Backstage access to our collections: Aboriginal history of Georges River

This month saw Hurstville Museum & Gallery and Georges River Council celebrate NAIDOC week with the theme of “Because of her, we can!” This theme highlights the contributions made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who have, and are continuing to make significant contributions to the community and are instigating change. In celebration of NAIDOC week, this month’s post will focus on interesting Aboriginal artefacts in our collection that allows the complex and sometimes difficult stories of contact between Aboriginal people and Europeans to be told.

Georges River has a long and varied history.  People of the language groups Darug and Dharawal occupied the north and south sides of the river, finding the water source a lifeline. The Georges River provided water, food, and a culturally significant meeting place with ties to the Dreamtime, for an estimated 60,000 years. After European settlement into the area around the early 1800s, the river was seen as an essential transport route with some of the catchment area cleared for housing and farmland. The two differing views of land ownership led to conflict. One of the most well-known Aboriginal warriors, Pemulwuy, was a Dharug man who resided along the Georges River area and led raids to protect it.

St George Stories - Salt Pan Creek

State Library of New South Wales, a731079

This photograph, currently on display in Hurstville Museum & Gallery’s exhibition St George Stories: people – places – community, reveals the development of the local area and gives an insight into the people who have helped shaped the community. This photograph is of Hugh and Ellen Anderson (far left), whose home at the end of Ogilvy Street, Peakhurst became the centre of the growing Aboriginal community. They were well known locally, with their children attending Peakhurst Public School. Ellen’s mother was Biddy Giles, a Dharawal speaking woman who was also a well-known personality in the St George area. She encouraged a dialogue between the two cultures as she guided settlers on hunting and fishing trips, and introduced them to Aboriginal places and stories.

These tools give an insight into the traditional lifestyles of the Aboriginal people from the Georges River. An axe head had multiple uses, and could be used for hunting and as a weapon in times of conflict. A digging stick was used to loosen soil while searching for underground food such as roots.

nulla nulla

1980.873 Nulla Nulla currently on display in St George Stories: people – places – community

After the arrival of European settlers in 1788, traditional items such as these were often traded for metal axes. The amalgamation of two cultures and their technology often produced interesting objects such as this nulla nulla (pictured above). A nulla nulla is an aboriginal club used for hunting and fighting and it is thought that this particular item belonged to the Aboriginal people living at Salt Pan Creek. This club has a number of European horseshoe nails embedded into it, making it a deadly and fearsome weapon.

boomerang folder

1980.803 – A folder of miniature boomerangs

This interesting object is a folder of miniature boomerangs which were hand carved souvenirs marked with the location of a number of places such as Georges River, Cronulla North and Prince Edward Park and dates from 1929 – 1933. Unfortunately the maker of these items is unknown.

For more information on Hurstville Museum & Gallery’s collection, contact us on (02) 9330 6444 or



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