Bungaree Path Extension on north side of Middle Head

There has been concern expressed by regular users of Cobblers Beach that persons or organisations unnamed are lobbying to have a public path routed westbound down to the grassed area at Cobblers Beach, then up the unmade roadway and then west to the Royal Australian Naval Base and up Middle Head Road.

The cost of creating such a path, to modern standards, down the very steep rocky slope north and east of Cobblers Beach would make this a very expensive route, and would mean it would be very difficult for older people or anyone with mobility issues, and totally inaccessible to wheelchairs.

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, being a government service, has to do all their projects to the very highest standards,  which includes making them accessible as much as possible to people who have mobility challenges.

Fig. 1 Proposed route for extension of Bungaree Path around the North East of Middle Head and west around Cobblers Beach

My own recommendation is that the new path around the northern tip of Middle head then west to Naval Base is routed above the 20 metre contour. This would avoid the huge cost of expensive, elevated galvanised metal decking and stairs, such as was installed west of the Naval Base to link Georges Heights to Balmoral Beach.

I have already had positive discussions with Sydney Harbour Federation Trust (SHFT) about routes for the extensions to their existing Bungaree Pathway, where it exists on land controlled by SHFT.  Back in January 2017 they told me that it was almost impossible for them to have any meaningful discussion with staff at NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, because all the future planning was being done in the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage.If people want to ensure that Cobblers Beach remains a clothing optional beach then they need to be prepared to support a campaign for an acceptable, practical, economic route for the extension of the Bungaree Pathway around the northern side of Middle Head, past Cobblers Beach.

I would welcome your comments or feedback on my recommendations.  If we can establish a broad consensus amongst regular users of Cobblers Beach then it becomes much easier to lobby NSW Office of Environment and Heritage,  who published their Master Plan for Middle Head last year.

John Young
Cubba Cubba Project


Developing Middle Head as the jewel in the crown of Sydney Harbour

The community of Mosman united to oppose the 10 Terminal Regiment HQ complex of buildings on Middle Head being used for an aged care facility,  which would have been a serious breach of the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust Act.

It is now time to consider a serious appropriate re-use for 10 Terminal, that respect the heritage value of the brick buildings that form this complex, that allow complete free movement of members of the public through all the open spaces between the separate buildings, that will allow the re-establishment of natural vegetation for an appropriate landscape on Middle Head, when seen close up, from a passing ferry or recreation vessel, or from Dobroyd Head, North Head or South Head.

Middle Head dominated the entrance to Port Jackson when the First Fleet arrived on 26-jan-1788.  It is an important piece of national heritage, that should not be spoiled by poor quality new buildings that breach the Trust Act applying to Middle Head.  The First Australians in the northern Sydney region knew Middle Head as Cubba Cubba.  It has important natural values that can be leveraged to create an exciting new concept in tourism for both interstate and overseas visitors – natural bushland just 20 minutes by ferry from Circular Quay, fabulous bird life, still populated with native fauna, and located convenient to Taronga Zoo, for tourists who like to pack a lot into each of their few days in Sydney.

The community also needs to consider the historic significance of this site – as country for the Gamaragal people in 1788, and as the first military base on the Australian coast, dating from 1801.  In 1815 Governor Lachlan Macquarie set up about 70 Indigenous people from all over the Sydney region, led by Bungaree,  after the small pox wiped 90% of the First Australianss within 3 years, according to some historians.  Macquarie wanted to remove these people from the growing dangers of European settlement around Sydney Cove.  He hoped to turn them into farmers and fishermen who would live on Middle Head on the land he grant he granted to them, with simpl farming tools, a boat for fishing, and whose excess food could be sold back in the British settlement.

Of cousce Bungaree’s Farm was doomed to failure from the start, because of the totally unsuitable soil, poor tools and lack of any experienced farming skills in the Colony to teach them.  But Bungaree’s mob used their thousands of years experience of catching fish in and around the edges of Sydney harbour to start generating a supply of fresh fish that could be sold to hungry “redcoats”, trustee convicts, the few free settlers and of course the Officers who lived around Sydney Cove.

