We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which the Camden Haven Pilot Station was built, and pay our respects to elders, past and present.
Indigenous people have been present in the Laurieton / Camden Haven area for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans. There are middens throughout this region, at various points along the river, that provide evidence to support this assertion. Unfortunately, many have now vanished with European occupation.
The abundance of food in this region, both plants and animals, would have supported local indigenous people. Up until recently there was also a fresh water stream flowing through the bush land of the Kattang Nature Reserve, over the rocks onto Washhouse Beach.
During Oxley’s journey through this area, in 1818, he reported sighting some local aboriginal people making a canoe in the Queens Lake area.
Oxley, John. (1819) Journal of Two Expeditions into the Interior of New South Wales. Part II.
October 14 … In our route we had disturbed a large party of natives, some of whom were busily employed in preparing bark for a new canoe. There were several canoes on the lake, in which they all fled in great confusion; leaving their arms and utensils of every description behind them. One of the canoes was sufficiently large to hold nine men, and resembled a boat; of course we left their property untouched, though we afterwards regretted we did not seize one of their canoes, which we might easily have done. We however determined to send back in the morning for the unfinished canoe, and try our skill in completing it for use. …
October 15 A party was sent back early this morning to secure the canoe, while we examined the river. The people returned in the course of the forenoon unsuccessful, as the natives had removed it with all their effects in the course of the night, throwing down and destroying their guniahs or bark huts. … The natives seemed very numerous, but are shy; we saw many large canoes on the lake, one of which would be quite sufficient for our purposes.
October 18 On Friday we returned to the entrance of the haven, and immediately commenced our endeavours to construct a canoe; our first essays were unsuccessful, but by Saturday night we had a bark one completed, which we hoped would answer our purpose; though I think if the natives saw it they would ridicule our rude attempts. …
In a recording from Nathan Moran, he describes the first contact between the Birpai people and the Europeans in 1818, (Itineraries & Trails: Aboriginal stories – Port Macquarie & Wauchope / Birpai http://pacificcoast.com.au/itineraries-and-trails/aboriginal-stories/port-macquarie-wauchope-birpai/ )
‘The stories passed down through the generations indicate that the newcomers were not viewed as very smart and therefore were not seen as a threat.’
Had they been seen as a threat initially, history may have developed quite differently in the Port Macquarie / Camden Haven areas.
Different tribal groups were based in the north, in the Port Macquarie area, and to the south, in the Taree area. The Camden Haven River may have formed a natural border between groups as well as providing abundant resources and a place to meet for trading.
Many local indigenous people were -moved off Birpai country, in part due to the development and growth of the local timber and lime burner industries during the 1800s.
Any person able to assist with additional information on the local indigenous history of this area is asked to contact the Camden Haven Pilot Station using the contact details below.