Aboriginal Sacred Sites are areas, places and landmarks of significant meaning and past cultural connections to Aboriginal people’s ancestors, who lived wholly and solely off the land, rivers and sea for more than 60,000 years. For all these years prior to European settlement, Aboriginal people retained a healthy respect for Mother Earth and all living creatures, as this was their only source of food, shelter, medicine, weapons and ultimate survival. Many sacred traditions and customs took place at these sites. Male sites were forbidden to women (men's business e.g. initiations of boys to men) and female sites were forbidden to men (women's business e.g. birthing sites).
Sacred Aboriginal Places
An Aboriginal Place is defined as an area that "is or was of special significance with respect to Aboriginal culture". Before this concept was presented, it was only Aboriginal relics and artefacts for physical remains such as scar trees, rock art, stone tools and shell middens were protected under the law.
Aboriginal Places are areas of significant cultural heritage to Aboriginal people due to the spiritual, ceremonial, historical, social, and/or educational values. Some significant Aboriginal Places in Lake Macquarie include:
The Butterfly Cave is a traditional women's meeting and ceremonial place located in West Wallsend, in the vicinity of Mt Sugarloaf.
Its significance to Aboriginal culture stems from its use as a meeting place with rich resources, where Aboriginal women performed traditional practices in safe and private surroundings. For many years, vegetation and natural springs offering visual links to other culturally significant landmarks across the region such as Mt Sugarloaf, have surrounded the cave. The area is still used as a place for spiritual connection and education of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, especially young girls and women.
The Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council nominated the Butterfly Cave for declaration as an Aboriginal Place in 2011.
Glenrock State Conservation Area
The middens, open campsites, stone quarries, caves and axe grind groovings found at Glenrock State Conservation Area are considered Aboriginal Sacred Sites.
For the Awabakal People, Glenrock State Conservation Area was a prosperous industry. Stone from Glenrock – known as Merewether chert – ochre and coal were traded with neighbouring tribal Countries throughout the region.
Being coastal and abundant with bush at the time, the variety of food available to the Awabakal People was aplenty. The Awabakal People used the many plants for food, medicine and shelter. The creeks and lagoon were a valuable water source.
Early pioneers named the area as 'glen', meaning 'narrow valley', and 'rock' due to its rugged nature. Glenrock was also known as Pillapay-Kullaitaran meaning 'Valley of the Palms', as the Cabbage Palm, Livistona australis, thrived throughout Glenrock prior to deforestation.
In 1932, the Scout Association of Australia was granted a lease of 40 hectares of land at Glenrock Lagoon and scouting activities continue to this day. Relics, rails, tunnels and shafts of early coal mining and other industrial infrastructure such as a coastal railway can still be seen throughout the landscape.
Pulbah Island Nature Reserve
Pulbah Island is a small island in Lake Macquarie. The southern and western sides of the island have a rocky sandstone cliff face and shore line. The environment consists of open woodland with grey gum, scribbly gum, stringy bark, and yellow box trees, and an understorey of native grasses.
Pulbah Island is important to the Awabakal People because of two mythological stories, one being of Naruta-Ka-Wa, the Great Sky Lizard of Pulbah Island.
There are two small midden sites on Pulbah Island and archaeological evidence suggests that the midden sites pre-date European arrival in the area.
Pulbah Island Nature Reserve is an Aboriginal Place and is co-managed by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service in consultation with the Awabakal people.
Note: Location information for some Aboriginal Places have been generalised because of their cultural sensitivity. If an activity or development is proposed that may potentially impact on or harm (i.e. damage, deface or destroy) an Aboriginal Place, then proponents must undertake a search for the exact boundaries of Aboriginal Places through AHIMS Web Services.