River History: Feast and Flood at Emu Plains WEA Sydney

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Available Classes

Pre- and post-1788 Emu Plains history could be summarized as “plenty, penal, plenty”. First and second settlers, Darug and then British, learned about the power and bounty of the river, Dyarubbin. There was contact and also conflict between these two wildly different cultures. Using unreliable memoirs, reliable history and graphic materials, students will be prepared for interpreting the structures and landscape on the Emu Plains walk. This session can be taken on its own but is an ideal complement for the walk.


  • Face-to-Face


  • Karskens, G. (2020) People of the River: Lost worlds of early Australia, Allen & Unwin ISBN 9781760292232
  • Ryan, J.T. (1894) Reminiscences of Australia: containing 70 years of his own knowledge and 35 years of his ancestors, George Robertson and Co. ISBN 0959376402
  • Chater Forth, L. (2012) Margaret Catchpole: Her life and her letters, self-published ISBN 9780646565118


  • What can be known about pre-1788 Darug life
  • Flood-plains and colonial settlers
  • How is history written? How accurate is memoir? Toby Ryan, raconteur, MP, bridge-builder, gambler, bankrupt


By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Understand the Hawkesbury-Nepean (Dyarubbin) river system: tributaries, choke points, watershed
  2. Have the background to be able to interpret the Emu Plains walk

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