Catalina: Hanging Rock

The Catalina area contains of a complex of highly significant Aboriginal Heritage places. These places are, in the main, meeting, living and natural resource collection places, and together comprise some of the most important places for Aboriginal people throughout the region, at least over the past half a century. The focal point within this area is Hanging Rock Creek, named after the iconic, Hanging Rock. Closely linked to Hanging Rock Creek are the nearby Joe’s Creek, Corrigans Beach and Observation Point. Together, these places formed the basis of social and economic life for Aboriginal families living in the area throughout the 1900s.

Hanging Rock itself was an ironstone pillar, said to have been as tall as a nearby power pole. The name evolved to describe how the rock towered or hung over the creek below. Once a sheoak tree grew out from around the rock, making the rock appear to hang out of the tree. Hanging Rock took on its own identity as a place of significance, primarily due to the social life that surrounded the site, which was widely recognised as a meeting place for Aboriginal people residing and passing through the area. Hanging Rock was removed by the Eurobodalla Shire Council in 1997 / 1998 to make way for traffic lights. The Aboriginal community has not emotionally recovered from the devastating effects caused when Hanging Rock was damaged. Large sections of the rock lay on the road verge on the banks of Hanging Rock Creek.

The general area where the Batemans Bay Library, the sports complex, the TAFE and University of Wollongong campus’ are located is locally known as ‘Hanging Rock’, after this site.

Hanging Rock was previously standing on the banks of the Hanging Rock Creek. A Sheoak tree grew up and around the rock, it looked like the rock was hanging out of the tree. The tree died of natural causes 20 years ago. The Hanging Rock was as tall as a power pole; the council knocked it down because they thought it might fall over close to the traffic lights. The bush used to come down to the water here and boats once parked along Hanging Rock Creek, near Hanging Rock. People passing through the area would always camp at Hanging Rock, because there was a fresh water stream coming into the ocean there. It was the main meeting place. Mud Crabs were caught in Hanging Rock Creek. In the bush surrounding Hanging Rock Creek wallaby, kangaroo, black swans, rabbits, echidna, bush pigeons [wanga], eels [Gunyu], and other birds [budjarn] were caught for food [Jennifer Stewart. 9.11.2005].

Hanging Rock was on the eastern creek bank where the road now goes over the creek [Tom Davis 18.12.2005].

Harry Richard Chapman was born at Turlinjah Island and grew up at Mullendary Flats, Moruya. He travelled from Hanging Rock to Bairnsdale in Victoria in a Geebung boat. The Geebung boat came up the creek and tied up on Hanging Rock itself. They came to visit us. There was an Aboriginal Mission in the area of Hanging Rock [Les Simon 3.11.2005].

Catalina Area; Hanging Rock
Catalina Area; Hanging Rock

Hanging Rock use to hang over the creek, it was red and tall. As far as Georgina is aware, Aboriginal elders did not give permission to destroy Hanging Rock. Georgina would like to see it ‘put back together, made the way it was, maybe with concrete, that would be wonderful…’ [Georgina Parsons 15.12.2005].

As a child Tom Davis remembers catching fish and prawns in Hanging Rock Creek with hand spears. Hanging Rock Creek was also a popular fishing spot for mullet. Kingfisher birds loved the area. He and his friends would camp on the flat, sheoak lined banks of Hanging Rock Creek. ‘….There is a natural well in the lower areas, we dug for fresh water and filled our buckets. …… Les Simon’s father trapped two bream in Hanging Rock Creek. The Creek is very polluted now and it comes into the swampy area at the 7th Hole at the Catalina Golf Course….’ [Tom Davis 18.12.2005].

At Hanging Rock Creek, Terry Parsons dug prawns up through the sand and speared them with mingo stick [Xanthorrhoea spp] spears [Terry Parsons 18.12.2005].

