Wallaga Lake, Wallaga Beach and Dignams Creek

This area has a rich post contact history, particularly since the establishment of the Wallaga Lake Reserve in 1891, located on the northern side of Wallaga Lake. Part of the Wallaga Lake Reserve is now known as the Wallaga Lake Village and is owned by the Aboriginal community. Archaeological investigations reveal that the area was also used prior to the arrival of European settlers. The array of ecological zones, including Dignams Creek, Wallaga Lake, Wallaga Beach and the surrounding bushlands, have supplied a diversity of natural resources to the Aboriginal community, both to the residents of Wallaga Lake community and itinerant travellers.

Harry Bates, Jeff Bates’s father, gave land to koori people. The land included the Wallaga Lake Reserve and the present day Akolele Township. The Akolele portion of the reserve was sold in 1949 by the Aborigines Protection Board to the dismay of the Aboriginal residents of Wallaga Lake. The land title to the Wallaga Lake community remains in the hands of Koori people [Pam Flanders and Harriett Walker 11.4.2006].

Echidnas can be caught in the Wallaga Lake Village area. Native beehives can be found in the bush around Wallaga Lake. Valerie Andy once had a pet named ‘PC’. It was a possum combined with a cat, it was white with short paws. The National Museum of Australia came to take photos of it [Valerie Andy 20.12.2005].

In the 1950s many men from Wallaga Lake were collected and taken to work on the construction of the Warragamba Dam south west of Sydney. It took 12 years to build [1948 – 1960]. Male members from the Carter, Hoskin, Andy, Thomas and Parson families were sent. Georgina’s father, George Parsons and her uncles, Bob and Crongee, were amongst the men who participated in this work. Georgina stayed at Wallaga Lake with her mother whilst her father was away [Georgina Parsons 6.6.2006].

Maureen’s mother Millie grew up in the Tilba and Wallaga Lake area under the care of Mrs. Edward Andy (Aunty Lizzie), Ernest Andy and Winifred Bloxsom, and went to school at Wallaga Lake in 1935. The western spur of the Wallaga Lake community is known by some as ‘Granny Andy’ Point after Mary Ellen [nee Andy]. As a child Maureen recalls a trip to Wallaga Lake to visit with some family. Upon entry, Maureen’s parents had to visit the Manager’s station to seek permission to visit, getting approval to stay with family they had to sign the visitor’s book. In 1973 Maureen stayed with Aunty Val Andy [nee Solomon] and Uncle Bob Andy for several weeks [Maureen Davis 15.12.2005].

Ronnie’s paternal grandmother ‘Nanna Bella’ Mabel Simms spent years at Wallaga Lake, she was 102 when she died. She brought Ronnie’s father down the coast when he was new born; Ronnie’s father went to school at Wallaga Lake. His grandparents from Orbost would visit the Thomas family at Wallaga Lake, travelling in a horse and cart. Ronnie’s mother Trixie Thomas was ‘guggada’, ‘fixed up’ by the feather foot, the clever fellas. “….They put a bowenge into her, they caught her near Mucken’s Point near Mosquito Point, the lad walked passed and mum fell over. They got old ‘Gunarl’ Rosy Mumbler, to pull out her heal it fixed her up. This business was much stronger than any bush medicine; she was fixed up by a traditional healer, mum’s mother was traditional with her medicine too. …..” [Ronnie Mason 5.1.2006].

During the 1960s Ted Thomas ploughed a patch of land in the Wallaga Lake community, opposite the present day preschool and established a vegetable garden. His project was not economically viable because there were ‘too many two legged bandicoots eating the vegetables’ [Chris Griffiths’ consults 16.3.2006].

The area where Wallaga Lake community is today was previously known as ‘Tilba Tilba’. In the early 1900s when the police came to Wallaga Lake to take the children away to institutions, families ran away, and hid on Gulaga Mountain [Georgina Parsons 31.5.2006]

At Christmas time, a cattle truck would take family from Batemans Bay to Wallaga Lake to visit family. Violet Parsons recalls Uncle Jim playing the violin. They had to get permission from the manager before entering the mission. They would camp with family living at the mission and collect bimbullas, Mussels, and oysters from Wallaga Lake. They usually brought the food back to the mission to eat [Violet Parsons 6.4.2006].

John Pender camped at Wallaga Lake, Muckens Point, with his parents. They were visiting Alan and Grace Mongta and their kids. Throughout the 1980s John brought his children to Wallaga Lake to meet family, including Les Mongta, Lionel’s father. They fished and collected oysters at Wallaga Lake [John Pender 4.5.2006].

