verse did occasionally appear in the Sydney newspapers through the middle decades of the century. ‘The Sea’, printed in the Sydney Monitor in August 1840, described a changeable ocean and recounted loss through shipwreck – a real emotion felt by any who knew one of the hundreds lost along the coast: ‘How tranquil seems the Ocean in its Summer sleep! / Upon its bosom pleasure glides along, while yet there weep. / The new made Widow, childless matron, and the Maid bereft, / Of living hope – No vestige of the Barque or Crew its Fury left … Another verse ‘To the Sea’ reiterated the Byronic celebration of the sea as something perennial and greater than humanity. … Live, live on thou lasting one / And tell to ev’ry clime / Distance and time are nought to thee, / For thou art all sublime! Most of these poems were published as anonymous works. Some may, in fact, have been British in origin. Henry Halloran’s verse was definitely written locally and usually accompanied by the poet’s name or initials. He was one of a number of writers and versifiers who gathered around the classically educated patron Nicol Stenhouse in the 1850s. Stenhouse’s harbourside home at Balmain, Waterview House, became a rare meeting place and salon in a city where art and literature found it hard to thrive. Unlike the others, Henry Kendall among them, Halloran had no illusions about leading the life of a full-time writer. He was content to work in the colony’s survey department and write in his spare time. Betraying, perhaps, a professional

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interest in topography, some of his first sea poems are distinguished by their grounding in place. ‘Australian Scenery Bondi Bay’ casts the beach that would become a favourite resort in a typically Romantic frame, with a wide, roaring sea and images of wrecks, while including reference to landmarks such as the headland that was later named Ben Buckler: … Thro’ long vista of embow’ring trees, Which give their sear leaves to the rustling breeze, The wide expanse of Ocean meets the eyeThe awful emblem of Eternity! … … To the north east a frowning headland rears His frowning form, on his rough brow appears The scar of time; magnificently rude, He towers above the deep; the waves subdued, Boil around his base; the many cavern’d shore In flying echoes reiterates the roar …

For his part, Henry Kendall would become known for the bush-orientated verse that appeared in Leaves from Australian Forests (1869) and Songs from the Mountains (1880). He only occasionally referred to sea and coast, despite his family having settled at Ulladulla, in poems such as ‘Kiama’. If they were not painting or writing extensively about their coast in the years up to the 1880s, colonists did visit it for rambles and picnics. The journalist and poet Frederick Sydney Wilson was born in his namesake port town in 1830. In 1867 Wilson asked his readers to ‘accompany’ him ‘on an imaginary seaside stroll’ as he recreated in words the delights and sensations of a ‘rough and tumble scramble’ from Watsons Bay to Bondi Beach. The ocean cliff around from South Head, called ‘The Gap’, was by then widely associated with the storm-driven wreck of the Dunbar and the loss of 121 lives in 1857. Wilson accordingly described the rock face there as a ‘cold pitiless wall of stone’. It was awe and a sense of terror that was most often induced, but at Bondi he fell into contemplation and, in doing so, alluded to the popularity of the beach as a place for lovers seeking intimacy – where natural splendour and privacy inspired passion: ‘Many a time in our boyhood’s days have we sat on yonder ledge, or traced the vaulted recesses of that mass of fallen crag,

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or stood watching those quiet rock-pools; but always with some one to stir the boyish impulses of our hearts, as our feelings for the beautiful have been stirred by the grandeur around us’. With his little travelogue Wilson was laying out the route for other ramblers, encouraging them to take the ‘stroll’ and see the places he was describing. At the end they could catch a horse-drawn omnibus back to town. The beach became much busier when tramlines ended nearby in 1884 and were pushed through to the edge of the sand with the opening of the Bondi Aquarium in 1887. Coogee was connected to the city in 1883. Experiencing first-hand the colour and movement in coastal scenery was better than reading about it or viewing any painting – or so the guidebook publishers Gibbs Shallard and Co seemed to be advising their readers in 1882: Coogee Bay is a fine sight at any time, but when the fierce winds “blow” and whine, the spray rises in white sheets above the rocky reefs in the centre of the bay. Words and pictures fail to describe its awful grandeur. The contrast between the lowering sky, the deep tints of ocean, and milkwhite spray dashed on high are worth travelling the six miles to view.

There was, however, a change underway. The Art Society of New South Wales had just been formed, in 1880, to support local artists still compelled to exhibit their works in shop fronts. While the Art Gallery of New South Wales, then five years old, was initially interested only in European work it began buying Australian art from 1888. The following year Julian Ashton joined the institution as a trustee – the first artist appointed to such a position in Australia. Over the next decade the Gallery acquired several coast studies along with paintings that presented images from the interior – works such as Arthur Streeton’s dramatic Fire’s on Lapstone Tunnel (1891), Tom Roberts’s The Golden Fleece (1894) and WC Piguenit’s Flood on the Darling 1890 (1895). Among the various coast paintings were Donald Commons’s Coast at Ben Buckler (1889), Albert Hanson Low’s Lispings of the silvery waves (1892), William Lister Lister’s The ever restless sea (1892), Julian Ashton’s Terrigal Headland (purchased 1893), and Jessie Scarvell’s The lonely margin of the sea (1894).

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Both Lister Lister and Scarvell used oil paint rather than watercolour and in doing so achieved a depth, detail and luminescence that captured the atmosphere of the empty beach in a manner not seen in the colony before. Lister Lister’s appreciation of the coast might be traced to a childhood at Manly, but his ability to depict landscape with oils was developed abroad after he moved with his family to Europe and Britain. Four years at sea as a ship’s engineer seemingly honed his fascination with the sea. When he returned to Sydney in 1888 he embraced the coast wholeheartedly. The ever restless sea, wrote the Sydney Morning Herald in 1893, ‘marks, as it were, the high water level of art endeavour in this country’. Lister Lister succeeded Ashton on the Gallery’s Board of Trustees in 1900.

‘I wanton’d with thy breakers …’ The reception of The ever restless sea also reflected the height of artistic and popular appreciation of the beach as a place where one could consider the elemental and transformative forces of water and wind that Lord Byron had celebrated 70 years earlier. But while Byron wrote about ‘rapture on the shore’, he also described the sublime pleasure that came from diving into the waves themselves and being caressed by the foam and motion. Indeed through Childe Harold, the poet suggested a sexual union between man and water: … And I have loved thee, Ocean! And my joy Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be Borne like thy bubbles, onward: from a boy I wanton’d with thy breakers – they to me Were a delight; and if the freshening sea Made them a terror- ‘twas a pleasing fear, For I was as it were a child of thee …

In the Britain of 1818 this was an extraordinary image. While Byron’s peers were wallowing in seawater, few were braving the waves from the safety

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Bulli Illawarra, My cottage watercolour, c.1840 by Robert Westmacott.

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Sydney Heads, 1854 watercolour by Conrad Martens.

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296 Coast The ever restless sea, oil painting by W Lister Lister. The apotheosis of a belated colonial embrace of the sublime coast.

This Charles Kerry photograph of children at Coogee in the 1890s typifies the tentative reaction of Australians to the surf in the 19th century.

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The embrace of sea bathing both 9 : E M B R A C I N G T H E C OAST reflected and reinforced a popular rejection of Victorian-era moral respectability. Julian Ashton’s eroticised beachscape emphasised the association between sensuality, surf bathing and the sea. Tamarama, forty years ago, summer morning, oil painting by Julian Ashton 1899.

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This postcard from Manly c.1905 carried the following note from the sender who is apparently present in the photograph: ‘… this a common sight at Manly every Saturday afternoon though not quite as many now as in Summer when there are hundreds of Men and Women all mixed up together, sometimes it is more fun to look at them than to be in the water. Here is another puzzle to find me, but don’t laugh at my short clothes when you do.’ The difference between this scene and the previous one at Coogee only a decade earlier, is marked.

The Beach, oil painting by Elioth Gruner. Ease and relaxation were the tenor of the many beach paintings that followed the opening of the beaches. Elioth Gruner, who studied under Julian Ashton and lived near Tamarama, depicted beaches almost as domestic spaces, so secure and casual are the users. Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts and Charles had painted a calm Coogee beach with promenaders fully clothed and corseted in the 1890s but Gruner’s elegant beachgoers languidly sit, stroll and lie on the sand. For many years, however, this dressing down was only acceptable on the beach itself.

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of their bathing machines. The preference was for flat water and there was plenty of that on the channel coast. That was no less the preference for the men and women who had pitched their tents on the shores of Sydney Harbour in 1788. Those Britons were familiar with the idea, if not the practice, of salt-water bathing. Scarborough had been a seaside resort for a century and Brighton was established enough by 1783 to welcome the young Prince of Wales who became a sea-bathing enthusiast. But bathing, at this time, meant little more than venturing into the shallows to cool off. Faced with a summer heat unlike any they would have experienced at ‘home’, it did not take colonists long to do the same in the sheltered waters of Sydney Harbour, despite the threat of shark attack. Few if any, however, ventured into the surf along the coast. Purpose-built bathing structures were gradually built within Sydney Harbour. The military had a bathhouse in Darling Harbour from 1822 and Governor Darling himself used another on the water’s edge of his Domain by 1827. In the 1830s the Government thought it necessary to protect public decency by banning daylight bathing, first in Sydney Cove and then in Darling Harbour. In 1838 bathing within eyeshot anywhere was forbidden. Those with waterfront land and the necessary funds built private baths but the regulation also created an opportunity for private entrepreneurs to provide screened public bathing areas. By the late 1830s Thomas Robinson and his wife were operating separate men’s and women’s floating baths at Woolloomooloo Bay, on the public part of the Domain. But while the floating facility was screened from the public gaze, it was not enclosed beneath. In 1849 the ‘blue waters’ of the harbour were ‘crimsoned with blood’ following a shark attack there. The bathers stayed away and the Sydney Morning Herald took the opportunity to demand that the government itself should provide bathing facilities, such was the ‘calamitous deprivation’ caused by prowling sharks and so necessary was summer bathing for the public good. The first municipal baths appeared alongside the Domain in 1859. Across the harbour another businessmen, the Englishman Henry Gilbert Smith, saw the potential for creating something of the old-world seaside

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resorts in the new. As a weakly newcomer to Sydney in the 1820s, he followed the commonsense of his homeland and began an exercise regime that included 5 am swims at the Woolloomooloo baths. In the 1850s he used his wealth, derived from land sales, to buy and lease 230 acres of harbour and ocean frontage at Manly. His delight was obvious in the news he sent home: ‘[it] is a fine a thing as you can imagine and it takes in the only ground which has the sea beach on one side and a fine sandy cove on the other’. Smith’s intention was to create ‘the Brighton of New South Wales’ and in time harbour steamers were ferrying hundreds of people across to the place. The bathing enclosure on the harbour beach at Manly was described by the Empire in the cool autumn of 1859 as ‘perfectly safe, secret and commodious providing cold, warm, vapour, shower, with every requisite, and in a style of extraordinary luxury combined with economy, principally with a view to their use by invalids’. The attractiveness of the area received another boost just before Christmas 1886 with the opening of the Manly Aquarium. The place tapped into the growing wonder and strangeness that marine life evoked in the public. Instead of looking at the Australian Museum’s specimens – desiccated fish and bottles filled with murky brown fluid – people could see the ‘Sharks, Seals, Alligators … and fish of all kinds’ actually swimming. The exhibits were designed to both ‘instruct and amuse’. To ensure the latter there were sensational specimens such as ‘Jumbo the Diabolical Octopus’. However a staged fight between a seal and a shark, which evoked the blood sports of an earlier era, was greeted with general disapproval. Two years later there were aquariums at Bondi and Coogee beaches. Henry Gilbert Smith was neither the first nor the last to evoke the name of England’s most famous seaside resort. In the 1880s Thomas Saywell established New Brighton on the western foreshore of Botany Bay and laid a private tram track to take swimmers to the picnic ground, hotel and bathing enclosure on the wave-free beach. It was a great success and the name changed to Brighton Le Sands. But as early as 1838 Wollongong was being touted as ‘the Brighton of Australia’. In 1856, as Smith was building his first

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hotel at Manly, Samuel Russell was establishing the Brighton Bath Company on the Illawarra coast. Wollongong’s reputation was quickly established. Godfrey Mundy stayed at his Marine Hotel in 1859. Wollongong’s ‘salubrious sea breezes and quiet seclusion’, he wrote, ‘have made this little place a sort of sanatorium for Sydney’. The Prince of Wales had made a point of keeping commercial shipping away from the English Brighton. At Wollongong, however, the first tourists must have shared the small boat harbour with the first trickle of colliers. Over the next 70 years mining, then steel manufacture, took over the character of Wollongong and Port Kembla, a short distance to the south, and sea bathing became mainly a way of washing off coal dust and sweat. In 1903 the community at Bulli cut their baths out of the natural outcrop called Floyd’s Rocks. However the association with relaxation did not die altogether. The railway that connected the region to the metropolis in the late 1880s kept the tourist industry alive – just as it undermined the steamer trade. This stretch of coast assumed a dual identity as a place of leisure and dirty, hard work. By 1891 tiny South Clifton, which sat above the sea north of Wollongong, boasted both a coal mine and its own sea pool, ‘hollowed out from the solid rock’ at the bottom of a cliff where it was replenished each day by the tide. A residential hotel with lovely views was built near the station. It was called ‘The Scarborough’ – a name that had almost as much resonance as ‘Brighton’ for that had been the site of England’s first seaside resort. In 1903 the town itself became simply Scarborough. The image of a seaside town with a borrowed name in many ways epitomised the colonial attitude to the coast. There was much that was derivative in this relationship. Just as the British emerged tentatively from bathing machines into the surf-less waters of the Channel, the colonial preference for calm water was manifested in the harbour baths and coastal rock pools. There were even a few bathing machines at Manly, Coogee and Cronulla. By the end of the century, Australians were certainly taking their swimming seriously. But, then, so did the British. Indeed it was the English ‘natatorial’ instructor, ‘Professor’ Fred Cavill, who taught hundreds of colonials

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The still-water bathing enclosures around Sydney produced some of the country’s first swimming champions. Mina Wylie learned to swim at her father’s baths built on rocks next to Coogee Beach in 1907. She represented Australia at the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games, the first to include women’s swimming. She is wearing one of the ‘tight fitting’ Canadian swimsuits that so excited beach voyeurs.

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to swim at the Lavender Bay baths in the 1880s and 1890s. That became one of the reputed birthplaces of the ‘Australian Crawl’ style after Cavill observed the style of Pacific Islanders and tutored his son Dick. And Australian authorities were no less concerned with modesty than their British counterparts. In the latter part of the century, local councils maintained the earlier restrictions on bathing with by-laws that forbade the activity outside of fenced-off baths in daylight hours. Those who went down to the sea in the middle of the day did so fully dressed. However, there was a glimpse of the future in 1818 when Governor Macquarie advised the Commandant at Newcastle to stop people from venturing into the ‘heavy surf’ beyond the river mouth. Too many lives had been lost so everyone was to bath ‘on the beach within the harbour’. It may have been that these early surf enthusiasts were reckless prison guards or their wards but by the early 1840s a vernacular culture was certainly emerging. To bathe was, by then, to have a ‘bogie’. And respectable types, like the young well-born Annabella Innes, were starting to ‘bogie’ in the waves. After the death of her father the teenaged Annabella had moved with her mother and sister to Port Macquarie to live with her uncle Major Innes – the former Commandant of the convict town. His large compound overlooked a lake just south of the Hastings River, within earshot of the thumping waves. Annabella recorded her days there in a journal and from this it is clear that many mornings, in summer and winter, were spent walking to the empty beach to collect shells or bathe in a purpose-made ‘swimming dress’, which she apparently changed into on the sand without a second thought. The feeling that emerges from the journal is one of lightness and freedom – something that contrasted strongly with the general tone of censure that surrounded bathing. These ocean dips were, for Annabella, almost always ‘delightful’. So enthusiastic was she that on one February morning in 1844, when ‘the sea was dreadfully rough’, Annabella and her sister Dido threw caution to the wind and ‘raced down to the water and were soon over heads and ears dashing about’. Shortly after Annabella had her sublime Byronic moment of

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intense emotion when she and Dido were swept up by the waves and nearly drowned. Annabella saved her sister and made it to shore: ‘The moment I felt were we in safety my full animal spirits returned, and I felt – I cannot say how I felt. I could neither laugh nor cry, but I was very happy and thankful’. Laughter from one of the others ‘broke the spell’. The moment of speechless exultation then gave way to sobriety and, with that, the ocean became a heaving mass to be feared: ‘I took one parting look at the sea. The water seemed to boil over the very spot we had been bathing in, which by its formation allowed the waves to rush in on three sides, and sometimes they met with a tremendous crash: it was really quite frightful’. In a colony where morality and fear confined most to calm water out of general view, the seclusion of Annabella’s beach permitted her the freedom to enter waves at least without threat to her respectability. Around Sydney men, and possibly some women, ventured to isolated stretches of sand beyond Manly or Coogee to join the waves – unless they swam at dawn. Having found their private haven they usually bathed naked. In the 1860s the Newcastle authorities relaxed the ban on daylight bathing so that people could venture into the water within view up to 10 am. Corners and crevices in the rocks functioned as dressing rooms. That the beach-goers were changing their clothes implies they were intent upon more than an ankledeep paddle. In any case the conservative Sydney Morning Herald apparently approved because bathers naturally divided themselves along gender lines, women and young children at one end and ‘men and boys … about a half a mile distant’. But resentment at restrictions that limited surf bathing grew. One Newcastle resident referring to himself as ‘Matelot’, a slang term for sailor, made the case for lifting the ban as early as 1865 – in October no less, when the water was still brisk. Significantly he prefaced his letter to the Maitland Mercury with those most passionate lines from Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage that began: ‘And I have lov’d thee, ocean …’ All ‘Matelot’ wanted at Newcastle was the freedom to ‘run’ and ‘take a dip in the breakers’. In the 1880s a sickly boy called Arthur Lowe contemplated the ‘white rollers’ at Many and seemed to channel the spirit of Byron: ‘ a longing to go in amongst

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those waves took hold of me’. From that moment on Lowe eschewed the calm water of the harbour for the sensuous sea he called, tellingly, his ‘briny Bride’. Australian artists were becoming interested in the link between primevalness, sexuality and the sea, just as they were finally representing the contemplative coast. In the years leading up to and following Federation in 1901 the seashore became a place of Arcadian beginnings peopled by youths, girls and sometimes creatures from classical mythology. They suggested a new beginning for a new nation. In 1899 Julian Ashton painted his local Tamarama beach as he imagined it ‘forty years ago’. Five naked and gauzedraped women appear as classical figures – an allusion which justified the eroticism of the scene in the manner of much late-Victorian art. Ashton’s painting stood in stark contrast to the reality of the laws that still prevailed on the beach in 1899, let alone 1859. But in doing so it highlighted the sensuality that nonetheless pervaded associations with summer and the sea. Even more it reflected, in an exaggerated manner, the public revolt against the prevailing ‘wowserism’ that was underway. An Allday Surfing Movement had emerged in Sydney in the 1890s and in the early 1900s public disobedience on Sydney’s beaches successfully challenged daylight bathing restrictions. The ban fell into abeyance. But battles in the press, and on the beaches themselves, continued. The 1903 Manly bathing costume regulations, demanding a neck-to-knee coverage, were typical. Nonetheless the surf beaches quickly filled and sensuality of the newly sanctioned culture was obvious in the descriptions that flowed forth. ‘It is standing up to great breakers of ocean water’ and having them ‘champagne to foam as they break their crests’ that was so refreshing, enthused the writer Frank Fox. The waves gave ‘the meeting body mighty thumps, massaging and bracing the muscles delightfully’. That women seem to have availed themselves of the pleasure as much as men was a source of approving, and voyeuristic, comment. One writer noted that the serious ‘girl surfers’ of Sydney had adopted ‘tight fitting Canadian suits of navy blue with red or white borders … sometimes with good effect. But that depends so much on the

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girl!’ With these clinging wet costumes, Ashton’s Tamarama fantasy was being realised – in part at least. The rapid rise of the Australian pastime of surf bathing, which began on Sydney’s beaches and spread north and south, was revolutionary. Ballina resident Herbert Peake equated the arrival of the practice there in the early 1900s as ‘the first flush of a rosy dawn heralding the delights of a glorious day’ and the end to ‘prudishness’. Bathing also fitted perfectly with a more

The life-saving movement quickly developed a strong masculine culture in which women were often relegated to support roles, particularly before the 1970s. There were, however, some allwomen’s teams such as the Coffs Harbour Jetty Lifesaving Club Women’s Team shown here in 1931. They are demonstrating the ‘reel and belt’ method favoured by many over the use of boards.

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general concern with healthy bodies and the healthy minds that were sure to follow. An article in the nationalistic journal Lone Hand emphasised both the novelty and the good sense of it all in 1910. Australia’s beaches had been ‘the same beautiful harmonies of blue and white and brown as they are today’ since before Tasman’s time, but it was ‘only recently’ that they were being used as the ‘pleasant and healthiest of national playgrounds’. In 1921, another writer, EJ Hill added: ‘We in Australia have won the freedom of the surf for the benefit of coming generations, and having won this right, are never to relinquish it’. The association of freedom with surf bathing would resonate down the decades. Such was the alacrity with which people were entering the surf that drownings were inevitable. Community-based volunteer ‘lifesaving’ organisations emerged quickly from the ranks of the bathers themselves. One group came together at Manly as early as 1899. An official club was formed at Bondi in 1907. Other Sydney beaches followed soon after – so that in future decades the honour of being the first would be debated with a passion that reflected the mythical status assumed by the movement. Byron Bay’s lifesavers take 1905 as their founding date. Newcastle and Wollongong had clubs in 1908, little Austinmer on the south coast in 1909. There were struggles over affiliation that reflected attitudes to bathing attire and the standardisation of procedures with some clubs joining the Surf Bathing Association of New South Wales and others siding with the Royal Life Saving Society, which had its origins in British still-water rescue traditions. Gradually the former trumped the latter and, in the mid-1920s, it became the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia. By then there were nearly 70 clubs in New South Wales alone. The beaches were free in the way that baths were not and much was made of their democratic origins. They became places where social codes of decorum and dress were relaxed and, as such, beaches drew upon centuries of ‘carnivalesque’ tradition in Europe whereby convention was overturned and classes mingled. The willingness to reveal flesh and shapeliness after so many decades of overdressing was remarkable. From the 1920s the statuesque surf

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Harold Cazneaux captured body surfers at the moment of catching the wave. This 1929 photograph is one of those that appeared in Jean Curlewis’s article in the Home magazine of March that year.

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bather and the selfless lifesaver, together on the democratic beach, came to typify ideal elements of the national ‘type’ – vying with the rugged bushman of old. The surf bather embodied the perfect mix of informality and responsibility – just as the heroic and laconic Anzacs had done. But for all the social levelling that accompanied the common state of undress, the beach scene soon adopted other hierarchies; perfect bodies, deep tans, elegant kimonos and bathrobes, prowess in the waves. In Sydney the middle and upper classes who lived in the fashionable harbour and seaside suburbs made the nearby beaches their own and the casual ritual of the morning swim at Bondi or carefree holidays on the sand were featured in that most fashionable of the city’s magazines, The Home. French beachside fashion for women, advertised as summer drew near, betrayed the exclusivity of the smart set, but photographs of bankers and businessmen at ease in their bathers reinforced the sense of equality embodied by the beach. Writer Jean Curlewis grew up in a wealthy Sydney family in harbourside Mosman. Her father was a judge, her mother was the novelist Ethel Turner and her brother, Adrian, became a founding member of the Palm Beach Surf Life Saving Club and a two-time president of the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia. In 1928 Curlewis used The Home to air her own views on the relationship of the beach to the Australian ‘national type’ in an article tellingly titled ‘The Race on the Sands’. She enthused about the democracy that the beach engendered in the city: ‘butcher boys dash on their rounds with towels around their necks … Businessmen come home from the office and go for a dip before dinner as inevitably as men in other cities wash their hands’. Women, too, were part of the new ‘race’: ‘In the kitchenettes, saucepans cool unattended on the gas rings. For in a surfing city recipes always read “Simmer forty minutes while you have your surf ”’. Sydney was a modern Athens by the sea. The beach shaped bodies as much as attitude. Those depicted in the article by the city’s most sought-after photographer, Harold Cazneaux, were ‘sculpted’ by the surf and bronzed by the sun. As a result, claimed Curlewis, ‘the Australian surfer … looks like a young Greek God’.

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‘… carving turns in clouds and disappearing inside barrels …’ The ‘surfing’ that Curlewis referred to was, what would later be called, body surfing – to differentiate it from board riding. The beginning of Australian body surfing can apparently be traced to one person, a Vanuatu islander called Tommy Tanna who worked as a gardener in Manly where he introduced the technique to locals in his time off. In the years before World War II, body surfing was more prevalent than board riding but both forms of surfing were cultural imports from the Pacific. Though few Australians contemplated their relationship with the oceanic region they bordered, beyond fearing naval attack or reading exotic tales, this was a profound gift. For catching waves with one’s body or a board was the phenomenon that transformed a coast culture, which was still appreciably British, into something unique. Manly, it seems, was the crucible of this modern Australian beach culture, just as it had embodied the older British variant when the place served as an Antipodean Brighton. Tanna’s techniques were complemented by Samoan short boards, introduced for body surfing as early as 1906. Hawaiian long boards, able to support a standing rider, arrived shortly after – imported by various individuals including Manly alderman and Tourist Bureau head Charles Paterson. Manly bather Tommy Walker may have acquired his long board as early as 1909. Then, in 1914–15, there was the much-celebrated visit of Hawaiian swimming champion and board rider, Duke Paoa Kahanamoku. Duke’s skills enthralled thousands but his direct legacy was in the instructions and board he left with a young Manly boy called Claude West who went on to inspire the local surfing scene. The sport was immediately popular and tips on board riding and photographs of fellow surfers were a feature of the world’s first surf magazine The Surfer published from 1917. West also promoted surfboards as rescue craft. They were tolerated by club officials in the inter-war years but the preference was for the

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‘reel and belt’ method which depended upon swimming prowess. Though boards were loyally decorated with club colours, and respected figures such as Adrian Curlewis were renowned riders, a discernible divide developed between those who surfed with their bodies and those who balanced on boards. The division became most obvious after World War II. By then the clubs were institutions with lists of rules and regulations, march-pasts and a sense of discipline and duty that was almost military. While this may have suited those who were brought up in the shadow of war it was less palatable to younger beach-goers. The riders the clubs themselves had spawned were increasingly seen as hedonistic and uninterested in community service. By the mid-1960s their ranks had ballooned so that as many as 40 000 people were surfing on boards around the country. Such were the numbers and attitude of the riders in the eyes of traditional ‘clubbies’ and local Councils that they were now a problem to be policed. Segregated areas for riding and a system of board registration and licensing were introduced. To the contemporary social commentator Craig McGregor the schism on the beach was part of a larger cultural divide: ‘This new wave of young Australians has freed itself from the old social mould more completely than any other’. ‘Surfies’ were only one of a number of iconoclastic youth sub-cultures. In northern and eastern Sydney, at least, they were easily distinguished – and distinguished themselves – from their less affluent ‘rocker’ counterparts in the city’s sprawling west. ‘They live near the beaches or in the wealthier suburbs’, observed McGregor, ‘dance at local surf club stomps … affect a summer casualness in dress and heartily despise rockers as déclassé.’ A taut physique came with the pastime. So, too, did the blonde hair, made fair with hours in sun and saltwater. Hair became such a signifier of the subculture that when the natural elements failed, chemicals were used to enhance the effect. New surfboard technology came from the American west coast where the influence of Pacific culture, the Hawaiian in particular, was no less apparent.

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The Malibu board took its name from the Californian beach at which its originators experimented with materials made available by wartime industry. The long, light boards of fibreglass and styrofoam they designed revolutionised the sport there and in Australia where enterprising board makers soaked up the new ideas and applied local skill to shaping the platforms. Often the shapers were riders themselves and skills were passed from father to son. Scott Dillon was taught to surf – on a wooden board – by his father, a member of the Bondi Life Saving Club. He began making foam and fibreglass boards with a friend in a back-lane shed in Bondi. Dillon joined an existing band of board makers and local innovators like Gordon Woods who had been among the first to adopt the previous best models made from balsa with fins that allowed them to turn in the surf. By the late 1950s Dillon’s business was in Brookvale, near Manly. That suburb would become a hub of Australian manufacture. As annoyed as the ‘clubbies’ and local councils may have been with the riders, the surf subculture found favour with advertisers and the media. In a country that still defined itself as white, the combination of muscle, tans and blonde hair was hard to resist. And surfers were a growing and relatively affluent market. Advertisements helped launch Australian Surfer magazine in 1961. Manly surfer and entrepreneur Bob Evans saw the popularity of American surf films and made two of his own, Surf Trek to Hawaii and Midget goes Hawaiian, before starting another local surf magazine called Surfing World in 1962. Sydney surfer Bernard ‘Midget’ Farrelly was the star of Evans’s second movie. His victory in a surfing competition in Hawaii that year made him a local hero and the country’s first international champion. For Craig McGregor, Farrelly epitomised the new generation: Americanised, individualistic, ‘freewheeling’. To the Collaroy surfer Robert ‘Nat’ Young, Farrelly was an idol, a friend and then a rival. Young was born in 1947 in Auburn – one of the city’s western suburbs surrounded by acres of bitumen and concrete. His parents worked hard in a corner store and managed to save enough to buy a large house backing on to the beach when their son was still small. As Young

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‘“Midget” Farrelly, Australia’s first world champion surfboard rider’, photograph by Jeff Carter, 1964.

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recalled in his autobiography, the move and the house put him ‘in a perfect position to become a surfer’. He acquired his first board in 1957 – a Malibu so long, compared to the boy that rode it, that Young acquired the nickname ‘The Gnat’, which became simply Nat. Like Farrelly, Young’s talent took him to Hawaii and won him a world championship in 1966. It brought him sponsorships and ultimately a career as surfer and board maker. He became a legend in the manner of surfing mythology and earned another nickname ‘The Animal’ for the way he could ‘rip’ a wave. Young’s obsession with the ocean took him down the coast to Wollongong and north to Queensland. In northern New South Wales he discovered the surf around the headlands of Angourie, Lennox Head and Byron Bay, as others from down south and further north were doing. In the course of these travels Nat Young encountered other figures pivotal in the development of the sport. Bob McTavish and the ex-patriot American George Greenough worked with him to make a shorter board that would capture the energy of the wave itself. There was already a surf culture on the north coast, one that grew out of the local clubs as had occurred in Sydney. In Port Macquarie a young Rob Parker was so impressed with the first fibreglass Malibu he rode that he persuaded his mother to spend the child support money meant for clothes and food on a Gordon Wood board that arrived on a bus from Brookvale. That was around 1960. The short boards he saw at Angourie a few years later amazed him again: ‘I just remember sitting at the headland at Angourie and watching those guys [Greenough and McTavish] carve tracks in the waves … It was jaw dropping stuff’. ‘Power surfing’ on shorter boards was fast, exciting – and a home-grown product of the Australian east coast. Young won the 1966 World Championship on a board that was thinner and more than a foot (0.3 metres) shorter than the long, slow American types. He took his ‘quiver’ of boards to Hawaii in 1967 and impressed the locals at Maui. The boards kept getting shorter, sharper and faster, in Australia and the United States. Young won the 1970 New South Wales State Championship at North Narrabeen on one that was

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Albert Falzon’s photograph of Nat Young power surfing at Lennox Head c.1970 typifies the action image in the new surf photography. next page

The surfer as Byron’s Childe Harold. The representation of surfers pensively contemplating the ocean was a significant aspect of the new surf photography of the late 1960s and 1970s. Albert Falzon’s portrait of Nat Young is a classic of the genre.

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Anne Zahalka’s photography has frequently reworked iconic Australian images in a manner that questions the content of the original. She responded to Dupain’s ‘Sunbaker’ with a similarly posed shot featuring a redhaired woman. ‘Jewel of the Shire’, 2009, was taken in direct response to the ‘riots’ at Cronulla.

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less than six feet (1.8 metres) – smaller than the man who was riding it. The proportions were very different from those that inspired the surfer’s nickname 15 years earlier. There was a radical change in surfing sensibility as well. As muscular as the style of the ‘new era’ was, Young characterised it as a cerebral shift: ‘Surfing is in the mind, more so than in the body’. In 1966 he was referring to the pursuit of perfection and limits, putting oneself ‘deeper and deeper reaching for the maximum’. Over the next few years this quest became less driven by competition than personal fulfilment. Where the ‘new era’ pushed the limits of the physics of the sport, ‘soul surfing’ blended that with a desire to push perception and embrace nature. From the late 1960s through the early 1970s, surf culture evolved as part of the late blossoming of Romanticism that was the counter-culture movement. It was hardly surprising for, more than most, surfers were immersed in the elements. They could read the wind and water and determine what the ocean might do. Surfers were propelled by the power of nature itself. The ethos was embodied in Tracks magazine, launched in 1970 on Sydney’s northern beaches by two pioneers of surf photography in Australia – Albert Falzon and John Witzig. Tracks was counter-cultural and iconoclastic in the way that earlier magazines were not. Their surf photography from this era reflected this essentialism – pensive young men contemplating their element, tousle-haired and casual. Tiring of the pressure of competition, Nat Young became Australia’s most famous soul-surfer. In 1969 he bought an old farm near Byron Bay. The veranda on the house had been designed to keep out the heat but with that went the light. For those who had built it, the place was a retreat from the elements. Young wanted to open it up as much as possible. He knocked out a dividing wall, painted the darkened interior white and moved the bedroom out onto the veranda. There the bed was elevated to the height of the window so that the surfer ‘could see the beach-breaks at Tallows’. Like others in the counter culture, Young also experimented with drugs which he used these to enhance his experience of the sea:

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One day I swam around the furthest rocks off Broken Head and back to the beach and then surfed for the rest of the day, feeling as though I was carving turns in clouds and disappearing inside barrels for hours on end. Right on dusk I went into a tube where everything went dark and time was suddenly suspended; when I emerged night had fallen. I’d no idea how long I’d been inside the tube – hours, days …

It was, perhaps, a glimpse of ‘the image of Eternity’ that had transfixed Lord Byron’s Harold when he contemplated the ‘endless’ sea. That such a thing happened near the Cape that James Cook had named after the poet’s seafaring grandfather, adds an historical symmetry to the poetry of the moment. Nat Young was one of the surfers featured in Falzon’s quintessential soul-surfing film Morning of the Earth in 1972. The film’s by-line was ‘One ocean once covered the world, it was the Morning of the Earth’. The primevalness of this idea echoed the sentiment in Max Dupain’s photo of the mother and child; beach culture was an elemental culture. Morning of the Earth took audiences on an odyssey from the semi-tropical north coast of New South Wales to Bali, then hardly explored by western tourists. In doing so it opened the eyes of many young Australians to an apparently paradisiacal Asian culture on its doorstep. What followed was an extraordinary cultural interchange between the two places based, in large part, upon beach culture. In time thousands of tourists followed the surfers. For a nation that had so long feared its northern neighbours, Bali became a playground for Australians and the ideal face of Asia.

