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Aboriginal history of the Coffs Harbour region

Unidentified Aboriginal men at Hearns Lake, Woolgoolga (1870s?) 

The traditional owners of the Coffs Harbour region are the Gumbaynggirr people, who have occupied this land for thousands of years, forming one of the largest coastal Aboriginal Nations in New South Wales. Their Nation stretches from the Nambucca River in the south to around the Clarence River in the north and to the Great Dividing Range in the west.

Their history is a long and fascinating one, which is remembered by the people and imprinted on the very land itself. For further information regarding the Aboriginal history of our region, please click on the links below. 

  • Aboriginal history of the Coffs Harbour region [PDF document]
  • Coffs Collections - Coffs Collections has absorbed the contents of previous digitisation projects Picture Coffs Harbour and Voice of Time. The service also has the capability to link to the assets of neighbouring heritage collections, and it provides links to content about the local region hosted elsewhere. 
  • Gumbaynggirr language - a selection of Gumbaynggirr Aboriginal names for animals, plants and places.
  • Living along Coffs Creek - (NSW Office of Environment & Heritage) Coffs Creek was used as a camp during the mid twentieth century and became one of the main Aboriginal camps in Coffs Harbour.
  • Living in State Housing - (NSW Office of Environment & Heritage) Aboriginal people from the Gumbayngirr community remember being moved from fringe camps into State housing in Coffs Harbour in the 1950s, and about Aunty Grace Roberts' successful campaign to gain better housing for Aboriginal people.
  • Search for NSW heritage - the State Heritage inventory is a database of heritage items in New South Wales which includes a map of decalred Aboriginal Places.
  • Aboriginal people living and working on the NSW coast: a historical review - a research paper prepared by the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage.
  • Community portrait of the Aboriginal population of the Gumbaynggirr Language and Culture Nest -    (including the Local Government Areas of Coffs Harbour, Clarence Valley, Glen Innes, Severn Gyuyra, Nambucca, and Bellingen) - A portrait of the Aboriginal community of the Gumbaynggirr Language and Culture Nest, compared with NSW, from the 2016 and earlier Censuses.
  • Dawn and New Dawn magazine - Dawn and New Dawn were magazines published between 1952-1975 by the New South Wales Aborigines Welfare Board.The Dawn and New Dawn contain articles about the conditions and activities on reserves, stations, homes and schools throughout New South Wales, as well as providing details of births, deaths, marriages and baptisms. During its time of publication the magazines were also used to highlight the work of the Aboriginal Welfare Board.
  • Aboriginal scarred trees in New South Wales: A field manual - This document provides information on the identification and recording of Aboriginal scarred trees in NSW.
  • Arrawarra sharing culture - Arrawarra Headland is a site of significance for Aboriginal people. Arrawarra: Sharing Culture is an educational project with a number of key objectives. First and foremost, the project seeks to summarise knowledge about traditional harvesting, and related activities, as part of the process of educating future generations of Gumbaynggirr people. Secondly, the project provides an ideal opportunity to educate the wider community about the rich traditional and cultural knowledge held by Garby Elders.
  • The sea and rock gives us a feed: Mapping and managing Gumbaingirr wild resource use places. This publication documents work by the Gumbaingirr people and the National Parks and Wildlife Service to assess and care for cultural values associated with the land and sea.