Tomakin: Barlings Beach / Tomaga River

The Tomakin area contains a number of important places for Aboriginal people; Barlings Beach, Barlings Island, Burri [Bevian] Swamp, Tomaga River and the surrounding bushland provide a resource rich, sheltered environment utilized by generations of Aboriginal families. The area continues to be utilised for family celebrations and as a base for fishing trips. As with other high points along the coast, Barlings Beach features a ‘lookout’, used to spot fish entering the Bay.

Throughout the 1960s Symalene Nye and her children lived at ‘The Corner’, Barlings Beach, Tomakin. Symalene Nye’s husband built a humpy under the hill, in the corner for his family in the sand dunes, using an old army tent, corrugated iron and blankets. A lot of families came to ‘the corner’ at Christmas time, including the Campbell family who stayed during the holidays and when they were passing through.

An unnamed fresh water creek flows into Barlings Beach here. Symalene used to sit on the creek bank to wash clothes, before boiling them in rinso. Passers by would admire her clean washing hang along 8-gauge wire. A peach tree and an apple tree continue to grow at the site where the family lived. A tin shack was built on the side of the tent. Within the tent there was a stone and cast iron chimney for cooking and a sandy floor. Symalene would cook apple pies, and rabbits – stewed, braised, stuffed and baked. She would salt smaller fish such as little mullet and Taylor. Symalene was pregnant with her daughters Judy [dec] and Gloria, now 44 years old, whilst living there.

The site provided good access to the beach, especially for the 2-Tonne fishing truck owned by Symalene’s husband. His family were fishermen from Mossy Point. As a kid Leonard Nye recalls chewing on Casuarina seeds to quench his thirst and bush cherries. When Symalene moved to Mogo, the Russell family from Bodalla moved into the campsite, continuing to use the area in much the same way as the Nye family [Symalene Nye 15.11.2005].

As a child Lillian Nye travelled with her mother, Symalene and father between Barlings Beach and Meroo, to the north following the fish seasons. Spring and summer would be spent at Barlings Beach, whilst autumn and winter the family lived at Meroo [Lillian Nye 2.6.2006].

Tomakin: Barlings Beach, Island and Lookout
Tomakin: Barlings Beach, Island and Lookout

There were always people camped at ‘Sunpatch’ [name initially given to the Tomakin residential area]. Carol recalls collecting ‘snot-gollions’ from Barlings beach. People travelling through used the area. They would walk around the rocks at low tide and collect food for the day [Carol Larritt 23.1.2006].

‘……We lived in a tin shack in ‘the corner’, the sheltered northern end of Barlings Beach. I was 4 years old. Later when we moved into Mogo, we continued to visit and camp there. When we lived here, there was no need to go too far afield, we had everything we needed right there……’ [Keith Nye 1.3.2006].

“….Andrew Nye senior, his three son’s Andrew Nye Junior, William Thomas Nye and Ronald Benjamine Nye and their families travelled from Meroo to Barlings Beach in their two –tonne truck and a 16-foot fibreglass converted sailing vessel, refitted as a fishing boat. The Nye family, the fishing nets and all their gear came down. In 1961 Symalene and Uncle Andrew ‘Andy’ Nye moved to Mogo. Uncle Andy owned the house next to the garage as well as the vacant block next door. Our family moved to Mogo in 1962. Later the same year the Russell family moved into the house next door to Uncle Andy’s vacant block. My father, William Thomas Nye was Andrew Nye senior’s brother. I am named after their other brother, my Uncle Ronald Ben Nye. The fibreglass boat is still being used today by Craig Nye and Andrew Nye Junior’s son, Andrew Nye [Junior]. The beach and the township there was known as Barlings Beach, the whole area was then known as ‘Sunpatch’ and now it is Tomakin….The area known as Mossy Point was called Connell’s Point, after the Connell family, my grandparents owned a house there….” [Ron Nye 30.5.2006].

The Stewart family would visit family at Sunpatch on their way down the coast from La Perouse. ‘Sun patch’ was in the north corner at Barlings Beach at the back of Mogo [Vivienne Mason 5.1.2006].