‘… I always encroach on their territory’ Competition did not die with soul surfing in the 1970s. Indeed the era of professionalism was just beginning. The number of competitions and the size of the prizes grew so that some would come to sustain careers as surfers. Professionalism was accompanied by the integrated marketing of surf

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brands – boards, clothing and accessories. Sydney’s northern-beaches surfer, Terry Fitzgerald, the ‘Sultan of Speed’, embraced both developments. One of the first to compete professionally, Fitzgerald did so while selling boards branded Hot Buttered from premises in Brookvale. American clothing companies such as Lightning Bolt competed with Australian brands Rip Curl, Quicksilver and Billabong. Sydney surfer and shaper Shane Stedman made a sheepskin boot to offset the seasonal winter downturn in his board sales. He registered the trademark name ‘Ugh Boot’ in 1971 and, by the 1990s, the footwear was fashionable on Californian beaches. When the lucrative International Professional Surfers tour began in 1976, Australians were dominant for the first decade. Newcastle-born Mark Richards won four consecutive titles between 1979 and 1982 and came to epitomise professionalism in the post-soul era. Newport surfer Tom Carroll survived the aggression that characterised surfing at north Narabeen and won the next two titles. The imagery of the sport that had developed by then, in advertising and the distinct genres of surf photography and film, was overtly masculine. Women were incidental or featured as the latter-day counterparts of Julian Ashton’s Tamarama bathers – eroticised beauties in bikinis. The passivity of the ‘surf chick’ belied a history of participation that extended back to the beginning of board riding. Teenager Isabel Letham shared a board with Duke Kahanamoku in 1915 and took up the sport when he departed. Letham was not alone and the first issues of The Surfer were replete with references to women on boards. Sydney surfer Phyllis O’Donnell won the women’s World Championship in 1964. But whereas that competition made Midget Farrelly famous, O’Donnell’s achievement sank into relative obscurity. Something happened in the late 1960s and early 1970s to make women vacate the surf. Possibly the strength and speed that characterised the ‘new era’ of power surfing turned that part of the sea into a male domain – so that machismo ruled the waves. That there was a ‘wild energy’, and often extraordinary aggression, in the culture through the 1970s and into 1980s has been widely acknowledged.

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In the late 1970s Gabrielle Carey and Kathy Lette wrote a fictionalised account of the surf culture they had experienced and observed as teenagers throughout that decade. Published in 1979, Puberty Blues was a raw depiction of the relationship between surfie boys and girls in the southern Sydney beachside suburb of Cronulla. The book immediately assumed the status of documentary record, in part because it was set in a real place but also because the experiences and attitudes it recounted resonated with readers. Later Carey declared it to be ‘totally autobiographical’. While it was a Cronulla story, Puberty Blues was accepted as an exposé of the subculture of teenage surfers more generally. It had an anthropological insightfulness that was grounded in personal experience and it laid out the subculture’s hierarchies as these were reflected in clothing, ethnicity, territory and, most particularly, gender. Under-aged sex – barely consensual and sometimes not at all – had been a feature of the surf scene for years. Described vividly in this novel by the two main female protagonists, it was shocking. The surf culture they were immersed in was as patriarchal as the old club culture from whence it emerged: There were three main sections of Cronulla Beach – South Cronulla, North Cronulla and Greenhills. Everyone was trying to make it to Greenhills. That’s where the top surfie gang hung out – the prettiest girls from school and the best surfies on the beach. The bad surfboard riders on their ‘L’ plates, the Italian family groups and the uncool kids from Bankstown (Bankies) swarmed to South Cronulla – Dickheadland … Off went the boys into the big, blue sea. Sue and I sat there on the sand … folding his clothes into neat little piles …watching him chuck endless re-entries. ‘Didja see me kneel?’ ‘Yeah it was great.’

The novel concludes as the girls take to the waves themselves – rejecting the rules of the ‘top surfie gang’ they had courted for so long. ‘Yews chicks are bent,’ is the disgusted response of one surfer as he heads out to the water. The surf, which had symbolised exclusion, is reclaimed in the name of equality – and freedom. Surfing’s chauvinism dissipated to some extent in the following decades just as it did in the broader society. Puberty Blues, the novel and the film that

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This photograph c.1990 shows Isobel Letham, centre right, with one of the boards she rode during Duke Kahanomoku’s visit. Pam Burridge is standing next to Letham.

followed it, may have had some part in that transformation. Women began competing in the IPS competition in 1977. The South African-born Australian Wendy Botha and Sydney surfers Pam Burridge and Pauline Menzcer dominated that competition between 1989 and 1993. Manly surfer Layne Beachley won six straight titles between 1998 and 2003, and an unprecedented seventh in 2006. In 1998, when she first became world number one, Beachley had the option of participating in 13 international women’s events.

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As a girl Beachley eschewed the local surf club though, by then, the life-saving movement had, itself, transformed so as to embrace the involvement of women and girls. Beachley wanted the waves that broke outside the flags. And when she encountered a residual masculinity there, she refused to be denied the right to surf: ‘There were some supportive guys, but some felt very threatened and intimidated by a very tenacious, determined blonde surfie chick … I stand up and fight… I wanted to be the best surfer, and to surf with the best guys was going to teach me … so I always encroach on their territory’. Territorialism and male anger were acted out in a real-life reprise to Puberty Blues in December 2005 when Cronulla Beach and the streets around it were the scene of running battles between thousands of young AngloAustralian men and those they determined to be ‘Lebanese’. The spark had been a reported assault on local lifesavers – long revered for their community service. However, the intensity of the violence, the numbers involved and the slogans displayed suggested a deep-rooted sense of ownership of the beach that was at once local and broadly cultured. Cronulla is one of Sydney’s less ethnically diverse suburbs. Comparatively few of its residents have been born overseas or are of non-Englishspeaking descent. But by virtue of its train link to Bankstown, the suburb has long been a threshold for the immigrants’ initiation to the surf. The ‘Italians’ referred to in Puberty Blues were among the first, those from the Middle East were the most recent. Cronulla, as the authors of Puberty Blues suggested, had also long been a place of hierarchies. However, while in the 1970s the Italians and the ‘Bankies’ knew their place at the far end of the beach, the newcomers brought their own style of assertive masculinity to the place – one which did not defer to the ‘casual’ culture of surfing, swimming and sun-baking. Muslim youths reportedly insulted women – not for surfing but simply for wearing bikinis. And then there were the large family groups that ‘monopolised’ areas of beach and park. In the words of one Cronulla board rider, who condemned the violence enacted by his peers, the behaviour of the visitors was also disrespectful and

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hostile: ‘they just seem to be so angry, do you know what I mean? … we don’t own it [the beach] we just live here … But at the same time, if you come down … its gotta be like a respect, a mutual respect, you know’. As the anthropologist who elicited this response concluded, ‘Here the beach was the arena for enacting belonging and assimilation into Australian culture’. Deference to the pre-existing beach culture, presented as common courtesy, was paramount. That many of those who waved the flag and fought came from as far away as Newcastle suggests that Cronulla and its beach became a place that symbolised an ideal and, therefore, a place to make a stand against the ‘intruders’; a place to defend a way of life. The larger backdrop to this tension was the ‘global war on terror’, in which Australia was a high-profile participant and, through which, the ‘difference’ of Middle Eastern immigrants was highlighted in the minds of many. The ‘war’ had become very real in 2002 when 88 Australians died in two bombings on Bali. Another bombing, which killed and injured 23 more, occurred in October 2005 – just two months before the riots. That the terrorists on both occasions had been Islamic and the victims were targeted as holiday-makers at the country’s favourite overseas surf beach added to the distinction between carefree ‘Aussies’ and angry Muslims. The ugly events at Cronulla were, then, a complex climax. The international media, particularly in Asia, simply saw a latent racism and the legacy of the White Australia Policy – then more than a quarter of a century past. Images of the beach as battle-ground were unfortunate for those charged with attracting overseas tourists to Australian shores. Scenes of ‘whites’ waving Australian flags and placards declaring ‘We grew here, you flew here’ hardly accorded with Australia’s much touted beach-based egalitarianism. But as those images faded, Tourism New South Wales took the initiative and launched the ‘Catching the Wave’ campaign aimed at capturing the growing market for ‘surf tourism’. It was based upon the premise that the world saw Australians as a surfing people and so did Australians themselves: ‘surfing is quite simply part of the national identity’. The idea was well-founded. Bondi Beach had been promoted to the world since the 1930s

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and was, by now, the most famous strip of sand on the continent. In 2007 an estimated 2 000 000 Australians went surfing, at least once. Many did so in Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia but New South Wales had the largest ‘resident population’ of surfers and 77 of the top 100 ranked surf beaches in the country. By 2010, six of these beaches had been protected as ‘surfing reserves’ in recognition of their iconic status. Angourie, and Crescent and Lennox Heads were included, as was Merewether Beach at Newcastle. So, too, was Cronulla.

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‘… lead the lives of water-babies’ The beach that the Cronulla and Bankstown boys fought over was, of course, originally Aboriginal land – specifically that of the Gweagal whom Cook had encountered just to the north at Botany Bay. It was far enough away from Sydney town for these people to remain largely undisturbed into the 19th century, long after Cook claimed their beaches and everything else along the coast for his King. But the Gweagal must surely have known they were losing ground by 1815 when the first European, a sea captain called John Birnie, built his home at Kurnell on the end of the peninsula. By 1828 it was the Connells, John Snr and John Jr, who owned most of the area with a collection of grants and purchases, Birnie’s farm included. The name Kurunulla first appeared on a map in 1840. An Aboriginal word of uncertain meaning, it possibly referred to the pink shells to be found on the beach. But it may also have been a corruption of the name ‘Connell’ – the men who claimed the land and cleared the forest.

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Some Aboriginal women married white men and their descendants lived on in the area. Indeed many indigenous families remained along the Georges River, just to the north, and its tributaries. They survived on riverfront land no one else wanted or claimed, often making a living by fishing. One couple, the Malones, built a house on Weeney Bay across the peninsula from Cronulla’s ocean beach and next to the Connell’s land. Their son John, who learnt the south-coast language of his Aboriginal mother and helped to draft a vocabulary of Dharawal words, lived on the bay until the 1880s. As was so often the case with those who survived the break-up of Aboriginal groups, Malone was described as ‘the last of his tribe’, although he had two children of his own with a Shoalhaven woman called Lizzie. After the 1860s the largest land-holder from Botany to Cronulla was Thomas Holt – wool merchant, politician and entrepreneur. His property included Cook’s landing places at Kurnell and Holt dutifully erected an obelisk memorialising the spot. To mark his own importance he built Sutherland House, a large, fortress-like home overlooking the Georges River at Sylvania. It matched the castle he already owned above the Cooks River, just west of Botany Bay. In the bay below Sutherland House, Holt employed local Aboriginal people to help cultivate his oysters. The big house there was obvious to the many who passed along the Illawarra Road on their way to Cronulla which, by the end of the 1880s, was a resort destination with a bathing machine and a hotel. There were delicious oysters too, but none of the crowds of Manly or Coogee. In October 1889 the Illustrated Sydney News described the place as an ‘as yet undiscovered spot’ where Sydney people might enjoy themselves ‘free from the restraint’ that accompanied the more populous beaches. At Cronulla, enthused one travel writer, ‘pleasure seekers … can lead the lives of water-babies’. By then the Malone family appear to have lost the piece of the Weeney Bay waterfront they had occupied since 1831. In 1884 title passed to their neighbour John Connell who had been contesting it from the very beginning. His original six hundred hectares were apparently not enough. John and Lizzie’s descendants moved across to Kogarah Bay to join other Aboriginal

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people who were trying to hold on to patches of waterfront that might sustain them. These communities petitioned the government, sometimes successfully, for boats and schools. Others who had been dispossessed of their land to the south of Sydney were settling at La Perouse on the northern sandhills of Botany Bay. Their ‘illegal camp’ was sanctioned in 1895 as an Aboriginal Reserve. By keeping the ever-mobile community under a watchful eye, the authorities hoped to centralise and ‘stabilise’ them. The peninsula above Cronulla Beach was subdivided in that year and a steam tram – the forerunner of the train – connected the place to the main line in 1911. The daytrippers came in ever-increasing numbers and so, too, did the house seekers keen to lead the ‘lives of water-babies’ with a home near the beach. It was a ripple that turned into a wave as the century ended. Then the phenomenon was given its own name – ‘sea change’. In Cronulla, flats replaced most of the old guesthouses by the 1960s and 1970s. By 2010 the median house price there was $1.25 million. It was not the most exclusive beach address in Sydney, but property values were twice those in Bankstown.

‘… beautiful place on the shores of the Pacific’ Thomas Holt’s Sutherland House loomed above little Gwawley Bay on the lower Georges River where he had some canals dug to begin his oyster farming enterprise. But the views probably extended further out to Botany Bay. Indeed, panoramic prospect seemed to be the governing principle behind the bizarre design. A wide veranda ran between two tall square towers and battlements lined the entire roof and the towers. The house had up to forty rooms and was so big and so close to the water that, in 1911, the Government considered acquiring it for use as the Australian Navy’s new College – although that was finally established at Jervis Bay.

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The first residence built with a veranda and water views in New South Wales was probably Wharf House, the home of merchant Robert Campbell who developed a successful business on his own wharf and cove on the west side of Sydney Cove. That was 1802. Government House, which overlooked the same cove and pre-dated Campbell’s house, did not get its veranda until 1809 just in time for Governor Macquarie’s residency. Macquarie would soon loathe the dampness of the place but the combination of extension and outlook at least was described in glowing terms by his colleague Ellis Bent in a letter home to his mother in March 1810: ‘Government house is very pleasantly situated & commands a charming view of the Cove & Town … In Front of it there is a very excellent covered way, which shades the House very much … ’ The difference between these early establishments and Sutherland House was their proximity to the town. Holt’s house was suburban and, by 1878 when it was probably built, part of an established trend in Sydney for peripheral living. Before Australia’s first suburb began to develop on Woolloomooloo Hill to the immediate east of the town around 1830, officials and the well-to-do built outlying villas. They were ‘villas’ because they evoked Roman antecedents – country properties that nonetheless allowed their owners to carry on business and politics in the city. Closeness to nature was important and so the word ‘sylvan’, referring to forest, was often used to describe the villa settings. This, of course, was the origin of ‘Sylvania’ where Holt chose to build his house. The Romans also built villas near the sea. Tiberius’s dwelling on Capri, ‘Villa Jovis’, was perhaps the most famous and notorious. Far removed from the intrigue of the capital and the attendant threat of assassination, it was also a place for lasciviousness away from the public gaze. The British took to this type of villa as well – to avoid the smells of the city and to enjoy the freedoms that proximity to the sea seemed to excite. The Prince of Wales’s villa at Brighton gained a fame and notoriety of its own. Between 1787 and 1815, when John Nash began to transform it into an Indian fantasy, the Prince’s ‘Marine Pavilion’ showed its classical inspiration clearly with a

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semi-circular columned porch in front of a domed rotunda, flanked by symmetrical wings. Sydney got its first ‘marine pavilion’ when Henrietta Villa was built for John Piper, the Naval Officer in charge of import duties, between 1816 and 1822. Also called a ‘naval villa’, because of the position of its owner, the completed house was probably the work of Henry Kitchen, a young Londonbased architect. But it may have been commenced by Francis Greenway, the colony’s newly appointed architect. It was that position that Kitchen had hoped to fill when he arrived in 1816. The finished building was decidedly classical in appearance. Situated on a point in the eastern harbour with views to the heads and back to the west it presented two fronts to the water, from where it was most often seen. Two domes, each rising above a pedimented bay, were joined by a V-shaped, columned veranda. Piper’s ‘marine pavilion’ faced the water where, in fact, the Prince’s did not. Joseph Lycett depicted the villa in its setting in the early 1820s and included the image in his set of coloured engravings of colonial scenes published in London in 1825. The accompanying text read: ‘A more suitable spot could not have been chosen for the residence of the Naval Officer on station, as every vessel arriving in the River, or sailing out of it, must pass within sight of Captain Piper’s Villa’. The location allowed the Captain to survey ‘his’ waterway. Both the watery outlook and the building’s appearance from the waterway gave aesthetic pleasure. Lycett noted that it ‘commands delightful view both ways’ while another artist Augustus Earle found it a ‘tasteful’ addition to the harbour: ‘The first pleasing object which breaks suddenly on the sight after having entered the Port is Point Piper … the elegance of the building [is] a work of art’. It was obvious that Henrietta Villa symbolised civility on a recently settled shore. Along with the newly built lighthouse, the house established Sydney as a place of consequence. The harbour’s wealthiest resident also maintained that association between excess and the marine pavilion, affirmed by his Prince at Brighton, with some of the most extravagant parties yet enjoyed in the colony.

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By the middle of the century Sydney Harbour was dotted with marine villas. Many so-named were built in what could easily be called suburbs. In Balmain, the water provided a pleasant outlook, some relief from smells and heat and easy means of travel. There the tellingly named Waterview House was a marine villa by virtue of being accessible by water rather than by any design characteristic in the manner of Piper’s pavilion. Carthona, by contrast, was intimately connected to the harbour in the manner of Piper’s house. It was purposefully and dramatically positioned at the water’s edge on Darling Point, which was adjacent to Point Piper. Carthona’s owner, the Surveyor General Sir Thomas Mitchell, chose the name, the location and the design in order to create a profoundly Romantic impression. Carthon was both Gaelic for ‘murmur of the waves’ and the name of a heroic character in one of the several popular 18th century poems ‘written’ by the fictitious Scottish bard Ossian. The villa’s name was probably Mitchell’s idea – he was certainly proud of his Scottish ancestors of high birth. But Mitchell simply took the other elements from architectural pattern books, available from the 1830s to advise the British bourgeoisie about the style and position of various villas – marine, cottage or rural. Weary merchants or administrators might also frequent waterside retreats for rest and recreation on the outskirts of town. One such place, at the junction of Botany Bay and the Cook’s River, was offered for sale to any ‘small Family of respectability’ in the Sydney Gazette in September 1831. It was described as a ‘genteel, neat and compact marine cottage residence’ featuring ‘four good rooms’ with a ‘butler’s pantry’ and ‘out-offices’. Its classification as a ‘marine lodging’, of course, derived from its other features: the house was ideally situated for ‘shooting, fishing or marine excursions’; there was the picturesque scenery with ‘the estuary, the sinuosities of the Cook’s River, Botany Bay, the view of the ocean …’; and there was possibility of sea bathing. The place sat next to Botany Bay and had facilities for ‘hot, cold or medicated baths’. It was, the advertisement declared, ‘a convenience particularly desirable in Australia’.

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Out there the owners would have been neighbours to a variety of people – fishermen, shell-gatherers working for the nearby lime works, and Simeon Lord’s cloth factory. All these may have added to the picturesque interest for a ‘respectable couple’. Their presence certainly did not deter the wealthy merchant Alexander Brodie Sparks from building his suburban marine villa, Tempe House, nearby on the Cooks River in 1836. Whereas Mitchell looked to a romanticised Scottish heritage to name his abode, Sparks borrowed from classical mythology – specifically the beautiful Vale of Tempe where muses would gather on the Pineios River which flowed to the Aegean Sea, just as the Cooks River emptied into Botany Bay. Presumably Sparks imagined himself as Apollo. He commissioned Conrad Martens to paint his new home in its setting and confirm the allusion. Lord’s factory was nowhere to be seen. Where Mitchell consulted pattern books that were perhaps not available to Sparks, the merchant enlisted the services of the colony’s foremost architect, John Verge. He created a pavilion-like villa with two curved, columned porches not dissimilar to the single front porch of the Prince of Wales’s original marine pavilion. Indeed the Prince of Wales’s feather insignia appeared in plaster above each porch, although the extravagant George of Brighton had been dead six years. The Sparkses lost their fortune in the crash of the 1840s, which affected many of the colony’s affluent merchants and administrators. Several were forced to give up the lavish homes they had financed with borrowed money. Their problems were in part caused, then compounded, by land speculation. Prices had soared by the end of the 1830s only to tumble in the early 1840s when the economy went bad. Then, wealth based upon property meant little. Colonial architect Mortimer Lewis was caught up in the crash. He had bought land above the beach at Nelson’s Bay just south of Bondi. Around 1841 the estate was thought be worth more than £4000, in 1843 the politician Robert Lowe purchased it for £420 with Lewis’s incomplete cottagevilla included. Lowe and his wife Georgiana finished the house, possibly using Lewis’s design and adding elements of their own. It was a stone villa in a Romantic picturesque style with turrets and a veranda with views down

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the coomb, or small valley, to the sea. They called their home Bronte House and, in time, that was the name given to the beach below. Georgiana established a productive and beautiful garden and painted several watercolours of her estate. That she loved the place and looked at it with an artist’s eye is evident from correspondence home to her mother: We have bought a little estate of forty-two acres, four miles from Sydney, on the sea; it is lovely beyond conception … The scenery resembles Jersey, but is far more beautiful – the vegetation is so lovely … we have a waterfall of sixty feet … it is a most romantic spot and just suits my tastes.

Georgiana took to riding along the coast and earned the nickname ‘The Black Angel’ because of her dark flowing cape. She made the trip from Wollongong to Bronte in one day. Just how much of the scenery Robert could appreciate is uncertain for he was an albino and nearly blind – but he, too, wrote proudly of his ‘beautiful place on the shores of the Pacific’. Like Henrietta Villa, Bronte House was not too far from town to prevent Robert from commuting daily for work. But it was unusual in that it sat on the coast rather the harbour or any estuary. The seclusion particularly appealed to the unconventional Georgiana, for she had little respect for the intellect and habits of the genteel women with whom she was forced to consort when they lived in Sydney. At Bronte, she wrote, ‘We have a beautiful bay to ourselves – I may say it is our own’. While the Lowes did not own the beach itself, they effectively controlled access to it. Georgiana’s sketches and watercolours show small huts next to the sand on their property, probably predating the construction of their cottage. No doubt the coast was dotted with such rudimentary dwellings through the 19th century – used by fishers, timber-getters, miners and maybe the occasional river pilot. Built of materials the coastal forest provided, they were often short-lived. JP Townsend recalled one structure he visited at Ulladulla on the south coast in 1845. Its finish suggested at least the intention of permanency: ‘The slab-built and shingled cottage … was plastered and whitewashed within and without. It might now be built for £60 and would last 20 years’.

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John Piper’s Henrietta Villa, from Joseph Lycett’s Views in Australia published in London in 1825.

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View of Tempe House on the Cook’s River. This watercolour by Conrad Martens was painted in 1845. Martens’s earlier depiction for Alexander Sparks was commissioned in 1838.

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Georgiana Lowe’s pencil and watercolour image of her coast villa shows the turreted Bronte House furthest from what would become Bronte Beach.

John Skinner Prout’s 1840 watercolour of Broulee shows a dwelling similar in appearance to Noraville much farther to the north. This building did not survive the exigencies of distance and location but Noraville did.

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Beach-front ‘villas’, by contrast, were uncommon. Waves and rough water made access to the beach more difficult than a river frontage, and roads were often nonexistent. Equally, exposure to the elements was probably unappealing to any but the most misanthropic or Romantically minded. Joseph Lycett’s otherwise enthusiastic account of John Piper’s harbour house noted that it was ‘too exposed’ in winter: ‘as it is almost surrounded by water … the atmosphere is extremely cold and bleak’. That did not stop Illawarra landowner John Buckland from subdividing his grant at the height of the property boom in the late 1830s and optimistically offering ‘marine villa’ sites above ‘the beach of the South Pacific Ocean known as Towradgee’. None was developed before the market soured. It is clear from Robert Westmacott’s painting of his own cottage at Sandon Point, Bulli, that his house had an absolute beach frontage, although it was almost certainly located on the protected leeward side of the Point. John Skinner Prout’s 1844 watercolour of Broulee on the far south coast shows a building with a veranda on the promontory. Whether this was one of the few dwellings in the place at that time or its only hotel is unclear. In any case the recently gazetted village languished and its buildings were swallowed by sand by the end of the century. Noraville, the childhood home of shell-collector William Hargraves, was remarkable for its dramatic headland location and isolation, both of which were captured in a poem called ‘Noraville’. Published in newspapers in 1883 and signed ‘Exile’ it was written by someone intimate with the place and sympathetic to Edward Hargraves who built the house in the mid-1850s. ‘Exile’ may, indeed, have been Hargraves himself, for having profited handsomely from a public reward and pension for discovering the colony’s first gold, he became something of an outcast defending his reputation against those who questioned his claim. The poem is, nonetheless, a rare local example of Romantic verse that describes the headland dwelling standing above ‘dark sullen merciless waves’ and ‘mariners’ graves’. There the gold finder, ‘aged, rounded’, could spend his last days ‘far above all the strife and the bicker of life’ looking out ‘from his Palace of Ease’ to ‘in-rolling seas’.

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The village of Norahville was subdivided about the time the house was built but, by the 1920s, the place was still remote and barely settled, surrounded by windswept coastal banksia and only accessible by boat from Wyong across Tuggerah Lake. One posthumous account, printed in the Sydney Morning Herald in February 1931, resurrected Hargraves’s reputation and presented him as a Romantic for his choice of such a ‘rugged’ and ‘remote’ place: ‘this land between the lake and the sea makes strong appeal to souls that, spurning a city’s shackles, find affinity and freedom in nature’s wildest fastnesses. Such was Edward Hargraves one of Australia’s greatest benefactors’.

Brookes Camp on Cape Byron was the site of the original European habitation in that area in the 1870s. This photograph of the headland farmhouse, built subsequently on the site, was taken in 1910. The town of Byron Bay is slowly taking shape on the opposite shore.

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Noraville was built as a bungalow in the manner of Campbell’s Wharf House. It was wide and low with a ‘great shady veranda spacious as a ship’s deck and pillared in old colonial style’. Made from cedar it contrasted with the classical and picturesque styles of Sydney’s stone and brick ‘marine villas’. The house was an example of the well-established vernacular tradition of bungalow that had developed since Campbell introduced the form from India in the early 1800s, and others had borrowed it from America and Britain’s other colonies. Most often associated with inland pastoral runs, the bungalow was also, then, a coastal house if rarely described as a ‘villa’. Tahlee House at Port Stephens, and the unidentified building in

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Prout’s Broulee painting were other examples of the form in a coastal setting. Hargraves’s bungalow was not designed to impress in the manner of Mitchell’s Carthona, rather it was a practical style, which provided shelter – its low profile minimising the impact of onshore wind. Probably for these reasons it was the style adopted for the Norah Head lighthouse residences when they and the tower were finally built a short distance to the south in 1903. Edward Merewether clearly wanted to make an impression with his villa, The Ridge, far above the beach that would come to bear his name at Newcastle. As the new and relatively young Superintendent of the Australian Agricultural Company he was a man of responsibility with a reputation to establish. He and his wife Augusta chose a site on her family’s Burwood Estate. The house was designed by Mortimer Lewis in what the local paper referred to as ‘the old English Style’ and, indeed, it appeared to be inspired by the Gothic designs in the pattern books of the 1830s. In the 1860s Lewis was in semi-retirement and was, perhaps, only doing what he knew best. Merewether’s house was so far back from the beach that it hardly warranted the title marine villa, though it was equated with the type by the local press. That it was exceptional in the Newcastle of May 1861 was clear from the Maitland Mercury’s announcement of its pending construction as ‘a structure of superior character’ among the town’s many recent ‘improvements’.

‘The sense of irresponsible freedom’ While it may have been considered a suburban ‘marine villa’, The Ridge served also as something of a squire’s manor for the remainder of the 19th century and into the 1900s. For the old Burwood Estate sat above coal deposits and a mining settlement called Merewether developed below the big house. It was only in the 1920s that new subdivisions such as Ocean Park

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started to change the character of the area with an emphasis on the beach. Larger homes followed in the post-war years. The surf at Merewether Beach became famous among riders – Mark Richards would be among them. A century and a half after Edward Merewether’s house was built, every available metre of high land around the old place was built upon with homes straining for a view of the sea. There and then, house prices rivalled those in Sydney. The prestige that came with living by the sea was first really apparent in Sydney in the boom years of the 1880s as artists, too, were embracing the sea. When the Fairview Estate near Manly was subdivided and sold in 1885, the proximity to existing ‘beautiful villas’ at Clifton Heights was one of the selling points. So too was the promise of a good investment and access to the beach: ‘no other suburb has such bright promise, and none has so much seaside’. Similar prospects were being touted at Coogee where vast homes such as Cliffbrook and Mundarrah Towers, grander even than Sutherland House, added the air of exclusivity to the sea breeze and the sound of the surf. Coogee was a commuter suburb. There was less interest where there was no transport connection or access to the beach. The land around Maroubra Beach was unattractive until 1909 when the Government exchanged Crown Land for private foreshore, thereby opening the beach for public use. The Maroubra Beach Estate was advertised in that year and the Surf Bathers Estate between Lurline Bay and Maroubra Beach followed in 1911. The ‘60 Waterside blocks’ there had city water and gas but no tram. However, by then the popularity of surf bathing was such that the emphasis in the brochure was on siren-like women in the waves. ‘Maroubra hath its charms’ winked the real estate agent. When the trams did finally come in 1921, flats as well as bungalows were needed to accommodate the population. The real estate brochures presented an idealised image of seaside suburbs, as was their purpose. In 1922 the writer DH Lawrence offered up a different impression through the eyes of the characters of his novel Kangaroo. Lawrence was familiar with coasts. He loved the dramatic Cornish shores around little Zennor where he lived and wrote in 1916. During his

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three-month stay in Australia Lawrence visited and swam at Sydney’s northern beaches and he spent time at Thirroul on the Illawarra coast. While the English characters in Kangaroo, Lovat and Harriett Somers, react in opposite ways to the Australian coast, it is Lovat’s revulsion that is more significant and probably more reflective of Lawrence’s own outsider’s first impressions. The book’s unromantic insight into the growing coast obsession is rare but profound. It is at Manly, where the Somers discuss the possibility of living near the beach, that their divergent views become apparent. When Harriett declares her ‘love’ for the sea, Lovat responds morosely: ‘I wish it would send a wave about fifty feet high round the whole coast of Australia.’ The couple take the tram to Narrabeen and walk along a ‘wide sand-road dotted on either side with small bungalows’ behind which lay ‘a whole array of rusty tin cans chucked out over the back fence’. The association between the beach and freedom, so proudly touted by locals, was also apparent to Lawrence – despite the brevity of his visit. Again his impressions are articulated through Lovat whose ‘fascination’ quickly gives way to fear of a place unanchored from any organically formed sense of place and tradition, where brutish physicality trumps contemplation. Boys and men in bathers roll about on the nearby beach and to Lovat they seemed ‘like real young animals, mindless as opossums, lunging about.’ He reacts with an agoraphobia that reflects both physical and cultural emptiness: The vacancy of this freedom is almost terrifying … this litter of bungalows and tin cans scattered for miles and miles, this Englishness all crumpled out into formlessness and chaos … The absence of any inner meaning: and at the same time the great sense of vacant spaces. The sense of irresponsible freedom. The sense of do-as-you-please liberty … Great swarming Sydney flowing out into these myriads of bungalows, like shallow waters spreading, undyked.

