A Short History Of Jervis Bay
A Short History of Jervis Bay
A SHORT HISTORY OF JERVIS BAY
Jervis Bay is not only a place of incredible beauty, but it also has a fascinating history.Below is a short history of the Jervis Bay area to add some intrigue, interest and understanding to this amazing South Coast wonderland.
Archaeological evidence suggests that Aboriginal groups were present in the Jervis Bay area for at least 7,000 years, perhaps longer.The Bay has provided a bountiful natural resource to the ‘bordering’ Yuin and Dharawal regions and is said to have given rise to at least thirteen Aboriginal tribes of the South Coast of NSW.
The area is home to a number of significant and sacred sites. The Beecroft Peninsula is said to be the location of numerous important Aboriginal sites. Just off the peninsula is the Drum and Drumsticks, a significant sacred site because it is believed to be where the Aboriginal elders cast Bundoola’s body into the sea after he took his thirteenth wife. Bundoola was a mythical figure who took on human form and angered the elders with his actions. It was thought that he controlled the propagation and control of maritime resources. It is said that his 13 wives scattered across the South Coast region and became the original ancestors of the South Coast tribal groups. The Aboriginal people believe in another mythical figure, Spundula who is a mythological serpent responsible for weather patterns. By the time Europeans began to settle the area, Aboriginal tribes had mostly been displaced. This initially began in 1822 when Alexander Berry took up the land in the Shoalhaven area. They were (moved) to the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Reserve or to the Orient Point Settlement. Disease soon significantly reduced the local Aboriginal population and by 1932 only 50 Aboriginals were recorded as living at the 'Reserve' on Wreck Bay.
The best description of the early Aborigines was provided by the Frenchman, Jules Dumont d’Urville, who visited Jervis Bay for a few days in November 1826 aboard the corvette, Astrolabe. He observed that the natives were similar to those from Port Jackson but better looking and stronger, possibly because of the abundance of food. He noted that several of them had a “tattoo of scars on their backs, the cartilage of the nosed pierced and their hair parted into strands decorated with Kangaroo teeth or paws”.
After being moved, the community remained at Wreck Bay. Then throughout the 1970’s, land rights became an issue, and by 1986 The Aboriginal Land Grant (Jervis Bay Territory) Act 1986 was enacted. In 1995, Jervis Bay National Park and Jervis Bay Botanic Gardens Annexe were granted to the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council and subsequently leased back to the Director of National Parks, giving the Koori Aboriginal group ownership of the land. In 1998, Jervis Bay National Park was renamed Booderee National Park, meaning ‘bay of plenty’ in Dhurga.
ARRIVAL OF THE EUROPEANS
European influence began in Jervis Bay in 1791. Lieutenant Bowen (for whom Bowen Island at the entrance of Jervis Bay was named in 1797) of the Atlantic named it Port Jervis after his superior, Admiral John Jervis. Prior to this, the Bay had been dubbed St. George’s Head by Captain Cook in 1770.
Over the next 80 or so years, the area was surveyed and visited, and an ill-conceived lighthouse was built in the 1860s at Cape St. George. The first of many shipbuilding yards was built at the inlet of Currambene Creek in 1864. Once Jervis Bay had become popular for ship building this resulted in numerous hotels and guesthouses being established in the area. However, it wasn’t until the 1880s that the first true European settlement was established. This settlement was basically a small plot of land used for sheep and cattle grazing, as well as a fishing business.
Following Federation in 1901 and the establishment of the Australian Capital Territory, it was decided that access to the sea would be desirable and as such in 1915 a 74 square kilometre section of Jervis Bay was surrendered to the Commonwealth Government providing access to the sea and a site for the development of a port and naval base.
On 1 March 1913, 28 boys aged 13 and 14 from all around Australia arrived at the newly established Royal Australian Naval College as the first intake of cadet-midshipmen. Captain’s Point in Jervis Bay had been chosen as the location for the college, but onsite facilities were not ready until 1914. Since the arrival of the naval college, Jervis Bay has maintained its status as an important naval base.
OTHER MAJOR DEVELOPMENTS DURING THE 20TH CENTURY
In 1913 the Huskisson Community Hall was built by the Dent family and is now used as the local cinema, ‘Huskisson Pictures’.
By 1915 the main naval college buildings were completed and were renamed HMAS Creswell after Sir William Rooke Creswell (1852- 1933). Creswell was a colonial naval officer who wanted to see an independent Australian Navy and he was instrumental in achieving just that. The naval college provides basic and leadership training to officers in the Royal Australian Navy.
1932 the Jervis Bay Hotel was demolished in 1929 and rebuilt and renamed the Huskisson Hotel.
1971 plans were abandoned for the development of a nuclear reactor at Murrays Beach.
1981 The Lady Denman passenger ferry returned to Huskisson where it was built, after 67 years of service in Sydney Harbour.
1998 Jervis Bay National Park renamed Booderee National Park.
Visitors can discover more about settlement in the Jervis Bay area including the maritime and shipbuilding history by visiting the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum in Huskisson.
TODAY’S EXPERIENCE OF JERVIS BAY
Today, you can still see the same amazing natural landscape that explorers like Cook and Bowen saw those hundreds of years ago. You can also investigate the rich indigenous culture and history and see the diverse and flourishing wildlife. Jervis Bay is a wonderful place to visit and an incredible place to experience.