There are many areas and specific sites of cultural significance to the Dharawal people. One of the most significant of these is what is known as the Bull Cave.
Kentlyn's Bull Cave
The legend of the Cowpastures explains how early European settlers stumbled on the region’s fertile farming land. In July 1788, just six months after European arrival, the early settlers lost two bulls and four cows which had arrived on board the First Fleet.
Almost two years later, the cattle were sighted in the Menangle area. Local Aboriginal people saw the strange animals and sketched them on the walls of a sandstone shelter along the Georges River, in a cave now known as ‘Bull Cave’ in Kentlyn.
Along the Georges River, sandstone eroded, forming rock overhangs which provided shelter. Those facing north, caught the sunlight and held warmth through the night. The walls of these sandstone rock shelters were often decorated with images and hand stencils outlined in red ochre, white clay or charcoals.
Today we can make out the head and tail of the bull on the wall without its horns.
Historian Carol Liston explained in her 1988 Campbelltown - The Bicentennial History, "The animals had no horns, having been polled to prevent injury during their long sea voyage.
From accounts of other tribes, the Aboriginal peoples first encounter with cattle was a terrifying experience, and this fear is evident by the size of the Campbelltown drawings, where the bulls dominate the walls of the rock shelter."
In December 1820, Governor Lachlan Macquarie named Campbell-Town in honour of his wife, Elizabeth Campbell. The region has become known as Sydney’s ‘Living Heritage’ precinct, being home to an impressive portfolio of heritage listed buildings, historical evidence, artefacts and beliefs of Aboriginal peoples and pioneer cemeteries.
Bull Cave is a heritage-listed art site of state heritage significance to the community of NSW, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, as a unique documentation of the early contact period as viewed by the traditional owners of the land. This site is also traditionally and historically significant to the Dharawal people, the Campbelltown community and to Council. This site and others in the area have been preserved to protect them.
References and acknowledgements:
Dharawal Local Aboriginal Land Council
Campbelltown Aboriginal Community Reference Group
Campbelltown - The Bicentennial History, Carol Listen
NSW Government - Office of Environment & Heritage
Research paper, Bull Cave: Its relevance to the prehistory of the Sydney Region by R.D. Miller (held at Campbelltown Library)
We respectfully acknowledge the Aboriginal people of the region, and pay our respects to Elders, past and present.