Side by side with the First Australians history on Middle Head is its role in the defence of the colony against potential French and Russian invaders in the 19th century.  Less well-known were the activities on Middle Head during WW I, WW II and the Vietnam War.  There is an exciting opportunity to combine the natural values of Middle Head, with both its Indigenous and military history, to come up with a world-class centre on Middle Head.  Studies now being undertaken show that a high quality tourist facility can be self-financing, play a role in training young Indigenous people and create valuable meaningful jobs.

The Cubba Cubba Project is based around the concept of developing a high quality, 1 day long tourism experience that will allow visitors to be immersed in the story of Cubba Cubba, that goes back at least 30,000 years but quite possibly twice as long as that, the story of the arrival of the First Fleet and then the military history which began in 1801. just 13 years after the First Fleet sailed through Sydney heads.


John Young

updated 29-jan-2017

The arrival of “Redcoats” and convicts in Sydney on 26-jan-1788

Fig. 1 Convict Transport Scarborough, which arrived in Sydney Harbour on 26-jan-1788, with Matthew James Everingham on board, as one of the convicts being transported from England to “Botany Bay” for a 7 year sentence.

When the 1st Fleet sailed into Sydney Harbour on 26-jan-1788 there were 11 ships in the fleet.

You can hardly image the impact that the sight of those tall vessels under sail would have had on the Eora people who may have been standing on the coastline between Botany Bay (where they had arrived a couple of days earlier) and Sydney Heads, or watching from the shoreline of Sydney Harbour.

There was probably some Gamaraigals on South Head of Middle Head, which they called Cubba Cubba in the shared language of the Eora people.  Perhaps there were some _______________ standing on what we now call Bradleys Head and some _____________ along the south side of the main arm of Sydney Harbour, as they slowly made their way under reduced sail to Sydney Cove, which the Eora people called ___________.

Some of the Eora people were probably fishing out on the harbour in their very delicate bark canoes, which they called nawi.

Fig. 2 Women fished from their nawi (canoe). Often they had a small fire burning on a base of rocks and clay bottom of the nawi, so they could cook and eat the fish immediately ,while still out on the water.

I had a direct convict ancestor, Matthew James Everingham, 1769 – 1817, on one of the convict transports, the Scarborough.  Being a convict I wonder if he was allowed on deck to see his new home as they crept from Bradleys Head to Sydney Cove, and if he saw any of the Eora people along the shoreline.

The following notes were collected by historian Dr Keith Vincent Smith from original source documents, which were mostly written by British naval officers on the 1st Fleet.  They make fascinating reading, as I try to piece together which parts of the harbour foreshore are being referred to in each reference.

John Young


Dr Keith Vincent Smith


Simply click on the Gamaragal title above and the system will display the PDF document written by Dr Keith Vincent Smith in a new window of your web browser.


Gamaraigal Tours at Middle Head, Mosman NSW


Welcome to Cubba Cubba

The First People, who had lived around Sydney Harbour for more than 30,000 years before the 1st Convict Fleet sailed through Sydney head on 26-jan-1788, talked about Middle Head as ‘Cubba Cubba’.  The mob that lived in the general area of the 2088, 2089 and 2090 postcodes of the 20th and 21st century were Gamaraigals,  a sub-set of the 5,000 – 6,000 Eora people who called the ocean and Sydney Harbour coast line home.

The Eora Nation was defined by the common language that they spoke.  But you would have heard different words used in the everyday language of the many sub-groups around Sydney Harbour

Gameraigals at Manly, North Sydney and probably Middle Head

_____ on what we now call Bradleys Head

______ around Sydney Cove and the southern side of Sydney Harbour

The Eora people also defined themselves by the food they ate.  Sydney Harbour provided a bountiful source of fresh fish, crustaceans, oysters, pippis, congewoi in the clean salt water of the harbour.  Lots of streams flowing into the harbour would have provided a reliable source of crystal clear fresh water.  There would have been kangaroo, wallaby, possum, etc, to provide a source of meat, and the women probably collected parts of many plants to give them a balanced diet.