The monotonous row of houses at Narrabeen, if not the rubbish, was typical of many suburban streets. Some sought to bring order to the chaos and unplanned spread that Lawrence linked to an unfettered sense of freedom

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and overly abundant space. At Middle Harbour’s ‘New Waterside Suburb’, Seaforth, Henry Halloran combined the promotional skills of the real estate agent with an interest in the new discipline of town planning. The emphasis in Seaforth was on water views rather than bathing so the roads bore names such as Grandview Grove and Panorama Parade. In order to add to the aesthetic experience Halloran created curvilinear blocks so that, as residents wound their way down bending streets, vistas opened up one after another. There were, of course, favourable comparisons to other waterfront areas. Just as property in Mosman and Manly had appreciated in value, so too would Seaforth. Halloran made seaside real estate his specialty, an interest that may have been inherited. His great-grandfather, after whom he was named, was the poet Halloran whose early verses celebrated Bondi and other beaches. Halloran bought up huge tracts of empty coastal land beyond Sydney at Stanwell Park, Woy Woy, Lake Macquarie, Jervis Bay and Port Stephens and elsewhere, and promoted these as future cities. In 1925 he had over 50 estates listed. Six of these were around Port Stephens. Halloran bought his first land there in 1913, excited by prospects of decentralisation and the possibility of the waterway’s development as a great northern port. He was not alone. There were many intent upon dethroning Sydney as the queen of the coast. And there was also Walter Burley Griffin, the winner of the competition to plan the nation’s capital, Canberra. Taken by its potential as a seaport in 1917, Griffin designed the layout for Port Stephens City at North Arm Cove, which Halloran then acquired and amended. After Admiral Jellicoe’s suggestion that the waterway might suit a naval base, Halloran acquired more land around the area anticipating the arrival of battleships and government money. At Tanilba Bay he hoped history might also attract buyers, so he landscaped and subdivided the estate of a once-derelict 1830s marine villa turned fishing lodge called Tanilba House. Similar expectations of government development buoyed the Jervis Bay projects. Despite early predictions of greatness little had survived there

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beyond the small fishing and boat-building centre of Huskisson. But following the decision to build Canberra in 1911, there was talk of a rail line to Jervis Bay, hardly more than 100 kilometres away, and plans to develop it as the port for capital. The location there of the new Australian Naval College seemed to confirm those intentions. Halloran bought land next to the College in 1916 and proceeded to plan the grandly named Pacific City. His prospectus was filled with testimonials and an apparent Ministerial endorsement. There was a list of statistics showing the vitality of coastal shipping that seemed to speak for itself and promise to overflow into Jervis Bay: ‘Pacific City is right in the centre of things’. Then there was the opportunity to raise children near the sea in a planned city: ‘Sydney grew up anyhow’ but Halloran’s metropolis would be ‘beautifully designed and comprising the finest building land in an absolutely unrivalled position’. With impressive coloured plans and exuberant brochures, Halloran sold hundreds of coastal blocks – but his cities came to nothing. Port Stephens did not get its battleships and docks. For many years its major attraction lay with those who wanted to hunt big-game fish. The warships came and went during World War II and then the waterway resumed its sleepy, holiday feel. Parts of Jervis Bay remained Commonwealth Territory but the rail link to the capital was never built. Canberra remained landlocked, symbolic of a country that still defined itself as a land of sweeping plains. The decisions and events that decided the fate of Port Stephens, the Pacific Cities and the other estates were outside Halloran’s control. There was no development during the relatively prosperous 1920s, and there was certainly none in the Depression years that followed. But he presented his projects as certainties where they were really ‘premature subdivisions’, created in the absence of demand, and the ability or willingness of governments to provide infrastructure. His central- and south-coast estates did little to increase the population in either location. Few homes were built around both Port Stephens and Jervis Bay. Indeed some undeveloped blocks were subsequently rezoned as open space.

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‘I see the sea-e, I see the sea-e’ Halloran’s enterprises were a mix of flummery and genuine optimism. But if his coastal cities never eventuated he did draw people to the coast as holidaymakers. His land was sold on easy terms and, during the Depression, may have provided campsites at least for the unemployed. And much of the land he sold around Lake Macquarie and Avoca Beach from 1908 to the 1920s was explicitly for holiday houses. The beach holiday was an institution for some by the 1880s. The Waugh family owned a pastoral station south of Yamba and, on finishing their Christmas dinner at the homestead, they routinely loaded sulkies and wagons and the resulting caravan headed east to Brooms Beach for a six-week vacation. Once there farm workers set up a village of tents, which included accommodation for the governess. For the children, the slow approach along sandy tracks and the final cresting of the dunes was accompanied by rising expectation and the climactic sighting of the ocean: ‘The low continuous murmur kept swelling with our mounting excitement and anticipation as we ploughed up, up to the top, where it seemed to burst into a roar of welcome simultaneously with our shouts of “I see the sea-e, I see the sea-e”’. Beach houses emerged in the late 19th century as a luxury for the few who could afford a second home and, just as importantly, the time to spend there. Weekends, for most, were a thing of the future. Politician William Bede Dalley constructed Tallamalla on seven hectares of former farmland at the edge of Bilgola beach on Sydney’s sparsely populated far northern fringe. Compared to Dalley’s residential castle above Manly Beach, his beach house was a very modest weatherboard cottage. But it was distinguished by a Gothic bell tower and, when advertised after Dalley’s death in 1888, Tallamalla qualified for the description ‘marine villa’ in the real estate advertisements. Arthur Wigram Allen was a city solicitor. His family was one of the wealthiest in the city with business interests in coal gas and a large house in

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fashionable Ocean Street, Woollahra. The family loved the sea and they were taken to the water’s edge at Bondi in a horse-drawn carriage with driver. But when the surf-bathing boom took hold the Allens democratically joined the throngs. Arthur noted in his photograph album that ‘The mixed bathing amused us very much’. In 1903 they bought a large holiday house overlooking Port Hacking. It was ideal for boating and had its own bathing enclosure. For surf the family frequented nearby Cronulla Beach. There, Arthur photographed an eccentric beachcomber called Davy who lived in a hut built of driftwood when he was not boiling water for picnickers in return for a few pennies. Soon after, the Allens traded their horse carriage for a motor car. The freedom it afforded them allowed day trips to Bilgola where they visited friends at Dalley’s old house. Not long after the early settlements at Bilgola, another real estate man named Arthur Small began promoting his own upmarket weekend settlement, Avalon. The name was romantic but Small was also appealing to that desire for the ‘undiscovered spot’ which had set Cronulla apart 30 years earlier: ‘Cronulla was. Palm Beach is. Avalon Beach will be’ ran the slogan. In fact Avalon attracted affluent intellectuals, artists and likeminded professionals who were taken with its beauty. The artists W Lister Lister, Arthur Murch, and Herbert Badham were amongst them and, as a result, Avalon became one of the most-painted beaches in the state. Creativity was also reflected in some of the holiday houses built there. As architectural work dried up elsewhere the enterprising and unconventional Sydney-based architect Alexander Jolly went to Avalon on weekends to camp out in the hope of securing new commissions as lots were inspected and sold. The houses he designed were rustic constructions of rock and timber. Built of uncut stones with a domed roof, the 1933 house Stonehaven resembled a huge cairn. Loggan Rock, designed earlier for Sydney dentist Dr Dangar Burne, was a timber and stone cottage with walls that featured unhewn logs and branches. They were set in irregular patterns so that the place had the look of something built of necessity – of a pioneer’s cabin or a beach shack.

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By contrast, Jolly’s 1931 Careel House was a solid block structure of rough-cut stone. This design may have been influenced by the houses already finished in the ‘scenic Marine Suburb’ of Castlecrag overlooking Middle Harbour in Sydney. There, Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony wanted to create habitations that connected intimately to the sandstone landscape. Griffin was attracted to Avalon too. The house he designed for Stella James in the early 1930s was a bunker-like sanctuary that nonetheless brought nature inside with its use of unpainted stone and timber throughout. And

This photograph by Arthur Allen shows the beachcomber he knew as Davy and his ‘hut made out of timber picked up on the beach’.

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in the age of growing automobile use, Griffin set the house low next to the road so that the roof became a carport. Narrabeen’s ugliness was the result of carelessness or competing priorities. By contrast money, time, and the thoughtfulness that they allowed, preserved the beauty at Avalon. Had Lovat Somers owned a car to take him further north he may have formed a different impression of Australian coastal life. Guesthouses and hotels catered for the many who could not afford their own seaside holiday homes. The first guesthouse at The Entrance opened on the mouth of Tuggerah Lake in 1895, some six years after the railway from Sydney to Newcastle was completed. Guests came up by train to Wyong and crossed the lake. By 1920 there were 15 guesthouses. That year 200 building lots were subdivided for residential accommodation. With the completion of the Sydney to Newcastle section of the Pacific Highway in 1930, motor vehicles, both hired and privately owned, added to the holiday crowds. Probably more than bathing, the attraction at The Entrance was scenery and the opportunity to catch fish and shoot waterbirds. Blood sport went hand-in-hand with rambling in the 19th century and men who walked the coast often packed a rod and gun. Although commercial fishing had occurred at Tuggerah Lake since the mid-1800s, the ecology of The Entrance was still relatively pristine when the guesthouses were being built. The place was a cornucopia for the ‘sportsman’. ‘Fish and wild ducks were there for the taking’, was the recollection of one resident of the early 1900s. The same attractions beckoned on the south coast. The Mort family’s rustic ‘boatshed’ on Lake Mummuga served as a fishing and hunting lodge for their distinguished, and sometimes aristocratic, guests who must have thrilled at the novelty of shooting black swans in the 1880s and 1890s. In 1913 the prospect of bagging the large birds was held out by the Sydney Morning Herald as reason for city folk to visit Bermagui. Despite various wildlife conservation acts, which aimed at protecting native birds, shooting swans remained commonplace until the passing of the Fauna Protection Act 1948. Recreational fishing only increased in popularity. It was probably the primary lure for holiday-makers to the coast’s more isolated places through

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the early to mid-20th century. These favourite spots were also frequented by visitors from the immediate regions. Sandon was one of a series of small coastal villages that sprang up south of Yamba. The first building there was a bark hut built by a Grafton solicitor, SW Dowling, around 1901. Where Dowling was attracted by the fishing and the solitude, others came for the oysters, which were even more esteemed than the prized Clarence River specimens. The holiday-makers were followed by commercial fishers and oyster farmers. Soon a small settlement, which accommodated both, was established at the mouth of the Sandon River. Farmers and townsfolk from Grafton were visiting Wooli to the south for holidays as early as the 1860s. By 1923 it was a ‘village’ and a decade later its Christmas holiday population had swelled to as many as 800. At nearby Diggers Camp it was recreational fishers who followed gold miners. The dunes and heath along this strip of coast were criss-crossed with wagon and car tracks. Dowling probably constructed his Sandon shack from bark to avoid the difficulty of bringing building materials in along such rough tracks. The first house was made of timber slabs and sawn planks sometime after 1914. By then, however, a new, lightweight and durable building material was available in Australia. ‘Fibro’ was shorthand for ‘Fibre-Cement’, one of a number of asbestos-sheet products that were first imported then made locally. It was used throughout city suburbs and in the country. But fibro would come to be associated particularly with the beach weekender as both a complete or partial cladding. Forty years later fibro beach shacks of varying ages could be found along the coast. The fire-proof asbestos sheets endured where timber was prone to rot or burn. Often the dwellings were simple squared structures without verandas. For those just interested in fishing, this was all that was necessary – somewhere to sleep and shelter. During the Depression years the simplicity reflected more the means of the inhabitant. Homeless squatters erected fibro and iron dwellings on farm and reserve land along the coast in an area called the Garawarra on the edge of the Royal National Park to the north of the Illawarra. In doing so they were following thousands before them who, like

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Davy at Cronulla, camped informally and probably illegally near the beach for want of anywhere else. The pioneering bush walker and conservationist Myles Dunphy remembered the Garawarra squatters as older unemployed men ‘including fellows who had not settled down after the First World War’. They preferred ‘an outside environment to existence in the cheapest urban environment’, and lived ‘on a pension and on their wits – and “off the land”’. So far from any other form of sustenance, fish must have formed a major part of this wild diet. It was not uncommon for the purpose of coast settlements to change over time. Structures that might begin as shelters for fishers or the unemployed became holiday huts in more favourable times. Sometimes the reverse was true. In time the Garawarra shacks, with their unofficial permissive occupancy, were sold. Hal Missingham bought one at Era Beach in the early 1950s. The Director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales took friends and fellow artists, including Max Dupain, there. Missingham’s patrician tastes and love of fresh fish combined to prompt him to write a cookbook for fishers. Good Fishing: how to catch them and how to cook them: a handy guide was published in 1953 and included advice on both camp and table cooking, along with some suggestions for the Australian wine best suited to accompany seafood. In the 1950s and 1960s south-coast towns and settlements were filled with holiday-makers from adjacent rural areas. A growing number of families now came towing caravans, which offered an alternative to the beach hut or the means to assess a place before deciding to buy and build. Dozens of caravan parks were established. Such was the availability of land that the sites were often on prime beach or waterfront as at Tathra, Currarong and Burrill Lake. These parks resembled small villages in the high season providing affordable holiday accommodation to thousands up and down the coast. If cars brought mobility to the beach holiday then social reform made the time available. Annual leave, generally the preserve of the salaried or self-employed before the war, was made mandatory for wage labour in 1944. The 40-hour working week, which essentially created the two-day weekend,

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was introduced in 1947. The New South Wales Trades and Labour Council responded quickly by establishing Currawong, a beach-front workers holiday camp at Pittwater around 1950. The cottages were prefabricated in fibro and weatherboard. In the hands of architects or designers, the lightweight weekender came to reflect the freedom associated with life near the beach. Verandas blurred the distinction between interior and exterior and fibro was used in conjunction with timber or stone to lend a sense of informality. Later kit-form weekenders came in modern styles that were rarely seen on respectable suburban streets. Dramatic angles were not uncommon, with glazed fronts tilted forward or flat roofs sliding to the side. The impact of Modernism, as a style, was most obvious after World War II. Lend Lease Homes employed architects to design various standard house styles. Post-war

Early to mid-20th century fibro and timber cottage near Sandon, 2013.

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Modernism made a virtue of simplicity so the 1961 Beachcomber was essentially a large rectangular box. The name, and the spacious ‘sundeck’ and sliding glass doors at the front, implied a coastal outlook while its elevation on posts accommodated a car beneath and allowed the house to be placed on a sloping block – typical of many water-view allotments then coming onto the market. Lend Lease Homes advertised it as ‘a home designed to stay young for a lifetime’. The style borrowed from the designs of Australia’s foremost exponent of Modernist architecture, Harry Seidler who, himself, had worked with the parent company of Lend Lease Homes on large projects. The Beachcomber was a simple design that was replicated in fibro or any lightweight material by builders up and down the coast – so the box on stilts became the typical beach house of the post-war years. It was houses like this, or their earth-bound equivalents, that formed the streetscapes of thousands of holiday memories. Those who owned their own weekender could return each year and develop a bond with the house and the place. They became homes away from home. Even renters might holiday in the same house year after year. Writer Tony Stephens visited Shoal Bay on Port Stephens for more than 30 years. ‘Some would say this sameness reflects unadventurous spirits’, he admitted, ‘Others see sense in the pleasure and security it can bring’. In 2012, after so many summers with people and a place he had grown to love, there was ‘something almost spiritual in the desire to return’.

‘Dad built our house with a kitchen and two extra rooms’ As white Australians were forging their newfound relationships with the coast, Aboriginal people were experiencing a sea change of their own. Dispossession in the wake of farming, pastoral and town development was most

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This locality plan for Jervis Bay and Crookhaven shows Halloran’s Pacific City taking in Hyams Beach to the south and St Vincent City, which took its name from the original county name, with Currarong to the north.

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These scenes of everyday life in the Aboriginal reserve established near Ulladulla were drawn by an artist known only as Mickey of Ulladulla in the 1870s or 1880s. Where men fish, women make brooms for sale to the local white community.

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354 Coast Glen Murcutt’s Magney House, built on the far south coast in the early 1980s set a precedent for beach houses for the affluent. Photograph by Max Dupain, 1989.

The original fibro and timber cabins built by Henry Halloran at Hyams Beach have survived to add to the village atmosphere of the place. However, they have been repainted to resemble the huts that more typically line the beach fronts of Victoria.

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pronounced on the south coast. One result was the movement towards the north that led to the establishment of the La Perouse settlement and the various camps and homes around the Georges River. Long established familial and community links meant that these coast and river people managed for the most part to stay on the coast, albeit away from their country. Others tried to stay on their traditional land where they had a spiritual and community connection by adapting to the changes and taking up farming and commercial fishing. Having done so, they petitioned local white authorities to secure their tenure. Willie Price was allowed a ‘permissive occupancy’ of land he ‘settled’ in 1873 near Karuah on Port Stephens. He was given some assurance but his ongoing occupation was subject to the will of the government and good only until some other use for the land was given priority. At Kinchela, on the lower Manning River, William Drew began farming ten and a half hectares of good river flat land in 1880 and was given a similar right of occupancy. Three more Aboriginal people began farming at Arakoon at the mouth of the Macleay and were reported to be ‘very proud’ of the land they called ‘their own’. That was the traditional land of the Biripai people and their descendants, who had survived the incursion of the cedar-getters, were not afraid of taking land that remained unclaimed in the wake of the white squatters and selectors. As many as 40 Aboriginal people were living on various river islands when Drew was setting up at Kinchela on the riverbank. Not far to the north in Gumbayngirr country a man called Frank occupied Bushy Island on the Nambucca River before 1883. Cabbage Tree Island on the Richmond was Bundjalung land and was being farmed by Aboriginal people in the 1880s. These reoccupied lands were among the 32 Aboriginal reserves created between 1861 and 1884 by the colonial government. Most were on the coast and the Ulladulla reserve was one of these. The name was an Aboriginal word understood by whites to refer to ‘safe harbour’ or ‘sheltered bay’. This may have been an imposed meaning, for Europeans certainly considered it one of the best small harbours on the coast by the time a township was

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formally laid out in 1857. Alexander Brodie Sparks had speculated on land nearby in the 1830s. The poet Henry Kendall was born there in 1839. The town and the harbour was just a few kilometres north of Burrill Lake and the overhang where the people had lived for thousands of years as the coast was formed. Before the Ulladulla reserve was created, Aboriginal people resided on a hill overlooking the harbour where the only unalienated source of fresh water remained. Like the indigenous farmers of the lower north coast, people in Ulladulla seemed to have integrated themselves into the local economy. A report of 1890 outlines the extent of their employment: ‘Some earn a livelihood fishing, others work for local farmers, and a few at a saw-mill. Some are occasionally employed stripping wattle bark, whilst others find employment loading and unloading steamers. A few of the single adult females earn a living as domestic servants’. The transition from subsistence fishing with spear and hook to commercial netting was typical of the adaptation of south-coast communities. The significance of this work and the apparent abundance of the catch was recorded in the extraordinary artwork of one of the reserve’s residents, a man known as Mickey of Ulladulla. From the 1870s up to his death in 1891, Mickey depicted the routine activities of a community that was economically tied to white society, but which continued to observe tradition and cultural practices. Boats and the ships of the steamer trade held a fascination and they were often depicted upon a teeming sea for fish provided both food and marketable produce for the people of the reserve. As access to land was increasingly restricted by white leasehold and freehold, the waters of Mickey’s coast were the last unfettered domain of indigenous hunting, at least before the advent of surveillance from fishing inspectors. Like Ulladulla, Cabbage Tree Island reserve was established after Aboriginal people reoccupied the land there. Gardens were planted and the river fished. Men worked on surrounding cane farms. In this sense its creation was instigated by Aboriginal action. Like other reserves it assumed a spiritual meaning as a place within ancestral lands where children were born and raised. But the island’s families observed Christian rites while holding

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to indigenous beliefs. Children were baptised in the river and later came to know their family totem. Mavis Davies was born there in 1921 as one of eleven children. Her father Harry Combo worked as a rural labourer while Mavis’s mother, Florence, tended the children: ‘A real Christian family I was raised in. It was lovely’. Her island home was made of corrugated iron and timber with sapling trunks cut for the veranda railing. It started small so Mavis’s father altered it repeatedly to accommodate the growing family: Dad built our house with a kitchen and two extra rooms. He attached a verandah at the front and the back, which made it a lot bigger than most of the other houses on the island … He converted the back verandah into two rooms – one for the boys and at the other end there was a room for the girls. He even extended the kitchen out on to the back verandah.

This experience paralleled that of many poor rural white families. Yet in the 1920s Harry Combo was also compelled to report his movements to the white island manager. The New South Wales Aboriginal Protection Board, to which this man answered, was established in 1883 after the first wave of re-occupations were validated. It created many more reserves, with those on the coast then forming a concentrated band from south to north. Indeed, until 1911 at least, the Board supported the land-based independence of Aboriginal people. There were, however, drawbacks for the residents. While land was often gained through Aboriginal initiative, the consequent concentration of indigenous people segregated them and increased Board power over them. It was the control imposed at La Perouse that the Georges River communities sought to avoid. The imperative for this management of black people stemmed, in part, from the belief in the need to protect white Australia – in this case from the racial ‘threat’ of ongoing miscegenation and a growing ‘half-caste’ population within. The Board was particularly keen to gain legal status of loco parentis, or de facto parents, for Aboriginal children – something that would give it power to remove children from families. The focus was on ‘mixedrace’ boys and girls while the rationale was the eradication of disadvantage. Doubtless there were cases of neglect because of poverty and alcoholism but

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there were many instances of functional families – examples that the Board recorded in its own reports. The over-riding premise was that an upbringing within any Aboriginal household was by definition disadvantaged. The power to take the children was granted in 1915. The fear of child removal permeated Aboriginal communities and its realisation would sow seeds of sorrow, bitterness and dysfunction for generations. When, in 1925, Jack Campbell’s parents were warned of his possible removal they fled to Sydney in the family’s fishing boat. The Campbells tried to re-establish their lives along Salt Pan Creek, which fed into the Georges River. In the previous year the Board moved the residents from various Macleay River islands to Kinchela and a boy’s home was established where the Aboriginal man William Drew had started his farm 40 years earlier. Sitting on the edge of the deep river, Kinchela was beautiful and fertile. The name might have come to inspire hope as a place of new beginnings but

Dwellings built for Aboriginal people at Roseby Park, Orient Point on the south coast, c.1900.

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instead Kinchela would become synonymous with extraordinary cruelty and a contemptuous disregard for the welfare of children. The Board’s obsession with removals brought with it administrative costs and it was decided, therefore, to lease reserve land to augment the annual budget. The decision was made easier because of the growing pressure to release Aboriginal land to white farmers and, after 1918, to thousands of soldiers returning from a world war and in need of support and homes. Aboriginal men who served were often denied the same right. So there followed a second wave of dispossession. Nearly half of the 11 000 hectares of reserve land that existed in 1911 had been revoked or leased to others by 1927. The reserve at Ulladulla, where the artist Mickey spent his last decade or so, was closed in 1922. The Board’s policies and actions were met with evasion, confrontation and then political organisation. The Australian Aborigines Progressive Association, founded in the Good Templar’s Hall in Kempsey on the Macleay River in 1925, was the first organisation of its kind in the country – a body created and led by Aboriginal people. It was followed in the 1930s by the Aborigines Progressive Association (APA), led by Jack Patten and Bill Ferguson. It, too, was based in coastal New South Wales. In 1938, as white Australians readied themselves to celebrate 150 years of British colonisation, the APA angrily laid out a very different version of history while claiming equal citizenship rights and due acknowledgment as the first Australians: You are the New Australians, but we are the Old Australians. We have in our arteries the blood of the Original Australians, who have lived in this land for many thousands of years. You came here only recently, and you took our land away from us by force. You have almost exterminated our people but there are enough of us remaining to expose the humbug of your claim, as white Australians, to be civilised, progressive, kindly and humane nation … We ask for equal education, equal opportunity, equal wages, equal rights to possess property, or to be our own masters – in two words equal citizenship!

The revocations continued after the war nonetheless. Then coastal tourism created new pressures. In 1949 part of the Wallaga Lake reserve, established

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in 1891 near the sacred mountain Gulaga, was revoked to make way for holiday shacks. At Yamba, 72 hectares of reserve land went to improve foreshore access. Some of the APA demands were met in time. Citizenship was granted incrementally with the right to vote in 1962 and then inclusion in the census in 1967. The taking of children stopped in 1969. Land, however, remained the dominant issue. In the far north of the country Aboriginal people were challenging the notion of terra nullius, that Australia had belonged to no one when it was claimed by the British. There was a gradual acceptance of this idea in the Commonwealth parliament and part of the Gurindji people’s land on a pastoral station called Wave Hill were handed back to the traditional owners in 1975. The Aboriginal Land Rights Act (Northern Territory), passed the following year, subsequently established a framework for claiming traditional land. Then, in 1982, a Torres Strait island man named Eddie Mabo began a legal campaign asserting indigenous ownership of Mer Island. The case culminated in 1992 when the High Court of Australia finally overturned the fiction of terra nullius in the landmark ‘Mabo decision’. It had been 222 years since Joseph Banks sailed up the east coast with Cook, ruminating upon the achievements of the coastal cultures he observed and deducing that their tenure was flimsy and the interior probably empty. The Native Title Act 1993 held out the possibility of Aboriginal people reasserting their ownership of Crown land across the country. Indigenous people were, in fact, already claiming land along the New South Wales coast. An Aboriginal Land Council was formed in 1977 and the following year the Jerringa people filed for title at Roseby Park. The Yuin did the same further south at Wallaga Lake. These and other actions prompted the establishment of a Select Committee to investigate Aboriginal land rights in the state. The Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (NSW) was passed in 1983 under the Wran Labor Government and with input from the newly established Ministry for Aboriginal Affairs headed by indigenous woman Pat O’Shane. The Act formalised the system of Aboriginal Land Councils and

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returned all those former Protection Board reserve lands that remained unrevoked to the local Aboriginal people. Cabbage Tree Island, Roseby Park and Wallaga Lake were among the 2400 hectares handed back. The Aboriginal response to this was mixed because the legislation specifically precluded the possibility of claiming any of the more than 10 000 hectares of reserve that had been leased or sold off over the previous 60 years. The politics, or perhaps the principle, of resuming this ‘white owned’ land was too much for the Premier Neville Wran to accept. There was, however, other compensation for lost country. The legislation set aside 7.5 per cent of land tax collected annually to build a fund over 15 years that could be used to buy back land. Importantly, too, the Act recognised that the proof of an unbroken connection to traditional land – the criterion for land claims under the 1976 Northern Territory legislation and the future Native Title Act of 1993 – was impossible for most Aboriginal people in New South Wales. They were the first people practically dispossessed and had been pushed and pulled on and off their traditional lands for more than 200 years. In New South Wales any Crown land not proscribed for public use could be claimed. The first such site was on the far north coast. Goanna Headland, named after a great lizard that morphed into rock while guarding against the return of a malevolent snake during the Dreaming, was returned to the Bundjalung people in 1985. Throughout this process of occupation, reservation, revocation and restoration, a fishing community had grown up in Wreck Bay to the south of Jervis Bay. The eastern headland of the bay was crowned by the ruins of the disastrous Cape St George lighthouse. Middens and burial sites attested to the ancient occupation of the place. Like other sites Wreck Bay was more recently re-occupied by dispossessed fisher families who knew the bay well because of its bounty. Most, if not all, came from the south coast – descendents of the Yuin, Wandandian, the Jerrinja and perhaps the Wodi Wodi. Among them were some of George Davidson’s whaling men from Twofold Bay. They built huts of driftwood and pitched tents of hessian. By 1924 there was a school.

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But this occupation coincided with the arrival of the Naval College nearby in 1912 and the transfer of Wreck Bay and the whole Bhewerre peninsula land to the Commonwealth in 1915. As the land was to have been Canberra’s port, the community existed precariously with uncertain status in a Commonwealth territory. In 1925 the New South Wales Aboriginal Protection Board was asked to manage the place and Wreck Bay was administered as a reserve, but its boundaries were not set until the 1950s. For a young Nellie Mooney the place was somewhere to take holidays with extended family. Her story typified the criss-crossing of Aboriginal pathways on the south coast in the era of dispossession and reservation. Nellie was raised by a father who was born on Coolangatta Mountain and who remembered riding on a cart as a child during the exodus of the Berry estate families to the Roseby Park reserve. Nellie lived with him at Greenwell Point on the Shoalhaven. His parents were among the fishers who took up at Wreck Bay. Nellie’s grandparents lived there with her aunts and uncles: I remember my aunt Nelly’s house at Wreck Bay. It was made out of galvanised iron. It was a one-bedroom place. I think they found a lot of timber on the beach from ships that had come to grief or had their loads washed overboard. That helped them build their houses.

Nellie married, moved to Sydney then returned to her people’s coast, this time at Burrill Lake. She told her story in 2004: ‘I love it. This house is beautiful because it looks out over the lake to Pigeon House Mountain – you know that Captain Cook named that mountain. But he got it wrong. What does it look like? It looks like a woman’s breast. And what does it mean in Aboriginal language? Dithol. And what does Dithol mean? It means woman’s breast. The mountain is an Aboriginal women’s place.’ In 1965 the reserve status of Wreck Bay was revoked and the place declared an open village, which paved the way for whites to buy land for holiday houses. However, attempts to relocate the residents were resisted and for the next 20 years the community fought the Commonwealth for title over the land on which they lived. In 1986 they were successful and the following year 403 hectares around the bay were granted as freehold. The land

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grant title stated that the moment the document was handed to the Chairperson of Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council the country outlined in the schedule ‘shall become Aboriginal land’. But the people there knew it always had been.

‘… the quintessential Australian seaside village’ As the Wreck Bay people were negotiating tenure of their piece of the coast, architect Glen Murcutt was designing a very different type of corrugatediron coast house situated alone on 33 hectares some 120 kilometres to the south at Bingie Point. The Magney House was built between 1982 and 1984 for a family who had camped there for years. To evoke their original habitation they wanted a holiday house that was unpretentious. Corrugated metal sheeting was Murcutt’s signature material, a reference to the practical vernacular Australian structures he admired. So he designed a long shed-like pavilion in iron and glass. It was beautifully simple and elegant with a roof that curved like a wave and deflected the prevailing winds in the process. The long north side faced a small lake and the sea and opened up to make the most of the amazing vista. The structure was positioned alone in the middle of windswept heath and over-grazed grassland. Its design responded to the landscape but consciously set the house apart as a built form. Relatively humble in appearance, it drew upon the tradition of coast shacks but belied the privilege of its curtilage and splendid isolation. It won the Wilkinson Prize for its designer in 1985 and very gradually corrugated iron appeared on smart beach homes up and down the coast. The 1980s was a period of great affluence. Higher incomes and easy credit sent property values soaring and this, in turn, prompted more speculation in real estate. It was not unlike the 1830s when Alexander Brodie Sparks and his peers bought up big. Canberra’s professional class, which included

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well-paid public servants and political staffers, colonised the far south coast. A house or lot in little Broulee, Mossy Point or Depot Bay became highly desirable and prices rose. The handsome houses and the leisure industry that accompanied tourism provided a veneer of affluence to coast towns. But there were huge disparities in wealth. Regional centres typically had high levels of unemployment, particularly out of the holiday season. Extreme seasonal demands for accommodation made residential rental more difficult. In 1984 participants at a housing forum at Bateman’s Bay expressed concern at the ‘thousands of empty holiday homes along the coast’ while local people were ‘being forced to sleep in cars and under bridges’. The effect was particularly pronounced within a three-hour radius of Sydney. There, international money inflated property prices and the impact flowed out along the coast like ripples in a pond. More than ever before, the 1980s coast house became an obvious lifestyle choice, a sound investment and an enviable symbol of wealth. There was good business for architects though not all treated their waterfront commissions with the lightness of Murcutt’s touch. Pearl Beach, on the central coast, was one of the many beach settlements established in the 1920s by real estate agents. There were modest sales through the Depression and after the war the place gave respite to returned servicemen and their families. Good fishing was the attraction. By the 1970s there was a mix of retirees and weekend residents. The place acquired an intellectual core with a mix of academics and conservationists, including Vincent and Carole Serventy who pioneered the use of television to educate Australians about their country’s natural history. The community created an arboretum as a showcase for endemic plant species. Through those social networks Pearl Beach attracted writers and artists from Sydney and, with them, a reputation as the next ‘undiscovered spot’. There followed media personalities, celebrities and the very rich. By the mid-1980s an unrenovated beach-front cottage could sell for $250 000 – considerably more than a brick house in a respectable Sydney suburb. Playwright David

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Williamson was one of those who had bought into Pearl Beach to find solace and inspiration. Ironically, it was there that he started plotting his satire of middle-class aspiration, superficiality and materialism, Money and Friends, set in a fictitious but recognisable beach settlement called Crystal Inlet. The changing demographic did not please the long-term residents. Weekend crowds thickened, the local store was razed and replaced by something much larger and rising property values pushed up Council rates and the cost of keeping a simple weekender. Historian and local resident Beverley Kingston documented and summarised those changes in 2009: ‘The new weekenders came with their architects and they built very modern holiday houses, larger generally than the older beach shacks or fibro cottages … [these] were photographed, written up and entered for prizes as the architects tried to promote their work. Pearl Beach was discovered by the media and became fashionable.’ That year an architect-designed beach-front holiday home sold for $5.8 million – the highest price ever for a house on the central coast. By the 1980s, however, a more fundamental shift was underway. More than 31 000 people moved from Sydney to the north coast, permanently, between 1981 and 1986 alone. Demographers, planners and academics spoke to each other about ‘counterurbanisation’ but the phenomenon was more generally termed ‘sea change’. Port Macquarie’s population had, in fact, doubled every twenty years since the end of the war. Many were retirees but others came to work in the growing tourist industry. The old convict settlement that Francis Myers had dismissed in the 1880s was still a sleepy fishing port in the first half of the 20th century. But by the end of the 1960s, medium-density flats catering for residential and holiday use were crowding out what remained of the colonial township. There were motels lining the approach roads and a huge caravan park occupying the prime waterfront site at the mouth of the Hastings where steamers once negotiated the river bar. This was a tourist boom ‘driven’ by private automobile ownership. Nearly 97 per cent of those who came to ‘Port’ for their holidays arrived by car.

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The Diamond Bay flats at Dover Heights, designed by Harry Seidler and photographed by Max Dupain, 1963.

