The first lunchtime talk of our Manly Talks series was a fascinating, illustrated look at the many aspects of Manly Dam (pictured below) and the surrounding country.
Aboriginal Heritage Officer Karen Smith (pictured) transported us back to the pre-dam landscape of heathland, sandstone escarpments, creeks and deep pools, and bird-filled wetlands below.
The original inhabitants, the Gayamaygal people, lived here, surrounded by "good tucker". They had possums, snakes, goanna, wallaby, honey and sweet bool - a nectar drink made from bushflowers. In the wetlands they found ducks, water hens, yabbies, eel, fish and even long necked turtles. Karen described aspects of Aboriginal life, including fishing with lines made from the grass plant, which were nearly as fine as raw silk; and fishing hooks fashioned from mother-of-pearl. Early paintings illustrated fishing and hunting in the wetlands and and a close family group having "a barbecue" at the beach.
Although that time has gone, Manly Dam is still a bushland oasis. Karen's images showed an array of spring flowers, food plants, trees, shrubs, birds and reptiles. The dam area is home to remnants of the endangered Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub, 80 different species of birds, and the climbing galaxias fish, - a species that climbs waterfalls and is estimated to be an astonishing 60 million years old.
Historic images, starting in 1891, showed the building, and subsequent enlargment, of Manly Dam, which transformed the landscape by removing much of the heathland and rocky sandstone areas.
After World War I, the dam and its reserve became a recreational area. Karen noted that the reserve's additional role as a war memorial park, is perfect for a place where many of us go to find peace and quiet and solace.
Today's talk, which was watched by over 70 people, was an exhilarating dive into the history, cultural landscape and present day environment of Manly Dam. It will undoubtedly enhance the next visit to Manly Dam, for everyone who was there.
It was part of Good For Manly's Manly Talks series, which covers a broad range of topics and seeks to 'spark ideas and start conversations'.
On your next visit, check out Manly Dam's Gulgadya Muru Trail - a self guided Aboriginal Walk with five interpretation points.
As well, there's the inspirational Manly Dam Project. Karen participated in this project, where eight contemporary artists from a variety of practices created a new work inspired by place, history, water management and engineering. This film documents the concepts behind the project.
Candy Bingham, Deputy Mayor & Manly Ward Councillor on Northern Beaches Council. Background in marketing, public relations and community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.