Lake Macquarie History

Awabakal words and names

Professor John Maynard has compiled this research on behalf of the Lake Macquarie City Council for use on the proposed Fernleigh Track interpretative panels. Professor Maynard has generously granted permission to share his research with the community on Lake Macquarie History Online

On setting out on the Fernleigh Track, consider some of the Awabakal words and names for these places that enrich Aboriginal cultural understanding. It is important to recognise that there is no right or wrong way to spell an Aboriginal word as long as it is spelt as it sounds. Aboriginal society was an oral culture. There were no written words before the Europeans arrived.

  • Ahwartah-bulboongba (Hamilton) - it is very flat; the wallaby place.
  • Kotara - Waddy. This was a short stick-like club that tapered from the handle to a thicker end. It was used in hunting animals, like the bandicoot, by throwing it with deadly accuracy.
  • Mulubinba (Newcastle) - the place of sea ferns.
  • Tirrikiba - place of fire (the site of what would become the Newcastle BHP).
  • Pillapay- kullaitaran - the place of palms (Glenrock Lagoon).
  • Kai-a-ra- bah - the place of the weeds (Flaggy Creek).
  • Awaba - Lake Macquarie.
  • Kintirrabin - the earth fire was here - the area around Redhead Bluff.
  • Ngor-rion-ba (Nor-ron-baa) - where the emu breeds - the area around Jewells Swamp.
  • Bahtabah - the hill overlooking the water on the lake - Belmont.
  • Nikkin-bah - place of coal - the Lake Macquarie district.

It is important on the Fernleigh Track to respect the environment including the flora and fauna of the area. Please consider that Aboriginal people have always sought to protect and ensure that the environment was left for future generations to enjoy and live in. Aboriginal environmental care including the practice of fire stick farming kept the landscape always regenerating so as to attract game and lessen the opportunity for uncontrolled and destructive bush fires to ignite. The bush we see today is not the same as it was before the European arrival. It has been drastically altered by introduced plants, animals and pests. The impact is immeasurable. It also includes the wholesale destruction of the majestic cedar forests, which proliferated around south eastern Australia.

An Aboriginal Elder, when informed that scientists had estimated that Aboriginal occupation of the Australian continent was upwards of 60,000 years, had this to say:

They say we have been here for 60,000 years, but it is much longer.
We have been here since the time before time began. We have come directly out of the Dreamtime of Creative Ancestors. We have lived and kept the earth as it was on the First Day


Lawlor, Robert & Bernard Hames Collection 1991, Voices of the first day : awakening in the Aboriginal dreamtime, Inner Traditions International, Rochester, Vt

Maynard, John & Maynard, John, 2004, Awabakal word finder : an Aboriginal dictionary and dreaming stories companion, Keeaira Press, Southport, Qld

Acknowledgement of Country

We remember and respect the Ancestors who cared for and nurtured this Country. It is in their footsteps that we travel these lands and waters. Lake Macquarie City Council acknowledges the Awabakal people and Elders past, present and future.

Council acknowledges traditional custodians throughout Australia. We commit to listening deeply to and collaborating with First Peoples in our work.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website and Council's cultural collections may contain images, voices or names of deceased persons in photographs, film, audio recordings or printed material.

This website may contain place names, opinions and terms that reflect authors' views or those of the period in which the item was written or recorded. These may not be considered appropriate today.

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