top of page

Kuringai is not what it seems

Kuringai is not what we think it is. Since I moved to Sydney to study at Macquarie University in 1981 I always assumed that Kuringai was based on the indigenous people in the area – this is not the case!

The word Guringai was first used in an essay in 1892 by a John Fraser who was educated in Scotland and was a school teacher in Maitland. There is no previous usage of this word and it appears to describe a “super-tribe” of people all the way north of Port Jackson to the Gloucester region.

Guringay Country is actually in northern New South Wales and encompasses an area from Newcastle up to Barrington Tops and from Singleton out to Port Stephens. A saltwater people, Guringay land is north of the Hunter River and follows down along the Manning River to the ocean. This is at direct odds with what’s commonly referred to as ‘Ku-ring-gai/Guringai’ Country in northern Sydney. The Guringay people would like the “error” of the naming of lands in northern Sydney fixed but with a National Park, a Council and others using the term Kuringai – this is quite difficult.

Finding out about who the traditional custodians of the land around West Head and the far Northern Beaches is quite difficult and I have relied upon the Aboriginal Heritage Office (AHO) based in Freshwater which is funded by a number of councils covering a wide area of Sydney. To date the AHO has relied mainly on the extensive review of Aboriginal Sydney by Dr Val Attenbrow (who compiled from archival sources what was recorded of the Aboriginal clans including the various names, spellings and geographical locations). The AHO’s website is a wonderful resource and I have reproduced the links below. Given that we are looking at the pre-colonial era there is a lot of uncertainty in relation to this subject.

It would appear that the area around Pittwater was Garigal land and this bordered with Darramuragal (or Darug) land. The Kuringai Council website only refers to the Darug people which is confusing but probably correct as the Western Foreshores of Pittwater are part of Northern beaches Council! I have relied on the Aboriginal Heritage Office rather than trying to work out council boundaries versus traditional boundaries (which are very uncertain). There are a number of tour companies who guide people around the rock art of the National Park and they have “Guringai” people do smoking ceremonies for the tours – I now find this very confusing and will research a bit more.

In short in my acknowledgement of country I attempt to refer to the actual clan that were the traditional custodians of Mackerel Beach, West Head and parts of Kuringai Chase National Park namely the Garigal clan.

bottom of page