Lake Macquarie History

Redhead - Aboriginal heritage

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.

Redhead Station

The area around Redhead bluff is called Kintirrabin and roughly translates as "the earth fire was here". Redhead is the site of a long extinct volcano. The eroded volcanic plug figures in an Awabakal story on the origin of coal.

The Awabakal are believed to be the only Aboriginal tribal group to discuss coal in their Dreaming stories. They appear to have been well aware of coal's combustibility and are thought to have used lumps of it in their campfires. According to the missionary Reverend Lancelot Threlkeld, the name for the Lake Macquarie district was Nikkin-bah, or place of coal. The Awabakal legend describes what sounds like a volcanic eruption, centred on Redhead, where the ancient volcanic plug remains today.

The traditional story relates that a very long time ago, when the earth and sea were different from today, a great darkness fell on the land. This darkness, which seemed to come from a hole in a mountain, blocked out the sun, and the darkness was so deep and sudden that the people were very frightened. Even birds and insects fell silent. Messengers were sent in all directions, bringing all people together to decide how light could be brought back to the world. The wise men of the tribes decided that the only way to bring the world back to normality was to cover up the darkness that was scattered deeply on the ground. Men, women and children dug up rocks and sand and broke down foliage from trees and bushes to cover up the thick darkness. People from miles around came together to stop the darkness breaking through the surface of the earth. The people feared that the ever-burning fires deep in the ground would release the darkness again. After the darkness was covered over, generations passed in which people walked on the ground, pressing the darkness and the flames together under the earth to become nikkin, or coal.
Now, whenever coal is burned, the spirit of the ancient earth fire is again released.