Dick Piety II worked for WRC Bates at his dairy farm on Mosquito Point, Wallaga Lake. If a lot of ducks were caught, Dick would barter them for fresh butter [Lionel Mongta 2.1.2006].

In 1939 Mary Duroux lived at Mosquito Point, above Wallaga Lake. She went fishing with her Aunt Emma off Mosquito Point. She also went fishing with her Uncle Charlie on the mission boat. They rowed from one end of Wallaga Lake to the other and they took plenty of fish home to feed the family. Uncle Charlie had a flower and vegetable garden. The Manager’s wife brought people to the garden [Mary Duroux 6.2.2006].

Patricia Ellis [nee Connell] and her partner Cecil Leon lived in a black Austin 1800 at Mosquito Point, Wallaga Lake. Patricia Connell collected bimbullas from Wallaga Lake. Patricia Connell took Trisha to visit Ruby Penrith, Merv Penrith’s mother at Wallaga Lake. Ruby gave Trisha a locket. Trisha was told that Wallaga Lake was on a dreaming track linking certain places and that people should not camp there [Trisha Ellis 4.2.2006].

Shirley Foster attended Wallaga Lake School during the late 1940s. It was previously located at the bottom of the hill, where Albert Solomon’s house is today. According to Shirley, the teachers had a rough time, so they needed to be tough [Shirley Foster 11.4.2006].

In 1952 at aged 13, Georgina left Batemans Bay for Wallaga Lake with her family. Georgina attended Wallaga Lake School until she was 14. Norton was the manager at the time. With her mother and father, she travelled up and down the coast between Eden and Ulladulla [Georgina Parsons. 14.12.2005].

The Wallaga Lake School was where Albert Solomon’s house is now located, down the hill on the east side of the Wallaga Lake community [Valerie Andy 20.12.2005].

Mary attended Primary School at Wallaga Lake, as well as Jaspers Brush, Terara, Bega and Bomaderry [Mary Duroux 6.2.2006].

Ernest Robert Andy ‘Bob’ and Val Solomon permanently camped on the outskirts of the Wallaga Lake Mission in a tent. Bob would hunt rabbits by setting traps all around the community. Throughout her life Valerie Andy has fished in and around Wallaga Lake. With her father and Aunty Liz Davis, she recalls fishing in a boat close to the bridge, they stayed in the boat. They cooked the fish according to ‘old black ways’ on the Lake’s edge in the hot coals [Valerie Andy 20.12.2005].

Mervyn Penrith’s maternal grandfather, Bert Penrith was 103 when he died and is buried in the Wallaga Lake Cemetery. Charlie Adjuri, the father of Mary Adjuri, Merv Penrith’s great grandfather, is also buried at Wallaga Lake Cemetery. Burnum Burnum was born over the hill in the bush at Wallaga Lake Mission, and is now buried in the Wallaga Lake Cemetery. Burnum Burnum was Merv Penrith’s first cousin as Burnum Burnum’s father Charlie Penrith and Merv’s mother Ruby Penrith were brother and sister [Merv Penrith 11.4.2006].

‘…I was told by my father and uncles that I had to live close to the Wallaga Lake Cemetery, so that three spirit fellas there could talk to me …I can talk to them and they teach me. Wallaga Lake is and was a very spiritual place before the community was established there. It was a place for ceremony. I visit the Wallaga Cemetery often. My son Randall lives at Wallaga Lake now…..’ [John Mumbler 24.5.2006].

There are several family members of the Andy family buried at Wallaga Lake Cemetery including Robert “Gorry” Andy and Katherine Mary Andy [Maureen Davis 8.6.2006].

The Umbarra [Black Duck] Cultural Centre is located to the east of the Wallaga Lake Community and is used by local Aboriginal people as a meeting, teaching and learning place. The Point on which the cultural center is situated is known as ‘Granny’s Point’ and is owned by Aboriginal people. There are walking tracks linking the cultural centre to the nearby community. The cultural centre is also a place for economic enterprise linked to nearby sacred sites, including Gulaga and Biamanga Mountains. The wider community, both locals and tourists frequent the cultural centre as a place to learn about local Aboriginal culture, primarily by people who reside at Wallaga Lake community [Eric Naylor, Sonya Naylor, Alison Walker and Yuin Kelly 22.5.2006].

There is a regularly used short cut track from Wallaga Lake community to the Wallaga Lake Bridge. It runs along the northern banks of Wallaga Lake and continues to be the primary route from the community to the lake [Chris Griffiths’ consults16.3.2006].

