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Aboriginal people in Lake Macquarie
Aboriginal culture is a living culture, valued by Aboriginal people living in communities across NSW. It is strongly linked to the spiritual relationship between people and the land (country) and includes Aboriginal sites, places, cultural knowledge passed between generations through oral traditions, language, stories, traditional customs, values and beliefs. Cultural heritage also includes the history of Aboriginal people, from the time that European settlers arrived in Australia and the history of Aboriginal families through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Many cultural values and traditional obligations are active and current despite the separation of many Aboriginal people from their traditional country for many years.
All of Lake Macquarie City Council (referred to in this document as either LMCC or the City) lies within the traditional country of the Awabakal people. Today, more than 5,500 people of Aboriginal descent live in the Lake Macquarie Local Government area, many of them far from their traditional country. The landscape of the City has important traditional Awabakal spiritual and cultural meanings and values, which are respected by local Aboriginal people. Across the City's landscape are more than 500 archaeological sites and places which demonstrate the relationship between Awabakal people and their country over thousands of years. At a more general level, these sites and places and the unique Awabakal stories and traditions associated with them also illustrate the resilience of Aboriginal culture and the cultural value of the landscape that is fundamental to all Aboriginal people.
Since 1983, members of three Local Aboriginal Land Councils have worked to protect the evidence of traditional Awabakal culture in the Lake Macquarie landscape. Members of the Aboriginal community, including the two Traditional Owner Corporations, have also worked to maintain and enhance Aboriginal community cultural identity and to encourage respect for the value that diverse Aboriginal cultural practices bring to the City.
LMCC is part of the traditional country of the Awabakal people. Some families who are descendents of the Awabakal people continue to live in the City. However, as is the case for most Australian cities, the majority of the contemporary Aboriginal population of the City are from families whose traditional country is elsewhere in NSW. This diversity of Aboriginal cultural background means that there are different valid perspectives on many issues.
The Aboriginal population of LMCC has grown strongly over the last decade. The City has the second largest Aboriginal population in NSW (DEWR 2007: web site) LGAs with the largest Indigenous population in NSW.
- Blacktown 7058
- Lake Macquarie 5593
- Penrith 4085
- Dubbo 3909
- Wyong 3798
The Aboriginal population comprises 2.2 per cent of the total population of Lake Macquarie. This is a significant increase in recent years. In 2001, approximately 1.9 per cent of the population of Lake Macquarie identified themselves as Aboriginal people. Aboriginal people also comprise approximately 1.8 per cent of the population of adjoining Newcastle City Council. Note that Lake Macquarie is also one of the largest local government areas, by population, in NSW. Blacktown, which has the largest Aboriginal population in NSW, also has the largest total population. Lake Macquarie City Council has the fifth largest total population by local government area.
The Country of the Awabakal People
All of LMCC is understood to be part of the traditional country of the Awabakal people. The traditional boundaries of the Awabakal tribe were wider than the current LGA boundary or the boundary of the Awabakal LALC.
Whilst Lake Macquarie was clearly central to Awabakal people (as was the Hunter River estuary), there are several different versions of the detailed boundaries of the country of the Awabakal . The Awabakal appear to have been people of the coast, estuaries, lakes and wetlands, but also with attachment to the rugged sandstone country through the Sugarloaf and Watagan Ranges. The traditional country of the Awabakal people was bounded to the north by the Worimi, to the west by the Wonnarua, to the south west by the Darkinjung and to the south along the coast by the Kuring-gai people.
Threlkeld (1828) described the boundaries of Awabakal (people of the plain (Lake) surface) country as: 'The land bounded by south Reids Mistake, the entrance to Lake Macquarie and north by Newcastle and Hunters River, West by Five Islands at the head of Lake Macquarie.' Threlkeld (1825) also stated that: 'the natives here (i.e. the people around Lake Macquarie, where his mission was located) are connected in a kind of circle extending to the Hawkesbury.' This would extend the boundary of Awabakal activity and interactions north and south well beyond Lake Macquarie and the Hunter River, although this does not necessarily imply that traditional Awabakal tribal country extended to these areas. The exact western extent of Awabakal country is also difficult to define. Some early ethnographic reports suggest that the Awabakal people may have been the largest clan of several groups in the coastal part of the lower Hunter region. Related clans were the Pambalong, Ash Island and Cooranbong groups. Awabakal was the largest group
Lake Macquarie (N.S.W.). Council and Umwelt Environmental Consultants Sustainable management of aboriginal cultural heritage in the Lake Macquarie local government area : issues and options. Lake Macquarie City Council, [Boolaroo, N.S.W.], 2005.
Sustainable Management of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage in the LakeMacquarie Local Government Area: Lake Macquarie Aboriginal Heritage Management Strategy. Boolaroo, Lake Macquarie City Council, 2011 v.1.1 Population statistic updated 27/8/14 from 2011 Census
Threlkeld, L. E. (Lancelot Edward), Gunson, Niel, 1930- and Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies Australian reminiscences & papers of L.E. Threlkeld, missionary to the Aborigines, 1824-1859. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra, 1974.
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