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Who the aboriginal tribe that occupied Bondi actually were is something of a mystery today.

Some say it was the Biddigal Tribe, commemorated now in the Biddigal Reserve, overlooking the north end of the beach. Others dispute this.

All we know for certain is that aborigines were observed at Bondi when the white man first came, and that they remained in the area for several decades, before being evicted. Their last "stand" was probably on the eastern headland now called Ben Buckler.

Yet they, and their neighbours and ancestors, left their marks on Bondi.

The name Bondi itself is said to be of aboriginal origin, perhaps meaning "the sound of breaking water" (see Why It's Called Bondi).

Under the sand of the famous beach, and its curving esplanade and grassy park, and beneath where Campbell Parade now runs today, lies hidden the reason why millennia of Sydney's aborigines favoured Bondi with their presence...

Thousands upon thousands of ancient flints and the other detritus of what can only be described as an enormous aboriginal "factory".

We know this because early this century one of the severe cyclones that periodically lash the coast of Sydney swept in, driving back the sand dunes behind Bondi and uncovering along the rock-floor a treasure-house of aboriginal artefacts.

Ethnologists from the Australian Museum in Sydney found evidence among the stone implements and flint tools (most of them discarded as "faulty" by their ancient makers) of countless generations' of aboriginal craftsmen using the beach area as a large-scale tool-making facility, using materials chipped and fractured from the volcanic trench and other rocks nearby.

Further evidence that Bondi was a significant aboriginal site is to be found in the rock carvings on what is now Bondi Golf Links. These now sadly eroded carvings depict sharks and other sea creatures, and were clearly a part of the local, pre-1788 aboriginal culture in the Bondi area.

Whether the local aboriginal population actually swam or surfed at Bondi is unknown. They no doubt went into the water to catch fish. However, at least one early observer reported seeing aboriginees in the surf at Bondi in the early 19th century, remarking that if the sharks didn't take them, then perhaps it was safe for Europeans to swim there. Which they eventually did.

 

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