Beryl’s grandfather, Robert Andy, worked building the bridge over Wallaga Lake. The same bridge is there today [Beryl Brierley 19.12.2005].

Since Wallaga Lake has been closed to the ocean, the lake has acquired algae and seafood stocks have dramatically reduced. The mullet cannot get in or out and the octopus [djunga] stocks have gone. Kids have not been swimming around the bridge, as was common in the past. The lake’s value in terms of a source of recreation and resource collection has been reduced; families are finding it hard to entertain their children [Mariah Walker 5.6.2006].

The Wallaga Lake Aboriginal community people continue to fish and gather seafoods from within and around Wallaga Lake. Harriett Walker and her sister Pam Flanders, Alex Walker, Albert Solomon and Maxine Kelly have all fished in Wallaga Lake from the shore or in a boat. Alex remembers spearing fish in the Lake [Pam Flanders, Harriett Walker, Alex Walker, Albert Solomon and Maxine Kelly 11.4.2006].

At the northern end of Wallaga Beach, ‘……….near the Hoyer’s dairy farm, there is a burial site. We use to go there fishing, until Deanna Campbell kid’s [son: Brett Parsons] found a skull. The area is not fenced off; the burial site is out in the open…….[Mervyn Penrith 11.4.2006]

Twenty years ago Deanna Campbell [nee Parsons] children found bones and skulls on the Wallaga Beach [Chris Griffiths’ consultations 16.3.2006].

There are burial sites along the hill between Wallaga Lake and Umbarra Cultural Centre [Maria Walker 20.12.2005].

During the life of King Merriman [dec 1904] a battle took place between the Lake Tyers and Wallaga Lake people. As the women and children hid, King Merriman waited on what is now Merrimans Island. A Black Duck came to inform him of the approaching invaders. Merrimans either turned into a whirly wind to escape the battle, or the battle was fought and won by the Wallaga Lake mob, the Lake Tyers mob returning home to the south [Chris Griffiths’ consults 16.3.2006].

King Merriman once lived on Merrimans Island. When a tribal fight was taking place between the Wallaga Lake people and the Lake Tyers [VIC] people, Merriman was put on the island to ensure his safety. The island has his name because he lived there. People from Lake Tyers now live at Wallaga Lake [Mervyn Penrith 11.4.2006].

Merrimans Island is a good place to find oysters and mussels. King Merriman once lived on the island, giving the island its name or alternatively giving the man the name of the island he was living on. King Merriman’s totem was the black duck, umbarra. Pam Flanders acknowledges that there are different totems for different families, and that the Wallaga Lake Community ‘adopted’ Umbarra as it’s local community totem because Merrimans Island is close by [Pam Flanders and Albert Solomon 11.4.2006].

King Merriman’s totem was the black duck. Lionel is not permitted, under traditional Aboriginal lore to eat the black duck as that is his totem also. The same is rule is applied to his son’s and daughters [Lionel Mongta 2.1.2006].

Pam remembers day trips in a wooden rowboat with her sister Harriett and mother and father across Wallaga Lake into Dignams Creek. The family would catch bream, flathead, mullet, black fish, oysters, bimbullas and black mussels. If their father intended on spearing fish, they would camp overnight along Dignams Creek to enable him to begin spearing at 4 am. The bigger bream was always easier to catch at that time of the day [Pam Flanders 11.4.2006].

Mervyn Penrith’s mother, Ruby Penrith was born on Mosquito Point, Wallaga Lake. Ruby Penrith’s father, Bert Penrith, born on the banks of Dignams Creek [Mervyn Penrith 11.4.2006]

Beryl recalls fishing along Dignams Creek. Her father had a spear and would always find bream, mullet, flathead and black fish. They usually went on day trips from Wallaga Lake, hiring a rowboat. When they did camp along Dignams Creek, they would take the boat right up the creek [but not as far as the Creek / Highway crossing]. They had a special camping place, where they felt comfortable to camp. “…..Other places did not feel right, the land will ‘stone’ you if you camp in the wrong place, places where there might be a burial or something bad happened there……. “ [Beryl Brierley 12.5.2006].

In 1955 George Parsons worked at the Dignams Creek Sawmill. The Andy and Parsons families built a new house out of wood from the mill timber. They lived close to the sawmill along Dignams Creek. Around the same time, the family worked picking at a farm at Dignams Creek. Norton, the manager of Wallaga Lake Mission, would transport the Aboriginal workers from Wallaga Lake to the farm at Dignams Creek, seasonally. One day after weeks of rain, there were loads of beans to be picked. That day, Shorty and Tally, two bugeendge ‘clever men’, appeared looking for a man. They chased him, however he was not actually ‘caught’, but returned to his hometown and died an old man [Georgina Parsons 14.12.2005].