One historian estimated that Eora people could probably survive very well on just 3-4 hours fishing and gathering each day.  So life for the Eora people was pretty “cruisy” and “laid back”, compared to many other Indigenous nations who did not have access to a plentiful food source like Sydney harbour.

Experiencing Cubba Cubba

We know a lot about how the Gamaraigals by what they left behind;-

lots of midden heaps close to the harbour edge,

carvings on the flat sandstone headlands at Berry Island and Bantry Bay,

words that were recorded on by people like William Dawes and written reports back to London by Governor Philip and his successors.

There is also an amazing amount of original source material in St Petersburg in Russia, in Paris and Dublin.

The Gamaraigal Tour will last about 180 minutes, from the time you get off your ferry at Chowder Bay, step off the 999 bus from Circular Quay or park your car at Clifton Gardens.   You will be met by an experienced guide working for Gamaraigal Tours who will create the scene for you in Chowder bay before the First Fleet arrived on 26-jan-1788, and then the very different scene of about 1800.

Next you will walk north for about XXX minutes along the very easy Bungaree Trail up to Middle Head itself. Along the way your guide will show you examples or signs of flora and fauna that are relatively undisturbed since 1788 along this dramatic route.

The Bungaree Trail follows close to the high sandstone cliffs that define the eastern side of the Cubba Cubba National Park, where you will also see physical evidence of the military importance of Middle Head very soon after the First Europeans arrived in Sydney Harbour.  Back in France Napoleon Bonaparte was threatening to send some ships to seize the fledging colony of Sydney from the British.  So the Governors were told to prepare defences against the dastardly French republican navy.  The first fort was established as early as 1802 <check date> with large permanent guns positioned to provide a deadly artillery barrage to any ships daring to sail into Sydney Harbour flying le tricoleur

At the Bungaree cafe you will be offered morning coffee, a light lunch or afternoon tea,  which will be themed with delicacies that include the sort of bush tucker that the Gamaraigals probably collected nearby, or traded fish with people who had walked many kilometres from other mobs living inland around epping or the upper north shore.

The Gamaraigal Ranger will tell you what is known about the farm established by Governor Lachlan Macquarie on Georges Heights or Middle head on 31-jan-1815.  Macquarie was looking for a way to occupy the remaining Eora people who had not died due to European diseases like small pox and measles that probably carried off 90% of the 5,000+ Eora people who were living around Sydney harbour in 1788.  Bungaree, an Awabakal man from north of Broken Bay was selected by Macquarie to be the leader of the 70+ First People who Macquarie wanted to stay on Middle Head, far away from the attractions of alcohol and easy money to be made in Sydney Cove by Aboriginal men and women.

Macquarie’s intentions were quite enlightened for the time but the Bungaree Farm experiment was an almost total failure, except for the fishing done by Bungaree’s mob.  They had been given a rowing boat and European style nets to catch fish in the harbour,  which they already knew how to do quite effectively for 30,000+ year before 1788!   They were encouraged to bring their excess fish catch into Sydney Cove, where any source of fresh food was very valuable to a colony that was struggling to establish European agriculture.  At the end of your tour you will be able to catch a bus route ___ from outside HMAS Penguin navy base back to Wynyard in the Sydney CBD.

More information

Tours start from Chowder Bay at 10:00 and 14:00 each day and last up to 3 hours.

Tour ferries leave Circular Quay sharp at 09:30 and 13:30 to get you to Chowder Bay in time for the Gamaraigal Tour.

