South West Rocks is located in the traditional lands of the Ngaku clan, the South West Rocks Aboriginal heritage belonging to the Dunghutti Nation. The Dunghutti Nation is outlined by rivers, mountains and ridges in the landscape. It encompasses Scotts Head in the North, South West Rocks and all along the coast through Hat Head to Crescent Head in the South. It then follows inland all the way out to Walcha. Dunghutti Nation is neighbored by the Biripi clan (Southside) and the Gumbaynggir (Northside).
The area is rich in significance and culture to the custodians of the land as it was a camping ground for families. South West Rocks is particularly special as it is the central point of Ngaku; a place for family. The camping grounds stretched from Laggers Point through Little Bay and all the way to Jerseyville. Once the camping grounds were established by the families, the men headed off with boys aged over 10 to the Corroboree grounds which stretched from Spencerville all the way around to Smoky Cape. This was a men’s only area and they would be gone for up to three weeks at a time. Here, they would learn the skills of hunting and fishing the beach as well as fishing the river. The older boys once matured, would be initiated throughout four different stages before adulthood.
Women stayed within the camping grounds. They would teach the young girls how to cook, how to clean and set up camp, how to tend to the fire, gather fish, shell fish – pipis, mussels, oysters and crabs all to keep the camp provided with food. They would walk through the bushes to gather herbs, medicinal plants, berries, nuts – all of which were available in this area. They were taught how to look after their siblings and would look after their elders. All these skills learnt were vital to prepare them for life – that was the girl’s initiation; taught by their elders.
Women came to these campgrounds in particular to Little Bay to give birth, it is an extremely significant place for birthing as women would make their way there once they were in labor. If the timing was right, the tide waters would cleanse the baby and the mother as she was giving birth. If you stand at the carpark at Little Bay and look closely you may even see an image of a women within the formation of the rocks. Little Bay was also significant for being a place of cleansing, if any of the women or children would get sick the tidal waters at Little Bay would wash it away.
The Ngaku clan members still reside in South West Rocks and the Big4 Sunshine Resort acknowledges they are the original custodians of the land. The development of the Ngurra’s and communicating the Ngaku’s culture to guests staying here is extremely important to us and we will continue to develop this relationship with our resident Elder, Liz Holden.