John continues to fish all along the coast, as his father did. The Brierley’s main ‘fishing grounds’ are between Barlings Beach to the Moruya River [John Brierley 3.5.2006].

Symalene has walked around Barlings Island, but never gone onto the island because it is a place of significance to Aboriginal men. Symalene was told that girls were not to go on top of the island. Symalene Nye has informed Tammie Nye, her granddaughter, the same rule. The family was permitted to fish for black fish and bream around Barlings Island at low tide, travelling in rowing boats with nets [Symalene Nye 15.11.2005].

‘Dad caught fish at low tide near Barlings Island in a deep hole that would naturally trap all the fish as the tide ran out;, black fish and bream would get stuck, he’d take a kero light at midnight and easy bring home 3 – 4 boxes without any trouble’ [Leonard Nye 15.11.2005].

In accordance with traditional Aboriginal lore, camping on Barlings Island is not permitted. It is the place of origin of the Black Swan, or Lady Merrima who became recognised as a queen for the area. When living at Barlings Beach, Keith recalls fishing around Barlings Island. The older men would carry the boys across the channel so they could fish out on the rocks [Keith Nye 1.3.2006].

Leonard Nye, as well as his father and paternal grandfather used the high point in the sand dunes along Barlings Beach as a lookout, when spotting fish within Broulee Bay, between Melville Point and Barlings Island. A platform raised on a pole was once located at this high point to allow fishermen to watch for the fish in Broulee Bay. The job of the look out keeper was to hand signal those in a boat in the bay, informing them of which direction the fish are and where they are travelling. Old people taught Leonard Nye the sign language. Bream and whiting are harder to see, as they didn’t school up like other fish. In the sand dunes at Barlings Beach, Leonard recalls collecting prickly pear, blackberries, red gooseberries and pig face in the area for a snack [Leonard Nye 23.11.2005].

We had a pole and a ladder, as a look out in the middle of the beach, on a high point. From there we could see where the fish were [Keith Nye 1.3.2006].

The grassland behind Barlings Beach, between the Caravan Park and Red Hill Parade was also used as an airstrip. Leonard Nye recalls ‘Arty Erne’ landing his plane there. ‘He would spot the fish for dad, sometimes he couldn’t land, so he’d drop a message inside a sunshine milk tin out the window of the plane to let dad know where the fish were. ..’. In the late 1960s Leonard burnt the grassland in order to attract rabbits to the new growth. He had to wait until a northerly wind, so that the fire would burn towards the beach. At that time he and 6 other people, caught 156 pairs of rabbits and sold them to the CSIRO [Leonard Nye 13.11.2005].

From Cemetery [Melville] Point, fisherman would ‘lookout’ for fish to the south, within Broulee Bay. When there was a sighting, the trawling nets, which were stored at ‘the corner’, would be taken out in a rowboat [Leonard Nye 13.11.2005].

George Brown and his family had a fishing camp mid way along Barlings Beach near a fresh water lagoon [Burri Swamp]. A lot of Aboriginal people from Wreck Bay moved into the Barlings Beach area [Trisha Ellis 4.2.2006].

‘The big pool’ on Mogo Creek was a regularly used camping, fishing and swimming place for Koori people [Keith Nye 1.3.2006].

‘The waterhole’ on the Mogo Creek, near Mogo, was well used by Koori children. If wagging school for the day, the kids would hitch a ride to Mogo, swim for the day, then return home when the bus from Moruya arrived to Batemans Bay [Violet Parsons 6.4.2006].

‘The swimming hole’ was on Mogo Creek, 600 yards before the Tomaga River junction. It was tidal there. We made canoes from corrugated iron, shaped around and when the creek was flooded we would paddle from Mogo to Tomakin, down the Mogo Creek and Tomaga River [Ron Nye and Norman Russell 29.5.2006].

A now deceased man informed Keith Nye of a Bora ring along the Tomakin River. He was told it was documented in ‘old history reports held at the Shire Council’ [Keith Nye 1.3.2006].

Carol heard of a traditional Aboriginal fighting ground in Tomakin, where the Braidwood and Moruya / Tomakin tribes met and fought. The fighting round is near the open paddocks, behind Barlings Beach [Carol Larritt 23.1.2006].

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.