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In 1967 Urban Systems Corporation, a planning and architectural firm founded by the respected architects George Clarke and Don Gazzard, recognised both the ‘great demand for tourist recreation and accommodation facilities’ around Port Macquarie and the need to protect the ‘natural features’ that attracted people there. In the report drafted for its client, the firm offered a high-rise alternative to the town’s prevalent building developments: the ‘sprawling barrack-block’ flats ‘with maximum site coverage, little architectural merit and a paucity of landscaped open space’. The proposal to build two towers on a headland epitomised the Modernist movement’s confidence in the master architect and its delight in juxtaposing built and natural form. It was also predicated upon a belief in the benefits of going high to maintain open space around. There were precedents in Sydney with Harry Seidler’s dramatic Diamond Bay flats, built on the cliff edge at Dover Heights in Sydney in 1962, and his Tower on the Blues Point headland in Sydney Harbour. For better or worse, Port Macquarie did not get its iconic towers. Instead, that style of high-rise came to be associated with Queensland’s Gold Coast and, in the opinion of many, with overdevelopment. At Port Macquarie, and indeed at many other coastal towns in New South Wales, the buildings that went up in the booming 1980s and after were still by definition high-rise – at least seven storeys tall. But they were bulky, filling their sites with bricks, mortar and swimming pools. With its spectacular combination of lake and beach, The Entrance on the Central Coast experienced a similar boom in the post-war decades. Three- and four-storey barrack-type brick ‘walk-ups’ started lining waterways and replacing the early 20th century timber guesthouses and homes. They completely filled the existing sites and were often elevated to accommodate carports. Through the 1990s and into the next century the ‘apartment’ buildings got taller and wider. There was none of the ‘slenderness and verticality’ of the proposed Port Macquarie towers. Instead the resort-style blocks spread out and crept up well beyond seven storeys, to thirteen floors and more. They vied with each other to provide the best views and the most

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luxury. The holiday atmosphere was enhanced by dozens of transplanted exotic palm trees. The combination of it all seemed to overwhelm the ability, if not the desire, to retain any feel for the old Entrance. In 2012 large apartments loomed over tiny fibro houses that might once have had a glimpse of water but were now biding their time before demolition. Though they rejected the towering high-rise the councillors of Port Macquarie were willing to experiment with another style of coastal development – the canal estate. ‘Settlement Shores’ was begun a little way up the Hastings River in 1971, the same year that a similar development was commenced on the south coast at Sussex Inlet near Wreck Bay. It was a model imported from Florida, one that transformed low lying ‘waste’ land, often the despised but ecologically important mangrove forest, into suburbia. Canals took the place of streets and residents could moor their boats at the end of the back garden while their cars were parked out front. The first such estate in New South Wales was built in the little bay below Thomas Holt’s erstwhile mansion at Sylvania. The new development was appropriately called Sylvania Waters, and from 1963 large modern brick houses carried on the tradition of the ostentatious marine villa started there with the building of Sutherland House. The big house had burnt down years before so there was no question of demolition. But 286 acres of mangrove and oysters were gouged out to create the ‘marine suburb’. The canal estate there, and at Sussex Inlet and Tweed Heads, tapped into the growing boat ownership that more than doubled through the affluent 1960s so that there were 34 570 boats registered in the state by the end of the decade. Suburban form was the dominant type of development and architecture in coastal centres from the 1970s through to the 1990s. There was little to distinguish the brick veneer houses in the subdivisions of Batemans Bay or Port Stephens from those in the sprawling western suburbs of Sydney. But where the coast was gentrified by the metropolitan middle class, suburbia was kept at bay by evoking the idea of ‘the village’ to guard against ‘inappropriate’ development and subdivision. The term was resurrected or applied to small settlements from the 1980s.

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Hyams Beach on Jervis Bay had been subdivided as part of Henry Halloran’s Pacific City back in the mid-1920s. Some holiday cabins were built but development was slow over the following 50 years. By the 1980s Hyams Beach was ideally situated for transformation and the term ‘village’ supplanted ‘estate’. It was just three hours from Sydney, surrounded by national park with no through roads and no shopping strip. There were some suburban brick veneer houses but just enough vintage fibro and weatherboard cottages, including some of Halloran’s originals, to attract Sydney investors looking for ‘character’ in a ‘village’ setting. The older buildings influenced the style of the lightweight homes that followed, as did the corrugations and curves of Murcutt’s modern coast aesthetic. Prices climbed and the little general store became a cafe and delicatessen. As the significance of distance was reduced by freeways, air travel and digital technology the spread of population and metropolitan affluence extended to the far north coast. The population of Tweed Shire – farthest north of all – more than doubled to 83 000 between 1981 and 2006. Sydney was the single largest contributor to this population shift but people were ‘pulled’ rather than pushed. There was the chance to improve one’s equity upon fleeing the inflated Sydney market, the promise of a bigger house and, most importantly, a life near the subtropical coast. Two planned developments, Casuarina and Salt, exemplify the attraction of the ‘village’ mindset. Both have building covenants to ensure uniformity of design and materials, creating a style that might be termed modern beach nostalgic. The flat planes, timber and occasional curve reflect the fibro and timber beach houses of old. It was a strategy aimed at those who grew up between the 1950s and 1970s as Casuarina developer Don O’Rorke acknowledged in 2003: ‘What we have been able to tap into here is a memory from their childhood … The memory of going to a simple holiday on the beach, fibro shacks, fish and chips out of newspapers … all those sort of images that the 40-plus have of their childhood’. In 2008 the Ray Group, which developed Salt, presented it as ‘the quintessential Australian seaside village’. The design guidelines were ‘inspired by the architecture of

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warm climates, particularly a relaxed and informal grandeur of light colours, shutters and large overhangs and a sense of polite rambling’. The influence of the old beach house is obvious, just as the Magney House is echoed in the sheets of iron – but the scale of many of the homes rivals the largest suburban mansion. These developments are a belated realisation of the decentralists’ dream of filling an ‘under-populated’ and ‘under-utilised’ coastline. Salt and Casuarina also echo Henry Halloran’s vision for a planned residential coast. Where he was influenced by the latest thinking in town planning, these places are held up as examples of ‘new urbanism’ – the current solution to the perceived sterility of suburbia in which community is fostered through good design, a mix of dwelling type, provision of local shops and facilities and, of course, a shared love of the beach. People choose to live in a newly created place, they are not born there. In these developments there is a reassuring sameness in taste and aspiration. But such is the size of the houses and the scale of the developments that the effect is more car-based suburbia than ‘village’. Seaside, the latest adjoining subdivision between Casuarina and Salt was laid out to include a supermarket. Between them, Casuarina, Salt and Seaside represent investment well in excess of two billion dollars. A few kilometres to the north, a different kind of village community springs to life every holiday season. At the decades-old central Kingscliff caravan park, which occupies absolute beachfront like few others, there is homogeneity, too. Permanently positioned, vintage Millard and Viscount vans sit next to newer models in neat rows. But there is no master plan and life flows a little chaotically into the open because, even with the addition of striped canvas awnings, the living space is cramped. Some families routinely share their holidays, returning to the same site each year. Children play with extended family, old friends or new ones. This pattern remains for thousands of the Australians the quintessential, affordable beach holiday. This part of the Tweed coast sits between two other models of development, the high-rise Gold Coast to the north and the soul-surfing mecca

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This Casuarina Beach House typifies the size of many new Tweed Coast homes. The use of corrugated iron is characteristic of the area.

Salt draws heavily upon surfing nostalgia and aspiration. This car and surfboard is permanently parked at the entrance to the Mantra Resort.

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Kingscliff caravan park, January 2013.

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of Byron Bay to the south. Local boosters had long wanted to tap into the tourist and residential boom apparent in both those places. Many Kingscliff residents, however, were wary of the Queensland precedent. ‘If there are towers you are basically gone … that would be the end’ was the summation of one who grew in the town in the 1960s. The result at the planned settlements is low- and medium-density development screened from the beach by a 75-metre strip of remnant vegetation. However, what is hidden from view can impact in other ways. In 2003 Peter Gladwin, the President of the Kingscliff Ratepayers Association remarked: ‘There are old people who I know of myself who have been left houses themselves but have had to sell them because the rates are just too much. [Living near the beach is] becoming a wealthy person’s option and ordinary working class people are being relegated to the back blocks.’ Gladwin was born and bred on the Tweed coast and he hoped that his children and their children would be able to ‘experience the same sense of freedom’ that came with life near the beach as he did. Few places resisted change as the post-war migration to the coast took hold. Where Salt and Casuarina were master-planned, Byron Bay grew organically. But the transformation in 40 years there was as profound as any. For a stretch of nine years ending in 1962 Byron Bay was home to the last of the state’s whaling operation. More than a thousand whales were killed and towed to the town’s jetty where locals shot at the marauding sharks that followed the carcasses. At the meatworks the animals were dissected and the remains boiled down for oil or processed for dog food. The town that Nat Young and others discovered in the mid-1960s had just lost its whalers due to the collapse of the humpback population. At that time Byron’s declining prosperity rested upon dairy farming and the Norco company that had sent butter and bacon south for decades. More people were leaving the place than arriving. A decade later ‘hippies’ had followed the soul surfers to the far north coast and turned old hinterland dairy farms into communes. The latter shared the soul surfers’ Romantic reverence for nature and Byron became the

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coastal centre for a counter-culture revolution with deep roots in ecology and mysticism. The development that followed paralleled the pattern at Pearl Beach but on a larger scale. A combination of natural attributes and a distinctive community with an interest in sympathetic development attracted an affluent urban bourgeoisie with similar aspirations and tastes. Celebrity and money followed and Byron became another ‘next best spot’. Prices rose and pressure for more development consequently intensified. However, despite the wealth, or perhaps because of it, Byron Bay retained a connection to its alternative cultural roots. Many defined their town against the sprawling developments to the north and south and it has remained distinct from anywhere else on the coast. In large part this identity rests upon its place as a centre of surf culture like no other. As a result, Byron Bay attracts huge numbers of overseas tourists seeking a unique and authentic Australian place. Some see the surf boutiques, tourists, and traffic jams as evidence of a place that has lost its soul. But for others, Byron Bay’s counter-culture roots are still alive in the ‘ecological civil society’ that can be found there. According to local writer and ecologist Mary Gardner, change was the best thing that could have happened: [H]ere in Byron, we are very aware of the whales on their migrations along this coast. Part of our revenue, directly or indirectly, is from watching living wild whales. But back in 1960, this was a town of whalers. By 1962, that industry had collapsed here. So did the meat works, another major local industry. In spite of such setbacks, Byron transformed itself into a new sort of town. Today, we are still experimenting with how to supply our common necessities, support a fair community and achieve a genuine environmental sustainability.

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Lee Pearce took this photograph of more than 2000 people protesting against overdevelopment at Byron Bay in 2004.

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11: Heritage and the coast ‘… to ramble amongst the old places of the past’ Mary Gardner’s description of Byron Bay appeared in an affectionate collection of local impressions, memories and pictures compiled between 1998 and 2010 to convey the ‘history, beauty and spirit’ of the place. As intelligent, playful creatures of the sea, whales and dolphins embodied that spirit. They are, in the minds of many, nature’s original soul surfers. Gardner’s characterisation of a transformative community both acknowledged the past but gently repudiated it, so that present-day ecological Byron was defined against the whaling town that used to be. In the context of Australian local history that is unusual. Such narratives have tended to simply celebrate and preserve the past – often in the face of change and loss. The sense of one’s heritage is significant in either case. The story that leads to the present can define communities and individuals. For Aboriginal

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people the relationship to past, most strongly expressed through place, knowledge and familial ties, has traditionally been integral to being. To retain a connection to one’s country and kin is paramount. European Australians came to express their links to place, community and family through the composition of memoirs and local histories in the late 1800s. Thomas Bawden’s lectures about pioneering days around Grafton, delivered in the mid-1880s, were among the earliest. For some decades after it was launched in 1901, the Royal Australian Historical Society’s journal included reminiscences and local area histories of coastal regions and Sydney Harbour. Heritage is, of course, more than the collation of historical narratives. It entails the preservation of significant places, practices and objects for the present and posterity. European Australians began saving these for the future in the 19th century. In 1879 objects that embodied colonial endeavour were set aside as part of the Technological, Industrial and Sanitary Museum collection housed in James Barnet’s elaborate Garden Palace above Sydney Harbour. When that burnt down in 1881, collecting began anew. Aboriginal technology was already being acquired by the Australian Museum with the intention of preserving the material culture of a people whom the curators considered were passing into history before the ‘advance’ of European ‘civilisation’. The community of Eden on the south coast was possibly the first in the state to celebrate its heritage and identity by building a local museum. The impetus was the death of ‘Old Tom’ the killer whale and the end of whaling in Twofold Bay that his demise confirmed. The bones from the whale’s carcass that George Davidson cleaned were first offered to the Australian Museum in 1931. But that was withdrawn after a public meeting at which the sentiment for keeping Old Tom in Eden was strongly expressed. It was, in the words of the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘a meeting unique in the annals of Australia, if not the world … for its object was to do honour to the memory of a denizen of the deep’. The Eden Killer Whale Museum opened in 1939. Eden had seen its fortunes falter repeatedly in recent decades so the museum venture had the commercial potential of tourism in mind. The town

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had been passed over as the possible port for the new Commonwealth capital at Bombala when that town fell away from contention by 1904. Without a rail link, Eden was left at the mercy of the Illawarra Steam Navigation Company’s monopoly. Port facilities withered and tourism, timber and a nascent fishing industry were all that was left. Twofold Bay was already well established in the popular imagination as a place of romantic whaling history even as the Davidsons were chasing down their last humpbacks. The story of the mercurial Ben Boyd had intrigued Australians since his mysterious death in 1851. In 1913 the Sydney Morning Herald suggested a visit to Twofold Bay for those of its readers who loved ‘to ramble amongst of the old places of the past’. At Boydtown they

An undated photograph of Boyd’s Tower at Red Point, Twofold Bay, 1920–1950.

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could discover the story of a ‘great man’ who ‘made history’ while wandering around ‘the ruins of the old church that was never finished and the incomplete Lookout Tower’ that were testimony to the misfortune that befell him. Tourist attraction though it may have been, there was genuine pride in the Eden museum and the history it contained. Through that institution, the heritage of the town and Twofold Bay became inextricably linked to the unique story of the killer whales that helped the whalemen. In time there were other museums elsewhere that told local maritime stories. But the identification of the coast with leisure – surfing, fishing, boating, holidaying – would become so overwhelming that earlier maritime associations remained fragmentary and marginal. Beyond Sydney and perhaps Newcastle, with its working port and heritage centre, no other place on the New South Wales coast has declared and maintained such a pronounced link to the sea as Twofold Bay. The celebration of one marine creature, Old Tom, may have been unique but for much of the 20th century the general celebration of whaling was commonplace. Whales were a natural resource like any other. At Byron Bay people gathered to watch as the creatures were carved up. Children posed near the pieces to emphasise their monstrous size. Australia remained a whaling nation until 1979. The end was brought about by incontrovertible evidence of collapsing numbers, but also by the new popular reverence for cetaceans. The sympathy for that desperate whale felt by young Elsie Davidson in the 1920s finally permeated the broader community. The final quick shift occurred within a generation. The Eden Killer Whale Museum adjusted its message accordingly so that alongside the skeleton of Old Tom and the story of heroic whalers there appeared information on the remarkable biology of whales. Then like Byron Bay, Eden became a place to marvel at the creatures and celebrate the recovery of the migrating population. ‘Whale watching’ emerged as a tourist attraction by the end of the century just as whale chasing had been one at the beginning. Eden’s diminished fishing fleet was joined by a small flotilla of tourist boats, assembled so that visitors could thrill at

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the beauty of a breaching humpback. But so strong was the sense of whaling heritage that the history of slaughter was never renounced. Rather, the association with that industry actually grew stronger when the old Davidson whaling station at the mouth of the Kiah River was acquired by the state government in 1984. Where the Boyd relics were built of durable stone and brick, the Davidson buildings were made of corrugated iron and old, greyed planks. That they had not been redeveloped as an exclusive getaway or devoured by insects and the elements was remarkable. The site, virtually intact, passed to the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service to maintain and interpret as part of its responsibility to conserve ‘the natural and cultural heritage’ of the state. Its preservation recognised the longest-operating whaling station in Australia, where Aboriginal and European crews had worked together, as a place of ‘national significance’.

‘ … custodians of the past for the future’ More than simply recalling a past activity, the relics around Twofold Bay are exceptional in New South Wales as examples of surviving 19th century coastal infrastructure. Beyond Barnet’s magnificent lighthouses, maintained because most still serve a purpose, there is so little obvious evidence left of early European use of the coast. The absence can be explained partly by the recentness of this history – many small towns and villages were barely settled by the end of the 1800s. By then fishing villages such as Clovelly in England and Locronon in France already seemed immutable. Where those places were made of stone, the primary building material along the New South Wales coast during the 19th century was timber. Rarely wealthy, fishermen tended to live in rudimentary dwellings many of which, by the mid-20th century, had simply decayed away or been replaced by more comfortable modern homes. The tiny settlement of Tamboy, on Myall Lakes, is probably

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Sedgers Reef Hotel, established in 1929 near the mouth of the Clarence River is still frequented in the early morning by trawler crews after working through the night. It is possibly the oldest structure in Iluka.

exemplary of the style. Established as a prawning village as late as the early 1900s, it survives only as a collection of weatherboard, iron and fibro shacks. At Iluka on the Clarence River, which had one of the earliest and largest fishing fleets on the coast beyond Sydney, the oldest apparent structure is a rambling weatherboard and fibro river-front pub that dates to 1929. It was no doubt isolation that saved Tamboy. Maritime buildings of much greater beauty and significance were demolished in the name of development or progress throughout the 20th century. The destruction of colonial Sydney Cove began as soon as the colony became a state in 1901. Then Fort Macquarie, which had defined the eastern point since 1817, was removed to make way for a tram turn-around. There were few comments, let alone objections. In 1939 the sandstone Commissariat Store, which had sat on the

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opposite side of the cove for just as long, was demolished as part of plans to improve the city’s ‘gateway’. For some it was a case of good riddance as the place was a scruffy reminder of the city’s convict origins. But others were beginning to argue for the retention of old buildings precisely because of their historical associations and dwindling numbers. As one member of the Royal Australian Historical Society argued, the Commissariat Store was part of the ‘birth-place of a nation’ grown to ‘vigorous youth’, and so much by then had already gone. A National Trust was formed in New South Wales in 1945. It was the first formally constituted organisation in Australia to lobby for the retention of significant places, following its British namesake. But in the post-war period the pressure for modernisation and redevelopment was greater than ever. In 1959 Thomas Mort’s palatial wool store at the head of Circular Quay was demolished to make way for an office block – the tallest in the country. The opponents were a little louder than in 1901, but just as ineffectual. As one supporter of the new glass and steel building retorted, it promised a ‘greater history than our past holds’. Over the next decade the colonial warehouses on the east side fell for similar structures and it was hoped that the same would happen on the west. But in the 1970s there were enough people willing to say ‘no more’ and the maritime precinct of The Rocks stayed. That was 30 years after Eden had built its whaling museum. Though many Australian architects were only too willing to replace old with new in the name of Modernism and the spirit of their age, others played an important role in the rediscovery of the country’s built heritage. Throughout the 1960s the journal of the Royal Institute of Architects (RAIA) featured photographic spreads of 19th century buildings with a view to inspiration and sometimes suggesting retention. Most were urban villas or country homesteads and relatively little attention was paid to the vernacular form of wharves and boatyards. But that meant that Birch Grove House, a Macquarie-era home that could qualify as a ‘marine villa’ given its views and proximity to the harbour, was featured in the journal in 1969 – two years after its demolition. Architect Robert Irving’s respect for the place was as

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palpable as his frustration with its loss: ‘no one could afford to buy the house for restoration, so expensive had its site become through a series of speculations that should never have been allowed to begin. And so another little piece of an architectural heritage already too scant was eroded away’. Irving was one of a growing number who criticised the general ‘blindness’ to the value of heritage and natural beauty. In 1966 Don Gazzard and others from the RAIA compiled a book of text and photographs showing examples of the incidental carelessness and thoughtless planning that, in combination, had created a ‘disfigured landscape’. Many of the places depicted in Australian Outrage were coastal and not unlike the scruffy street in Narrabeen that DH Lawrence described in Kangaroo. Indeed the compilers of the book seemed to echo Lawrence’s observation that tradition, reflected in a sense of heritage, meant little to Australians, so enamoured were they with their freedom to do as they liked. The authors decried the rubbish that lay around picnic spots, examples of toilet blocks placed starkly on beachfronts and scenic coast lookouts, and ‘parking areas bulldozed out of lovely coastal valleys’. Bondi Beach, they argued, had been desecrated by ‘the hideous concrete esplanade [and] the red roofed red-bricked villas crowd[ing] to the sea in serried ranks …’. Australian Outrage included a call to ‘preserve’ – for if the present generation did not act as ‘custodians of the past for the future … history will exist only in books’. The legacy of the ‘blindness’ of that period can still be found in abundance along the coast. The elements, too, have taken a toll on coastal structures. Byron Bay’s first timber jetty, built in 1888, was replaced by another in 1929 after it was too battered by wind and waves to remain safe. Its maritime role continued only briefly after the coastal steamers stopped coming. A cyclone took some of it away in 1954. With that section went the fishing fleet. The whaling ships docked alongside the remainder until 1962. Then surfers made unofficial use of it to gain quick access to the breakers, throwing their boards over the side, jumping in and surfing back to the beach. In 1974 engineers made another safety assessment and the surviving structure was demolished despite its long association with the town. After it was gone there were many

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locals, like Max Pendergast, who questioned its removal and missed it: ‘the Public Works department deemed the jetty to be unsafe, although everybody was still using it … I wish it was still here so my grandkids could enjoy it as much as I did’. After so many storms the jetty may not have been the loveliest structure on the coast. It did not have the length or the elegant curve of Busselton’s pier in Western Australia, parts of which date to the 1850s. Byron’s jetty was, like much of the built heritage of the coast at that time, under-valued, legally unprotected and not worth the expense. But its equivalent at Coffs Harbour, not far to the south, survived any temptation for demolition. That structure had been there long enough to lend its name to the town’s port. Coffs Harbour was divided between ‘The Jetty’ and ‘Top Town’. The pier stayed probably because it was protected by the breakwater to Muttonbird Island and, therefore, remained in use and good condition until 1974 when the last load of sea-borne timber left. Now the Coffs jetty is the last of the long 19th century jetties, a reminder of the working coast, a focal point for that foreshore and a place of ongoing memories. In 1994 the architectural historian Philip Drew described this and others like it, as ‘the humble equivalent of Bernini’s great St Peter’s colonnades. There is no mistaking its purpose.’ Attitudes to the built environment changed dramatically in the 1970s. The Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975 was followed by the New South Wales Heritage Act 1977. The former recognised places of significance in the Register of the National Estate but afforded little protection. The latter, however, included provisions for protection and the enforcement of minimum standards of maintenance and repair. Both Acts gave weight to technical accomplishment and historical value, as well as aesthetic qualities, in the assessment of significance. Grand houses were obvious candidates for early listing and Carthona and Elizabeth Bay House on Sydney Harbour were included in the Register of the National Estate. Over time a range of structures was added to both Commonwealth and New South Wales listings. In 2012 the Garrawarra coastal huts in the Royal National Park above Burning Palms, Era and Little Garie beaches were included in the State

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Heritage Register in recognition of ‘their continuity of use for over fifty years’ and as ‘evidence of the development of simple weekender accommodation around Sydney from the 1920s and 1930s’. There are more than 140 huts spread over the three sites. The listing protected a cultural landscape deemed to have value for the community as a whole. The assessment noted that coastal places like these were ‘rare’ as a result of development pressure and changing lifestyles. The listing also acknowledged the private rights of those who had inherited a possessive occupancy. For many, the huts and the beaches below them contained a lifetime of memories, and they now had confidence that the landscape of their lifetime might be passed on unchanged to children and grandchildren. That, too, is a rare thing. There had been some who thought the three beach sites, sitting as they did in a national park, should simply be returned to nature – the structures destroyed or allowed to crumble. But in the end there was coincidence between the interests of individuals and those of the community. Elsewhere along the coast, where the land is privately owned, the prevailing urge is to fill up existing places rather than empty them. Small houses are replaced by ever-larger coastal homes and weekenders. Underlying this is a basic tension between the perceived interests of the community and the rights of owners to change or benefit from the value of their property as they see fit. Planning and heritage legislation introduced from the 1970s has attempted to mediate between these. Ideally, sites are assessed for their heritage value and appropriate controls placed upon them. Across the state, local councils identify and attempt to protect individual ‘heritage items’ and ‘conservation areas’, which have an integrity and meaning as a collection of structures in the landscape. Those deemed to be of state importance are added to the State Heritage Register upon nomination and acceptance by the Heritage Council of New South Wales and the Minister responsible for Heritage. The modest 1921 timber beach cottage called Banksia was typical of the weekenders that appeared along Sydney’s northern beaches as getaways for the city’s middle classes in the decades following the bathing revolution.

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Banksia was built at Newport for Cresswell O’Reilly, who went on to cofound the National Trust. But as the desire to be near the coast grew, along with the kudos of living there, the houses at Newport and elsewhere kept getting bigger. Banksia survived in its big leafy garden as a remnant of old Newport. In 2010 it was sold to property developers who planned to replace the cottage with two three-storey houses. The proposal was opposed by some, including the writer Geraldine Brooks whose family had owned the place for a time: At some point the people of the peninsula are going to have to ask if we are going to pave over every square centimetre, chop down every tree, blot out the sun and the neighbours’ views and sacrifice every old and charming house to the siren song of biggest, latest, most ostentatious.

Banksia was demolished in 2011, just ten years short of its centenary. The house had slipped past local heritage assessments and, therefore, was not protected by local or state controls. Possibly it was too modest to be noticed, even as it was becoming ‘exceptional’. The heritage system deals best with those sites that immediately impress with their importance. And when an owner is intent upon redevelopment, the prize needs to match the cost and determination required to save it. In the end the National Trust lamented the loss of another piece of coastal heritage and a bit of their own history. They blamed lack of adequate resourcing for assessments and a planning system that favoured development at the expense of heritage ‘checks and balances’. Land development is one of the biggest industries in Australia. In New South Wales it generates vast wealth and jobs for thousands while providing nearly 20 per cent of tax revenue for the government. Preserving built heritage, however, is expensive in terms of money and time. The process of both assessing sites and implementing controls is inherently slow, particularly for those ‘ordinary’ places that need careful justification. For those keen on securing approval to ‘redevelop’, ‘upgrade’ or ‘improve’ their property, heritage considerations can be one more burdensome part of an already complicated procedure. There are many for whom the age and meaning of a site

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are simply irrelevant. In the end the value of heritage is subjective – there is rarely consensus at any one time and general opinion changes over decades. On the eve of its destruction, the Commissariat Store was widely considered a decrepit reminder of an unpleasant past, but few today would advocate its demolition. As the National Trust pointed out when Banksia was demolished, ‘It should not be assumed that something not on a heritage list is not of heritage value’. And, as that case highlights, the system is reactive. Heritage value is frequently identified in the context of threat – and time often runs out. In 2011 the New South Wales chapter of the Trust had 11 500 listings on its heritage register. These have no legal standing but do carry weight by way of expert opinion. The State Heritage Register, which does provide substantial legal protection, had approximately 1600 sites. The village of Catherine Hill Bay can be found on both, although it was listed by the Heritage Council only after years of disputed development. As with the Royal National Park huts, the significance of Catherine Hill Bay derives from its rarity as a collection of intact dwellings in a largely unchanged coastal setting. More specifically the ‘Catherine Hill Bay Cultural Precinct’ is exceptional because it was established as a coal-mining company town by the Wallarah Coal Company in the late 19th century. Where the workers got cottages, Wallarah House, a large verandahed bungalow with sea views, was constructed for the manager. The town’s story, then, relates to mining, labour relations and coastal shipping. It was here that coal from the nearby mine was loaded into ‘sixty miler’ colliers at the jetty and shipped to Sydney. From the 1920s the fuel was deposited for mechanical transfer to steamers at the remarkable Balls Head Coal Loader. The workers at Catherine Hill Bay took part in various strike actions. In the 1960s they were given the option to buy their cottages. A new jetty replaced the old in the 1970s for the last phase of operations. Work wound down in the 1990s and mining ceased in 2002 but some miners, their descendants and some newcomers have continued to inhabit the place. A few cottages have been altered but many have not and the scale

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of development remains small and intimate. Catherine Hill Bay is a special place. The issue that emerged there was not demolition of the cottages but crowding and curtilage – that is the preservation of sufficient space around the settlement. When the mining ceased in 2002 developers bought several redundant sites in the area including a U-shaped piece of land that surrounded the southern end of the little town. They proposed a large new suburban-style development, which the State Labor Government welcomed as part of its Lower Hunter Regional Strategy, aimed at spreading economic development beyond the Sydney Region. The development represented a six-fold increase in dwellings – and, potentially, in population – with all the attendant threats to ‘Catho’, its lifestyle and environment. Locals organised their opposition through a Progress Association, a local area ‘action group’ and the Environmental Defenders Office – an independent body established in 1996 and largely funded by the New South Wales Government to assist in ‘public interest’ environmental disputes. Many others, including the Lake Macquarie City Council and the National Trust, questioned the wisdom of such intensive development near such a sensitive site, but the State Labor Government remained determined to proceed with the project and rezoned and redefined the land so that checks and balances including local council controls and the State Government’s own Heritage Act could be bypassed. The case was one of many that called into question the adequacy of the planning system in New South Wales and the relationship between developers and government – the state Labor Party in particular. Indeed, the original ministerial approval was successfully challenged in the Land and Environment Court in 2009 because the presiding judge found grounds for the perception of ministerial bias and partiality. The town was then nominated for the State Heritage Register (SHR). Heritage disputes, however, are rarely easily resolved. Already eight years old when the SHR listing was approved, the battle against the neighbouring development was still not over. The 2009 court judgment did not

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overturn the residential zoning of the development site. Neither did establishing the significance of the little town preclude development nearby. And despite a change of government, Catherine Hill Bay remained a part of the Lower Hunter Regional Strategy. A subdivision for 550 sites was approved in 2011. So the fight to ‘Save Catherine Hill Bay’ shifted from a campaign to stop development to one that sought to ameliorate the impact of what was inevitable. At least, as the Sydney Morning Herald reported, there would be no ‘McMansions’ in ‘Catho’. The landscaping and look of the houses in the new ‘Catherine Hill Bay South’ subdivision were subsequently laid out in a Development Control Plan which aimed ‘to protect the aesthetic and cultural heritage qualities of the existing village and its landscape setting and ensure that development does not adversely impact these qualities’. The best way to achieve this was to establish ‘a distinctive Australian coastal village appearance and character’ in the new settlement. To quash the suggestion of suburbia, exposed brick was forbidden. Instead wooden elements were to be featured and the walls made ‘predominantly’ of fibro-like panel cladding or ‘painted weatherboards’. Essentially it was a plan for a community of beach houses – inspired, perhaps ironically, by cottages like Banksia.

‘… to engage with the materials …’ It may be that Australians tend to prefer pragmatism and simple practicality to the bother that comes with restoration and preservation. It is easier to build a modern air-conditioned brick house than renovate an elderly timber one with a weathered veranda and all the ongoing costs of upkeep. What applies to houses is true, to some extent, with boats. Fibreglass and metal are the dominant material these days for both working vessels and pleasure craft. The clinker-built timber dinghies and skiffs that were so much a feature of the coastal waterways from beginning of the 19th century disappeared

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around the 1960s, to be replaced by durable, low-maintenance ‘tinnies’. It is rust-proof aluminium boats that now line the state’s waterfronts from the newest marinas to the old fishing settlement of Tamboy. However, there are still planked hulls to be seen on the high-stemmed trawlers that head out from the Clarence, the Tweed and other coastal rivers. Their survival keeps alive a 200-year-old tradition of timber boats in the fishing industry. And unlike the steel vessels that may in time replace them, the wooden boats have been made from the forests along the coast they work. In the first half of the 20th century the majority of locally built craft were little snapper boats, fitted with both sail and a small engine and barely big enough for three men. The builders used imported pine and oregon as well as local timbers such as flooded and spotted gum. Keels were usually ironbark. The coastal forests provided excellent ‘knees’, those lengths that were naturally bent and therefore perfect for supports. On the north coast melaleuca was preferred. On the south coast, where the availability of timber was even better, these came from ironbark, spotted gum, stringybark and blackbutt trees. Local timbers were also used to build the trawlers and tuna boats that took over from the snapper boats after the war. When Batemans Bay fisherman and boatbuilder Merv Innes built his trawler Robin Elizabeth, in 1980, he cut the ‘knees’ from the buttress roots of swamp mahogany trees that had been felled nearby to make way for housing developments. The demand for wooden boats was declining as the Robin Elizabeth was being completed. Ease of maintenance was one factor. But it was also the case that the state’s fishing fleet was contracting, with restructures aimed at creating a commercially and ecologically sustainable enterprise out of what had been a ‘cottage industry’ of family-owned businesses. The number of commercial fishing licenses was halved between 1984 and 2000. The ‘rationalisation’ was compounded by hard times and environmental problems. The 1999 closure of Eden’s tuna cannery further reduced boat numbers there. In 2006 more licenses were bought-out by the Government when Sydney Harbour was closed to commercial fishing because of residual industrial contamination.

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Wooden trawler at Iluka, Clarence River, 2011.

