Nobbys Whibaygamba is the iconic symbol of Newcastle and the state registered Coal River Precinct is an Aboriginal-Convict and Colonial heritage landscape of Local, State and National significance and importance. Over the past 50 years Newcastle’s cultural heritage and human achievements have been recorded by various groups, illustrated in work of the Parks and Playgrounds Movement Inc., University of Newcastle’s Coal River Precinct (CRWP) and business partners to research, document, conserve and promote the historical significance of the Coal River Precinct in Newcastle (Australia). This involved the detailed research to locate and establish both documentary and physical evidence for the important sites within the historic place.

The Precinct landscape is a physical expression of the Newcastle Story from the Aboriginal Dreamtime to the birth of the City of Newcastle and the beginnings of the Coal Mining industry and an achievement of a civil society and modern Newcastle. Newcastle is the second oldest city in Australia and has a rich Indigenous and non-Indigenous heritage. Nobbys (Whibayganba) is an Aboriginal Dreaming site (Home of the giant kangaroo) representing Aboriginal human habitation from at 7,000 to 50,000, the record of “Natives” on Lieutenant John Shortland’s 1797 eye sketch, and the 1854 gunpowder tunnels within, that sparked the first environmental action in Australia to save a natural landform. This was spearheaded by the Newcastle business community.

The UON’s CRWP, soon to be relaunched as the Hunter History Initiative (HHI) have been researching the Coal River Precinct since 2003. An objective of the CRWP is for the precinct to gain National heritage listing. Gionni di Gravio (Chair of the CRWP) asks “Why has Newcastle been written out of the Australian National Story?” He says that a nomination for listing will give Newcastle the National Heritage Status it deserves and for this important history to be recognised. opportunities can arise from acknowledging cultural heritage at a national level, interpreting and promoting the city’s unique culture and history can contribute to the cultural revitalisation of Newcastle, and further tourism and economic opportunities.

Several National Nominations have been considered by the Commonwealth, these have been submitted over many years (2007- 2105) by the University of Newcastle’s Coal River Working Party to the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. The City of Newcastle last week supported plans to have the Coal River Precinct included to the National Heritage List, the CRWP congratulates council on this recent move in progressing National Heritage Listing.

National Heritage Listing would be a fantastic opportunity for the people of Newcastle to further acknowledge their cultural heritage, celebrate the city’s past achievements and enjoy and share with others the places and stories. Listing would also enhance and support proper conservation and interpretation of the area.

To find out more visit Coal River Blog.

Image Macquarie Pier and Nobbys, Newcastle, NSW, 3 May 1901. By Ralph Snowball, part of the Norm Barney Photographic Collection, held by Cultural Collections at the University of Newcastle.