Chapter 21: Aboriginal heritage

21.2 Existing environment

21.2.1 Landscape context

The project footprint is partly located within the Cumberland Plain, a large topographic feature that lies at a relatively low elevation within the Sydney Basin. Historically, land use activities within the area have primarily included residential and industrial development. The majority of the ground surface of the project footprint comprises bitumen roads, buildings and concrete. A significant portion of the project footprint is also within disturbed terrain, being an area that has been impacted by past development or other human activity (Australian Soil Classification Soil Type map of NSW (OEH
2014)). Disturbed terrain is largely concentrated within the Rozelle Rail Yards and along watercourses in the project footprint.
Natural geological formations in the project footprint include the Ashfield Shale component of the Middle Triassic Wianamatta Group and the Hawkesbury Sandstone, also of Middle Triassic era. The majority of the project footprint is underlain by the Blacktown and Gymea soil landscapes, characterised by low hills and undulating to rolling rises. A small area of land adjacent to Iron Cove Bridge in Rozelle forms part of the Hawkesbury soil landscape. It is possible that outcrops of sandstone occurring within the AHIMS search area could have been utilised for the sharpening of edge-ground hatchets and spears (resulting in grinding grooves) as well as the production of engraved artwork. There are no known stone deposits with materials suitable for flaked stone artefact manufacture within or immediately surrounding the project footprint.

The project footprint also includes the highly disturbed Rozelle Rail Yards. This area has been subject to extensive disturbance from past activities including extensive quarrying of sandstone outcrops, excavation and levelling of soil and the installation of rail and supporting infrastructure. As a result of this past disturbance, the Rozelle Rail Yards have been classified as disturbed terrain.

Parts of the project footprint are located close to Rozelle Bay and Iron Cove, both of which would have provided a range of marine resources in the past. Other watercourses within proximity of the project footprint include Whites Creek, Johnstons Creek, Hawthorne Canal (formerly Long Cove Creek), Dobroyd Canal (Iron Cove Creek) and Alexandra Canal (formerly Sheas Creek). It is likely that the project footprint and local surroundings would have been well resourced in the past, in terms of both freshwater and marine resources. However, deposits associated with Aboriginal use of these aquatic features within the project footprint are unlikely to have survived due to historical land use activities such as the channelisation of natural waterways and bank stabilisation works.

Urban development for roads and residential areas has resulted in a high level of disturbance throughout the project footprint. This has included extensive vegetation clearance, landscape modification, road development and the installation of related infrastructure. The level of disturbance means that any Aboriginal deposits that were present are likely to have been destroyed.

21.2.2 Ethnographic and archaeological context

The project footprint falls within the boundaries of the Darug (also spelt Dhaŕ-rook, Dharrook,Dhaŕook, Dharruk and Dharug) linguistic group, which is known to have stretched from the Hawkesbury River in the north to Appin in the south, and west from the east coast across the Cumberland Plain into the Blue Mountains.

Available historic records indicate that the Darug-speaking peoples utilised a wide range of marine, freshwater, terrestrial and avian fauna for food. In coastal areas, marine resources (including fish and shellfish) were exploited, whereas further inland, land animals were hunted and eaten (including kangaroos, wallabies, possums, gliders and fruit bats).

The distribution of Aboriginal occupation across the Cumberland Plain has been linked to a variety of environmental factors, with proximity to water, stream order, landform and geology all key determinants. Most surface sites occur on land within 200 metres of a watercourse, with larger, more complex artefact assemblages associated with higher order streams.

Rockshelters appear to have been widely utilised by Darug-speaking peoples in coastal areas at the time of European contact. Generally, existing data suggests that dominant site types for this region include rockshelters, artefact scatters and isolated artefacts, with middens present in the coastal areas further north. Artefact distributions do not form specific ‘sites’, but rather ’landscapes’.

21.2.3 Database searches

Aboriginal Heritage Information Management System

A total of 49 AHIMS sites were identified within the search area. These sites are predominantly located in coastal fringe areas and were most commonly midden and rockshelter sites. The search results identified that there are no recorded sites within the project footprint. One AHIMS site was identified adjacent to the project footprint, around 50 metres north of the Rozelle Rail Yards. This site is Lilyfield Cave (site #45-6-2278) and is a rockshelter with midden.

A summary of the AHIMS sites identified within proximity of the project footprint is provided in Table 21-3 and shown in Table 21-3.

Local environmental plans

A search of Schedule 5 of the relevant LEPs for environmental heritage items (see Table 21-2) identified the following:

  • No Aboriginal sites were listed on the Ashfield LEP 2013 or the Sydney LEP 2012
  • Four Aboriginal midden and rockshelter sites were identified on the Leichhardt LEP 2013 in thesuburb of Birchgrove (one on Louisa Road and three on Numa Street), but are located more than 1.5 kilometres away from the project footprint, north of the Rozelle Rail Yards and would not be impacted by the project
  • One listed item was identified on the Marrickville LEP 2011. Kendrick Park contains a shell midden, however this is located more than 2.5 kilometres away from the project footprint, southwest of the St Peters interchange.