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Today it is rare to see a wooden trawler under construction. Alf Settree built the last of his timber boats, the Tasman Sea, on the Currumbene Creek at Huskisson in 1979. There had been 31 others since Alf took over from his father in 1948, and more than 100 before that in the long line of locally built boats stretching back to 1861. Settree retired from business after the Tasman Sea was launched but in 1988 he returned to Currumbene Creek to supervise the construction of a replica wooden boat-slip for Huskisson’s newly established Lady Denman Maritime Museum. On the slip is a fishing boat with timber ribs exposed awaiting the planking. There for educational purposes only, the vessel will never be finished. Wooden trawlers, like other working vessels, have found their way into the leisure-boat market, restored and refitted for cruising and recreational fishing. The enthusiasm for ‘heritage vessels’, trawlers, schooners and ketches, has grown as their qualities and scarcity are appreciated. Ironically, rare as boats like these are, the record of their survival and ongoing usefulness is better than that of the steel coasters that supplanted them. Most of those saw out their days in Asia or the Pacific before being scrapped. It is unlikely that any of the old navigation company vessels remain afloat. The knowledge of how to build wooden boats survived into the 21st century with artisans such as Ken Beashel. The demand for wooden pleasure craft, at least, outstrips local supply. In 2005 Beashel estimated that as many as 30 of the people he had trained as apprentices were still working, but he still faced the dilemma of ‘running out of tradespeople’ in the face of increasing orders. At that time Beashel was among a group of builders and sailors working to reinstate the 18-foot racing skiffs to Sydney Harbour where they had been a feature from the 1890s through to the 1960s. While two replicas raced in 1997, fifteen years later there were ten of the extraordinarily fast craft with their billowing sails competing regularly on weekends. Elsewhere skills, knowledge and materials are exchanged among members of the Wooden Boat Association of New South Wales, established in 1990 as part of a ‘national community of wooden boat enthusiasts’. The Sydney Heritage Fleet, which endeavours to restore, maintain and operate

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The Italian fishing community in New South Wales has maintained a tradition of The Blessing of the Fleet since the 1950s in Ulladulla. A wooden statue of St Peter the Patron Saint of fishermen is paraded through the town and the fleet is blessed by a priest after a religious service. This John Mulligan photograph was taken in 1964.

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The Heritage value of shipwrecks was first recognised in 1976 with the Commonwealth Historic Shipwreck Act. In NSW, which has the highest proportion of wrecks in Australia, all sites are protected. This photograph by wreck diver Max Gleeson shows the remains of the Bombo, which began its working life shipping ‘blue metal’ from Kiama to Sydney in 1930. It sank with the loss of 12 men off Port Kembla in 1949.

vintage vessels, was founded by volunteers in 1989, but its antecedents go back to 1965. The fleet’s collection extends from an early 20th century rowing skiff – one that may have started its working life as a Sydney Harbour wherry – to the tug Waratah slipped at Cockatoo Island in 1902. Some vessels are stored at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney, which opened in 1988. The museum worked with the Sydney Heritage Fleet to launch a National Register of Historic Vessels in 2007. Dozens are

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documented and entered each year. Many vessels are still afloat and most were built before 1965, ‘the start of the era of mass production’. The Register of Historic Vessels also includes several examples of indigenous canoes. Two of these, collected as ethnographic artefacts by the Australian Museum, are from New South Wales. One was commissioned by the museum as an example of Aboriginal craft around 1938. The maker, Albert Woodlands, lived in the Macleay River area. The canoe he fabricated from a single sheet of bark was typical of the coastal area from Kempsey north. The ends were folded and lashed, with a spike pushed through for added strength. They were then creased to give a rise at both ends. It was a style to be used in a river or lake, propelled by a pole like a punt. The second canoe is almost certainly older. It came from the collection of Alexander Morrison, one of many white Australians who gathered indigenous artefacts in the late 19th and early 20th century as examples of a technology and culture they thought were disappearing. It is not clear whether the canoe was made as a working craft or a commissioned artefact. It appears to be of the type used in the Sydney area and the south coast but it may also have originated around Morrison’s own Hunter River region. Living in rural Singleton on the upper Hunter River, Morrison acquired other objects from the Worimi and Awabakal people. While these and other canoes have been held in public collections for decades, research into indigenous watercraft is relatively new. Much of it is being led by Aboriginal people. There has been a resurgence of interest in traditional canoe-making across indigenous Australia. Remarkably, it has been a spontaneous flowering with groups from the Top End to Tasmania finding in the craft of canoe-making a means of recovering culture and strengthening community. The Saltwater Freshwater Arts Alliance is one these groups. It is a regional organisation comprising people from ten Local Aboriginal Land Councils whose goal is to foster Aboriginal arts and culture from Coffs Harbour south to Karuah. The area covers four language groups: Gumbayngirr, Dunghutti, Birpai, Worimi. The Alliance initiated the Birpai Canoe Project

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in 2012. In light of the shared ‘cultural links of displacement’ the project’s purpose was ‘to facilitate an environment for Elders from both Birpai and Dunghutti to transfer knowledge of traditional canoe building’. Canoebuilding will bring indigenous men and boys together. So early and profound was the displacement and loss of traditional knowledge in New South Wales that the alliance and others involved in canoe projects have sought information from many sources. Oral history provided some. But while Aboriginal coastal communities readily adopted European methods of boat-building by the end of the 19th century, traditional canoe-making had virtually ended by the time the present generation of elders was born. Oral testimony drew upon hearsay evidence or childhood recollection rather than direct experience of canoe-making. Ironically, however, there is cultural knowledge to be tapped in the records and evidence compiled by Europeans during the process of displacement. The Australian Museum made accessible the ‘Morrison canoe’ for inspection. More information came from the photographs of Thomas Dick whose family had settled in the Port Macquarie area in the 1840s. In his own words Dick ‘gained the confidence’ of elders and recorded many practices in image and text while assembling his own collection of artefacts. As with Lycett’s watercolours, Dick’s photographs have been accepted by Aboriginal people as accurate depictions of culture in the early 20th century. To these have been added the observations of explorers such as John Oxley who used Aboriginal watercraft to cross the rivers and lakes they encountered in the process of consolidating European possession. The account of canoe-making recounted by linguist William Scott was one of the most comprehensive: As soon as it [the bark] was taken off, the blacks would pass it back and forth across the flames of a fire to turn up the ends, which would be tied into position with sections of vine and fibre. The rough, outside bark, the exterior of the canoe, would be carefully trimmed away with the blade of a tomahawk until the surface was smooth and clean. The inner part, the inside of the craft, would of course be the naturally smooth sappy portion. The stem and stern would be plugged with clay, so skilfully introduced that the whole craft would be absolutely watertight. To give the canoe rigidity

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so that it could bear its passengers safely, stretchers were ingeniously fitted along its length somewhat after the manner one sees in an ordinary clinkerbuilt boat …

But, as Rachel Piercy has noted of the Worimi canoe project, initiated by Steven Brereton in 2012 and which she helped to document, process itself can reveal so much more about the culture of making and using canoes. It offers clues to questions about durability, seasonality, and who in a group might have been involved: ‘the best way to make a canoe is to engage with the materials. No matter how much previous evidence or information the main learning focus for communities now will to be to engage in the making process and learn as we go’.

‘… all things change, some very rapidly …’ Where some cultural knowledge is being relearned, other wisdom was never forgotten. Bundjalung people on the far north coast still respect the columns of black basalt at the end of Fingal Head as the embodiment of the Dreaming spirit of the echidna Booniny. The community of Wreck Bay know what uses local coastal plants have been put to over generations. Coral fern (Gleichenia dicarpa) probably served as an insect repellent before the arrival of Europeans. The delicious berries of the shrub red five corners (Styphelia triflora) are still a treat when discovered while bushwalking, though the plant is hard to spot. The barbed leaf shafts of the burrawang were used to make fishing spears in the 20th century as they had been for hundreds of years before that. A more recent adaptation, still recalled, was the use of ironbark and red bloodwood gum to tan fishing nets. The Wreck Bay community live on the edge of an extraordinary cultural resource – the Booderee National Park. They have owned and jointly managed that place since 1995. Booderee is part of a Commonwealth National Reserve System that aims to protect biodiversity in a range of habitats ‘for

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One of the early 20th century Thomas Dick photographs that have provided evidence of canoe manufacture techniques.

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Steve Brereton paddles the canoe he made on the central coast in Sydney Harbour as part of the Australian National Maritime Museum’s Aboriginal watercraft conference in 2012.

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future generations’. The system includes more than 50 Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) chosen because of their ecological and cultural values. Gumma at Nambucca was declared an IPA in 2011. It encompasses a spit of forested dune and an arm of the Nambucca River next to the long South Beach. More than one-third of the New South Wales coast is protected as reserved land such as Gumma, or as various nature reserves and national parks. Most were created as part of the State-based reserve system and, since 1967, have been managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of New South Wales. The first was the Royal National Park set aside just south of Sydney in 1879 when it was only the second ‘national park’ in the world. It included several kilometres of coast south from Port Hacking, and nearly as much foreshore within Port Hacking itself. The park was created, in part, to retain ‘barren heath, secluded dells, and bold sea beaches’, as well as ‘primeval forests’ so that the ‘whole heritage is safe beyond the reach of plunder; safe from the machinations of ambitious schemers’. The Royal National Park was followed by the Ku-ring-ai Chase National Park in 1894, which included more than 10 kilometres of Broken Bay foreshore. These parks were run by trusts with little expertise in natural history. Wild flowers were being picked and birds shot for sport into the early 1900s. In the two decades that followed, citizen-based conservation groups became critical of the management of the Royal National Park in particular. There was rather too much recreation and not enough preservation of plants and animals. Myles Dunphy was one of the most active and outspoken. He grew up around Kiama and developed a love and understanding of nature by exploring the nearby forest and coast. It nearly ended there for him at the age of 14 when he spent too long ‘chiselling fossils from a cretaceous cliff’ and was left stranded with a rising tide below. In 1914 he co-founded the Mountain Trails Club, a group of bushwalkers who took rambling to another level by embracing ‘bushcraft’, which eschewed the comforts of tourist accommodation and adopted the precept to ‘leave pleasant places along the way just as pleasant for those who follow’.

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The rock formation at Fingal Head that embodies the giant echidna Booniny.

Dunphy’s group routinely camped at Burning Palms and nearby beaches, which sat in the Garawarra area just outside the southern boundary of the national park. It was there, and in the mountains, that they became aware that ‘all things change, some very rapidly’. Their ‘challenge’ was ‘how to hold onto those good things’. Local change was manifested by the coming of the hut-dwellers who permanently took up the best camping spots. The Mountain Trails Club organised with other walking groups, the Sydney Bush Walkers, Coast and Mountain Walkers and the Bush Tracks Club, and

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established both a Federation of Bush Walking Clubs and a National Parks and Primitive Areas Council in 1932 with the goal of pressuring Government to establish more parks and reserves. Citizen-based action for the preservation or creation of public space already had a long history in New South Wales. The various campaigns to gain access to Sydney beaches, restricted by the ownership of surrounding land, were obvious antecedents. But the work of the bushwalkers was the beginning of a new era of effectiveness. One of their first successes was the creation of the Garawarra Primitive Area in 1934. Most of the Burning Palms huts within the area were torn down. More than 2400 hectares reserved there were later added to the adjoining Royal National Park. The private leasehold on which the Era and Little Garie beach huts sat would follow when that land was resumed and included in the park in the 1950s. These, of course, would be heritage-listed half a century later. In 1934 Sydney solicitor Marie Byles, along with colleagues in the Sydney Bush Walkers group, successfully championed the creation of the Bouddi National Park at Pittwater. She and other members of the subsequent trust routinely held board meetings on the beach there. Land at Patonga near Pearl Beach and Kurnell Peninsula was reserved in 1936. A reserve at the Beecroft Peninsula, near Currarong, was proposed in 1939 and achieved after the war in 1945. There had been public pressure for wildlife conservation too. In 1948 State Parliament passed the Fauna Protection Act. The legislation provided for the creation of nature reserves. The intent was in effect the establishment of a system of diverse and ecologically complex areas, a precursor to the National Reserve System. The reluctance of the Lands Department resulted in what Allen Strom, the State’s Chief Guardian of Fauna, later described as, ‘a scramble for whatever was offering’. The whole of Cabbage Tree Island, just outside Port Stephens was set aside in 1954 as the John Gould Nature Reserve specifically to protect the endangered Gould’s petrel. The Nadgee Nature Reserve south of Twofold Bay followed in 1957.

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An undated photograph of Garie Beach, in the Garrawarra area, probably taken in the 1940s.

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From that year responsibility for management of these and other reserves fell to Strom, who had only the help of ‘one field officer and one shorthand typist’ when he took up his post. But in 1957 another citizens’ group, the National Parks Association, was formed to press for the passage of a National Park Act aimed at improving the management of existing reserves and the process of creating new ones. Legislation to that effect was passed in 1967 and the National Parks and Wildlife Service came into being. An amendment in 1969 expanded the service’s responsibilities to Aboriginal ‘relics’. In 1973 the service began a Sites of Significance Survey, which would quickly increase awareness of the significance of Aboriginal sites and existing knowledge. The following year another amendment made provision for the gazetting of Aboriginal Places. The research credentials of the new organisation were enhanced by the formation of Scientific Services Section in 1976. By the time of the centenary of the first national park, in 1979, there were 46 parks across New South Wales. Sixteen of them were located on the State’s eastern edge, covering nearly one-fifth of the coastline. Yuraygir National Park, south of Yamba, was gazetted the following year. It is a long stretch of coast running for more 60 kilometres from Angourie to Red Rock. The area includes many Aboriginal sites and several longstanding beach camps including Sandon and Broomshead. The National Parks Association and its precursors had done much to change popular opinion about the value of conservation since the 1920s and, by 1980, there were many who saw the creation of such parks as a self-evident good in the face of coastal development and environmental degradation. But the success produced backlash and resistance. In the case of Yuraygir, there were many who wanted to retain the rights to access and use established over decades. The area was regularly visited by fishers and campers. There were those who still held grazing and mining leases and local councils focussed on the economic benefits of expanding tourism and the consequent need for road access to beaches. For its part the Park Service was intent upon preserving and, in many cases, remediating, the natural values of the area. As a result of so many conflicting interests it took 20 years for the completion

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of a management plan. The debates highlighted fundamental issues justifying the existence of national parks. Some favoured restricted access so that a natural heritage might be preserved for future generations. Others saw no value in preserving a place that humans could not directly enjoy. The issue of track closure was one of the most protracted and the fight over four-wheel-drive access to Shelley Beach was particularly bitter. Those wanting closure pointed out the problems of dune erosion, those against argued for continued access to favourite fishing and camping spots. The divisions were apparent within the local community itself. The Park Service closed the track in 1987 but the matter was not settled finally until the Clarence Valley branch of the National Parks Association won the case for closure in the Land and Environment Court in 1992. Fifteen years later, when Johanna Kijas began documenting the history of Yuraygir National Park, the access road had all but disappeared. As she discovered, to some ‘the untracked expanse of heath and coastal view’ just presaged more unwelcome restrictions to activities such as off-road driving and fishing that they viewed as ‘part of their heritage’. But for others ‘the same vista holds within it a precious and fragile ecological wonder in an overcrowded world, which needs their protection and vigilance’.

‘My One Fourteen Millionth Share’ The Shelley Beach track was not very old. It had been pushed through in 1969 as part of sand-mining operations there, one of many such ventures along the coast throughout the 20th century. The bare dunes at Cronulla had been so vast they had been used as the desert set for the Beersheba charge of the Australian Light Horse recreated in Charles Chauvel’s 1940 film Forty Thousand Horsemen. Thomas Holt’s descendants had started selling the sand to the construction industry in the 1930s. The extraction increased after World War II so that by the end of the century only one dune remained undisturbed.

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The prize in other places, including Shelley Beach, was minerals – namely rutile, zircon and ilmenite which Australia’s east coast contained in rare abundance. Mineral mining often resulted in the destruction of old forest grown up on ancient dunes well back from the beach. This devastating aftermath was one of the key issues for conservationists and the push for coastal reserves in the post-war period. The campaign to create a reserve at Myall Lakes from the late 1950s through to the 1960s coincided with the onset of mining there. Extraction continued despite protestations and throughout the deliberations of the Sims Committee, which was appointed in 1965 to investigate the effects of sand mining and the need for national parks. In 1968 the committee recommended that 96 kilometres of coast be set aside for parks, but only 19 kilometres of this be protected from sand mining. A national park was approved at Myall Lakes but it was a fraction of what had been suggested by the National Parks Association and others. Mining continued around the northern part of the lakes but was halted in the southern half. The issue of sand mining and the disappointment of Myall Lakes is seen as one of the issues that radicalised the conservation movement in the early 1970s. That campaign had particular relevance for Milo Dunphy, son of Myles. He co-founded the Total Environment Centre in 1972 in the latter stages of the Myall Lakes campaign and, with that, became a ‘pioneer professional environmentalist’. Milo had followed his father across the state as the veteran campaigner mapped possible new parks. But the waterways of the New South Wales coast were part of a personal story and an individual heritage: Most of us have a region we regard as home. Mine is eastern NSW. The inventory of its estuaries and coastal lagoons is the inventory of my life. At two I was in a canoe on the Myall Lakes; at 10 watching mullet jump at Durras lake; at 12 rowing quietly up to the best fishing spots in the Shoalhaven estuary.

Gwen Piper was moved by similar attachments. ‘A beautiful coastline had been part of my earliest memories’, she wrote, ‘Sea and sand, blue skies and

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trees. During the years of childhood there was opportunity to run over sand dunes, to lie in the sun in a sheltered spot, to see undamaged coastline’. In the 1970s Piper travelled up and down the coast observing the changes that had occurred. Her aim was to document the effects of sand mining but in the process Piper saw coastal development, ‘flats built on the edge of the beach’, as just as destructive. The accumulation of so many private actions resulted in ‘Ugliness, Destruction, and the Loss of Public Rights’. The heritage of all Australians was being lost. Piper blamed ignorance in general and the ‘greed’ of business in partnership with local government in particular. Her argument was that precious waterfront ‘should be the property of all the citizens’ and the book she wrote and published in 1980 to justify that position was titled My One Fourteen Millionth Share. The battle against sand mining was largely won in the decade following Piper’s book. The campaign against over-development, however, was only just beginning. The state government responded with a series of planning laws and policies that could be used to mitigate the impact of development. The Coastal Protection Act 1979 established an independent advisory committee, the New South Wales Coastal Council. The Healthy Rivers Commission was established in 1995. Two years later construction of canal estates was banned because of their impact on marine ecology. But it was an indication of the level of development pressure along the coast that laws were constantly amended and advisory bodies replaced by others. By 2004 both the Coastal Council and the Healthy Rivers Commission were gone and amendments made to the Environment and Assessment Act 1979, which undermined its effectiveness in the eyes of conservationists and heritage groups. In 2003 the Total Environment Centre presented a picture of a coast in crisis in the face of ineffectual legislation and local councils. They listed 450 developments described as ‘inappropriate or controversial’. Forty-one of these projects had been approved or proposed in the Tweed Shire alone, Casuarina, Salt and Seaside among them. The language of the report reflected the stridency of the environmental movement as it had developed since the

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1960s when, Milo Dunphy noted, activists tended to be ‘more conservative than you can afford to be as a conservationist’. It presented a particularly pessimistic description of a dysfunctional and unrepresentative system of local government: ‘Councils are usually controlled and/or influenced by real estate developers and vested interests’. Tweed Council was, indeed, dismissed in 2005 after a state government inquiry concluded that developerrun lobby groups had wielded inappropriate influence. But the issue is one of demand as much as supply. A decade later the coastal heath and forest along the ‘New Tweed Coast’ continues to be cleared as people come to realise their ‘dreams’ of a life near the beach.

‘Blue is the new green’ In 2010 the National Parks Association published a brochure arguing the case for the establishment of marine parks. It was appropriately title ‘Blue is the new green’. For where, throughout much of the 20th century, the focus of the conservation movement had been on the creation of terrestrial parks, the attention in the present century is on the sea. The basis had been laid with the research of scientists and naturalists in earlier years. That work was popularised in books such as Dakin, Bennett and Pope’s Australian Seashores. But the broadening focus was also international. Rachel Carson’s 1951 bestselling The Sea Around Us preceded Australian Seashores by just one year. Carson’s book stimulated a general wonder in the ‘mystery and meaning of the sea’ while establishing her career as a writer and ultimately as an environmentalist. Meanwhile Jacques Cousteau founded the French Oceanographic Campaigns in 1950 having developed the use of self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA) along with underwater cinematography and photography. His films and book The Silent World, published in 1953, further expanded the audience for popular marine science.

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Len Monckton, pioneered underwater photography in Australia. His images of the Great Barrier Reef were shown internationally in the early 1960s. Appreciation of the reef and its vulnerability led to the creation of the Australian Marine Sciences Association in 1962 and the Australian Littoral Society in 1965. That body would become the Australian Marine Conservation Society. By the end of the 1960s SCUBA was generally available in Australia. While it was used by many to more easily exploit the resources of reefs and close waters with spear guns, it also made extended underwater research possible. The campaign to save the Great Barrier Reef from oil drilling in the 1960s initiated the idea of marine parks in Australia. That was realised on the reef in 1975, but the country’s first marine protected area was established as part of Bouddi National Park in 1972. The state parliament passed a Marine Parks Act 1997, which created the State’s Marine Park Authority that year. The Act placed a priority on the conservation of biological diversity and habitats by the initiation of a comprehensive system of marine parks, and the maintenance of their ‘ecological processes’. Where consistent with that, the Act allowed for commercial and recreational fishing. Consequently marine parks have zonings in which some forms of extraction are permitted, as well as sanctuaries where fishing is prohibited. In 2010 there were six parks covering 34 per cent of the state’s waters. Of this, 18 per cent was sanctuary zone. Jervis Bay and Solitary Islands marine park were created in 1998 and that year Australian governments, state and federal, agreed to establish a national system of marine parks. The sixth reserve in New South Wales, created in 2006, was the large Bateman Marine Park, which ran from Bawley Point to south of Narooma and included Montague Island. The Australian system of marine parks, including those in New South Wales, was established in the context of a sense of global environmental crisis. The 1998 Report of the Independent World Commission on the Oceans noted the rapid and recent ‘shift in the basic condition of the world’s oceans from one of apparent abundance to one of growing scarcity’. While terrestrial

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Harold Cazneaux’s photograph shows rock fishermen near Sydney in 1904.

environments had undergone cycles of degradation and renewal, the change to the seas affected by common use was unprecedented and it was not clear, by implication, how a reversal could be effected. At that time less than 1 per cent of the oceans were protected as marine reserves of any kind. Australia was one of the signatories to a range of agreements that sought to increase this global protection to as much as 30 per cent by 2012. Though Australia developed one of the largest marine park systems in the world, by 2011 its territorial water coverage was still less than 10 per cent. Consequently some groups, such as the Australian Marine Sciences Association, have pressed for more parks and, within those, more sanctuary ‘no take’ zones – arguing for as much as 33 per cent of the total.

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Four-wheel drive vehicles have increased access to many beaches and headlands. This photograph was taken on the long stretch of beach near Myall Lakes in 2011.

Alongside this growth in concern for the marine environment, there has been the long-term popularity of recreational fishing, strengthened by the transformation of coast into a desirable place to live and holiday. By contrast, sport hunting has declined as a result of wildlife protection acts and concerns over public safety. Many anglers hold to a belief in ‘the right to fish’, a right that has a real basis in English common law. In Australia fish are the last wild resource generally available for harvesting by individuals. Recreational fishing is now widely regarded as part of this country’s ‘way of life’. Accordingly, the sea is viewed as a great aquatic common.

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New South Wales has more anglers than any other state. A national survey in 2003, estimated that there were nearly one million fishers, twothirds of them men. Bag limits were imposed in the 1980s and license fees in 2001 but these restrictions were inconsiderable compared to regulation and contraction of commercial fishing areas. The State Labor Government recognised both the popular appeal and economic effect of angling as a means of distributing wealth from urban to regional areas. So, as marine parks were being introduced, 29 estuarine fishing havens, in which commercial fishing was excluded to the benefit of recreational anglers, were created in 2002. The marine parks debate and general pessimism about the health of the world’s oceans have tested public attitudes to fishing. There are those who feel at an ethical level that Myles Dunphy’s edict, to leave a place as one finds it, applies equally to the sea as it does the land. Fishing is, by this definition, wrong because it takes while leaving, too often, a legacy of tangled lines in the water and plastic bait bags. Others hold that fishing, both recreational and commercial, is the main ecological threat to Australian fisheries. For them the expansion of ‘no take’ sanctuary zones is a key solution to loss of diversity and numbers. Not surprisingly, recreational fishers have objected to such characterisations of their sport. They have resisted attempts to reduce access to fishing grounds, to contract the commons in what is often referred to as the ‘lock it up and throw away the key approach’. There are echoes of the preservation versus recreation debate that had unfolded around terrestrial parks. The issue became particularly polarised in New South Wales after fish biologist Professor Robert Kearney voiced his criticisms of the Batemans Marine Park zoning in 2007. The main threat to the marine and estuarine ecologies, he maintained, was not from fishing but the spread of the exotic species, sedimentation, and pollution – in particular toxic run-off from agriculture and the ever-increasing urbanisation of the coast. He saw little in the Marine Park’s management plans that dealt with the reality of that threat. Furthermore, justifications for ‘no take’ sanctuaries as breeding grounds for fish that would ‘spill over’ into fished zones were unproved. Frustrated,

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Kearney spoke publicly and emotionally of a bureaucracy and a conservation movement guided by an ‘unsubstantiated faith-like belief that fishing is inherently evil’. These words endorsed what many fishers felt. Scepticism about the science behind marine parks in general, and the rationale for ‘no take’ zones in particular, appeared increasingly in editorial letters and discussion forums. The two things, marine parks and sanctuary zones, were often conflated so that the efficacy of the latter undermined the case for the former. A complex scientific argument was distilled to slogans that fitted neatly onto bumper stickers. The tenor, if not the detail, of Kearney’s criticisms of marine park policies was also echoed by the Liberal and National Party coalition in New South Wales in the lead-up to the 2011 state election. Their constituency was strong in regional areas where the proportion of fishers was greatest. The coalition’s Recreational Fishing Policy criticised Labor for ‘locking communities out of their waterways’ and promised to establish a ‘balance’: ‘Fishing is a hugely popular pastime and an important part of the Australian way of life, as is preserving our environment for future generations’. The coalition committed to a five-year moratorium on future parks and an audit of the management of the existing ones. With the Liberal–National electoral victory, the marine park debate became ever more divided and focussed on the issue of ‘no take’ sanctuary zones. There were those who saw a conservative government typically pandering to the hunting and fishing lobby with policies designed, as one South Durras resident suggested in the letters page of the Sydney Morning Herald, to ‘undermine a new marine conservation system that protects marine biodiversity because a handful of grumpy old fishermen can’t stand the fact they cannot fish in 6.7 per cent of NSW waters’. Others remained unconvinced by the science and protective of the right to fish. ‘Those who have retired to or holiday at fishing resorts which have become the subject of fishing bans are entitled to be grumpy’, responded a Bronte resident, ‘There is no science to the effect that bans on angling for whiting off a beach or for luderick from

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the rocks have any appreciable effect upon fish stocks. Research directed at specific activities should be undertaken before the lifestyle enjoyments of retirees are banned or curtailed’. An Independent Scientific Audit Committee presented its findings in 2012. The recommendations were far-reaching, for while it proposed retaining the existing parks it suggested managing them as part of ‘a single and continuous system’, one that would include catchments and ‘adjacent coastal systems’. They called this ‘the NSW Marine Estate’. The science for the area was to be overseen by an Independent Scientific Committee. This estate was to be ‘managed for all people’. Achieving this in an atmosphere of suspicion and opposing opinions, the Audit Committee argued, depended upon ongoing good research and effective communication. The animosity generated by the issue of sanctuary areas was evidence of a failure in both. The Committee recognised that the protection of biodiversity had been ‘a theme through conservation politics and policy for well over a century’ in New South Wales and was a principle so fundamental that it could be regarded ‘as part of our cultural heritage’. There was also recognition, however, of the need to value ‘culture, history, tradition and “sense of place” in the lives of marine users’. ‘In modern democracies’, the report continued, ‘giving absolute status to any particular view is not operational … there must be tradeoffs between competing demands’. Some, no doubt, thought that was one of the purposes of multi-use marine parks, and polarisation had occurred nonetheless. But the report sounded an optimistic note. If a free exchange of well-researched ideas could be conducted in a forum in which all preferences have ‘received due attention’, the ‘vast majority of people’ would surely accept the result. It was, perhaps, all that could be said. But the marine park debate has occurred in the context of a more general questioning of the objectivity of science, where the motives of scientists are often imputed and alternative theories, however marginal, readily found. That is most obvious in the politicisation of the issue of climate change and its causes and solutions.

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Marine biology is hardly less complex. In marine parks there are still many species of animals and plants that remain under-researched and, no doubt, unknown. The very fluidity of the environment makes predictions and modelling difficult. Currents spread threats such as toxins and exotic pests. But the movement of water can also help fill ecological voids so that habitats can regenerate after calamity with remarkable speed. And, as the Audit Committee noted, the parks themselves are still so young that their effects on biodiversity or ecosystem function cannot be accurately assessed. Creating a popular consensus around the management of marine parks will be hard. Climate change itself can only complicate the picture, as the Audit Committee also acknowledged. The threats that it presents to the marine environment include erosion, water acidification, severe weather events and attendant freshwater inputs. The sea will get warmer, too. Indeed, the Department of Primary Industry anticipates that this temperature rise will be greater along the New South Wales coastline than elsewhere as the East Australian Current quickens its flow south. The combination of both will almost certainly expand the range of tropical and temperate species and contract that of cool-water plants and animals. Some biologists are already pondering the apparent advances and retreats. The bull kelp that Isobel Bennett found off Bermagui in the 1940s is now only evident south from Tathra, some 35 kilometres down the coast. As the sea warms, so will it rise – fed by melting ice caps and glaciers. Some have begun to speak of a new period in the earth’s history to follow the Holocene when the last great melt occurred, and the sea rose and stabilised to create the coast that we inhabit today. The new ‘anthropocene’ epoch acknowledges the impact of humans as the instigators of climate change and all the environmental shifts that follow from that. The cause is the release of carbon that comes from burning fossil fuel and the creation of a greenhouse warming effect. It is possible that the sea level may rise by as much as a metre by the end of this century. In low-lying areas, that translates into many metres of coastline lost beneath the tide. If a means of arresting the warming is not found, the impacts will presumably be greater.

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1 1 : H E R I TA G E A N D T H E C OAST 421 Naturalist Phil Colman (left) takes one of his guided walks around Long Reef, 2013.

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It is difficult to know the toll taken by earlier sea-level changes upon the first coast people. Ultimately they adapted with a technology and culture that placed humans sustainably within their environment. The culture that came with Europeans in 1788 put humans above nature. The science it employed unlocked many secrets and wonders, but for years these discoveries were used to increase our control over the environment and extract the wealth it contained. Today we strive for sustainability with a hope that technology and science can help establish a balance. Cultural adaptation is no less important.

‘… with a smile on my face’ Phil Colman has seen many changes around Long Reef, the vast rock platform that sits between Collaroy and Dee Why on Sydney’s northern beaches. Among the most recent is the regular appearance of the black sea cucumber Holothuria leucospilota, which normally inhabits warmer waters north of Port Macquarie. Phil has lived near Long Reef for most of his life. He has watched migratory birds like the little red-necked stint return from Siberian summers. The naturalist can identify the egg capsules of the cartrut shell, and the six-arm sea star Meridiastra gunnii, which, to the unknowing eye, looks like a blob of brown-green slime. But not infrequently things turn up that remain a mystery. Colman has noticed that each year there is more plastic left along the strandline: bags, bottles, fishing line and lures. But he has also seen life on the platform bounce back within weeks after the devastation of savage storms. Phil Colman is one of thousands of volunteers working with groups such as Fishcare, Dunecare, Reefcare, and Coastcare along the New South Wales coast. They monitor and remediate sites and rescue fauna in places, usually local, they are passionate about. Colman has also led walks around his local piece of coastline for 40 years. In 2011 he co-authored a guide to the

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tidal waters of the temperate coast, with friend and geologist Peter Mitchell, in the hope that the descriptions and photographs would send the reader ‘off on an enthusiastic search to discover something new’. In 2013 he is trying to establish a marine field station near his beloved rock platform. If he is successful it will be the first in Sydney. Colman came to Collaroy as a boy just after World War II. The family’s weatherboard house had been one of the first built in the area and is not unlike the Newport cottage Banksia in age and appearance. Colman’s father instilled in him the need to ‘find out’ through investigation. This, and his love of natural history, got him to the Australian Museum as a young volunteer. By the late 1960s, he was a member of staff in the Department of Malacology – the shell section. By then, also, Elizabeth Pope had risen to the rank of Deputy Director of the Museum. Colman’s association with the co-author of Australian Seashores, however, went back to his boyhood poking around Long Reef. For that was where Pope and Isobel Bennett began their research with William Dakin. Colman recalls standing on the headland with both women in 1949 pondering the make-up of a patch of green floating about in the sea below them. Pope suggested to the boy, half-jokingly, that he swim out and get a sample. By the 1970s, Isobel Bennett had supervised new editions of Australian Seashores, undertaken research at the Great Barrier Reef and published her own book The Fringe of the Sea. But she had stopped visiting Long Reef, too distressed at the condition of the rock platform and its ecology, depleted as it was because of collecting and carelessness. The degradation stopped and the marine life returned after the rock platform was declared an aquatic reserve in 1980. When Colman met an elderly Isobel, some 20 years later, he offered to take her to visit Long Reef again. The walk went well and, having seen life in abundance at the place that meant much to her, Bennett turned approvingly and said, ‘Now I can die with a smile on my face’.

