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Walk in the Royal – home to first environmental protest

Blog post by Senator Lee Rhiannon

I joined friends for one of my favourite bushwalks today, to Figure Eight Pools in Royal National Park. The spring flowers were beautiful with a few treats I had not seen before. The native geranium was flowering right down to the edge of the rocky walk along the coast, sometimes within a few metres of the waves. 

It was a good walk for bird watching too. As we ducked under a clump of coastal banksias at Burning Palms there was screeching and flapping just overhead. We had disturbed, at close quarters, a large flock of yellow tailed black cockatoos.

The Park was in all its glory today. The view from the saddle ridge between Era and Burning Palms that provides sweeping views down to Wollongong was glorious.

There is a great group, First National Park, working hard to win World Heritage listing for this park. 

The comments of Dr Mosley, an expert in national parks, who is advising First National Park on how to obtain this listening, are interesting. He has said that the Park’s magnificent “stand alone” features should qualify it for world heritage standing but suggests the application also detail the “cultural landscapes”. 

It would be excellent to win recognition that also covers the rich Aboriginal and European history. Royal is one of the oldest national parks in the world. It is wholly contained within a city, has many Aboriginal sites and has been used by the military, for mining activities and probably saw the first action for nature conservation.

I was fascinated to read about these protests early last century against logging in areas adjacent to the Park that I understand have since been included in the Royal. Sutherland Shire Council’s Report “Port Hacking – Past and Present” (page 29) details that “the trustees and conservationists fell into dispute in 1922 as a result of logging for mine pit props”. 

The mines south of the park around the Illawarra escarpment were probably the ones referred to here. 

The historical significance of this battle was noted in an article I am trying to track down. In 1985 B. Slade wrote in Geo: Australia’s Geographical Magazine titled "The People in a People's Park", The dispute is of historical importance because it marks the first major conservation battle fought in Australia, and demonstrates the influence the new conservation groups had gained. It not only produced government intervention, but had the wider impact of altering government attitudes towards nature generally.

It is a buzz that this stunning park with its sandstone beauty and rich natural diversity is also home to this bit of our history.

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