Summary: A small but sigificant Aboriginal engraving site in Bondi, these engravings are located within the Bondi Golf Course. Controversial re-grooving of the site in the 196os means that most of the engravings are still very distinct.

Located near the edge of the cliff within Bondi Golf Course is a relatively small, but significant, Aboriginal rock engraving site. Known as Murriverie by the traditional owners of the land, it was the site (below the cliffs) of a fishing spot. It’s is one of three Aboriginal rock art sites in Bondi – the others being at Ben Buckler Point and Mackenzies Point along the coastal walk. The site was controversially re-grooved by Waverley Council in 1964 in effort to preseve the engravings. Condemned by the Local Aboriginal Land Council as an “ill-judged conservation attempt” and an “act of desecration”, the decision to re-groove the engravings was made after considerable debate. The Advisory Panel on Prehistory and Material Culture, consisting of 12 academics and chaired by Fred McCarthy, came to the majority (but certainly not unanimous) recommendation that the grooves be re-cut. The work was done in August 1964, under the supervision of Ian Sim. None of the discussions involved any members of the Aboriginal community.

AWAT1532 LR Bondi Golf Course Aboriginal Site (Murriverie)

When first recorded by Campbell in 1899, there were 85 figures recorded across three separate sites, which were all in close proximity. Only one of these sites now remains; of the others, one is covered by grass, and the other is too weathered for any of the engravings to be seen. The site which can depicts a fishing scene and marine animals which occurred in this area (sharks, whales, smaller fish, sunfish, dolphins). Some more contemporary claim the largest marine figure represent a man being attacked by a shark (making it possibly the first recording of a shark attack in the world) – this seems to be an incorrect interpretation.

Bondi Golf Course engravings
Turtle, fish and boomerang Humans and Fish Large Man Tail of a kangaroo Whale Mundoes Fish and Sword Club Fish

Turtle, fish and boomerang

AWAT1511 LR highlighted Bondi Golf Course Aboriginal Site (Murriverie)

A four-metre long turtle, with two flippers. Inside the turtle is a fish, and within the outline of the fish is a non-returning boomerang.

Humans and Fish

AWAT1531 LR Bondi Golf Course Aboriginal Site (Murriverie)

Two human figures, thought to be a man and woman, and two fish, one of the possibly a flathead.

Large Man

AWAT1528 LR Bondi Golf Course Aboriginal Site (Murriverie)

A large man with half oval head and truncated arms. His pointed penis is half the length of his leg, and Campbell suggested this figure may be "a compound figure, part man and part iguana [goanna]".

Tail of a kangaroo

AWAT1529 LR Bondi Golf Course Aboriginal Site (Murriverie)

Whale

AWAT1515 LR highlighted Bondi Golf Course Aboriginal Site (Murriverie)

The central figure of the site is a whale, with a long oval body, which is eight metres long. It is missing a head, and part of its fin.

Mundoes

AWAT1536 LR stitch2 Bondi Golf Course Aboriginal Site (Murriverie)

Sixteen mundoes in two lines were documented on the site; most of these are now covered by vegetation and only a few are still visible.

Fish and Sword Club

AWAT1498 LR Bondi Golf Course Aboriginal Site (Murriverie)

A pair of fish and a sword club.

Fish

AWAT1540 LR Bondi Golf Course Aboriginal Site (Murriverie)

Near one of the whale's fins is another fish, it's body being gradually reclaimed by the vegetation.

At one end of the rock platform is a four-metre long turtle or blubber, with two flippers. Inside the turtle (or blubber) is a fish, and within the outline of the fish is a non-returning boomerang. (Two more fish and a lilly are located above the turtle, but are completely covered by grass.)

AWAT1511 LR Bondi Golf Course Aboriginal Site (Murriverie)AWAT1511 LR highlighted Bondi Golf Course Aboriginal Site (Murriverie)


Next to the turtle are two human figures, thought to be a man and woman, and two fish, one of the possibly a flathead. They are in a small depression, which fill with water after rain, and parts of the engravings are quite weathered. One the two fish is the most distinct engraving.

AWAT1531 LR Bondi Golf Course Aboriginal Site (Murriverie)
AWAT1500 LR Bondi Golf Course Aboriginal Site (Murriverie)

Below the turtle is a large man with half oval head and truncated arms. His pointed penis is half the length of his leg, and Campbell suggested this figure may be “a compound figure, part man and part iguana [goanna]”.

AWAT1528 LR Bondi Golf Course Aboriginal Site (Murriverie)
AWAT1510 LR Bondi Golf Course Aboriginal Site (Murriverie)

Below the large man and near multiple fish (some of which are quite) weathered is the tail of a kangaroo.

AWAT1529 LR Bondi Golf Course Aboriginal Site (Murriverie)

The central figure of the site is a whale, with a long oval body, which is eight metres long. It is missing a head, and part of its fin.

AWAT1515 LR highlighted Bondi Golf Course Aboriginal Site (Murriverie)

Many figures overlap the whale, or are carved within the body of the whale. One of these is a dolphin neat the whale’s tail, with “mouth open, one eye, two big opposite fins attached to outline of body, good tail, posed in an animated swimming manner”.

AWAT1522 LR Bondi Golf Course Aboriginal Site (Murriverie)

Another prominent marine creature overlapping the whale is a shark, described as being most likely a thresher shark, which has a “long conical head, no eyes, a pair and a single dorsal fin and two ventral fins and a long tail fin”.

AWAT1525 LR Bondi Golf Course Aboriginal Site (Murriverie)

Above the whale are a pair of fish and a sword club.

AWAT1498 LR Bondi Golf Course Aboriginal Site (Murriverie)

Near one of the whale’s fins is another fish, it’s body being gradually reclaimed by the vegetation.

AWAT1540 LR Bondi Golf Course Aboriginal Site (Murriverie)

Sixteen mundoes in two lines were documented on the site; most of these are now covered by vegetation and only a few are still visible.

AWAT1536 LR stitch2 Bondi Golf Course Aboriginal Site (Murriverie)

It’s an impressive collection of figures; while it’s unlikely they would have been regrooved today as our thinking has changed, it’s arguably lucky they were or there would be very little left to see a this site. Even so, many of the 66 figures documented over a hundred years have been weathered to the point they are not visible, and some are being reclaimed by encroaching vegetation.

Getting to the Bondi Golf Course Aboriginal site

Although there is minimal signage at this site, it is publically accessible and a great example of rock art in the Sydney basin. To reach the site, travel north from Bondi Beach along Military Road, and look for an entrance to the golf course opposite Blair Street. Head for the base of the ventilation tower, where you will find the small rock platform near the edge of the cliff. The site is not fenced, so please keep off the engravings.

More information on the Bondi Golf Course Aboriginal site

Bondi Golf Course Aboriginal Site (Murriverie) - Site Summary

Aboriginal Sites by National Park

A review of different techniques for photographing Aboriginal rock art. This includdes oblique flash, chain and planar mosaic imaging which combines hundreds of overlapping photos.
Over 40 sites have been recorded within the park; many were located along the river bank and were flooded by the building of the weir in 1938.
There are over 350 Aboriginal engraving and sites recorded in the Central Coast region, many of these in the Brisbane Water National Park.
Over a hundred Aboriginal sites have been recorded in the Hornsby region, with many of these in the Berowra Valley National Park and around the suburb of Berowra.
Located to the north-west of Sydney, just south of the Dharug and Yengo National Parks, Maroota has a high concentration of (known) Aboriginal sites. Many more Aboriginal heritage sites are located in the Marramarra National Park. The original inhabitants of the area were the Darug people.
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