Jenolan Caves Part 1 – Aboriginal History

Jenolan NSW Front

This week, with the holidays rapidly approaching, it seemed the ideal time to share a series of beautiful images of Jenolan Caves. The cave complex at Jenolan is an iconic tourist attraction in NSW, and has a fascinating history, which The Past Present will explore over the coming weeks.

Although today Jenolan Caves is an iconic tourist attraction, for many thousands of years the series of caves was known to and extremely important to Australia’s Aboriginal Peoples. The Jenolan Caves area itself is in the traditional lands of the Burra Burra people, who are one of the clans belonging to the Gundugurra Nation, though they have been used much more widely.

According to Dreamtime stories, the Jenolan area was created when Gurangatch (who was part eel and part fish) battled with Mirragan (a native quoll). Mirragan chased Gurangatch, carving out rivers and caves during the fight. Eventually, Gurangatch settled at Jenolan Caves, resting and healing his wounds by licking them. Aboriginal people believe you can still see his blood on the rock walls as you leave the grand arch. Gurangatch’s peaceful thoughts have become part of the landscape, and Jenolan is a peaceful, restorative place according to Aboriginal culture, especially for women, who are represented by flowing water.

The waters themselves are in fact seen as nadyung, or healing waters, and for thousands of years Aboriginal people from many different nations came to bathe in these waters. Sometimes their journey to the caves took days, and sick people were often carried to the underground waters, deep in the caves, from long distances. Indeed, the Aboriginal people were very familiar with these caves, long before Europeans colonised Australia.

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