Birthplace of the Yuin People

25 August 2011 | Fact sheet

Biamanga and Gulaga National Parks, Australia

Background

The weathered granite tors of the mountains peaking through misty eucalypt forests of the lands now encompassing Biamanga and Gulaga National Parks lie within the traditional country of the Yuin [Djuwin] people. Aboriginal people have inhabited the Yuin country since time immemorial. Mumbulla Mountain is the central place of Aboriginal significance in what is now Biamanga National Park and Gulaga Mountain is the focal point of Gulaga National Park. Mythologically these lands are interconnected and are viewed as a single cultural landscape. The mountains, Gulaga to the north and Biamanga to the south, dominate a landscape of mixed forests and farmlands with the Aboriginal-owned former reserve of Wallaga Lake between. Biamanga and Gulaga National Parks are both listed as IUCN category II – national park.

View images of the park

The management of national parks and nature reserves in New South Wales (NSW) occurs with in the context of a legislative and policy framework, primarily the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974, the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 and the policies of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Other legislation, international agreements and charters may also apply to management of the area. In December 1996 both Houses of the NSW Parliament unanimously passed the National Parks and Wildlife Amendment (Aboriginal Ownership) Act providing for the return of traditional lands to Aboriginal ownership with a lease between Aboriginal Land Councils and the Minister for the Environment for the lands continued management as a formal protected area. Both Gulaga and Biamanga are Aboriginal-owned National Parks listed under Schedule 14 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act.

Contemporary management of the reserve system includes strong community involvement in order to grow a park, protect biodiversity and enable opportunities for enjoyment and appreciation. The Regional Community Advisory Committee, reserve neighbours, the Rural Fire Service, volunteers and the Livestock, Health and Pest Authority help to ensure reserves are managed effectively by providing advice and assistance.

Extensive logging in the 1970s motivated Gubbo Ted Thomas to lead the Yuin people in protest against logging on Mumbulla Mountain. This action heightened awareness of the significance of the lands to Aboriginal people and in 1980 part of the lands in and around what is now Biamanga National Park became an Aboriginal Place. Biamanga National Park was first proclaimed in 1994 and was later extended with the addition of State forest to the park as part of the Eden Regional Forest Agreement.

Gulaga National Park was created by amalgamating the existing Wallaga Lake National Park, Goura Nature Reserve, and Mt Dromedary Flora Reserve (State forest). As part of the Southern Regional Forest Agreement Biamanga and Gulaga NP’s were placed on Schedule 14 of the NPW Act at the request of Yuin people. Before the lands were formally returned to Aboriginal Ownership, a lease for Biamanga and Gulaga NP’s was negotiated with the Aboriginal Owners to allow for the parks to be jointly managed with the NSW Government. This process took two years and recognises the cultural significance of the land to Aboriginal people whilst at the same time maintaining their status as part of the conservation estate of NSW.

Context, location and size

Biamanga National Park covers and area of 13,749 hectares and Gulaga National Park covers 4,673 hectares in the hinterland of the south coast of New South Wales approximately 350 kilometres south of Sydney. The surrounding townships of the region include Central Tilba, Narooma, Bermagui and Bega. Biamanga National Park shares its south-eastern border with Murrah and Mumbulla State Forests and the north-east with Bermaguee Nature Reserve. Gulaga National Park shares its northern border with Bodalla State Forest and the west with Kooraban National Park.

Biodiversity and Cultural features protected

Biamanga National Park is centred on a mass of granite rock that solidified under the earth’s surface from magma over 360 million years ago. This granite crops out as large boulders and rounded tors on the slopes of the mountain. The Park rises from the hilly coastal terrain at an elevation of 100m to the peak of Mumbulla at 774m.

Gulaga was born through a volcanic eruption which occurred about 100 million years ago. During that time the mountain rose two kilometres above surrounding countryside, with lava-clad slopes reaching beyond Bermagui to the south and Tuross in the north. As cooling occurred, vapours seeping upwards gradually deposited as gold, quartz and other minerals. A long period of erosion then stripped away most of the lava and all the ash leaving Gulaga, the core of the main volcanic vent surrounded by granite. This core has an altitude of 797m, and a spur running for about 1km from the summit to the northwest leads to a slightly higher western summit of 806m. Bare rock exists on some ridges and gully heads, and in places the granite has weathered into rounded tors.

