Aboriginal elder shares the story of her family’s experience 

by Deborah Wall May 2022

Gundungurra and Darug elder, Aunty Carol Cooper gave a first-hand account of her family’s life at a public event Walking on Country at the Gully with Aunty Carol Cooper on May 4 attended by 54 people. The event, hosted by the Covenanting Group from Leura Uniting Church, provided an opportunity for the public to meet Aunty Carol in person and hear her story of the Gully from her own experience.

The huge interest showed the hunger non-Aboriginal people felt in making connection with the Traditional Owners in the Gully and hear their own voice about the history and cultural heritage of their place. After the event, Aunty Carol received an overwhelming confirmation that the group definitely wanted to have more of this kind of personal story-sharing with her. 

The Gully in Katoomba was used as a camp place by Gundungurra and Darug people, the major Indigenous tribes in the Blue Mountains before British colonisation. When their lands were taken over, they moved into the Gully permanently.

After Gundungurra land was flooded with the creation of Warragamba Dam, their move to the Gully became irreversible, until 1957. Their homes were bulldozed. The local government evicted them to make way for a business venture to build a race track. Aunty Carol’s family, the last to leave in the 1960s, had to find another place to live. The race circuit business venture failed and only lasted for two years, Aunty Carol said.

 Aunty Carol story-sharing (photo: Brigitte Grant)

Aunty Carol showed the visitors remnants of their family home and the places she remembered as a child. She was one of nine children. Upon realising the pain and suffering endured by her people, one of the listeners said ‘sorry’ to Aunty Carol. 

In 2002, the Gully was declared an Aboriginal place. Some lands of cultural significance like the Gully were regulated under the National Parks and Wildlife Act that employs co-management protection.

Leura Covenanting Group and some of the participants in Walking the Country at the Gully

Biripi elder, Aunty Ali Golding joining Aunty Carol at her Walking the Country event