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Acknowledgments Writing this book was only possible because many people provided their help and resources. There were several aspects of this history that fell outside my area of expertise. While any mistakes here are mine, I would particularly like to thank Val Attenbrow, Tim Bonyhady, Phil Colman, Kate Evans, Lisa Fowkes, Stephen Gapps, Bronwyn Hanna, Jon Isaacs, Neville Meaney, Peter Mitchell, Julian Pepperell, Rachel Piercy and Brian Saunders for reading and commenting upon drafts. Thank you also to David Banbury, Caroline Ford, Don Gazzard, Judith Gillespie, Professor Alan Millar, Rob Parker, Bridget Sant and my sister Nicola Wilkins for their assistance. Thankfully, with so many illustrations to organise, the Local Studies staff at Warringah, Newcastle and Wollongong libraries, and picture permissions staff at the State Library of NSW, National Library of Australia and the Art Gallery of NSW were wonderfully helpful. I appreciate also all those photographers and copyright holders who allowed me to use their work. Thank you to the Australian National Maritime Museum for allowing me to use their collection. I appreciate also the help provided by volunteers at the Eden Killer Whale Museum Library and the Richmond River Historical Society. Thank you to Phillipa McGuinness at NewSouth Publishing, again, for her confidence and irrepressible enthusiasm. My editor Averil Moffat made the difficult task of cutting words and ideas far less onerous than it might have been. And again Di Quick, the book’s designer, has made my work look better than simply words on a page.

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Kelly Mitchell, my colleague at Stanton Library in North Sydney, held the fort in my absence. Martin Ellis supported this project despite the strain it placed on his resources. I am lucky to work at North Sydney Council. I am especially grateful to the Australia Council whose Creative Australia Second Book Literary Grant made it possible to focus solely on this project at a crucial time. It made possible what once seemed impossible. My partner Lisa Fowkes took on most of life’s everyday organisation for two years in my physical and mental absence. Thanks so much. And to Hal and Ariel, thank you for your patience and tolerance. (Thanks also to Neil Young, Radiohead and The Chemical Brothers for the soundtrack to my composition.)

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Notes Introduction p. 12 Lawson, Henry ‘The Spirits of Our Fathers’, in Cronin, Leonard (ed.) 1984, A Fantasy of Man: Henry Lawson Complete Works 1901–1922 , Lansdowne, Sydney, p. 265.

1 : N at u r a l h i s t o r i e s p. 16 Papers of Elizabeth Pope, AMS 133 Australian Museum Archives. p. 17 The marine biologist Tom Iredale and WL May had already suggested the term Maugean for some of this area. The name honoured the French naturalist Rene Mauge. p. 23 For a fuller discussion of women in science see Hooker, Claire 2005, Irresistible Forces: Australian Women in Science, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne. p. 25 Papers of William Hargraves, MS 120 Australian Museum Archives. p. 26 Waite, Edgar R 1899, ‘Introduction’, in Scientific Results of the Trawling Expedition of the HMCS Thetis off the coast of NSW in February and March 1898, Pt 1, Australian Museum, Sydney, p. 5. p. 32 Strahan, Ronald 1979, Rare and Curious Specimens: An Illustrated History of the Australian Museum 1827–1979, Australian Museum, Sydney, p. 30, Paxton, John and McGrouther, Mark, ‘Fish collections of Australia’, in Pietsch, Theodore W et al (eds) 1997, Collection Building in Icthyology and Herpetology, American Society of Icthyologists and Herpetologists, Special Publication 3, p. 189. p. 33 ‘To Bourke’s Statue’, 1854 quoted in Broadbent, James 1997, The Australian Colonial House: Architecture and Society in New South Wales, 1788–1842 , Historic Houses, Sydney, p. 374. p. 35 Pope, Elizabeth 1951, ‘Trawlermen’s Rubbish’, Australian Museum Magazine, March 15, pp. 144–149. p. 37 For more on the formation of beaches see Short, Andrew 2007, Beaches of the New South Wales Coast: A guide to their nature, characteristics, surf and safety, Sydney University Press, Sydney.

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p. 43 See Millar, A.J.K. ‘The Flindersian and Peronian Provinces’, in McCarthy, PM and Orchard, AE (eds) 2007, Algae of Australia: Introduction, Australian Biological Resources Study, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne, pp. 554–559. p. 45 Sturma, Michael 1986, ‘The Great Australian Bite: Early Australian Shark Attacks and the Australian Psyche’, Great Circle, Vol. 8, No. 2, October, pp. 78–81, Bennett, George [1860] 1982, Gatherings of a Naturalist in Australasia, Reed, Sydney, pp. 29–30.

2: The first coast people p. 52 See Thorpe, WW 1931, ‘A Rock Shelter at Burrill Lake, NS Wales’ Mankind, December, pp. 53–55; Lampert, RJ 1971, Burrill Lake and Currarong: Coastal sites in southern New South Wales, Australian National University, Canberra, pp. 9–10. p. 53 For more on this see Bowdler, Sandra 1977, ‘The Coastal Colonisation of Australia’, in Allen, J et al (eds) Sunda and Sahul, Prehistoric Studies in Southeast Asia, Melanesia and Australia, Academic Press, London. p. 54 Attenbrow, Val 2010, ‘Aboriginal fishing in Port Jackson and the introduction of shell fish-hooks to NSW’, in Lunney, Daniel et al (eds), The Natural History of Sydney, Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, Sydney, p. 27. p. 56 Archaeologists are divided over this issue, as with many others. See Stockton, Eugene 1979, ‘The Search for the First Sydneysiders’, in Stanbury, Peter (ed.) 10,000 Years of Sydney Life: A Guide to Archaeological Discovery, Macleay Museum, Sydney, p. 54 and Attenbrow, Val 2010, Sydney’s Aboriginal Past: investigating the archaeological and historical record, UNSW Press, Sydney p. 112. p. 66 For more on this see Stanner, WEH 1958, ‘Continuity and Change among the Aborigines, in Stanner, WEH 2009, The Dreaming and Other Essays, Black Inc Agenda, Melbourne. p. 67 Stanner, WEH ‘The Boyer Lectures: After the

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p. 69

p. 69

p. 70





p. 71



Dreaming’ [1968], in Stanner, The Dreaming and Other Essays, pp. 206–207. Harrison, Max Dulumunmun 2009, My People’s Dreaming: An Aboriginal Elder speaks on life, land, spirit and forgiveness, Finch Publishing, Sydney, pp. 116, 130. Mathews, RH 1904, ‘Ethnological Notes on the Aboriginal Tribes of New South Wales and Victoria Pt 1’, Journal of the Royal Society of NSW, Vol. XXXVIII, pp. 203–381 Livingstone quoted in Steele, JG 1983, Aboriginal Pathways in Southeast Queensland and the Richmond River, University of Queensland Press, Brisbane, p. 46. In Organ, Michael and Speechley, Carol 1997, ‘Illawarra Aborigines – An Introductory History’, University of Wollongong Research online. ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi? articleü1022&contextüasdpapers accessed 9/08/2011, pp. 2–3. Mathews 1898, ‘Folklore of the Australian Aborigines, in Thomas, Martin 2011, The Many Worlds of RH Mathews: In search of an Australian anthropologist, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, pp. 225–27. Bryant, E. A.; Walsh, G.; and Abbott, D. 2007, ‘Cosmogenic mega-tsunami in the Australia region: are they supported by Aboriginal and Maori legends?’ University of Wollongong Research Online, ro.uow.edu.au/ scipapers/42, p. 203, accessed 9/05/2011. Willey, Keith 1979, When the Sky Fell Down: The Destruction of the Tribes of the Sydney Region 1788–1850s, Collins, Sydney, pp. 54–55.

3: Claiming the coast p. 83 In Vincent Smith, Keith 2008, ‘Voices on the Beach’, in Lines in the Sand: Botany Bay Stories, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Arts Centre, Gymea, Sydney pp. 17–19. p. 84 See Marriott, Edward West 1988, The Memoirs of Obed West, Barcom Press, Bowral NSW, p. 41 and Keith Vincent Smith, ‘Voices on the Beach’ pp. 15–17. p. 90 See transcript of James Cook’s Journal of Remarkable Occurrences aboard His Majesty’s Bark Endeavour, 1768–1771, National Library of Australia. http:// southseas.nla.gov.au/journals/cook/ contents.html The debate over Cook’s naming of New South Wales began when his log was published in the 1890s and no reference to the term was found in that account of the territorial claim and flag raising. It was thought that the paraphrasing publisher of Cook’s journal, John Hawkesworth, had coined the name himself: see FM Blayden’s notes in Historical Records of New South Wales, Vol.1 Pt1, 1762–1780, Government Printing Office, 1893, pp. 169–170. JC Beaglehole suggests that the name was inserted into the journal after it was despatched to

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the Admiralty; JC Beaglehole 1974, The Life of Captain James Cook, Adam and Charles Black, London, p. 249. A popular understanding is that the name simply refers to the Welsh coast: see Winston S Churchill 1958, A History of the English Speaking Peoples, Vol. 4, Cassell and Co Ltd, London, p. 91. My suggestion that the name honours the Prince of Wales follows from Geoffrey C Ingleton 1944, ‘A Brief History of Marine Surveying in Australia’ in Royal Australian Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, Vol. XXX Pt 1, p. 15. p. 96 Grimes’ full report has been lost. It is summarised in Collins, An Account of the English Colony. The term ‘eyeless judgement’ is WEH Stanner’s from his, ‘The history of indifference thus begins’ [1963], in Stanner, WEH The Dreaming and Other Essays, p. 99. — Shortland had probably been beaten to that coal field by a party of fishermen who brought back samples in June 1796; see Collins, An Account of the English Colony, Vol. 1, p. 402. p. 98 ‘Narrative of the Shipwreck of Captain Hamilton and the Crew of the Sydney Cove’, Historical Records of New South Wales, Vol. 3, 1796–99, p. 762. p. 102 Flinders’ account of this trip was passed on to David Collins and paraphrased in volume two of the latter’s history of the founding of the colony. See his Account of the English Colony, pp. 162–165.

4 : Convicts, coal, cedar  a n d c a n e

p. 119 Enclosure Governor King to Lieutenant Menzies, 8 May 1804, Historical Records of Australia, Series 1, Vol. V, p. 411. p. 120 Marsden, Susan 2010, The Seaport Hospital 1817–2007, Mirvac Projects Pty Ltd, Sydney, p. 9. p. 121 In Jervis, James 1935, ‘The Rise of Newcastle: Eighty Years of its History – 1804 to 1884’, Royal Australian Historical Journal, Vol. XXI Pt III, pp. 149–150. For a useful analysis of the varying accounts see JW Turner’s, Introduction, in his (ed.) 1973, Newcastle as a Convict Settlement, Newcastle History Monograph No.7, Newcastle Public Library, Newcastle, pp. 31–34. p. 126 See Gregson, Jesse 1907, The Australian Agricultural Company 1824–1875, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, p. xvi. Much of the following account of the AAC establishment is drawn from Bairstow, Damaris 2003, A Million Pounds, A Million Acres, Damiris Bairstow, Sydney. p. 127 Robert Dawson, in Bairstow, A Million Pounds, A Million Acres, p. 55. p. 129 Evidence of Sergeant John Evans, in Turner (ed.), Newcastle as a Convict Settlement, p. 95.

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p. 132 Myers, Francis 1886, The Coastal Scenery, Harbours, Mountains, and Rivers of New South Wales, Government Printer, Sydney, p. 67. p. 134 Sydney Gazette, 24 June and 21 July, 1824 Monitor, 8 September 1826. p. 137 Hodgkinson, Clement 1845, Australia from Port Macquarie to Moreton Bay, T and W Boone, London, p. 49 — Richmond River Herald, 13 April 1828 referenced in McBryde, Isabel 1982, Coast and Estuary archaeological investigations on the north coast of New South Wales at Wombah and Schnapper Point, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra, p. 55. p. 138 See for example Weingarth, J 1921, ‘The Discovery and Settlement of the Macleay River’, Royal Australian Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, Vol.VII, Pt IV, p. 187 and Jervis, James 1958, ‘The Valley of the Richmond 1828–1900’, Royal Australian Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, Vol. 44, Pt 3, p. 125. — See Somerville, Margaret and Perkins, Tony 2010, Singing the Coast, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, pp. 45–52. — The significance of ‘stimulants’ in this respect was noted by WEH Stanner in 1958 in relation to Aboriginal groups in the Northern Territory. See his ‘Continuity and Change Among the Aborigines’, in Stanner, WEH 2010, The Dreaming and Other Essays, Black Inc Agenda, Melbourne, pp. 150–153. p. 140 Agricultural Gazette of New South Wales, 1891, quoted in South Pacific Enterprise: The Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1956, p. 25. p. 141 Rutledge, Helen 1986, My Grandfather’s House, Doubleday, Sydney, pp. 46–54. — In Garran, Andrew (ed) 1886, Picturesque Atlas of Australasia, PA Publishing Co Ltd, Sydney, p. 93. See also Hoskins, Ian 1996, Cultivating the Citizen: Cultural Politics in the Parks and Gardens of Sydney, 1880– 1930, Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Sydney, pp. 185–209. p. 142 Myers, The Coastal Scenery, Harbours, Mountains, and Rivers of New South Wales, p. 72. — Quoted in South Pacific Enterprise, p. 30.

5: Harvest of the sea p. 150 Farrer, KTH 1980, A Settlement Amply Supplied: Food Technology in Nineteenth Century Australia, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, pp. 41–42, 65–68, 80–83. p. 156 Thompson, Lindsay G. 1893, History of the Fisheries of New South Wales, Government Printer, Sydney, (For New South Wales Commissioners for the Worlds Columbian Exhibition), p. 40. — Clarence and Richmond Examiner, 15

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September 1910. RB Walker identifies the Game Protection Act of 1866 as the first. See his, ‘Fauna and Flora Protection in New South Wales, 1866– 1948’, Journal of Australian Studies, No. 28, March 1991, p. 17. p. 158 Hardin, Garrett 1968,‘The Tragedy of the Commons’, Science, 162, pp. 1243–1248. — Thompson, Lindsay G 1893, History of the Fisheries of New South Wales, p. 39. — Ogilby, G. Douglas in Hamlet, William M (ed.) 1898, Handbook of Sydney and the County of Cumberland. The Australian Association for the Advancement of Science, Sydney, p.118; Ramsay, EP in Muskett, Phillip E The Art of Living in Australia, p. 131. — The first mention of this technology I could find was a small classified advertisement for Charles Markell of O’Connell Street, Sydney, in Sydney Morning Herald, 8 January 1908. See also Lorimer, Michael 1984, The Technology and Practices of the New South Wales Fishing Industry 18501930, MA Thesis, University of Sydney, pp. 48–52; Wilkinson, John 2004, New South Wales Fishing Industry: Changes and Challenges in the 21st Century, New South Wales Parliamentary Briefing Papers, No.11, p. 3. — Dick Pearce was quoted in Hudson, Rebecca 1998, Crowdy Head, Lighthouse of the Manning: its Shipwrecks, Fishing Industry, National Park and Residents, Sunburst Publications, NSW, p. 56. p. 167 Wheeler, JSN 1962, ‘Old Miller’s Point, Sydney’, Royal Australian Historical Society Journal , Vol. 48, Pt 4, p. 310; Crook, Penny, Ellmoos, Laila and Murray, Tim 2003, Assessment of Historical Archaeological Resources of the Lilyvale Site, The Rocks, Sydney, Historical Houses Trust, Sydney, p. 18. — Walker, Eliza 1930, ‘Old Sydney in the ‘Forties: Recollections of Lower George Street and “The Rocks”’, Royal Australian Historical Society Journal , Vol. XVI, Pt IV, p.310. (This is a transcript of recollections dictated to SK Johnstone in 1901.) p. 171 The land was originally granted to Berry’s partner Edward Wollstonecraft but passed to Berry’s control after Wollstonecraft’s death in 1831. p. 173 Journal of Oswald Brierly A533, Mitchell Library. – See Pearson, Michael 1985, ‘Shore-based Whaling at Twofold Bay: One Hundred Years of Enterprise’, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 71, p. 9. p. 174 Return of Blankets Issued to Aborigines, Twofold Bay District by Dr George Imlay, July 18, 1841 reproduced in Davidson, Rene Whalemen of Twofold Bay, Rene Davidson, Eden, NSW 1988, p. 31. —

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p. 179 Dakin, William John 1934, Whalemen Adventurers, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, pp. 189–193. p. 181 For example see the Barrier Miner, 20 October 1930. p. 182 Elsie Severs interviewed by Beatrice Barnett, Hindsight, ABC Radio, first broadcast 12/9/99.

6 : B o at s o n t h e c o a s t p. 188 ‘Return of Labour at Sydney, Parramatta and Toongabbe, 1797’ Historical Records of New South Wales, Vol. 3, 1796–1799, p. 337. — Collins, David An Account of the English Colony of New South Wales, p. 66. p. 190 Mary Reibey to Alice Hope, Lancashire, 12 August 1818, in Irvine, Nance (ed.) 1995, Dear Cousin: The Reibey Letters, Hale and Iremonger, Sydney, p. 16. p. 192 Sydney Monitor, 31 August 1831; Richards, Mike 1987, Workhorses in Australian Waters: A History of Marine Engineering in Australia, Turton and Armstrong/Institute of Marine Engineers (Sydney Branch), Sydney, p. 6. p. 193 Evans, Vaughan 1992, ‘Ships, Cedar and Settlers on the North Coast’, Armidale and District Historical Society Journal , No. 35, p. 34. p. 195 Daley, Louise T 1966, Men and a River: A History of the Richmond River District, 1828–1895, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, p. 108; Sydney Morning Herald, 9 July 1875. p. 198 Mort’s Dock Fifty Years Ago and To-day, with compliments of Mort’s Dock and Engineering Company Ltd, Sydney, pp. 15, 21. — Sydney Morning Herald 15 July 1868. p. 202 Connell, RW and Irving, TH 1904, 1986, Class Structure in Australian History: Documents, Narrative and Argument, Longman Cheshire, Melbourne, p. 57. p. 204 Empire 16 May 1871. p. 207 Lawson, Henry ‘Bermagui – In a Strange Sunset’, in Cronin, Leonard (ed.) 1986, A Fantasy of Man: Henry Lawson Complete Works 1901–1922 , Lansdowne, Sydney, pp. 471–72. p. 208 The term ‘national distrust’ is John Bach’s. See his Maritime History of Australia, Book Club Associates, Melbourne, 1976, p. 187. Lawson referred to the ‘shipping push’ in his poem ‘The Sacrifice of Balls Head’ which attacked the construction of a new coal-loading facility in Sydney Harbour. p. 210 Hall, Glen 1983, Port of Richmond River (1840s-1980s): Being a personalised regional history of Ballina and the lower River, Ballina Shire Council, Ballina NSW p. 25. p. 211 Norm Evans quoted in Clark, Mary Shelly 2001, Ships and Shores and Trading Ports, Waterways Authority of NSW, Sydney, p. 186.

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7: Harbours and lights p. 214 Richards, Mike 1977, North Coast Run: Men and Ships of the NSW North Coast, Turton and Armstrong, Sydney, p. 154. — See Robinson, Geoff 2002, ‘The Political Economy of Maritime Industry Non-Reform in Interwar Australia: The Establishment of the Maritime Services Board of New South Wales’, in Eras, Issue 4. p. 215 Quoted in Lee, Robert 1981, ‘“The Sydney Interest” and the Clarence Valley’, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 67, Pt 1, pp. 47–48. p. 217 Australasian Chronicle, 10 September 1840. — Ensign Barrallier to Governor King, 24 June 1801, Historical Records of New South Wales Vol. IV, pp. 413–414. — Backhouse, James 1843, A Visit to the Australian Colonies, Hamilton, Adams and Co. London, p. 378. p. 225 Eugene Rudder letter in Clarence and Richmond Examiner and New England Advertiser, 19 January 1889. p. 231 Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, p.175 — Bayldon, Francis J 1934, ‘History of the Pilotage Service of Port Jackson’, Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. XX, Pt III, pp. 128–163; Henderson, Captain CWT 1959, ‘Vessels of the Pilotage Service’, Port of Sydney p. 188–195. p. 234 Regulations and Instructions to be observed by Light Keepers in the service of the Government of New South Wales prepared by the Steam Navigation and Pilot Board, Government Printer, Sydney 1858, p. 7. — See Sant, Bridget 2007, Lighthouse Tales: Intrigue, Drama and Tragedy at the Lighthouses of Jervis Bay, pp. 13–17. p. 235 Albert Smith quoted in Hudson, Rebecca 1998, Crowdy Head, Lighthouse of the Manning: its Shipwrecks, Fishing Industry, National Park and Residents, Sunburst Publications, NSW, pp. 17–18. — The term for this technology is dioptric. Lights relying on reflectors, such as the first Macquarie Lighthouse, are called catoptric lenses. p. 236 Shira, James 1905, ‘Modern Lighthouse Illumination’, Minutes and Proceedings of the Engineering Association of New South Wales, Vol. XX, p. 71; see also Shirra, James 1910, ‘Lighthouses: Some Historical and Descriptive Notes’, Minutes and Proceedings of the Engineering Association of New South Wales, Vol. XXV, pp. 72–86. p. 236 Sydney Morning Herald, 12 April, 1892.

8: Defending the coast p. 242 Day, David 1992, Smugglers and Sailors: The Customs History of Australia, 1788– 1901, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, p. 410.

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p. 247 See Frame, TR 1990, The Garden Island, Kangaroo Press, Sydney, pp. 127–135 for a full account of the protracted negotiations between the colonial government and the Admiralty. p. 248 Nicholls, Bob 2005, ‘“Sailors to citizens, citizens to sailors”, naval men and Australia from 1788 to 1914’, in Stevens, David and Reeve, John (eds), The Navy and the Nation: The Influence of the Navy on modern Australia, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, pp. 273–274. p. 249 The song, without this verse, eventually became the Australian national anthem in 1984. p. 253 Narrative of the Expedition of the Australian Squadron to New Guinea, [1885] Facsimile, Robert Brown and Associates, Bathurst, 1984, p.1; Meaney, Neville 2009, The Search for Security in the Pacific, 1901– 1914 , University of Sydney Press, Sydney, pp. 17–19. — See Meaney, Neville 2009 The Search for Security in the Pacific , p. 27; Grimes, Shawn T 2012, Strategy and war planning in the British Navy, 1887–1918, Boydell Press, Woodbridge UK, pp. 13–21. p. 256 Vincent, WE ‘Au Revoir. The Great White Fleet’, Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate, 5 September 1908. p. 257 The three destroyers Warrego, Parramatta, and Yarra had already been ordered by Deakin in early 1909. They were built for the Commonwealth Naval Force under the provisions of 1865 Colonial Defence Act, see Stevens, David 2001, ‘1901–1913: The Genesis of the Australian Navy’, in Stevens, David (ed.), The Royal Australian Navy, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, 2001, p. 19. p. 258 Sydney Morning Herald, 6 October 1913. p. 259 Bedford, Randolph 1909, Australia My Beloved Land: A National Song, Allans, Melbourne. — Sydney Morning Herald, 6 October 1913 p. 264 In Fischer, Gerhard 1983, ‘Beethoven’s Fifth in Trial Bay: Culture and Everyday Life in an Australian Internment Camp during World War 1’, Journal of Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 69, Pt 1, June, p. 48–62. p. 272 John Stone interviewed by Craig Allen, Stateline Victoria, ABC TV, broadcast 4/8/2006, http://www.abc.net.au/stateline/ vic/content/2006/s1706654.htm transcript accessed 14/10/2012. — From Richards, Mike 1977, North Coast Run: Men and Ships of the NSW North Coast, Turton and Armstrong, Sydney, pp. 143–144 p. 273 Excerpts held at Ballina Maritime Museum. p. 277 World Wars 1 and 2 Survey of Buildings, Sites and Cultural Landscapes in NSW, Final Report, 2006, Vol. 1, Robertson and Hindmarsh/New South Wales Heritage Office, p. 130. p. 279 Tennant, Kylie 1971, The Man on the Headland, Angus and Robertson, pp. 17–19.

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9: Embracing the coast p. 285 Smith, Bernard 1989, European Vision and the South Pacific , Oxford University Press, Melbourne, p. 236. p. 286 Frost, Shane 2008, ‘Burigon: Chief of the Newcastle Tribe’, in McPhee, John (ed.), Joseph Lycett: Convict Artist, Historic Houses Trust of NSW, Sydney, p. 95. p. 287 Becke, Louis 1901, By Rock and Pool on an Austral Shore, New Amsterdam Book Company, New York, p. 3. p. 292 Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 16 June 1831. For a different reading of Halloran’s poems see Huntsman, Leone 2001, Sand in Our Souls: The Beach in Australian History, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, p. 23. p. 293 Wilson, FS 1867, ‘Loose Leaves from an Australian’s Portfolio: Along the Coast’, Colonial Monthly, September, pp. 20, 24. p. 299 Fletcher, Daina 2004, ‘Swimmers, Sharks and Social Control’, Signals, 67, June-August, 2004, p. 11. p. 301 Illustrated Sydney News, 16 August 1890. p. 304 Annabella Boswell’s Journal: An Account of Early Port Macquarie, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1981, pp. 84–85. p. 309 See for instance Harold Cazneaux’s photos in ‘Bondi Before Breakfast’ The Home, January 2, 1928, pp. 43–44. — Curlewis, Jean 1929, ‘The Race on the Sands’, Home, March, p. 25. p. 310 Osmond, Gary 2011, ‘Myth-making in Australian Sport History: Re-evaluating Duke Kahanamoku’s Contribution to Surfing’, in Australian Historical Studies, Vol. 42, Issue 2, June, pp. 263–266. p. 311 McGregor, Craig 1966, Profile of Australia, Hodder and Stoughton, London, p. 284. p. 317 In Booth, Douglas 1994 ‘Surfing ’60s: A case Study in the History of Pleasure and Discipline’, Australian Historical Studies Vol. 26, No. 103 Oct, p. 275. p. 322 In Beachley, Layne and Gordon, Michael 2008, Layne Beachley: Beneath the Waves, Ebury Press, Sydney, p. 42. p. 323 Lattas, Andrew 2007, ‘“They Always seem to be angry”: The Cronulla Riot and the Civilising Pleasures of the Sun’, Australian Journal of Anthropology, 18:3, pp. 311–313. p. 324 Catching the Wave: Tourism NSW’s action plan to consolidate the State’s position as Australia’s premier surf destination, NSW Government Tourism NSW, Sydney, 2010, pp. 3–4.

10: Sea change p. 325 Kirkby, David R 1970, From Sails to Atoms: First Fifty years of Sutherland Shire 1906 to 1956, Sutherland Shire Council, Sutherland, p. 11; Hutton Neve, M. ‘A Brief History of the Sutherland Shire’, Sutherland Shire Studies No.1, Sutherland Shire Council, [nd], p. 2.

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p. 326 The story of John Malone is drawn from Goodall, Heather and Cadzow, Alison 2009, Rivers and Resilience, UNSW Press, Sydney, pp. 65–69. p. 332 Quoted in Patchett, Martin, A 1893, Life and letters of the Right Honourable Robert Lowe Viscount Sherbrooke, Vol. 1, Longman’s Green and Co. London, pp. 281–282; Cochrane, Peter 2006, Colonial Ambition: Foundations of Australian Democracy, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, p. 128. p. 340 Lawrence, DH [1923], Kangaroo, Heinemann Educational Books Ltd, Melbourne, 1963, pp. 20–22. p. 341 Freestone, Robert 2010, ‘Town Planning and Private Enterprise in Early Twentieth Century Australia: Henry F Halloran “Builder of Dreams”’, History Australia, Vol. 7, No 1, p. 11. p. 342 Some interesting facts concerning Pacific City at Jervis Bay, Henry Halloran and Company, Sydney, [1916]. p. 343 Honeyman, Christian 2009, quoted in Kijas, Johanna ‘There were always people here’: a history of Yuraygir National Park , Department of Environment and Climate Change, Sydney, p. 62. p. 346 The information about Avalon comes from Roberts, Jan (ed.) 1999, Avalon – Landscape & Harmony: Walter Burley Griffin, Alexander Stewart Jolly and Harry Ruskin Rowe, Ruskin Rowe Press, Sydney. p. 355 Much of this account of Aboriginal reserves comes from Goodall, Heather 1996, Invasion to Embassy: Land in Aboriginal Politics in New South Wales, 1770–1972 , Allen and Unwin, Sydney. For the quoted accounts by Aboriginal women see the Aboriginal Women’s Heritage Series of oral histories published by NSW Department of Water and Climate Change between 2003 and 2007. p. 359 Patten, JYT and Ferguson, W ‘Aborigines Claim Citizen Rights! A Statement of the Case for the Aborigines Progressive Association’, 1938, in Attwood, Bain and Markus, Andrew (eds) 1992, The Struggle for Aboriginal Rights: A Documentary History, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, pp. 82–84. p. 367 McDonald, KR 1967, High Rise Development in William Street Port Macquarie, Preliminary Report. Prepared for Isherwood and Dreypus Holdings Pty Ltd D&K Developments Pty Ltd, Urban Systems Pty Ltd. p. 368 Freestone, Robert 2010, Urban Nation: Australia’s Planning Heritage, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne, pp. 194–195. p. 374 Gladwin, Peter 2003 in ‘Ocean Views’, Four Corners, ABC Television, first broadcast 7 July 2003. p. 375 Gardner, Mary 2010, ‘Creating a New Kind of Prosperity’, in Duke, Peter Byron Bay: The History, Beauty and Spirit, Peter Duke, Byron Bay NSW, p. 121.

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11 : H e r i ta g e a n d t h e c o a s t p. 382 Davidson Whaling Station Historic Site: Plan of Management, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Eden, 1995, p. 3. p. 385 Irving, Robert 1969 ‘Birch Grove House, Balmain’, Architecture in Australia, June 1969, p. 472. — Gazzard, Donald (ed.) 1966, Australian Outrage: The Decay of a Visual Environment, Ure Smith, Sydney, pp. vii, 29, 30. p. 386 Drew, Philip 1994, The Coast Dwellers, Penguin Books, Melbourne, p. 43. p. 388 Sydney Morning Herald, 22 March 2011. p. 398 Quoted in McBryde, Isabel 1985, ‘Thomas Dick’s Photographic Vision’, in Ian and Tamsin Donaldson (eds), Seeing the First Australians, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, p. 146. p. 399 In Piercy, Rachel 2012, Gathang Guuyang: The history of bark canoes in ‘Gathang Country’, unpublished paper, p. 6. — See Wreck Bay Community and Renwick, Cath 2000, Geebungs and snake whistles: Koori people and plants of Wreck Bay, Aboriginal Studies Press, ACT. p. 403 An Official Guide to The National Park of New South Wales, [1893], National Parks and Wildlife Service, 1997, p. 64. p. 405 Allen Strom in Goldstein, Wendy (ed.) 1979, Australia’s 100 Years of National Parks, Department of Planning and the Environment, Sydney, p. 68. p. 408 Kijas, Johanna 2009, There were always people here: a history of Yuraygir National Park , Department of Environment and Climate Change, Sydney, p. 79. p. 410 In Hutton, Drew and Connors, Libby 1999, A History of the Australian Environment Movement, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, p. 113. p. 417 Kearney, Bob 2008, ‘Science and Marine Parks in New South Wales The Hoodwinking Continues’, Seminar presented to the Fisheries Centre, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Cronulla, Sydney, Australia, October 30, p. 7, http://www. canberra.edu.au/centres/iae/pdfs/2008_ Kearney_MPA_seminar_no_2.pdf, accessed 20/12/12. For a contrasting view on the detrimental impact of fishing see Position Statement on Marine Protected Areas, Australian Marine Science Association, June 2012, p. 2. p. 418 Sydney Morning Herald, 6 and 7 July 2012. — Beeton, RJS, Buxton, CD, Cutbush, GC, Fairweather, PG, Johnston, EL & Ryan, R 2012, Report of the Independent Scientific Audit of Marine Parks in New South Wales. NSW Department of Primary Industries and Office of Environment and Heritage, NSW. pp. 70–73. p. 419 Millar 2007, The Flindersian and Peronian Provinces pp. 554–559.