Violet recalls the place where the Hanging Rock Creek enters Batemans Bay, near where the Coach House Marina is today, as a common swimming location. It was a deep, tidal creek, going into the [now] Catalina golf course area [Violet Parsons 6.4.2006].

The Parsons family had a permanent camp set up amongst the sheoak trees. Initially the family lived in a tent and later in a tin shack. The sheoak trees once stretched from Hanging Rock Creek all the way through to Corrigans Beach. ‘…we lived in an old shack – the walls were made from flattened kerosene tins. Paper was stuck on the inside of the walls for insulation. As kids we played around the rocks around Hanging Rock collecting bimbullas and oysters…it was a real meeting place, people were always dropping in, and it was a landmark. Hanging Rock Creek was an important feeding ground for the families living at Hanging Rock. Reg McLeod, my mother’s brother, delivered blocks of ice to the camp located behind hanging rock. .’ Amy and Noelene, Georgina’s first cousins [her mother’s brother, Herbie Chapman’s daughters] now at Wreck Bay, lived nearby, down the hill from the Batemans Bay hospital. They always visited the Parsons at Hanging Rock [Georgina Parsons 15.12.2005].

Terry Parsons remembers living, not just camping, at Hanging Rock [Terry Parsons 18.12.2005].

Tom Davis remembers the Parsons having a square tent at Hanging Rock, with bits and pieces hanging off it [Tom Davis 18.12.2005].

The old Batemans Bay Racecourse was where the Catalina Golf Course is today and was once owned by publican Percy Bill. The area once consisted of sandy flats, being a habitat for ducks and rabbits. His Uncle Sydney would take his dogs and a ‘bundy’ [big stick] to hunt the rabbits, whilst Tom shot them with a shanghai. Tom Davis would watch the races from the hill, outside of the racetrack. It was the best view, and they would bet amongst themselves [Tom Davis 18.12.2005].

Violet recalls going with her Uncle Syd Chapman to what is now the Catalina Golf Course, to catch pigs and rabbits. They would collect the knuckles from the pig carcasses at the slaughter yards in order to play ‘jacks’ [Violet Parsons 6.4.2006].

Joes Creek was an important feeding ground for Aboriginal families residing in the Hanging Rock area. Mud Crabs were plentiful [Georgina Parsons 15.12.2005].

During school holidays, Margaret Harris’s family camped amongst the sheoaks in the location where bird land is today. The family lived off the sea and sawmill work was close by. Across the road was [is] a caravan park, where they would have a shower. The Thomas and Chapman families were also there [Margaret Harris 9.3.2006].

With Les Simon’s mother Rose Chapman, Doris frequented Joes Creek as a place to swim and meet other friends. This was in the 1950s [Doris Moore 31.5.2006].

The Pittman and Stewart families had a camp along Joe’s Creek, amidst the sheoaks. The creek was diverted to build the Retirement village, the junction of Joes Creek and the Bay remains in the original location. Joe’s Creek was once a flowing tidal creek. It is now stagnant due to the nearby rock wall construction and other developments in the area. At high tide it was too high to walk across Joe’s Creek. Deep pools would form as good swimming places.

It was once a good place to fish, but not any more. Syd Parsons and Michael Davis saw an ochre clad Aboriginal spirit figure along Joes Creek, behind Batemans Bay high school [Violet Parsons 6.4.2006].

Amy Williams and Noeline Nunn [nee Chapman], now at Wreck Bay, talk of Corrigans Beach as an important birthing place. Jimmy Scott was born here. There used to be a dense covering of sheoaks to protect people from the wind [Les Simon. 15.12.2005].

Corrigans Beach is a ‘good pipi beach’ [Terry Parsons 18.12.2005].

An ochre pit is located at Observation Point, at the southern end of Corrigans Beach. Les recalls painting on boards as well as on family members throughout his childhood. Les knows of people who continue to collect ochre from this site [Les Simons 30.11.2005].

Taken from “Stories About the Eurobodalla by Aboriginal People”. View the full study

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