Aboriginal Heritage


Smoking ceremony

There are more than 300 known Aboriginal heritage sites in Warringah and the potential of discovering new sites in undisturbed areas is relatively high, due to the area’s unique geographical landscape features with sandstone, beaches, lagoons and creek lines. 

Cultural heritage is the foundation for Aboriginal peoples’ sense of place, connection, identity and well-being and cannot be reduced to archaeological artefacts and objects. Aboriginal cultural heritage is dynamic and is deeply linked to the natural environment.

Warringah Council recognises that protecting Aboriginal heritage is not just about site management. It is also about consulting with Aboriginal people about their culture and heritage, providing access to land, protecting sensitive information about sites, and involving Aboriginal people in the conservation of our natural environment. These commitments and obligations are documented in Council’s Reconciliation Action Plan. 

We want to make sure that Aboriginal heritage is managed in a culturally appropriate way. For this reason Council, in a joint investment with seven other councils in the northern Sydney region, established the Aboriginal Heritage Office (AHO) in 2001.

The AHO offers a range of services such as heritage advice to Council, a keeping place for Aboriginal heritage objects, and an educational program for the general community and local schools. Community members can also learn more about Aboriginal heritage by joining a team of volunteers who look after Aboriginal sites in the area. Volunteer training is provided by the AHO at no charge.

For more information visit the AHO website.


Aboriginal  presence

Before European settlement, the northern beaches was home to many Aborigainl people. Evidence of this can been seen from rock engravings and paintings, shell middens, axe-grinding grooves and occupation sites, such as food remains, stone tools, baked clay, fire-blackened stones and charcoal. These can all be seen in a range of sites.

The oldest recorded site on the north shore is approximately 6,000 years old at Middle Harbour in Cammeray. The excavation was of a midden inside a large rock shelter. Results indicated a coastal diet of cockle, oyster, mussel and snapper as well as kangaroo/wallaby, potaroo and rats/mice.

This period coincided with the stabilisation of sea level to the current height at the end of the last interglacial around 6,000 years ago. Prior to this Sydney Harbour and its tributaries ran freshwater and flowed to a coastline up to 20 kilometres further east.

European settlement

There is much uncertainty around the traditional ownership of the northern beaches. This is due to the devastating impact that disease, conflict and displacement had on Aboriginal people in the first few years of European settlement. The language barriers also made communication difficult.

The Guringai Festival

The Guringai Festival is held annually across 11 councils in the northern Sydney area and is a chance to celebrate the northern Sydney’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. In 2014 Warringah will host the Guringai Music Showcase, a wellness walk, weaving bridges workshops and a photographic exhibition.