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Select bibliography Allen, J et al (eds) 1977, Sunda and Sahul: Prehistoric Studies in Southeast Asia, Melanesia and Australia, Academic Press, London. Andrew, Neil (ed.) 1999, Under Southern Seas: The Ecology of Australia’s rocky reefs, UNSW Press, Sydney. Attenbrow, Val 2010, Sydney’s Aboriginal Past: investigating the archaeological and historical record, UNSW Press, Sydney. Bach, John 1976, A Maritime History of Australia, Book Club Associates, Melbourne. Bairstow, Damaris 2003, A Million Pounds, A Million Acres: The Pioneer Settlement of the Australian Agricultural Company, Damaris Bairstow, Sydney. Blainey, Geoffrey 1966, The Tyranny of Distance, Sun Books, Melbourne. Broadbent, James 1997, Australian Colonial House: architecture and society in New South Wales, 1788–1842 , Hordern House and Historic Houses Trust, Sydney. Burnley, Ian and Murphy, Peter 2004, Sea Change: Movement from Metropolitan to Arcadian Australia, UNSW Press, Sydney. Campbell, WS 1922, ‘Discovery of, and Later Development in, the North-Eastern Portion of New South Wales’, Royal Australian Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, Vol.VIII, Pt VI, pp. 289–317. Coltheart, Lenore 1997, Between Wind and Water: A History of the ports and coastal waterways of New South Wales, Hale and Iremonger, Sydney. Clark, Dymphna (ed.) 1994, New Holland journal: November 1833-October 1834 / Baron Charles von Hügel , Melbourne University Press, Melbourne. Clark, Mary Shelley 2001, Ships and Shores and Trading Ports: A Social and Working Life of Coastal Harbours and River Towns in New South Wales, Waterways Authority of NSW, Sydney. Collins, David [1798] 1975, An Account of the English Colony of New South Wales, Vols 1 and 2, AH and AW Reed, Sydney. Corbin, Alain 1994, The Lure of the Sea: The discovery of the seaside, 1750–1840, Penguin,

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London. Curby, Pauline 2009, Randwick , Randwick City Council, Sydney. Curby, Pauline 2002, Seven Miles from Sydney: A History of Manly, Manly Council, Sydney. Dupain, Max 2000, Dupain’s Beaches, Chapter and Verse Press, Sydney. Dakin, WJ 1952, Australian Seashores, Angus and Robertson, Sydney. Daley, Louise 1966, Men and a River: Richmond River District, 1828–1895, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne. Dawson, Rober Leycester 1934, ‘Pioneering Days in the Clarence River District’, Royal Australian Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, Vol. XX Pt II, pp. 73–98. Dawson, Robert 1938, ‘Wildlife on the Richmond in the Seventies’, Richmond River Historical Society Journal , vol. 2, pp. 64–69, Lismore NSW. Day, David 1992, Smugglers and Sailors: The Customs History of Australia 1788–1901, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra. Drew, Philip 1994, The Coast Dwellers: A radical reappraisal of Australian identity, Penguin, Melbourne. Duke, Peter 2010, Byron Bay: The History, Beauty and Spirit, Peter Duke, Byron Bay NSW. Dutton, Geoffrey 1985, Sun, Surf, Sea and Sand: The Myth of the Beach, Oxford University Press, Melbourne. Dyster, Barrie 1989, Servant and Master: Building and Running the Grand Houses of Sydney, 1788–1850, New South Wales University Press, Sydney. Ellis, Elizabeth 1994, Conrad Martens: Life and Art, State Library of NSW, Sydney. Estensen, Miriam 2002, Matthew Flinders: The life of Matthew Flinders, Allen and Unwin, Sydney. Evans, Vaughan ‘Early colonial shipping in and around Port Jackson’ in Garry Wotherspoon (ed.), Sydney’s Transport: Studies in Urban History, Hale and Iremonger, Sydney. Evans, Vaughan 1992, ‘Ships, Cedar and Settlers on the North Coast’, Armidale and District Historical Society Journal, no. 35 May, pp. 28–46, Armidale, NSW. Ford, Caroline (forthcoming), Sydney Beaches: A

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History, NewSouth Publishing, Sydney. Gammage, Bill 1981, ‘Early Boundaries of New South Wales’, Australian Historical Studies, Vol. 19 October, No.77 pp. 524–531. Gleeson, Max 1993, The Vanished Fleet of the Sydney Coastline, Max Gleeson, Sydney. Goldstein, Wendy (ed.) 1980, Australia’s 100 Years of National Parks, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Sydney. Goodall, Heather 1996, Invasion to Embassy: Land in Aboriginal Politics in New South Wales, 1770–1972, Allen and Unwin, Sydney. Goodall, Heather and Cadzow, Allison 2009, Rivers and Reslience: Aboriginal People on Sydney’s Georges River, UNSW Press, Sydney. Grant, James 1973, The Narrative of a Voyage of Discovery Performed in His Majesty’s Vessel The Lady Nelson of Sixty Tons Burthen with Sliding Keels in the Years 1800, 1801 and 1802, to New South Wales, [1803], State Library of South Australia, Adelaide. Hardie, Daniel 1990, Forgotten Fleets: Boats of Sydney in the Days of Sail and Oar, Daniel Hardie, Sydney. Harrison, Max Dulumunnun 2009, My People’s Dreaming, Finch Publishing, Sydney. Hiscock, Peter 2008, Archaeology of Ancient Australia, Routledge, London. Hoskins, Ian 2009, Sydney Harbour: A History, UNSW Press, Sydney. Hudson, Rebecca 1998, Crowdy Head, Lighthouse of the Manning: its Shipwrecks, Fishing Industry, National Park and Residents, Sunburst Publications. Huntsman, Leonie 2001, Sand in our Souls: the beach in Australian history, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne. Hutton, Drew and Connors, Libby 1999, A History of the Australian Environment Movement, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne. Ingleton, Geoffrey 1944, ‘A Brief History of Marine Surveying in Australia’, Royal Australian Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, Vol. XXX, Pts 1&2, pp. 1–44, 85–155. Jaggard, Ed (ed.) 2007, Between the Flags: one hundred summers of Australian surf lifesaving, UNSW Press, Sydney. Jeans, DN 1974, ‘Shipbuilding in NineteenthCentury New South Wales’, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, September, Vol. 60 Pt 3, pp. 165–163. Jervis, James 1939, ‘Cedar and Cedar Getters’ Royal Australian Historical Society Journal, Vol. XXV Pt II, pp. 131–160. Jervis, James 1942,  ‘Illawarra: A Century of History, 1788–1888’ Royal Australian Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, Vol. XXVIII, Pt II, pp. 65–192. Jervis, James 1958, ‘The Valley of the Richmond 1828–1900’, Royal Australian Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, Vol. 44, Pt 3, pp. 117–154. Kerr, Garry 1985, Craft and Craftsmen of Australian Fishing 1870–1970: An Illustrated

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Oral History, Mains’l Books, Portland. Kijas, Johanna 2009, There were always people here: a history of Yuraygir National Park , Department of Environment and Climate Change, Sydney. Lampert, RJ 1971, Burrill Lake and Currarong: Coastal sites in southern New South Wales, Department of Prehistory, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University, Canberra. McBryde, Isabel 1988, Coast and Estuary: archaeological investigations on the north coast of New South Wales at Wombah and Schnapper Point, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra. McGregor, Craig 1966, Profile of Australia, Hodder and Stoughton, London. McPhee, John (ed.) 2006, Joseph Lycett: Convict Artist, Historic Houses Trust, Sydney. Meaney, Neville 2009, The Search for Security in the Pacific, 1901–1914 , Sydney University Press, Sydney. Meaney, Neville 2009, Australia and World Crisis 1914–1923, Sydney University Press, Sydney. Morris, Richard 1979, ‘Mr Higgins Scuppered: The 1919 Seamen’s Strike’, Labour History, No. 37 November, pp. 52–62. Mulvaney, John and Kamminga, Johan 1999, The Prehistory of Australia, Allen and Unwin, Sydney. Myers, Francis 1886, The Coastal Scenery: Harbours Mountains and Rivers of New South Wales, Government Printer, Sydney. Neville, Richard 2012, Mr Lewin: Painter and Naturalist, NewSouth Publishing and Statel Library of NSW, Sydney. Parkin, Ray 2006, HM Bark Endeavour, Miegunyah Press, Melbourne. Pemberton, Barry 1979, Australian Coastal Shipping, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne. Raban, Jonathon (ed.) 1992, The Oxford Book of the Sea, Oxford University Press, New York. Ramsland, John 1987, The Struggle against Isolation: A History of the Manning Valley, Library of Australian History, Sydney. Richards, Mike 1977, North Coast Run: Men and Ships of the NSW North Coast, Turton and Armstrong, Sydney. Salt, Bernard 1992, Population movements in non-metropolitan Australia, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra Sant, Bridget 2007, Lighthouse Tales: Intrigue, Drama and Tragedy at the Lighthouse of Jervis Bay, Lady Denman Maritime Museum, Huskisson, NSW. Sant, Bridget 2012, Huskisson’s Ships and their Builders 1861–1977, Lady Denman Maritime Museum, Huskisson, NSW. Saunders, Brian 2012, The Discovery of Australia’s fishes: a history of Australian ichthyology to 1930, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne. Short, Andrew 2007, Beaches of the New South Wales Coast: a guide to their nature,

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characteristics, surf and safety, Sydney University Press, Sydney. Smith, Bernard 1974, Australian Painting 17881970, Oxford University Press, Melbourne. Somerville, Margaret and Perkins, Tony 2010, Singing the Coast, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra. Stanner, WEH 2009, The Dreaming and Other Essays, Black Inc Agenda, Melbourne. Stevens David and Reeve, John (eds) 2005, The Navy and the Nation: The Influence of the Navy on modern Australia, Allen and Unwin, Sydney. Swainston, Roger 2010, Swainston’s Fishes of Australia: The Complete Illustrated Guide, Viking, Melbourne. Thompson, Patrick (ed.) 1986, Myles Dunphy Selected Writings, Ballagrin, Sydney.

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Turner, John 1997, Joseph Lycett: Governor Macquarie’s Convict Artist, Hunter Historical Publications, Newcastle, NSW. Turner, JW (ed.) 1973, Newcastle as a Penal Settlement: Evidence before JT Bigge 18191821, Newcastle Public Library, Newcastle. Watson, James H 1920, ‘Early Shipbuilding in Australia’, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. VI, Pt 1, pp. 96–120. Weingarth J, 1921, ‘The Discovery and Settlement of the Macleay River’, Royal Australian Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, Vol. VII Pt IV, pp. 176–197. Young, Nat 2008, The Complete History of Surfing: from water to snow, Allen and Unwin, Sydney. Young, Nat 1998, Nat’s Nat and that’s that: a surfing legend, Nymboida Press, Byron Bay, NSW.

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Picture credits p. 4

Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, PXD 1070 p. 7 Photograph by author p. 10 Photograph by author p. 11 Photograph by author p. 14 National Library of Australia, nla. pic-an8334416 p. 19 Author’s collection p. 20-21 Courtesy Australian Museum Archives p. 22 Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, SAFE/PXA 555 p. 27 Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, PXA 909/13 p. 27 State Library of New South Wales, a1089027 p. 28-29 Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, ML 1398 p. 30 National Library of Australia, nla. pic-an3148912 p. 36 Photograph courtesy of Bruce Reid p. 40 State Records NSW p. 42 National Library of Australia, nla. pic-an10709467 p. 47 Dixson Gallery, State Library of New South Wales, SAFE/PXD 226 p. 48 Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, SAFE/PXD 226 p. 49 National Library of Australia, nal. pic-an6942173 p. 50 National Library of Australia, nla. pic-an3872251 p. 56 Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, bcp_04739 p. 59 National Library of Australia, nla. pic-an2962715-s6 p. 59 National Library of Australia, nla. pic-an2962175-s17 p. 60-61 National Library of Australia, nla. pic-an2962715-s8 p. 62 National Library of Australia, nla. pic-an8134725 p. 74 National Library of Australia, map-nk2785 p. 75 National Library of Australia, Map T 1002 p. 76-77 National Library of Australia, Map RM 561 p. 85 National Library of Australia, nla. pic-an9196443 p. 88-89 National Library of Australia, 325T

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p. 94

National Library of Australia, Map-rm833 p. 103 National Library of Australia, NK5559 p. 104-5 National Library of Australia, nla. pic-an3706259 p. 106-7 National Library of Australia, nla. pic-an4577631 p. 108-9 Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW, DLZ F81 7 p. 110 National Library of Australia, Map Rm 3720 p. 113 Reproduced courtesy of State Library of South Australia p. 122-3 Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW, PXD 373/6 p. 125 Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW, SSV1B/NEWC/1840-9/1 p. 131 National Library of Australia, map NK11346. p. 143 Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, DG 165 p. 144-5 Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, PXD 265 p. 145 Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, ML 356 p. 146 Mitchell Library, State Library of New South WalesW, PXA 6914 p. 147 Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, PXA 6914 p. 151 Illustrated Sydney News May 1874. p. 152-3 Richmond River Historical Society Collection p. 163 National Library of Australia, nla. pic-an23323970 p. 164 Australian National Maritime Museum, 5660 p. 164 Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, A535 p. 165 National Library of Australia, nla. pic-an226550 p. 166 National Library of Australia, nla. pic-an2288541 p. 177 National Library of Australia, nla. pic-vn3103733 p. 178 National Library of Australia, nla.pic. an-vn3102989 p. 180 From William Dakin’s Whalemen Adventurers.

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p. 186-7 Newcastle Regional Library, Herbert Crofts Collection, 006 00004 p. 194 Richmond River Historical Society Collection p. 199 Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, DGD3 p. 200-1 Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, V/60 p. 202 Australian National Maritime Museum, 3699 p. 216 Author’s collection p. 219 National Library of Australia, Map RM2371 p. 219 North Sydney Heritage Centre/Stanton Library collection p. 220-1 National Archives of Australia p. 222 Author’s collection p. 222 Author’s collection p. 224 State Records NSW p. 227 Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Home and Away 34616 p. 240 State Records NSW p. 247 National Library of Australia, nla. pic-an6016398-3 p. 250-1 Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Home and Away 34616 p. 261 National Library of Australia nla. pic-an5913914 p. 262-3 Australian War Memorial p. 269 National Library of Australia, nla. pic-vn4655992 p. 273 Australian War Memorial p. 276 Australian War Memorial p. 278 Newcastle Morning Herald Collection: 104 000762, Newcastle Regional Library p. 281 Courtesy of Jill White p. 283 Courtesy of Jill White p. 295 Dixson Library, State Library of New South Wales, DL PX53 p. 295 Dixson Galleries, State Library of New South Wales, DG XV/Sp. Coll. Martens/3 p. 296 Art Gallery of NSW p. 296 Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, SPF 3465 p. 297 Art Gallery of NSW p. 298 Hinton Collection, New England Regional Art Museum p. 298 Author’s collection p. 302 Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, PXE 1028 p. 306 Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, At work and play 01802 p. 308 National Library of Australia, nla.pic.an 2381203 p. 313 National Library of Australia, nla.pic. vn-3548980

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p. 315 p. 315 p. 316 p. 321 p. 333

Courtesy of Albert Falzon Courtesy of Albert Falzon Courtesy of Anne Zahalka Courtesy Warringah Library National Library of Australia nla. pic-an7690843 p. 333 National Library of Australia. nla. pic-an2390671 p. 334 Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales SAFE/PXD 390 p. 334 National Library of Australia nla.pic. an2431382 p. 336-7 Richmond River Historical Society Collection p. 345 Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, PX¯ UD574 p. 349 Photograph by author p. 351 National Library of Australia, map-gmod-86-v p. 352-3 Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, XV/68 p. 354 Courtesy Max Dupain and Associates p. 354 Photograph by author p. 358 National Library of Australia, nla. pic-vn4609199 p. 366 Courtesy of Penelope Seidler p. 371 Photograph by author p. 371 Photograph by author p. 372-3 Photograph by author p. 376-7 Courtesy Lee Pearce p. 380 State Records NSW p. 383 Photograph by author p. 393 Photograph by author p. 395 National Library of Australia, nla. pic-vn3093335 p. 396 Courtesy of Max Gleeson p. 400-1 Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, At Work and Play-04743 p. 402 Photograph courtesy Rachel Piercy p. 404 Photograph by author p. 406-7 State Records of New South Wales p. 414 National Library of Australia nla. pic-an2384527 p. 415 Photograph by author p. 420-1 Photograph by author Front endpaper Di Quick

Back endpaper From Norman Tindale, 1974, Aboriginal Tribes of Australia, Australian National University Press, Canberra.

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Index A Catalogue of the Fishes of New South Wales with their Principal Synonyms 34 A Voyage to Terra Australis 98 AA Murrell Pty Ltd 160 Aboriginal Australians arrival in Australia 53 at Coffs Harbour 225 at Cronulla 326–7 at Jervis Bay 112–4 at Twofold Bay 169, 173–4 canoes built by 397–9, 400–1 coastal diets of 57–58, 64 conflict with 136–8 dwellings 59, 62, 357, 358, 362 early European encounters with 81, 95–8, 138 employment by Europeans 129, 173 fishing by 54–5, 57–8, 60–1, 83, 353 food preparation rituals 65–6 government treatment of 277, 357–61 hunting waterbirds 59 illness among 129 land rights of 360–1 languages spoken by 64–5 reserves 355–363 Aboriginal Land Councils 360, 361, 397 Aboriginal Protection Board 357 Aborigines Progressive Association 359 Abraham’s Bosom Beach 2 Acacia longifolia 39 Achoerodus viridis 45 Act to Protect the Fisheries of NSW 1865 156–7 Adelaide, HMAS 268, 270 Admiral Gifford (schooner) 226 Adolphe (barque) 231 Albatross, HMAS 267 Alfie Cam (trawler) 269 Allan, Joyce Catherine 18–23, 19 Allday Surfing Movement 305 Allen, Arthur Wigram 343–4, 345 Amateur Whaling 164

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Amoria (Cymboilista) hunteri 26 Anangi (Aboriginal man) 173 anchovy 27 angelshark 32 Angophora costata 39 Angourie 314, 324 Ann (whaler) 161 Anzac Day 260, 266–7 aquariums, popularity of 300 Arakoon 355 Arnold, Joseph 24 Arrawarra headland 57–8 Ateak, Chin (merchant) 151 Art Gallery of NSW 293–4 Art Society of NSW 293 Asdic 274 Ash Island radio monitoring station 277 Ashton, Julian 293–4, 297, 305 Assault, HMAS (station) 275 Astrolabe (ship) 244 Atlantic (steamer) 228 Austinmer Lifesaving Club 307 Australasian Auxiliary Squadron 253–4 Australasian Naval Defence Act 1887 253 Australasian Steam Navigation Company 197–8, 199, 207–8 Australasian United Steam Navigation Company 208–9 Australia marine park system 414 naming of 112, 116 Australia, HMAS 258, 266, 269 ‘Australia My Beloved Land’ 259 Australian (whaler) 162 Australian Aborigines Progressive Association 359 Australian Agricultural Company 125–7, 130, 192 Australian Centre for Photography 283 Australian Communist Party 209 Australian Crawl swimming style 303 Australian globe fish 32 Australian Heritage Commission

Act 1975 386 Australian Labor Party 208, 256, 390 Australian Littoral Society 413 Australian Marine Conservation Society 413 Australian Marine Sciences Association 413–4 Australian Museum artefacts collected by 379, 397–8 establishment of 31–2 extensions to 238 shells donated to 30–2 Australian National Maritime Museum 396 Australian Natives Association 266 Australian Naval College 342 Australian Outrage (book) 385 Australian pelican 49 Australian Quarterly Journal 162 Australian salmon 22 ‘Australian Scenery Bondi Bay’ (poem) 292 Australian Seashores 16, 19–23, 412, 423 Australian Shells 18–20 Australian Star 243 Australian Surfer magazine 312 Avalon 344–5 Avoca Beach 343 Awabakal people 60–1, 124, 223, 286, 397 Back Creek 139 Backhouse, James 217 Badham, Herbert 344 Baiame spirit 69 Bailey, Edward and Honoria 234 Balaenoptera musculus 46 Ballarat, HMAS 273 Ballina 154, 183, 219, 239 Balmain 26, 154, 274 Banks, Joseph disregards prior inhabitants 86–7

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first encounter with Aborigines 81–2 influence of 111–2 on tinned food 150 on waterspouts 79 supports exploration 101 Banksia (house) 387–9 Banskia integrifolia 39 Baranguba legend 236 Barcoo, HMAS 274 Bare Island 249, 251 Bar-Ea-Mul (trawler) 269 Barnet, James 220–1, 235, 237–9, 249, 379 Barney, George 218 Barrallier, Francis 114 Barton, Edmund 255 Barunguba 64, 71, 80 baskets, plant species used for 57 Bass, George 98–101, 169–70, 188 Bass Strait 100, 112 ‘Bassian Isthmus’ 17 Bateman Marine Park 413, 416–7 Batemans Bay 100, 364, 392 bathing machines 301 Bathurst 238 Battle of the Coral Sea 275 Baudin, Nicholas 111 Bawden, Thomas 137, 379 bay whaling 176, 178 Beach, The 298 Beach House Private Hotel, Narooma 16 beaches see also surfing; swimming creation of 37–8 jetties at 223 social codes at 307–9, 322–3 tank traps on 279 Beachley, Layne 321–2 Beashel, Ken 394 Becke, Louis 287 Bedford, Randolph 259 Bediagal people 99 Beecroft Peninsula 1, 405 Bega (steamer) 206–7 Bellinger River 135 Bellinger Shipping Company 205 Ben (Aboriginal man) 129 Bennelong 92 Bennett, George 45 Bennett, Isobel 20 –1 fieldwork by 9, 15–23, 50 returns to Long Reef 423 whaling study 180 Bent, Ellis 328 Benzoni, Louis 261 Berak (Aboriginal man) 71 Bermagui 15, 17, 206, 346 Berrung, legend of 70 Berry, Alexander 127, 170, 289 Bhewerre Peninsula 361 ‘Big River’ see also Clarence River 102

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‘Big Scrub’ 41–2, 139 Bigge, John Thomas 121, 124–6, 132, 162 Bingie Point 363 Bingle, John 12 Birch Grove House 384–5 Birnie, John 325 Birpai Canoe Project 397–9 Birpai people 282, 355, 397–8 black sea cucumber 422 ‘blackbirding’ see indentured labour blue groper 14, 22, 45 Blue Mountains 99, 115 ‘Blue Water’ strategic theory 253–4 blue whales 46, 179 bluebottles 33 Blues Point Tower 367 boatbuilding 183–206, 392–5 Bodalla 206 ‘bogie’ 303 Bombo (cargo ship) 396 Bondi Beach 293, 307, 323–4, 385 bondi points 55 Booderee National Park 399–401 Boondelbah 64 Booniny legend 404 Booral 127 Botany Bay Aboriginal food gathered at 66 charts of 94 colony planned at 87, 90–1 exploration of 99 fortifications at 237, 249, 251 naming of 82 New Brighton resort at 300 Botha, Wendy 321 bottlebrush 39 Bouddi National Park 405, 413 Bourke, Richard 133, 288 Boussole (ship) 244 Bowden-Smith, Nathaniel 255 Bowen, Richard 93–5 Bowen Island 64 Boyd, Benjamin 171, 175–6, 380 Boyd’s Tower 176, 380 Boydtown 171, 175, 380 Bradley, William 288 Bradley’s Head, fortifications at 249 Brazier, John William 25, 35 Brereton, Steve 399, 402 Brierly, Oswald 172–6, 289–90 Brighton, (Manly) 300 Brighton Bath Company 301 Brighton Le Sands 11, 300 Brisbane, Thomas 132 Brisbane River 102 Brisbane Water 143 Britain, alliance with Japan 254 Britannia (ship) 189 British India Company 207 British Pacific Fleet 275

Broken Bay 91, 93, 106–7, 403 Broken Head 317–8 Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited 218 Brolga (trawler) 159, 260 Bronte House 12, 331–2, 334 Bronte Beach 12, 332 Brookes Camp 336–7 Brooks, Geraldine 388 Brooms Beach 343 Broomshead 408 Broulee 334 , 335, 364 Brown, Ida 16 Browne, T Richard 22 , 284 Bruce, Stanley 266 Buchanan Report 214 Buckland, John 335 Buckler, Ben 292 bull kelp 43, 419 bull sharks 45 Bulli 288, 295, 301, 335 Bullock Island 218 Bunan ceremony 65 Bundjalung people 116, 137, 195, 399 Bungaree (Aboriginal man) 102, 129 Burne, Dangar 344 Burning Palms 386, 404–5 burrawang tree 64, 399 Burridge, Pam 321, 321 Burrill Lake 63–4, 348, 356, 362 Burwood Estate 338 Bush Tracks Club 404 Bushy Island 355 Busselton 386 butcher boats 184 Byles, Marie 405 Byron, Lord 290–1, 294 Byron Bay development of 374–8 fishing industry 150, 153–4 Indigenous legends 70 jetty at 223, 385–6 lifesaving club 307 property prices 3 protests at 376–7 rainforest at 41 shipwrecks at 225–6 surfing at 314 whaling industry 381–2 Cabbage Tree Island 64, 355–7, 361, 405 cabbage tree palm 39–40 ‘Cabbage Trees Near Shoalhaven’ 28 –9 Caley, George 112 California Red Star Cafe, Batemans Bay 16 Cam and Sons 160 Camden county 132 Caminiti, Carlo 160, 269 Campbell, Jack 357

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INDEX

Campbell, Robert 127, 328 Campbell, Robert Jr 167 canal building 170 canal estates 368, 411 Canberra 3, 10, 363, 364 Canberra, HMAS 270 canoes, Indigenous use of 56, 60–1, 63, 397–9, 400 –1, 402 Canton Packet (whaler) 168 Cape Banks, fortifications at 277 Cape Byron 90, 106–7, 318, 336, 336–7 Cape Dromedary 80 Cape Howe 117 Cape St George 233–5 caravan parks 348, 370, 372–3 Carcharhinus leucas 45 Carcharias taurus 45 Careel House 345 Carey, Gabrielle 320 Carmathen Hills 99 Carrington 127–8, 138 Carroll, Tom 319 Carson, Rachel 412 Carthona (house) 330, 386 Caruah (steamer) 192 Castlecrag 345 Casuarina, development 369–70, 371, 411 Catalina flying boats 275, 276 Catalogue of the Fishes of New South Wales with their Principal Synonyms 34 Catalogue of the Fishes of Port Jackson 35 Catching the Wave campaign 323 Catchpole, Margaret 114 Catherine Hill Bay 224 , 277, 389–91 Cavill, ’Professor’ Fred 301–3 Cawarra (steamer) 25 Cayley, Neville Sr and Jr 49 Cazneaux, Harold 308, 309, 414 cedar getting 119, 133, 135, 137, 138 cedar tax 134, 157 Cerebus (gunboat) 248 Challenger (ship) 26 Chance Brothers 235 Chicago, USS 270 Chicago Columbian Exposition 35, 150 Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage 290–1, 294, 304 Chinese Restriction Act 1862 (NSW) 241 Chowne, Thomas 192 Churchill, Winston 258 Circular Quay 216, 217, 384 citizens’ lobby groups 405 City of Sydney (ship) 197 civic architecture 237–8 Clarence River dredging plans 214

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exploration of 102, 133 fishing industry 149, 155 Flinders misses 102 naming of 191 navigability of 214–5, 233 rainforest at 41 steamship transport to 191 sugarcane planting 140–1 Clarence River Fresh Fish and Canning Company 150 Clark, William 97 Clarke, George 367 Clifton Heights 339 climate change 419 Coal Island 114 coal mining 96–7, 118–9 Coal River see also Hunter River 114 Coalcliff 15, 97, 104–5 Coast and Mountain Walkers 404 Coast India Company 208 coastal care groups 422 Coastal Council of NSW 411 coastal profiles 106–7 Coastal Protection Act 1979 (NSW) 411 coastal tea-tree 39 ‘Coasters off North Head’ 201 Cockatoo Island 218, 257, 267, 274 Coffs Harbour 223, 225–6, 386 Coffs Harbour Jetty Lifesaving Club 306 Coleridge, Samuel Taylor 290 Collaroy 277, 279, 422 Collins, David 66, 95 Colman, Phil 420–1, 422–3 Colomb, John 253 Colonial and Indian Exhibition 132 Colonial Naval Defence Act (UK) 248 Colonial Sugar Refining Company 140 Coltheart, Leonore 8 Combo, Harry and Florence 357 Comerang (steamer) 204 commercial fishing 393 at Wollongong 163 boats used by 392–5 growth of 35, 149–61 Italian fishing community 395 numbers employed in 392–3 Commissariat Store 383, 389 common kelp 43 Commons, Donald 293 Commons Committee on Transportation 87 Commonwealth National Reserve System 399–401 Commonwealth Parliament, artwork associated with 10, 12 Connell, John Sr and John Jr 325 conservation see individual places

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and 348, 382, 403–4, 405, 408, 409, 410, 411 convoys 273–4 Coode, John 215–6 Coogee 296, 298 bathing machines 301 houses at 339 nude bathing at 304 promotion to tourists 293 Cook, James approach to Indigenous peoples 81–3, 98 birds discovered by 47 coastal exploration by 9, 79 George Bass and 99 instructions given to 74–6 Point Hicks named by 72 specimens collected by 23–4 Cook, Joseph 264 Cooks River 331 Coolangatta (schooner) 170 Coolangatta (steamer) 204 Coolangatta, NSW 70, 170–1, 289 cool-temperate shore region 16 Co-operative Canning Company 149 Coraki (schooner) 195 Coraki boatshed 193–5, 194 , 198 Coral fern 399 ‘Corrimal Tank Trap’ 279 Country Party 215 Cousteau, Jacques 412 Cox, James 25 ‘crab prawns’ 32 Craig, Richard 116, 133 Crescent Head 324 Creswell, William Rooke 255–6 Crimean War 245–6 crimson-banded wrasse 44 Cronulla, naming of 325 Cronulla Beach 344, 409 as surfing beach 320, 322, 324 bathing machines 301 riots at 322–3 tourism to 327 Crookhaven River 170 Crowdy Head 158, 235–6 Crown Lands, grazing licences for 133 Culburra 282, 283 Cumberland (steamer) 96, 260, 262–3 Cumberland county 132 Cumberland Plain 93 cunjevoi 64 Curlewis, Adrian 309, 311 Curlewis, Jean 309 Currarong caravan park 6–7, 348 fibro cottages 10 history of 1–8 Indigenous sites 54, 64 Currawong holiday camp 349 Currency Lass (whaler) 162

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Currumbene Creek 394 Curtin, John 274 Cusack, Dymphna 271 customs service 238–43, 240 Cuthbert, John 204, 246 Dakin, William 20–1 death of 23 fieldwork by 16 in Camouflage Group 280–2 meets Isobel Bennett 18 on whales 50 visits Davidson 180–1 Dalley, William Bede 343 Dampier, William 73 Danger Point 90 Dannevig, Harald 36 Daramulan 69 Dark Point 55 Darling, Ralph 133, 299 Darling Harbour 198, 203, 206, 299 Darling Point 330 Darwin, Charles 162 Darwin, Erasmus 31 Darwinism in Australia 31, 33 Davidson, Alexander 176 Davidson, Elsie 182, 381 Davidson, George and Archer 176–81, 180, 361, 379 Davidson whaling station 382 Davies, Mavis 357 ‘Davy’ (beachcomber) 344, 345 Dawes Point 167, 244, 247, 247 Dawson, Robert (at Carrington) 127–8, 138–9 Dawson, Robert (cedar getter) 138–9 de Castelnau, Comte 34–5, 157 De Sainson, Louis Auguste 59 Deakin, Alfred 255–6 Demon (shark boat) 159 Dempsey Island 184 Dent, George 193 Department of Lands 405 Department of Primary Industry 419 Department of Public Works 214–7, 232, 386 Devil (shark boat) 159 Diamond Bay Flats 366, 367 Dibblu (trawler) 160 Dick, Thomas 56, 56, 282, 398, 400 –1 Diggers Camp 347 Dillon, Scott 312 Dithol (mountain) 80, 362 diving bells 217 Dobbin, USS 270 Domain, municipal baths at 299 Dover Heights 277, 366 Dowling, SW 347 ‘Dreadnought crisis’ 257 ‘Dreaming’ 66

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Drew, Philip 386 Drew, William 355, 358 Dunbar (steamer) 233, 292 Dunghutti people 397–8 Dunphy, Milo 410, 412 Dunphy, Myles 348, 403–4 Dupain, Max 280–2, 283, 348 photographs by 281, 283, 354, 366 Dureenbee (trawler) 160 Durraween (boat) 269 Durvillaea potatorum 43 Dutch East India Company 73, 86 Dutton, Geoffrey 8, 11 Duyfken (ship) 73

Eagle (steamer) 192 Earle, Augustus 144 –5, 288, 329 East Australian Current 44, 81, 419 East Boyd 171–2 East India Company 111, 162, 188, 196 East India Station 245 eastern clown anenomefish 44 Eastern Fleet 265, 270 Ecklonia radiata 43 Edel’s Land 73 Eden 175, 241, 246, 379–82, 392 Edible Fishes and Crustaceans of NSW (book) 35 El Niño 44 Elizabeth Bay House 32, 386 Elliott, Sizar 150 Emden (cruiser) 259 Endeavour, HMS see also Cook, James 96 Endeavour (trawler) 36 Endeavour River 84 Entrance, The 38, 346, 367–8 Environment Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) 411 Environmental Defenders Office 390 environmentalism see conservation Era Beach 348, 386, 405 Eubalaena australis 46 Evans, Bob 312 Evans, William 124–5, 284 Evans Head 69–70, 275 Evans River 137 Ever Restless Sea, The 294, 295 Examiner (steamer) 195

Ferguson, Bill 359 ferry boats 184 fibro (asbestos fibre cement) 3, 6, 10, 11, 347, 349, 350, 354, 365, 368–9, 383, 391 Field, Baron 69 Finding Nemo 44 Fingal Head 38, 399, 404 Fiona (ship) 141 fire, Indigenous use of 58 fish see also Aboriginal Australians, fishing by; commercial fishing; recreational fishing Australian, specimens of 32–3 Fish and Fisheries of NSW (book) 35 Fisher, Andrew 257–8 Fishery Road, Currarong 2, 8 fishhooks, use of 54 fishing inspectors 155–6 Fitzgerald, Terry 319 Fitzroy, Charles Augustus 245 Fitzroy Dock 197 Five Islands district 71, 169 Flinders, Matthew 98–102, 108–9, 111–2, 244 Flinders Naval Depot 267 ‘Flindersian region’ 17 Floyd’s Rocks 301 flute mouth 27 flying boat bases 275, 276 Forrest and Sons 231 Forster 38 Fort Denison 245 Fort Drummond 277 Fort Macquarie 247, 247, 383 Fort Scratchley 249–51, 250 –1, 272 Fort Wallace 277 Forwood, Gunner 80, 83 Four Power Treaty 266 four-wheel-drive vehicles 415 Fowles, Joseph 288 Fox, Frank 305 Frank (Aboriginal man) 355 French Oceanographic Campaigns 412 Fresh Food and Ice Company 154 Fresnel lenses 235 Fringe of the Sea, The 423 Frost, Shane 286 fruit bats 64

Gabo Island 260 Galaga legend 71 Gallagher, J 203 Fairview Estate 339 Falzon, Albert 317–8 Gallinago hardwickii 47 Far Eastern Fleet proposal 257 Game Fish Club, Port Stephens Farrelly, Bernard ‘Midget’ 312, 313 275 Game Fishing Association of Fauna Protection Act (NSW) NSW 46 346, 405 Federation of Bush Walking Clubs Gap, The 292 Garawarra area 347, 348 405

