NSW Government declaration to protect cultural significance of Aboriginal ceremonial site

06 Jul 2022

A 9.6-hectare section of the Hexham Wetlands used by the Awabakal people as a place of spiritual connection and ceremony has become the first site in Newcastle officially protected with an Aboriginal Place declaration by the NSW Minister for Heritage.

The elevated outcrop known as Rocky Knob is located on the northern outskirts of the suburb of Fletcher within an area of Burraghihnbihng (Hexham Wetlands) traditionally used as a hunting and gathering place of the Pambalong Clan of the Awabakal people.

Associated with spiritual beliefs that have been passed down through generations, the site is a place of ceremony and ritual used to mark the passing of ancestors and is one of the few undisturbed Aboriginal burial grounds that still exist in NSW.

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said it was important to honour the traditional custodians of the land and their cultural practices by conserving the region's rich Aboriginal heritage for future generations.

"I am pleased NSW Minister for Environment and Heritage James Griffin has taken steps to safeguard the cultural significance of this site by declaring it Newcastle's first official Aboriginal Place," Cr Nelmes said.

"This will provide it with valuable protection under the National Parks and Wildlife Act and ensure it can continue to be a place where cultural practices and stories can be passed on to future generations of First Nations people."

The area of Rocky Knob and its surrounds have connections through links in Songlines (cultural pathways) to Mount Sugarloaf, Black Hill Ridge and Doghole Cultural Site in Stockrington. The elevated site has views to and is visible from a number of other culturally significant sites for the Awabakal people including Mount Sugarloaf in the southwest, Black Hill Ridge in the west, Tarro to the north and Newcastle to the southeast.

Any land in NSW that is deemed to have special significance for Aboriginal culture, including public and private land, can be proposed for declaration as an Aboriginal Place, which acts as a process to recognise and legally protect Aboriginal cultural heritage.

The request to list Rocky Knob was made by the NSW Local Land Services.