Aboriginal History in the Blue Mountains

Aboriginal History in the Blue Mountains

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 02/17/2016

Reading time: 5 mins

The Blue Mountains lie to the west of Sydney, and rise up in a spectacular show of green-carpeted hills and dipping valleys filled with centuries-old culture and a permeating history.

Blue Mountains View

Soaring sandstone cliffs, impressive canyons, and untouched bushland create an incredible backdrop to explore the past of Australia.

For thousands of years, the Blue Mountains have been home to Aboriginal peoples, particularly the Gundungurra and Darug tribes. Even today, there are still plenty of traditional Aboriginal peoples living in the Blue Mountains, where there are now a number of cultural sites that walk visitors through the region’s rich past and share the customs and heritage of the local tribes.

Gundungurra and Darug Tribes

Back before the Europeans invaded the region, the Blue Mountains were inhabited by two major indigenous tribes; the Gundungurra and Darug Tribes. As well as the Burra Burra tribe, which inhabited the nearby Jenolan Caves. Although there isn’t an exact date to the tribe’s beginnings, it’s estimated that their history stretches back tens of thousands of years. Despite the tribes both being apart of the aboriginal indigenous community, the two tribes were completely different clans, with a variety of different traditions, beliefs, and behaviours. both with a rich connection to the land.

The European Invasion

Due to the Blue Mountains rough terrain, the European’s invasion of the region was delayed. The thick bushland, uneven ground, and jagged rock formations were too tough to breach for the settlers, where the aboriginal tribes worked with the natural terrain, the Europeans sought to alter it. The area soon grew a reputation in being impenetrable. It wasn’t until 1813, when Gregory Blaxland, William Charles Wentworth, and Lieutenant Lawson formed an exploration group. Tasked to explore the Blue Mountains region in search of accessible land. During the exploration, the team faced numerous hardships, almost giving up until they discovered the gentle slope of the Blue Mountains’ west side. Offering a simple path to the region for Europeans to settle in.

The Significant Areas of the Blue Mountains

  • The Gully

    At one point in time, ‘The Gully’ was the most important landmark in the Blue Mountains for the Aboriginal tribes. It was where the Gundungurra and Darug peoples lived in the late 1800s up until 1950, when a racing circuit was built right across it. The act of installing the circuit meant hundreds of Aboriginal peoples were dispersed across the region, creating new homes and new lives in other parts of the Mountains. Today, they’ve reclaimed the site, and it has been placed under the legislation of the National Parks and Wildlife Act.

  • Waradah Aboriginal Centre

    Waradah Aboriginal Centre

    In nearby Katoomba, the Waradah Aboriginal Centre offers visitors the chance to enjoy the traditional dances and performances that are so important to the local Aboriginal tribes. Here, there are artworks to be discovered, interactive musical performances, and the opportunity to pick up a handmade souvenir while you’re at it. The live performances are undoubtedly the highlight of the centre, with accompanying the music, special effects, and lights. Although you may have visited past Aboriginal centres in the past, due to the wide variety of each tribe found in Australia, the Blue Mountains Waradah Aboriginal Centre is unique. Out of the 29 different tribes that were once based in the Sydney region, this centre focuses on only a few tribes that were based in the mountain region. Giving guests extremely detailed stories of the ancient ancestor’s lives, beliefs, and traditions. Learn even more about this fascinating history of this land while discovering the unique culture and traditions of its people.

  • Blue Mountains Botanic Garden

    The botanic garden at Mount Tomah is a pivotal part of Aboriginal life because plants and nature are a vital aspect of the region’s history. Here, you can wander amongst a diverse collection of wild flora and fauna, visit ancient rock shelters, and marvel at the beautiful views of the coast with an Aboriginal horticulturist. This part of the Blue Mountains was a popular safe haven for many Aboriginal tribes, and it still oozes a tranquil vibe. As well as being culturally significant, it is also stunning! So, take some time to stop in on your Blue Mountains holiday and stroll through the spectacular scenery of the Botanical Garden.

  • Rock Art

    Rock Art

    Aboriginal tribes have created communities in the Blue Mountains for thousands of years, evident in the remnants that have been etched on the natural landmarks. Rock art is the remaining creations done by the past ancient beings of the Aboriginal people. Typically, large paintings coated on olden rocks in caves or hidden gorges. The pieces tell a story of the people who drew them, depicting subjects their everyday life, including native animals, plants, and even abstract figures that represent the spirits the people believed in. The paint used on the rocks also tells a story, made from the natural materials of the earth, including the Blue Mountains’ coloured flowers, pollen, earth, and more. Mixing it together with water to form a paint paste. The tribe’s created brushes out of human hair, feathers, and sticks. Even creating stencils and blowing on the paint around the objects. There are plenty of opportunities to discover the centuries-old rock art that adorns the walls of many rocks in the region. Most remarkably, perhaps, is the extremely well-preserved rock carving now known as “the flight of the Great Grey Kangaroo”, which can be found near Hawkesbury Lookout. These ancient artworks are well worth seeing, and much more memorable than an everyday gallery.

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward turned his travel passion into a thriving Australian tourism business. Before he co-founded his own business, Sightseeing Tours Australia, he was enjoying being a Melbourne tour guide. Even now, Cameron delights in helping visitors from all around the world get the most out of their incredible Australian trip. You’ll see Cameron leading tours or writing about his favourite Australian places where he shares his local insights.

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