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INDEX

Garawarra Primitive Area 386, 405 Garden Island 247, 253, 267, 274–5 Garden Palace 379 Gardner, Mary 375, 378 Garie Beach 406–7 Garling, Frederick 199, 201, 202 , 288 Gazzard, Don 367, 385 Georges Head, fortifications at 245, 249 Georges River 99, 326, 355 Germany in World War II 268 internment of migrants from 264 Pacific Squadron 260 territorial deals with 252 Gibbs Shallard and Co 293 Giidany Miirlari see also Muttonbird Island 64, 225 Gladwin, Peter 374 Gleeson, Max 396 Gleichenia dicarpa 399 Gloucester county 132 glyphisodons 32 Goanna Headland 361 Gold Coast 374 Gondwana 37 Good Fishing 348 ‘Good Old Australia’ song 261 Goolgwai (boat) 269 Goonambee (trawler) 160 Goorangai (trawler) 160 Gostelow, Edward 50 Gould, John 33 Gould’s petrel 50, 405 Government House, Newcastle 120, 130 Government House, Sydney 328 Governor Macquarie (boat) 190 Gowlland, JT 110 Grafton 13, 137, 214–6, 246 Grafton Steam Navigation Company 205 Grant, James 112–4, 244 grass tree 57 Great Barrier Reef 12, 413 Great Depression 160 Green Cape lighthouse 43–4, 220–1, 236 Greenough, George 314 Greenway, Francis 329 Grey, Earl 245 grey nurse shark 45 Griffin, Walter Burley 341, 345–6 Grimes, Charles 95 Gritten, Henry 166 Gruner, Elioth 298 Gulaga mountain 79 Gumbayngirr people 137, 225, 355, 397 Gumma Indigenous Protected

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Area 403 Gunundaal (trawler) 159, 260 Gurawil legend 68–9 Gurindji people 360 ‘gutter sailing’ 192 Gwawley Bay 327 Gweagal people 81–4, 325 Gyles, John 130

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Huskisson 394 Huxley, Thomas 33, 170 Hyams Beach 354 , 369

ice manufacture 154 Illawarra region 56, 99, 166 Illawarra Steam Navigation Company 205–6, 380 Illustrious, HMS 275 Hall, Edward Smith 134–5 Iluka 38, 216, 383, 393 Hall, Glen 210 Imlay, George, Peter and Halloran, Henry 2, 291–2, 354 , Alexander 164 , 168–9, 174 369–70 Immigration Restriction Act Halloran, Henry Jr 341–3 1862 241 Hargraves, Edward 25, 335–6 Immigration Restriction Act 1901 Hargraves, William 9, 25, 31, 335 (Cth) 148, 243 Harrison, Max Dulumunmun 68–9 see also White Australia Hartog, Dirk 73 Policy Hastings River 129, 145, 303 indentured labour 173 Independent Scientific Audit Haswell, William 35 Committee 418–9 Hawkesbury River 93 Independent World Commission Haydock, Molly (Mary Reibey) on the Oceans 413–5 189–90, 375 Indian Head 90 Healthy Rivers Commission 411 Indigenous Protected Areas 403 Heathorn, Henrietta 170 Hedley, Charles 16–7 Influx of Chinese Restriction Act Henrietta Villa 239, 329, 333 1881 (NSW) 241–2 Innes, Annabella and Dido 303–4 Heritage Act 1977 (NSW) 386 Innes, Major 303 Heritage Council of NSW 387–9 Innes, Merv 392 Hervey Bay 101 International Professional Surfers Hicks, Zachary 72, 80 Tour 319 Hill, EJ 307 Hill, Edward Smith 157 Investigator (vessel) 111, 115 Hill 60, Port Kembla 277 Iredale, Tom 18 Historic Shipwreck Act (Cth) 396 Irish convicts, at Newcastle 119 Hixson, Francis 110, 229, 235 Iron Knight (ship) 272 Hockey, George 154 Irving, Robert 384–5 Hoddle, Robert 166 Italian fishing community (Ulladulla) 395 Hodgkinson, Clement 135, 137 Holman, William 159 Holt, Thomas 326, 327, 409 James, Stella house 345 Holutheria leucospilota 422 James and Amelia (cutter) 205 Japan, perceived threat from Home, The 309 254–6, 264, 267, 270 Hood, HMS 267 Japanese snipe 47 hooks see fishhooks, use of Hoschke, Mr 277–9 Japanese submarines 271–4 Hot Buttered surfboards 319 Java La Grande 73 Howe, Graham 283 Jellicoe, Lord 264–5 Howitt, Alfred 66 Jerringa people 360 Hughes, Billy 243, 259, 265–7 Jervis Bay humpback whales 46, 161–2, Aboriginal Australians at 374, 382 361–2 Hunter, John as anchorage 100 arrival in NSW 9 as trading port 13 artworks by 30, 288 beaches near 37 Beecroft Peninsula 1 bans boat construction 188 boatbuilding at 193 Bass employed by 100 charts of 103, 351 becomes Governor 98 exploration by 91, 112 connection to Canberra 3 on fishing industry 157 development of 341–2 Hunter River 96, 114 discovery of 93–5 Hunter River Steam Navigation exploration of 100 Company 205, 207 fishing in 157 Hurley, Frank 163 harbour at 213

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Indigenous sites 59, 112–4 lighthouse at 233–5 Marine Park 413 naval college 259, 267, 327 settlement plans 171 specimens collected at 25, 112 whaleboats in 179 Jervois, William 249 JN King and Sons 279 Joell, William 151–4 John Bull (whaler) 162 John Gould Nature Reserve 405 John Palmer (boat) 190 John See and Company 205 Jolly, Alexander 344–5 Journal of a Voyage to New South Wales 23

Lady Denman Maritime Museum 394 Lady Nelson (brig) 111–5, 113, 118, 130, 190 Lake Cathie 42, 42 Lake Illawarra, Indigenous legends 70 Lake Innes 42, 42 Lake Macquarie 276, 343 Lake Mummuga 346 Lake Mungo 53 Lambie, John 173 Lambton (collier) 125 Land and Environment Court 390, 409 land development see individual places Lands Department 405 Latham’s snipe 47 Kahanamoku, Duke Paoa 310, 319 Laurieton 277–9 Lavender Bay 303 Kangaroo (novel) 339–40 Lawrence (township) 148 kangaroos 84 Lawrence, DH 339–40, 385 Karuah 355 Lawson, Henry 12, 206, 208 Karuah River 127–9 leatherjacket 22 Kearney, Robert 416–7 kelp 43 Leaves from Australian Forests Kendall, Henry 291–2, 356 (poem) 292 Keppel Islands 54 Leeuwin’s Land 73 Kerry, Charles 296 Lend Lease Homes 349–50 Lennox Head 314, 315, 324 Kiah River 176, 178, 382 Kiama 166, 169–70, 213, 238 Leptospermum laevigatum 39 Letham, Isabel 319, 321 Kiama (steamer) 202 Kijas, Johanna 409 Lette, Kathy 320 killer whales see orcas Leverian Museum 23 Lewin, John 114 Killer Whale Museum, Eden Lewis, Mortimer 331, 338 379–382 Kinchela 355, 359 Liber Studiorum 290 King, Philip Gidley 118–9, 161 Liberal and National Party King George Sound 59 Coalition, fishing policies 417 lifeboat services 230–1 King William (steamer) 133, lifesaving movement 306, 307, 191–2 Kingscliff 370–4, 372–3 322 lighthouses 232–5, 338 Kingston, Beverley 365 lime-burning at Newcastle 124 Kirribilli, fortifications at 245 Kitchen, Henry 329 Limerick (merchant ship) 273 Knox, Edward Sr and Jr 140–2 Lindsay, Lionel 42 photograph album 146–7 Linnaean Society of NSW 34 Koraaga (trawler) 159, 260 Linnaeus, Carl von 24 Lister, William Lister 293–4, Korff, John Captain 223 Korowa (boat) 269 296, 344 krill 46 Little Garie Beach 386, 405 Kulunghutti (mountain) 70 little red-necked stint 422 Ku-ring-ai Chase National Park littoral rainforest 40 403 Livingstone, Hugh 70 Kurnell Peninsula, specimens Livistona australis 39–40 collected at 25 Locke, John 134 Loggan Rock house 344 Kuttabul (ferry) 271 Lone Hand journal 307 La Niña 44 Long Reef 20 –1, 420–1, 422–3 La Perouse 327, 355 Low, Albert Hanson 293 Labor Party see Australian Labor Lowe, Arthur 304–5 Lowe, Robert and Georgiana Party 331–2, 334 Labridae 44–5 Lady Denman (ferry boat) 193 Lowe, William 191

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Lower Hunter Regional Strategy 390–1 Lurline Bay 339 Lycett, Joseph 24, 285–6, 329, 335 artworks by 59, 60–1, 62, 122–3, 333 Mabo, Eddie 360 Mackellar, Dorothea 287 Maclean (township) 150, 239 Macleay, Alexander 33, 133 Macleay, William John 25, 33–4, 151, 157 Macleay, William Sharp 32–3 Macleay River 55, 217 Macleay River Steam Packet Company 205 Macleayina abdominalis 19 Macquarie, Lachlan building program 124, 232 collector’s chest 24, 27 discourages sea bathing 303 land grants 132 lifts boatbuilding ban 190 on Newcastle 120 visits Port Stephens 114 Macquarie Point, fortifications at 245 Magney House 354 , 363 Mahoney, Frank 146–7 Mahony, Marion 345 Mahuika comet 71 Maitland (steamer) 227 Malibu boards 312, 314 Malone, John 326 Manly 298 bathing costume regulations 305 bathing machines 301 development of 299 lifesaving club 307 surf bathing begins at 304, 310 surfing at 310, 312 Manning, Edye 205 Manning River 193, 212–3 Manning River Steam Navigation Company 205 Mantra Resort 371 maori wrasse 22 Marine Board 229–30 Marine Hotel, Wollongong 301 Marine Industries Ltd 159 marine mammals see also sealing industry; whales; whaling industry 46–7 Marine Park Authority 413 marine park system 412–416 Marine Parks Act 1997 (NSW) 413 Marine Pavilion, Brighton UK 328–9 Maritime Strike of 1890: 208 Maritime Union of Australia 209–10

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INDEX

Maroubra Beach 339 Marshall, James 191 Martens, Conrad 143, 289, 295, 331, 333 Martin, William 99 Mary Cam (trawler) 269 Mash, Ann 189 Mason, Will 272 Massie, Robert George 136 Mathews, RH 66, 69, 174 Matilda (whaler) 95 McCormick, Peter Dodds 249 McGregor, Craig 311, 312 McLean, Tom 273 McTavish, Bob 314 Megaptera novaeangliae 46 Melaleuca quinquenervia 39, 42 , 57–8 Melbourne, HMAS 258 Menzcer, Pauline 321 Menzies, Charles 119 Mer Island 360 Mercury (boat) 190 Merewether, Edward 338 Merewether Beach 324, 339 Meriam people 68 Meridiastra gunnii 422 Merimbula steamer 2–3, 206–7 Mickey of Ulladulla (Aboriginal artist) 352–3, 356 Middle Head, fortifications at 249 Midget goes Hawaiian (film) 312 migrants to Australia as shipwrights 203 at Cronulla Beach 322–3 Chinese 150, 151, 241–3 deserting sailors 247–8 employment as labourers 142, 148, 173 German-speaking 264 Italian fishing community 395 Miklouho-Maclay, Nikolai 35 Millen, Edward 259 Millers Point 167, 204 Millet, William 229–30 Millimumul (trawler) 268 Minjungbal people 65 Minns, BE 146–7 Missingham, Hal 348 Mitchell, Peter 423 Mitchell, Thomas 330 Moluccas 72 Monckton, Len 413 Money and Friends (play) 365 Monitor 134–5, 157 Monroe Doctrine 252 Montague Island 64, 80, 236, 413 Mooney, Nellie 362 Moreton Bay 101–2, 115–6, 130, 233 Moriarty, EO 215–6 Moriarty, Merion 233 Morisett, James 121 Morning of the Earth (film) 318

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Morrison, Alexander 397 ‘Morrison canoe’ 398 Mort, Thomas 154, 290, 384 Mort family 346 Mortlake Bank (collier) 268 Morton, Earl of 85 Moruya, aircraft stationed at 275 Mother and Child 281 Mount Dromedary 80 Mount Warning 90, 106–7 Mountain Trails Club 403 Mulligan, John 395 Mundy, Godfrey 191, 245, 301 Mungo Brush 40 Murch, Arthur 344 Murcutt, Glen 354 , 363 Muslims, beach culture and 322–3 Muttonbird Island 64, 386 My One Fourteen Millionth Share 411 Myall Lakes 39, 382, 410, 415 Myall Lakes National Park 40 Myers, Francis 130–2, 139, 141–2, 207, 365 Nadgee Nature Reserve 405 Nambucca River 55, 137, 355, 403 Nanagai (boat) 269 Napier, James 195 Narooma 15–6 Narrabeen 340–1 Nash, John 328–9 National Farmers Federation 210 National Park Act 1967 (NSW) 408 National Parks and Primitive Areas Council 405 National Parks and Wildlife Service of NSW 382, 403, 408 National Parks Association 408, 409, 412 National Register of Historic Vessels 396–7 National Shipwreck Relief Society of NSW 219, 229 National Trust of NSW 384, 388–9 Native Title Act (Cth) 360 Naval Station status 246 Navigation Act (Cth) 209, 228 Navigation Acts (UK) 162, 209 Navigation Board 229 Navigation Laws 196–7 Navy League 265 Nelson, HMS 248, 253 Nelson Bay (Port Stephens) 114, 154 Nelson Bay (Bronte) 331 Neosebastes thetidis 35–6 Neotrigonia 26 Nerrima 173 net fishing, at Byron Bay 153–4 Neutral Bay, vessels anchored in 191

443

New Brighton (Botany Bay) 300 New Holland charts of 74, 75, 76–7, 88–9, 94, 103, 108–9 naming of 73 ‘New South Wales’ separated from 90–1 New Orleans, USS 274 New South Wales. . ., names starting with see under remainder of name, e.g. ‘Land Council’ New South Wales Gazetteer 215 ‘New South Wales’ name proposed 90 New Zealand, Cook’s exploration of 78 Newcastle 122–3, 125 boats in 186–7 Customs House 240 early depictions 284–6 early development 118, 126 foundation of 114 harbour improvements 217–23 harbour map 222 lifeboat service 229–31 lifesaving club 307 pilot service 231–2 shelled by submarines 271 survey of indigenous peoples and fauna 285–6 swimming at 304 The Ridge (house) 338 troops stationed at 246 Newport 388 Newton, Alexander 193 Nimbin (steamer) 268 Nobbys Island 217–23, 233, 285 Norah Head 338 Norahville village 336 Noraville (house) 12, 334–7 Norfolk (sloop) 100 Norfolk Island 18, 93 Norfolk Island pines 141 North Coast Anti-Alien Society 142 North Coast Company 210–1, 214 North Coast Steam Navigation Company 205, 225, 268 North Head radio monitoring station 277 North Narrabeen 314–7 Northumberland county 132 Notolabrus gymnogenis 44 Nowra, aircraft stationed at 275 NSW Fresh Food and Ice Company 154 Ocean Park 338 ocean perch 35–6 O’Donnell, Phyllis 319 Ogilby, James 34–5 ‘Old Tom’ (orca) 379

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Olive Cam (trawler) 269 Oliver, Alexander 155, 157 Oola-bool-oo legend 71 orcas Aboriginal links to 69 hunting behaviour 175 ‘Old Tom’ 379 whaling with the aid of 176–9, 177, 181 O’Reilly, Cresswell 388 O’Rorke, Don 369 O’Shane, Pat 361 Oxley, John 110, 115–6, 129–30, 171, 285, 398 Oxley Creek 17 Oyster Bank 217, 228, 231 oyster boats 184 Pacific City plans 342, 369 Pacific Highway 346 Page, Earle 215 Palm Beach Surf Life Saving Club 309 Palmer, Thomas Reverend 23–4 Pamphlett, Thomas 116 paperbark 39 Papua New Guinea, annexation of 252–3 Parker, Rob 314 Parkinson, Sydney 58, 79, 85, 85 Parramatta 92, 189 Parramatta, HMAS 274 Parry, Edward 127–8 Paterson, Charles 310 Patonga 405 Patricia Cam (trawler) 269 Patrick’s Stevedoring 210 Patten, Jack 359 Pax Britannica 252 Peake, Herbert 306 Pearce, Dick 158 Pearce, George 259 Pearce, Lee 376 Pearl, HMS 247–8 Pearl Beach 3, 364–5 Pearl Harbor, Japanese bombing of 270 Pelecanus conspicillatus 49 Pelican (schooner) 195 Pelican Creek 137 Pelican Shipyard 193 Pendergast, Max 386 Perier, Albert 227 Perkins, USS 270 Peron, Francois 17, 244 ‘Peronian region’ 17 Perry, Samuel 191 Perry, Thomas 133 Peter Nuyt’s Land 73 Phillip, Arthur 9, 91–3, 185–8, 244 physalia (bluebottles) 33 Physeter catodon 46 Pickersgill, Richard 81 pied oystercatcher 48

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Piercy, Rachel 399 ‘pig and whistle fleet’ 206 Pigeon House Mountain 80, 362 see also Dithol Piguenit, WC 293 Pilot Board 229, 233 Pilot Services 231–2 Pinchgut Island 218, 245 Pinguin (ship) 268 pink five corners plant 30 Piper, Captain 12 Piper, Gwen 410–1 Piper, John 239, 329, 335 Piscator Avenue, Currarong 2, 7, 8 Pittwater 91, 405 Point Hicks 72, 74, 84, 97 Point Perpendicular lighthouse 2, 235 Point Piper 329 Pope, Elizabeth 9, 15–23, 423 Port Hacking 99, 344, 403 Port Jackson see also Sydney Harbour coastal profile 106–7 early depictions 247, 285 fishing industry 151–3, 156–7 French interest in 244 Indigenous canoes in 56 lifeboat service 230 naming of 90 settlement in 9, 90 shell trade at 24 shipping regulations 119 specimens collected from 33–5 Port Kembla 222 , 277, 301 Port Macquarie charts of 285 convicts posted to 129–30 discovery of 115 early depictions 145 early impressions of 287 growing population of 365–8 Indigenous sites 56 pilot service 231 Port Phillip Bay 112 Port Stephens as trading port 13 Chinese fishing at 150–1 colonial history of 95–6 development of 341–2 early depictions 144 –5 European settlement 128 farming at 127 fortifications at 275 harbour at 213 Macquarie visits 114 naming of 90 proposed naval base 265 radio monitoring station 277 refrigeration works 154 specimens collected at 25 Port Stephens City plan 341 Portuguese explorers 72–3

prawn trawling boats 184 Preston, Walter 122–3, 285 Price, Willie 355 Price of Peace, The (book) 267 Prince of Kurrarong Creek, The (story) 2 Prince of Wales, HMS 270 Prout, John Skinner 247, 334 , 335 Providence (schooner) 195 Providence, HMS 95 Pterodroma leucoptera 50 Puberty Blues (novel) 320–2 Public Works Department 214–7, 232, 386 puffer fish 32 Puffinus griseus 50 Puffinus pacificus 50 Pulganbar (steamer) 267 Pyrmont 26, 146–7, 198, 199

Queen Mary (liner) 274 Queensland Steam Navigation Company 207 Radcliffe, Ann 290 Rainbow, HMS 116 Raine, Thomas 168 Ramornie station 137 Ramsay, Edward P 34–5, 151, 157 Rankine, William 195 Rathmines 275 Rattlesnake (survey ship) 176 Ray Group 369–70 real estate see individual places, ‘sea change’ phenomenon recreational fishing 346–7, 415–8 red cedar 42, 118–21, 133–9 red five corners (flower) 399 Red Funnel Company 160, 268 ‘Red Lady’ remains 53 Red Rock 137 red weedy sea-dragon 19 redbills (oystercatchers) 48 Reeks, Walter 193 Regent Beach, Newcastle 120 Reibey, Mary 189–90, 375 Reibey, Thomas 189–90 Reliance, HMS 98 remora 27 reoccupied Aboriginal lands 355–6 Repulse, HMS 267, 270 Richards, Mark 319, 339 Richmond River Ballina established on 154 charts of 219 discovery of 116 Flinders misses mouth of 102 flooding of 214 Indigenous population around 64 navigation on 195, 217 rainforest at 41 sugarcane planting 140–1, 146–7

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INDEX

Sayer, Robert 94 Saywell, Thomas 300 Scarborough 301 Scarvell, Jessie 293–4 Schell, Frederick 216 Schnapper Point 55 Scientific Services Section 408 Scotch Town 193 Scott, William 398–9 Scratchley, Peter 249 scuba diving 14, 413 Scullin, Jim 267–8 Sea Around Us, The (book) 412 ‘sea change’ phenomenon 3, 327 sea level changes 37, 52, 419 sea perch 32 ‘Sea’ poem 291 Seaforth 340 Seahorse and its Relatives, The (book) 19, 19 Seal Rocks 44 sealing industry 161 Seamen’s Union 209, 229 Searle, Edward 269 Seaside (development) 370, 411 Second Australian Infantry Force 270 Sedgers Reef Hotel 383 Seidler, Harry 366, 367 Selborne, Earl of 254 Select Committee on Aboriginal land rights 360 Select Specimens from Nature of the Birds, Animals &c of NSW (book) 22 Selection Acts 1861 (NSW) 139 Serventy, Vincent and Carole 364 ‘Settlement Shores’ 368 Settree, Alf 394 Seven Mile Beach 39, 40 –1 Shamrock (steamer) 205 sharks 45–6, 299 Shelley Beach 410 shellfish 54, 58, 64, 184 Shellharbour Company 205 shells at Indigenous sites 52 Australian, popularity of Saddleback Mountain, radio 24–31 monitoring station 277 lime made from 124 Sahul landmass 37, 52–3 shipbuilding 183–206 Salamander Bay 265 Shipbuilding Theoretical and Practical (book) 195 Salamander whaler 95 Salt (village development) 369–70, shipwrecks 225–8, 227, 233, 396 371, 411 Shipwright’s Association 202–4 Salt Pan Creek 358 Shoal Bay (Clarence River) 102 Saltwater Freshwater Arts Shoal Bay Canning Company 150 Alliance 397 Shoalhaven River 100, 170, 204 sand mining 409–11 Shortland, John 96 Sandon Point 288, 349, 408 side-lever engines 192 Signal Hill, beacon at 232 Sandon River 347 sandstone, coastal 37, 68 Silent World, The (book) 412 Sims Committee 410 Sarah (schooner) 205 Singapore. fall of 270 sawfish 32 timber-getting at 138–9 Richmond River Shipping Company Ltd 205 Ridge house 338 River Clarence (steamer) 274 River Hunter (steamer) 274 Roberts, Tom 293 Robertson, John 195 Robin Elizabeth (trawler) 392 Robinson, Hercules 252 Robinson, Thomas 299 rock fishermen 414 Rocks, The 26, 384 Rolleston, CH 265–6 Romantic movement 291 Rona (ship) 141 Rona house 140 rorquals 46 Rose Hill see also Parramatta 91 Roseby Park 358, 360 Rosedale (steamer) 226–8 Rosehill Packet (cargo boat) 185 Rossitter, Richard 25 Rous, Henry 116 Royal Australian Historical Society 379, 384 Royal Australian Navy see also Cockatoo Island; Garden Island; Jervis Bay 179, 247, 258–9, 274 Royal Commissions into fishing industry 35, 151, 157 Royal Institute of Architects 384 Royal Life Saving Society 307 Royal National Park 347–8, 403, 405 Royal Navy (UK) canned rations 150 ships in Sydney 245–8, 255 Royal Society 85 Royal Zoological Society of NSW 18 Russell, PN 198, 203 Russell, Samuel 301 Russia, perceived threat from 245, 249, 252 Russo-Japanese War 254

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Singleton Argus 254 Sirius 93 Sites of Significance Survey 408 Skottowe, Thomas 22 , 285–6 ‘sliding keel’ 113 Small, Arthur 344 Smith, Henry Gilbert 299–301 Smith, John 235 Smoky Cape 90, 135 smuggling 241 Smyth, Bowes 38–9 social darwinism 141 Solitary Islands 43, 233, 413 Songs from the Mountains (poem) 292 sooty shearwater 50 Sophia Jane (steamboat) 125, 126, 191, 206 South Clifton 301 South Durras 417 South East Fishery 160–1 South Head 35, 232, 249, 292 South West Rocks 46 Southerby, Alfred 219 Southern Hemisphere 286 Southern Oscillations 44 southern right whales 46, 161–2 Sow and Pigs Reef 26 Sparks, Alexander Brodie 331, 356 Special Service Squadron 267 Spenser, Edmund 239 sperm whales 46, 162 spinifex grass 38–39 Spitfire (boat) 204, 246 squatters, expansion by 133 St Vincent county 132 St Vincent’s City 2 Stanner, WEH 67 State Fishery company 160 State Heritage Register 387–9, 390 State Surfing Championships 314 Stead, David 159–60, 179–82 Steam Navigation Board 229 Stedman, Shane 319 Stenhouse, Nicol 291 Stephens, Tony 350 Stingray Bay 82 Stockton Beach, tank traps on 278 Stone, John 272 Stone, Sarah 23, 27 Streeton, Arthur 293 Strom, Allen 405–8 Stroud 127 Styphelia triflora 399 sucker fish 27 sugarcane planting 130, 140–2 Sunbaker photo 282, 283 Supply, HMS 93 Surf Bathing Association of NSW 307 Surf Life Saving Society of Australia 307–9

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Coast

Surf Trek to Hawaii 312 surfboards 310–7 Surfer magazine 311 surfing see also beaches; swimming 11, 310–24 Surfing World magazine 312 Surprise (steamboat) 191 Sutherland House 326–8 Swan River Colony 116 swimming see also beaches daylight bathing banned 299 instruction in 301–3 rise in popularity of 13 wartime interruptions to 279

Tahlee village 154 Tallamalla house 343 Tamarama 297, 298 Tamboy 382–3 Tanilba Bay 341 tank traps 279 Tanna, Tommy 310 ‘Tarwood’ (convict) 95 Tasman, Abel 73, 86 ‘Tasman Bonaparte map’ 73 Tasman Sea (boat) 394 Tasmania see also Van Diemen’s Land 53, 57, 73 Tathra 43, 212–3, 348 Taylor Brothers 150 Sydney see also Botany Bay; Port Technological, Industrial and Jackson; Sydney Harbour Sanitary Museum 379 as whaling port 167 Tempe House 331, 333 boatbuilding in 196–205 Tenison-Woods, Julian 35 growth of 238 Tennant, Kylie 277 house prices near to 364 terra nullius doctrine 360 shelled by submarines 271 ‘Terre Napoleon’ 111 Sydney, HMAS 258, 259, 261, 267 Tharawal people 66, 81 Sydney, Lord 93 Thetis (pilot vessel) 232 Sydney Bush Walkers 404–5 Thetis, HMCS 35 Sydney Camouflage Group 280 Thetis fish 35 Sydney Church of England Girls Thévenot, Melechisédech 74 Grammar School 18 Thirroul 340 Sydney Cove see Sydney Harbour Thompson, Lindsay 158 threatened species 45 Sydney Cove (ship) 97, 99, 114 timber for boatbuilding 392 Sydney Harbour see also Port tobacco planting 130 Jackson Circular Quay 216 Tom Thumb I & II (boats) 99 Tomaree Headland 275 closed to commercial fishing tool-making sites 55–6 392 countryside around 39 Toona ciliata 42–3 early depictions 288–9 Tornaghi, Angelo 239 ferry boats 185 Torpedo Bay 248 fortifications of 248–9, 274 Total Environment Centre 410–1 government spending on 215 Tourism New South Wales 323 Great White Fleet in 256 Townsend, JP 171, 332 historical reminiscences Towradgee 335 of 379 Tracks magazine 317 Indigenous canoes in 402 Transit of Venus 74 Indigenous sites around 65–8 Treaty of Tordesillas 72, 91 Treaty of Waitangi 245 Japanese submarines in 271 marine species in 44 Trial (brig) 115 naming of 90 Trial Bay, prison at 217, 264 racing skiffs on 394 Trigonia shells 26 specimens collected at 25 Tuggerah Lake 346 swimming in 11 Tupaia 102 Sydney Cove 39, 161, 185 Turner, Ethel 309 vessels lost in 201 Turner, Helen 15–6 Turner, Joseph 290 villas on 329–30 Tuross Heads 16 Sydney Harbour Trust 214 Tweed River 65, 116, 170 Sydney Heads (painting) 295 Tweed River Steamship Company Sydney Heritage Fleet 394–6 205 Sydney red gum 39 Tweed Shire 369, 411–2 Sylvania Waters 328, 368 Twofold Bay Systema Naturae (book) 24 as trading port 13 European discovery of 100 Tackangua 174 harbour at 213 Tacking Point lighthouse 236 whaling industry 168–75 Tahlee house 127, 144 –5, 289, 337

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whaling museum 379–81 Ugh Boots 319 Ulladulla 38, 213, 352–3, 356, 395 United States, vessels from 161, 256 Urban Systems Corporation 367 Ure Smith, Sydney 280 Van Diemen’s Land see also Tasmania 73, 78, 86, 100 Varley, George 215 Vaux, William 24 Vernon (reformatory ship) 225 Victoria (lifeboat) 231 Views in New South Wales (book) 285 Vixen (schooner) 228 ‘Volunteer Corps’ 246 Volute marmorata 26 Von Guerard, Eugene 28 –9 von Hügel, Baron 168–9, 192–3, 206 Von Linnaeus, Carl 24 Voyage to Terra Australis, A (book) 98 Waite, Edgar 36 Walker, Eliza 167 Walker, Thomas 31 Walker, Tommy 310 Wallaga Lake 360, 361 Wallarah Coal Company 224 Wallis, James 120–1, 122–3, 285–6 Walsh, Tom 209 Walsh Island 218 Walter Hood (ship) 234 Wanderer (yacht) 171 Waratah (tug) 396 Warrego, HMAS 257, 258 Warrego II (sloop) 274 Washington Naval Conference 266 water temperature, variations in 43 Waterman engine 158 Waterside Workers Federation 209 waterspouts 79 Waterview Bay 197–8 Waterview House 330 Watson, Robert 232 Waugh family 343 Wave Hill 360 Weatherhead, Matthew 103 wedge-tailed shearwater 50 Weeney Bay 326 well-boats 154 Wellings, Charles 177 West, Claude 310 West Sydney electorate 243 Westall, William 106–7 Western Australia 116, 386

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INDEX

Western Port 100, 112 Westmacott, Robert Marsh 104 –5, 288, 295 Whale Fishery Hotel 167 Whalers Arms 167 whales 69 whaling industry 161–72, 164 , 179, 183, 374 Wharf House 328 wherries 184 White, James 125, 154 White, John 23, 285 White Australia Policy 148, 256 Whitelegge, William 35 Whitley, Gilbert 19 Wilkinson Prize 363 William the Fourth (steamboat) 191 Williams River 191–2 Williamson, David 365 Wilson, Frederick Sydney 110, 292–3 Wilson, Thomas 32 Wilton, Charles 162 Witzig, John 317 Wodi Wodi people 69–71, 99 Wolfe (raider) 260 Wollongbar (steamer) 225–6 Wollongbar II (cargo ship) 272, 273

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Wollongong as beach resort 300–1 courthouse for 238–9 fishing fleet 163 fortifications at 277 harbour at 213, 217 lifesaving club 307 naming of (Woolyungah) 81 women as lifesavers 306 as surfers 319–22 swimming by 305–6 Wooden Boat Association of NSW 394 Woodlands, Albert 397 Woods, Gordon 312 Woolgoolga jetty 223, 225 Wooli 347 Woolloomooloo 299, 328 Worimi people 60–1, 95–6, 128, 174, 397 World War I, naval actions 259–60 World War II 268–9 Wran, Neville 361 wrasses 44–5 Wreck Bay 233–4, 361–3, 399–400 Wylie, Mina 302

4 47

Wynter, William 193

Xanthorrhoea 57 Yabsley, Magdelan 195 Yabsley, William 193–5, 198, 248 Yaegal people 102 Yahbirri 66 Yamba Indigenous land repossessed 360 Indigenous legends 69 naming of 102 pilot service 231 population growth 216 Yarra, HMAS 258 Yarra Yarra (steamer) 228–30 Yellow Rock Mission 225 Yolgnu people 68 Young, Frank 2 Young, Robert ‘Nat’ 312–4, 315, 317–8 Yuin people 65, 68–70, 79, 174, 361 Yuraygir National Park 408–9 Zahalka, Anne 316 Zoonomia: or the Laws of Organic Life (book) 31

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Anthropologist Norman Tindale prepared his map of Aboriginal territories before the impact of colonisation, in 1940. He used a phonetic alphabet to spell the group names.

This amended version was published in 1974. The New South Wales coastal groups from the Victorian border to Queensland shown are the Bidawal, Thawa, Yuin, Walbanga, Wandandian, Wodi Wodi, Tharawal, Eora, Darkingjang, Awabakal, Worimi, Biripai, Ngamba, Ngaku, Gumbayngirr, Yuraygir, Bundjalung, Arakwal and Minungbal.

Though it does not show the complexity of groupings around Sydney Harbour and Botany Bay in particular, many of these names and general localities are still current. The name Yuin is now often applied also to the Thawa and Walbanga. Aboriginal people still identify with many of these groups.

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