Durras / Murramarang

The Durras, Murramarang area contains places that were highly utilised during holiday periods throughout the mid to late 1900s. The area also contains well-documented pre contact archaeological remains, related to food gathering, preparation and consumption. The area continues to be utilised today, in much the same way as it has been in the past, that is, a sheltered place to camp, for families to gather, to access the coastal resources and undertake recreational activities.

The area contains a complex of places of Aboriginal cultural heritage value, in correlation with the diverse ecosystem within the area. Coastal waters, vegetated sand dunes, and the tidal creek and lake system. Beagle Bay contains North Durras Beach, Cookies Beach [South Durras], Mill Beach and Mill Point. Off the rocky headland of Mill Point, lies Wasp Island. Behind Durras Beach is the Durras Swamp and Durras Lake, which is currently closed off to the ocean waters.

Durras Lake was and is a place for Aboriginal families to gather, offering shelter from the coastal winds and summer sun. Durras Lake is a safe environment for children. Food such as ‘lobsters caught from beach rocks and pipis collected from the beach sand is brought back to Durras Lake for preparation and consumption [03.11.2005 Les Simon].

Violet Parsons recalls day trips to Durras Lake throughout the 1970s. The family would camp where the Durras Caravan Park is presently located. The family would fish in Durras Lake, cook up the catch and play in the area for the remainder of the day. Generally, the men would go diving off a nearby headland, whilst the women watched the kids [Violet Parsons 6.4.2006].

Les Simon recalls undertaking a reburial of skeletal remains that emerged during development in the Durras area. In accordance with tradition, male members of the community undertook the reburial by accessing the area by boat. The reburial took place on the banks of Durras Lake [Les Simon 03.11.2005].

The area between Cookies Beach and Mill Beach, South Durras has been a highly utilised camping area throughout the past century. Families travelling along the coast know to camp here over night, especially during holiday periods. The collection of seafood would take place around the rocky headland surrounding Mill Point, as well as around Wasp Island and along Mill and Cookies Beach. Durras Swamp, immediately behind the present day Durras residential area was also utilised for its natural resources.

In the mid 1940s when Mary Duroux was living with her Aunt and Uncle in Batemans Bay, Mary went to South Durras to meet up with her extended family during the Christmas holidays. The family rented a house there and utilised the area where the present day Murramarang Resort is located, adjacent to Wasp Island. There were sand dunes for shelter, and plenty of prawns in the creek which ran out onto the beach at South Durras. Prawns where located by searching in the water with bare feet. Mary and other kids also collected pipis, shellfish and prawns, to eat and to sell to fishermen for bait. Fruit would be purchased with the income [Mary Duroux 6.2.2006].

Carol Larritt recalls setting up a large tent, amidst the tea tree near where the Murramarang Resort is now, during Christmas holidays. The families played in the swamp and beach and collected fruit from an orchard on top of the hill. They set up a shower by poking holes in the used milk tins. The Fuller family came to visit; ‘…they were packed to the gunnels of their lorry’ [Carol Larritt 23.1.2006].

The Davis, Chapman and Walker families camped in the Durras Beach area on weekends and during school holidays up until the 1970s. Lobsters were caught from the rocks at the southern end of Cookies Beach. These families continue to use the area [Les Simons and William Davis 3.11.2005].

There is one special rock at South Durras. The Ella / Stewart family knows it as ‘relatives rock’. Heaps of fish are always caught there. Nanny Stewart cooked damper in hot sand on South Durras beach [Glen Ella 5.1.2006].

We camped on the south end of Durras Beach with family from Nowra. It was mainly the Stewart family. My father’s mother and ‘granny Stewart’ were sisters. It is a really good place for kids to play, really safe. Good fishing too [Linda Cruse 1.3.2006].

Once we were camped at Durras Beach with the Towers family. When we were setting up our camp, funny things started to happen, like a blue horse appeared and galloped up the beach. When we were making lunch, sticks began to drop onto our lunch, but there was nowind blowing. The sticks kept getting bigger. We packed up and dad said ‘sounds like you were chased by the widjegnals [little strong men] who live in the cave on Durras Hill’ [Georgina Parsons 6.6.2006].

The Durras cave is well known to the Durras community. It is amidst the headland on Durras Beach, north of Durras Lake. There were engravings in the cave, but they have worn away by the sand and wind. The cave was still being used during the post contact period. It had a hole through the roof so that the smoke campfires could escape from the cave [Trisha Ellis 7.6.2006].

Excerpt from "Stories About the Eurobodalla by Aboriginal People", 2006. Story Contributed by Martin Ind from Moruya High School.