Aboriginal heritage

echo point

The Darramuragal People

The Darramuragal or Darug people have been in this area for thousands of years, long before the arrival of European settlers. They lived from Newcastle down to Sydney, mostly along the foreshores of the harbour. They fished and hunted in the waters and harvested food from the surrounding bushland. They had no need to travel long distances as the land’s resources were abundant and they were able to trade with other tribal groups. Spending much of their time developing a rich and complex culture, this included a distinctive language, customs, spirituality and law - the heart of which was their connection to the land.

Kinship with the land

The Aboriginal lifestyle was based on total kinship with the natural environment. Wisdom and skills obtained over millennia enabled them to use their environment for maximum benefit. Acts such as killing animals for food or building a shelter were steeped in ritual and spirituality, and carried out in balance with their surroundings.

Indigenous weather knowledge

Jun-Jul, Time of Burrugin

Tugarah Tuli sees cold, frosty, shorter days. This is the time when the male Burrugin (echidnas) form lines of up to ten as they follow the female through the woodlands in an effort to wear her down and mate with her. It is also the time when the Burringoa (Eucalyptus tereticornis) starts to produce flowers, indicating to collect the nectar of certain plants for the ceremonies which will begin to take place during the next season. It’s also a warning not to eat shellfish again until the Boo'kerrikin blooms.

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The BOM Indigenous Weather Knowledge Calendar was launched in 2002 as a joint partnership between the Bureau, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) and Monash University's Centre for Indigenous Studies. The website is a formal recognition of traditional weather and climate knowledge that has been developed and passed down through countless generations by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. *Permission to use the D'harawal seasonal calendar is granted by the D'harawal Traditional Knowledgeholders' and Descendents' Circle.

Rediscovering history

The arrival of Lt James Cook in 1770 devastated in what amounts to the blink of an eye an incomparable and ancient people. Those not lost completely were altered as survivors gathered into new groups. Much of what we do know about Sydney’s clans must be gleaned from archaeological remains. While there are some families who have identified links to original Sydney clans-people, very few traditional stories remain about the sites and landscapes of the Ku-ring-gai area.

Visit the Aboriginal Heritage Office for a detailed history of the land.


Clans in the Sydney Region – courtesy of Dr Val Attenbrow, 2010.

Aboriginal heritage sites 

In metropolitan Sydney there are close to 6,500 Aboriginal sites, including rock art, shell middens, axe grinding grooves, ceremonial grounds, burial sites, stone quarries, fish traps and water holes. All sites are significant to Aboriginal people because they are evidence of the past Aboriginal occupation of Australia and are valued as a link with their traditional culture. These sites are under threat every day from development, vandalism and natural erosion and once they are destroyed, they are gone forever. Some of the sites that are located in Ku-ring-gai are still in remarkable condition and are an important part of our history. All Aboriginal heritage sites are protected under state and federal law.

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 Grinding grooves on a rock face and a waterhole.

Aboriginal Heritage Office

Council is a member of the Aboriginal Heritage Office (AHO), which preserves and protects over 1,000 Aboriginal heritage sites across the North Shore. The AHO also studies Aboriginal life before colonisation and runs a series of educational walks and talks for school groups and the general public.

Get involved

The Aboriginal Heritage Office is located in Manly and offers a wide range of free services to the community.

  • The Education Centre and Keeping Place: Everyone is welcome, including school and community groups.
  • Schools: Free presentations, walks, talks and other activities are available for schools within a partner Council boundary, subject to staff availability. (Year 3 upwards).
  • Community Walks and Talks: These are all catered for by AHO staff. Whether it is an Aboriginal site tour, a bush tucker walk or a women only event, the AHO can assist.
  • Staff Training: Provided to Council staff in Aboriginal Sites Awareness. There are specific courses for outdoor staff, planning and assessment staff, volunteer site monitors and others.
  • Site Protection: Provides assistance to partner Councils and residents in efforts to protect Aboriginal sites in the area. This includes strategic planning issues, DA referrals, and conservation management.

Visit AHO services to find out more and make a booking. 

Take a Walk

Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park offers excellent examples of local aboriginal heritage with a variety of different sites.

The Aboriginal Heritage Walk, on West Head, offers visitors a unique look into past culture over a 2.5 hr loop trail.

Find out more

For more detailed information you can read the Aboriginal Heritage and History within the Ku-ring-gai Local Government Area (pdf. 1MB).

Visit the links to documents at the right for the AHO Annual Report, Education and Volunteer Reports.

Aboriginal Heritage Sights and Sounds - Northern Sydney

Bushcare with care

Local Land Services has produced a field guide to help professional bush regenerators, biodiversity managers and Bushcare volunteers to protect and conserve Aboriginal landscapes.

The field guide can be downloaded here.