0418 XXX XXX

This conceptual brochure is an example of a small business opportunity that will be seized by one of the many Indigenous entrepreneurs now running successful businesses aimed at the tourism and hospitality sector, that is growing as rapidly as operators can set up their businesses.  Existing examples include Kadoo Tours,  Tribal Warrior and _____________

The Gamaragal or Cameragal People

Keith Vincent Smith

For countless generations the Gamaragal or Cameragal lived as hunters and fishers in the rich saltwater environment at the gateway to the Pacific Ocean.

They occupied the north shore of Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour), from Karabilye (Kirribilli) opposite Warrane (Sydney Cove) and north along the soaring yellow-brown sandstone cliffs of Gurrugal (Georges Head), Cubba Cubba (Middle Head) and Garungal or Carangle (North Head) to Kayeemy (Manly Cove). Their territory ran north along the coast to Broken Bay, entrance to the Hawkesbury River.

On these shores the Gamaragal sang, danced, fought ritual battles, fished, swam, told stories, laughed and slept around their campfires beneath the stars. Today shell middens, hand stencils and myriad figures of ancestral spirits, people, fish, whales and animals incised in sandstone evoke their cultural world and artistry.

‘Cammera’ as a district and ‘Cammerragal’ as the name of a ‘tribe’ were first mentioned in Governor Arthur Phillip’s first despatch to Lord Sydney at the Home Office in London dated 13 February 1790. His informant was Woollarawarre Bennelong ‘the native now living with us’, who had been captured less than three months earlier.

‘Cammeragal’ is the first name listed as a ‘tribe’ in the vocabulary (Anon. 1791) kept by Phillip and his aides, catalogued as Notebook C in the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. ‘The tribe of Camerra’, wrote Philip Gidley King, ‘inhabit the North part of Port Jackson which is somewhere named Camerra’.

The Aboriginal social groups that First Fleet observers called ‘tribes’ are now called ‘clans’ or extended families, while the term ‘tribes’ describes  clans in an area in which the same language is spoken.

Gamaragal life revolved around fishing, hunting small game and gathering shellfish and edible bushfoods. Theirs was a canoe culture. Men and women glided over the harbour waters, in bays, creeks and lagoons in their most prized possession, a nawi or stringybark canoe.

With deft skill Gamaragal women carefully chipped and shaped shiny berá or shell lures used without bait to provide fresh food for their families.

They chanted as they fished with handlines of twisted bark twine, ‘singing’ the fish to bite.

Aboriginal men traditionally caught fish from the rocks or in shallow water with long spears called muting, headed with three or four pronged points, which the English settlers called fish-gigs. To make a nawi or a shield or build a simple gunyah or shelter, men cut bark sheets from stringybark or Casuarina trees using an axe with a hard stone head sharpened at one end called a mogo.

Governor Phillip was so impressed by the Gamaragal he met at Kayeemy on 21 January 1788 that he wrote in a despatch

“Their confidence and manly behaviour made me give the name of Manly Cove to this place.”

The crescent-shaped sandy beach at Kayeemy (Manly Cove) was the scene of many encounters between the British settlers and the Indigenous people. Here on the governor’s orders Arabanoo (at first called ‘Manly’) was abducted on 30 December 1788.  Sadly, Arabanoo contracted smallpox and died on 18 May 1789.

On 25 November 1789 two Aboriginal men were lured by fish from a gathering at Kayeemy, which had become a centre of resistance. They were seized, bound and taken by boat to Sydney Cove. They were Colebee, leader of the Cadigal, whose territory opposite the Gamaragal ran from South Head to Darling Harbour and Woollarawarre Bennelong, a Wangal from the south shore of the Parramatta River.

Here too, Bennelong and Colebee took revenge for their loss of liberty, calling in Willemering, a carradhy or clever man from Broken Bay, who on 7 September 1790 speared and wounded Governor Phillip during an Aboriginal whale feast. Bennelong came in peacefully and formed an unlikely friendship with Governor Phillip who took him and his kinsman Yemmerrawanne to England in December 1792.

Dr Keith Vincent Smith