Aboriginal Culture

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The Awabakal and Worimi peoples are acknowledged by City of Newcastle as the descendants of the traditional custodians of the land situated within the Newcastle local government area, including wetlands, rivers creeks and coastal environments. It is known that their heritage and cultural ties to Newcastle date back tens of thousands of years.

Niiarrnumber Burrai (Our Country)

Embark on an immersive journey using virtual reality technology to travel back in time and experience nine local Aboriginal places before the establishment of the Newcastle penal colony. The cultural significance and stories of each site are explained by Elders Wayila (Black Cockatoo) and Buuyaan (Bellbird) from the Awabakal and Worimi.

Welcome to and Acknowledgement of Country

Protocols for welcoming visitors to Country has been a part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures for thousands of years. View Reconciliation Australia protocols (PDF).

In the Newcastle Local Government Area (LGA) there are 3 Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs). The LALC can assist with identifying local Traditional Custodians who can perform a Welcome to Country.

Commence planning well in advance to allow time for decision making and discussion with the LALCs and Traditional Custodians.

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Council Policy and Strategies

Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Commitment
​City of Newcastle acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, in this Council area Awabakal and Worimi, were the first peoples of this land, and are the proud survivors of more than two hundred years of continuing dispossession. View our Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Commitment.

Reconciliation Action Plan
We also are committed to the principles and actions outlined in its 1998 Commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Newcastle. View our Reconciliation Action Plan.

Aboriginal Employment Strategy
In City of Newcastle Aboriginal Employment Strategy, it outlines key priorities and actions to be delivered by the Council in its commitment to investing in Aboriginal employment and economic development for the Aboriginal community of Newcastle. View our Aboriginal Employment Strategy.

Aboriginal Heritage Management Strategy
Current legislative framework around management of Aboriginal sites is underway across City of Newcastle plus the need to raise awareness and celebrate Aboriginal culture and strategies to ensure ongoing management of that culture. View our Aboriginal Heritage Management Strategy.

Heritage Strategy
The Heritage Strategy provides a strategic framework to guide City of Newcastle’s management of heritage matters over the next ten years. It ensures City of Newcastle meets its statutory obligations and community expectations for regulating and managing heritage. An Aboriginal Cultural Heritage section is provided for the first time, written in close partnership with the Guraki Aboriginal Advisory Committee. View our Heritage Strategy.

Find out more about Aboriginal cultural heritage conservation, Aboriginal due diligence obligations and the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Assessment process by visiting Heritage and Development in Newcastle.

Dreaming stories

Aboriginal connectedness to places and communities is linked through their dreaming stories. Biraban, the eagle hawk, is held in highest regard by the coastal tribes. Homage to the eagle hawk is conveyed in their stories and linked to their tribal social structures. Koin is another revered local sky-hero who announces the coming of Kooris from distant tribes for rites or corroborees.

Sacred sites

Natural landscape features and known sacred sites include Whibayganba, Newcastle’s famous landmark Nobbys. It is said that a notorious kangaroo jumped from Tahlbihn Point, at the site now known as Fort Scratchley, to the safety of Whibayganba. The kangaroo remains hidden in the island’s bowels occasionally thumping its tail and making the land tremble. The thumping is said to be a reference to the region’s earthquake activity.

There is also a high cliff named Yi-ran-na-li, renowned for being a fearful place. Yi-ran-na-li must be respected by all, and no one should linger or speak in its vicinity because of the danger of falling rocks.

Dual Naming

In 2016, an application by the Guraki Aboriginal Advisory Committee to the NSW Geographical Names Board, with supporting documentation from primary sources such as maps, sketches and descriptions dating back as early as 1798, resulted in the official recognition and gazettal of the following eight significant geographical features within the Newcastle local government area:

  • Whibayganba
    – Nobbys Headland
  • Tahlbihn
    – Flagstaff Hill (Fort Scratchley)
  • Burrabihngarn
    – Pirate Point (Stockton)
  • Yohaaba
    – Port Hunter
  • Coquun
    – Hunter River
  • Khanterin
    – Shepherds Hill (The Hill)
  • Toohrnbing
    – Ironbark Creek
  • Burraghihnbihng
    – Hexham Swamp

Work is now in progress to educate the whole community about the dual named sites and the traditional language history of Muluubinba - Newcastle.