Page 26 of Hawkesbury River namelist from bound volume of poems and prose, 1825–1835 part of Reverend John McGarvie papers (A 1613). Ink on paper, bound volume.

Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales. Presented by Mrs W.P. Moore, 1922.

Dyarubbin (Hawkesbury River) and one of its main tributaries, the Nepean River, almost encircle the entire metropolitan region of Sydney. The Hawkesbury and Nepean Wars 1794-1816 was the site of one of the longest frontier wars in Australian history. British forces, armed settlers and detachments of the British Army fought against clans inhabiting the Dyarubbin and the surrounding areas to the west of Sydney. Invasion and colonisation by the British not only lead to violence, massacres and dispossession but the ongoing annexation of riverways and water systems.

In 2017 researcher Grace Karkens unearthed a handwritten list of 178 Aboriginal placenames for Dyarubbin, compiled in 1829 by the Reverend John McGarvie. John McGarvie was a Presbyterian minister and writer from Scotland, he arrived in Sydney in May 1826 and was the first Presbyterian minister of the Ebenezer Church and remained there until 1830. Over time local Aboriginal people shared with Rev McGarvie their names and knowledges of the environment for his recordings.


This list of placenames in the archives of Sydney’s Mitchell Library has led to Darug knowledge holders reclaiming and reactivating these stories and special sites along Dyarubbin.