narrabeenThis week, The Past Present is focussing on a place name. Australia has some beautiful, and some fascinating place names, and yet all to often these names are simply taken for granted. The image above, from a postcard dated to circa 1910, shows Narrabeen, a coastal suburb of Sydney which is popular with beachgoers and those looking for some natural beauty.

Narrabeen is a beautiful spot, and has a rather beautiful name, but nobody seems entirely certain where this name comes from. There are however several theories. Many suggest the name is associated with the Aboriginal people who are the traditional owners of the area, the Guringai. According to these theories, the name may be derived from the Aboriginal word for wild swan, Narrabang. Another theory is linked to the account Lieutenant James Grant who passed through the area in 1801. According to his journal, the Aboriginal people called the mouth of the lagoon Narrowbine. Yet another theory suggests that the name comes from a plant which grows near the lagoon and which is known as Narrabin.

Others though suggest a perhaps more sensational story behind the name. According to this theory, the name is associated with the sad tale of the family of Captain Henry Reynolds who arrived with the First Fleet. He and his family were killed in a bushranger attack, and their home was burned down. The name for Narrabeen in this story comes from an Aboriginal girl named Narrabine, who helped the soldiers capture the men responsible for the murders.

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