Alex Walker worked on spot mills including one at Dignams Creek in the 1970s [Alex Walker 11.4.2006].

Snake Island or ‘Garlic Island’ marks the point where Wallaga Lake turns into Dignams Creek. Pam and Harriett recall collecting garlic off the island, using it to flavour steamed fish caught in Dignams Creek [Pam Flanders and Harriett Walker 11.4.2006].

William Chapman, Georgina’s maternal grandfather lived on Snake Island in 1914 [Georgina Parsons 6.6.2006].

Harriett Walker worked house cleaning at ‘Whiffens’, Jeff Bates’ holiday house on Bridge Point, Akolele. Alex Walker also worked there cutting firewood and gardening [Harriett Walker and Alex Walker 11.4.2006].

Jimmy’s Point is mythologically linked to Gulaga. At low tide, there is a cave that opens up through to Gulaga [Trisha Ellis 4.2.2006].

When camping at Tilba Lake, we always went to Jimmy’s Point, returning to Tilba Lake to camp [Beryl Brierley 12.5.2006].

The ‘Cricket Ground’, was used in the pre and post-contact eras as a living area. The Cricket ground is in the Merriwinga Creek area, north of Wallaga Lake, behind Wallaga Beach. The Wallaga Lake Aboriginal cricket team used the site throughout the 1900s, giving the site it’s name. It is a sheltered area with a fresh water source [from Merriwinga Creek]. During the mission years, a number of people who were banned from residing / entering Wallaga Lake, would camp at the Cricket Ground. During the 1950s ‘Bamboo’ Munns Hammond, Shirley Foster’s grandfather from Omeo was camped at the Cricket Ground when visiting family at Wallaga Lake Mission. ‘Bamboo’ always wore a straw hat, travelled with three black dogs and never accepted a ride, he walking from Lake Tyers, Victoria to Wallaga Lake [Chris Griffiths’ consults 16.3.2006].

“……The ‘Cricket ground’, was a holiday time camp, it was not a permanent campsite; no one permanently lived there all year around. …..‘older people’ camped there….. On the beach side of the ‘cricket ground’ there is a burial site, a skull was found and put back in the
place it was found.” [Mervyn Penrith 11.4.2006].

In 1939 Mary Duroux recalls going to the cricket ground to visit family who were camped there. It is located at the northern entrance to Wallaga Lake and is accessible at low tide. The people camping there played cricket from time to time. People living at Wallaga Lake Mission used the area as a private place away from government view. Older people would spear fish, whilst the younger ones would play cricket and football [Mary Duroux 6.2.2006].

Valerie has memories of people camping at the Cricket ground and was told people camped there for generations before her. Her own grandparents camped there. There is fresh water entering the area from the west and good beach access. Valerie played in the area as a kid [Valerie Andy 20.12.2005].

Beryl Brierley was told that the area on the flat, north of Wallaga Lake known as the ‘Cricket Ground’, was where two tribes met and fought [Beryl Brierley 19.12.2005].

Alex Walker remembers the ‘Cricket ground’ as a camping place for people visiting family residing at Wallaga Lake community. The people that lived there played cricket, giving the place the name. In 1950 Alex himself camped there. The Picalla’s lived there. Les Mongta, Lionel Mongta’s father from Orbost, also camped there with his wife Emily Mongta. The manager at the Wallaga Lake Reserve during the 1950s was hard on people; so many people camped at the Cricket ground, where they knew they could stay. There was fresh water entering the Cricket ground. The lake and nearby rocks were good for collecting foods. There were loads of people camped under the trees during school holidays. There was a good road into the cricket ground, with a bridge over the watercourse. The farmer has since pulled down the bridge, so people cannot get into the area. The rocky causeway, which also allows access, has also been removed [Alex Walker 11.4.2006].

Pam remembers her mother, Joyce Carter, making a boiled date pudding from swan eggs collected from the Cricket Ground area. One swan egg was equivalent to 6 chicken eggs. We could eat swan eggs because the swan was not our family’s totem [Pam Flanders 11.4.2006].

Wallaga Lake, Wallaga Beach and Dignams Creek.
Wallaga Lake, Wallaga Beach and Dignams Creek.
Excerpt from "Stories About the Eurobodalla by Aboriginal People", 2006. Story Contributed by Martin Ind from Moruya High School.