Biamanga and Gulaga National Parks are special places for the Yuin people as they are culturally significant and a source of traditional foods and medicine. Gulaga is the place of origin for Yuin people. It is the focal point of the Yuin creation story and is a sacred place which contains ‘the enduring presence of the spirit’. Mumbulla Mountain in Biamaga National Park is sacred to the Yuin people in association with ‘bunan’ initiation ceremonies and contains a complex of important initiation sites linked by pathways associated with a series of ritual practices. Archaeological evidence has confirmed that Aboriginal people have maintained a continuous connection with the land of the area for more than 20,000 years. There are archaeological sites along the coastal strip and in the hinterland indicating rich resource base camps. The ongoing occupation and use of the local land and waterways fostered the development of a diverse cultural heritage which continues today.

Early European contact was marked by the 1770 passing of Lieutenant James Cook who observed habitation in the vicinity of Gulaga and gave the mountain the European name of Mt Dromedary. In 1797 the survivors of the wrecked Sydney Cove had the first face-to-face contact with the Yuin people as they passed through on their way from Gippsland to Sydney. Early European settlement and development of the surrounding area involved logging, whaling and the pastoral industries. B

iodiversity in Gulaga and Biamanga is very important to the Yuin people. The bush of the mountains is mainly eucalypt forest with patches of rainforest and small pockets of casuarina, wetland and seagrass in both parks. Food in the bush is abundant and plants that are used for food include pigface, geebung, native cherry and raspberry, wattlegum, snotgollion, superjack, lillypilly, bullrush and bracken. There are over 417 recorded plant species in Biamanga and 491 in Gulaga. The mountains are also home to over 270 species of bird, 50 of mammal, 20 of reptiles and 14 species of amphibians. On both mountains you will find platypus, echidna, antechinus, wombats, possums, gliders, potoroo, kangaroos, wallabies, bush rats and over 15 species of bats.

The IUCN Red List endangered species recorded in Biamanga and Gulaga include the Australasian Bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus), Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolor), Eastern Bristlebird (Dasyornis brachypterus) and the Regent Honeyeater (Xanthomyza phrygia). Vulnerable species include the Stuttering Frog (Mixophyes balbus), Green and Golden Bell Frog (Litoria aurea), Giant Burrowing Frog (Heleioporus australiacus), Providence Petrel (Pterodroma solandri), Wandering Albertross (Diomedea exulans), White-footed Dunnart (Sminthopsis leucopus), Grey-headed flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus) and the Eastern Freetail-bat (Mormopterus norfolkensis). There are also over 40 other species listed as ‘least concerned’ or ‘near threatened’.

Threats

Pest animal and weed management programs are identified and prioritised in Biamanga and Gulaga National Parks through regional pest management strategies and integrated into the NSW Threatened Species Priorities Action Statement, threat abatement plans, recovery plans and reserve management plans. Long-running cooperative programmes are in place with a variety of landholders, land management agencies and community groups for the management of weeds (such as bitou bush, and lantana), pest animals (such as foxes, wild dogs, pigs and deer) and forest health (such as bell miner associated dieback). These programs are also integrated with other park management programs such as fire management. Fire is a natural and recurring factor that shapes the NSW environment. Fire Management in Biamanga and Gulaga National Parks is a mix of prevention, mitigation, planned use and suppression to help minimise treats to human life, property and cultural heritage and tourism, while maintaining ecological processes that support the area’s rich biodiversity. Fire has been used in Aboriginal land management for thousands of years and continues as an integral part of current Biamanga and Gulaga National Park Fire Management Strategies.

Opportunities for enjoyment

Archaeological evidence confirms that Aboriginal people have visited and the far south coast of Australia and called it home for more than 20,000 years. Generations of the Yuin Aboriginal people have camped, hunted, held ceremonies and traversed this country.

Mumbulla Creek Falls within Biamanga National Park is a popular location for family groups especially during the summer months for picnicking and enjoying the waters of Mumbulla Creek. Visitors gain a respectful appreciation and understanding of the spiritual significance of the area to Aboriginal people from the interpretive signs along the 225m walkway to the viewing platform overlooking the falls.

Gulaga National Park encompasses scenic shorelines of Wallaga Lake to the lush rainforest pockets and impressive granite tors of the mountain. Visitors can appreciate the significance of the area whilst taking a 30 minute drive between the coastal towns of Narooma and Bermagui; with Gulaga Mountain maintaining a presence along the way and further a field. Quieter reflection of significance may be sought by boat or canoe to the western areas of Wallaga Lake or by a challenging 5.5 hr return walk to the summit of the mountain from either the foothills at Tilba Tilba in the east or from the parking area on mid slopes in the north.