It was concluded that there were no Aboriginal items listed in any relevant LEPs that would be subject to either direct or indirect impacts from the project. There is a shell midden (currently unregistered) at Timbrell Park, Five Dock, around 300 metres northeast of the Wattle Street interchange. No impacts are currently proposed in this area and no direct or indirect impacts on this midden site are expected.

21.2.4 Aboriginal site observations

Based on the landscape and archaeology context of the project footprint, the following observations regarding the potential for Aboriginal items and/or objects to be present within the project footprint have been made:

  • If Aboriginal shell middens were present, they would be most likely to occur in tidal estuarine foreshore zones (within 10 metres of high water level) including areas adjacent to Rozelle Bay, Iron Cove, Whites Creek, Johnstons Creek, Hawthorne Canal (formerly Long Cove Creek) and Alexandra Canal (formerly Sheas Creek). However, it is unlikely that any shell midden sites remain in the project footprint given the high level of disturbance of those areas from activities including vegetation clearance, landscape modification, channelising of creek channels and road development
  • Rockshelters are a common site type in the wider region and could occur in areas where in-situ natural overhangs have survived
  • Aboriginal archaeological sites are highly unlikely to occur in areas previously subject to high levels of landscape modification and disturbance resulting from waterway channelisation, land reclamation and urban development.

21.2.5 Survey results

No surface expressions of Aboriginal objects or places were identified within the project footprint during the field surveys. In addition, the MLALC Aboriginal Sites Officer did not identify any specific areas of Aboriginal cultural attachment or intangible cultural heritage values within the project footprint.

As previously noted, most surface sites would occur on land within 200 metres of a watercourse. Within the project footprint, these areas would include Rozelle Bay, Iron Cove, Whites Creek, Johnstons Creek, Hawthorne Canal (formerly Long Cove Creek) and Alexandra Canal (formerly Sheas Creek). All inspected waterways within proximity to the project footprint were generally highly modified from their natural state, currently comprising concrete-lined, channelised open drains and subsurface piped drains.
At Whites Creek, outcropping sandstone bedrock was identified to the south of the shared path linking Railway Parade to The Crescent at Annandale, occurring on a short but relatively steep side slope below the Rozelle Bay light rail stop. This location is shown in Figure 21-2. No grinding grooves or pigment/engraved art were noted on exposed portions of the bedrock during the survey. The area surrounding Whites Creek has been largely modified through concrete channelisation and associated earthworks and landscaping, creek bank modification and the installation of park benches and
telephone poles.

There are no Aboriginal objects/places/areas of cultural sensitivity at other areas of surface disturbance within the project footprint including Wattle Street at Haberfield; Darley Road at Leichhardt; the Rozelle Rail Yards, City West Link and The Crescent at Rozelle and Annandale; Victoria Road (near the eastern abutment of Iron Cove Bridge) at Rozelle; Pyrmont Bridge Road at Annandale; and Campbell Road at St Peters.

The potential for subsurface Aboriginal archaeology is also considered negligible given the areas of previous disturbance in the study area and the nature of the soils underlying the Rozelle Rail Yards (ie disturbed terrain).

Figure 21-2 Sandstone outcrop at Whites Creek to the south of the shared path linking Railway Parade to The Crescent at Annandale

21.3 Assessment of potential impacts

No surface expressions of Aboriginal objects or places were identified within the project footprint. Aboriginal deposits are shallow and usually occur within the top 20 centimetres of the ground surface in environments such as the project footprint. The terrain within the project footprint is highly disturbed and is unlikely to contain unidentified Aboriginal archaeological objects in either a surface or subsurface context. Waterways close to the project footprint (typically the most sensitive
archaeological locations) were identified during the field survey as being highly modified from their natural state. These include Rozelle Bay, Iron Cove, Whites Creek, Johnstons Creek, Hawthorne Canal (formerly Long Cove Creek) and Alexandra Canal (formerly Sheas Creek).

Excavation associated with underground tunnelling would be required in the general area beneath registered AHIMS site #45-6-2278. Therefore, there is potential for the site to be indirectly impacted from vibration and settlement. The noise and vibration assessment carried out for the project identified vibration criteria to be applied to certain structures in accordance with the guideline DIN 4150: Part 3-1999 Structural vibration  – Effects of vibration on structures (Deutsches Institute fur Normung 1999) (SLR 2017). The guideline identifies the minimum ’safe limit’ of peak vibration levels
for heritage structures is at three millimetres per second. AHIMS site #45-6-2278 is located outside the minimum safe working distance for vibration intensive plant associated with the mainline tunnel works, with vibration impacts associated with tunnelling works expected to be negligible (refer to Appendix J (Technical working paper: Noise and vibration)).

As the degree of movement experienced by a structure is dependent on its foundation type and how a structure responds to ground movements depends on its size, design and materials, ongoing observation and monitoring is recommended during construction. The site has not been accessed at part of this assessment due to its location within private property, and it is therefore recommended that its current condition is to be confirmed with a site survey during detailed design if possible (see
section 21.4).

A series of exposed sandstone benches were identified adjacent to Whites Creek and to the north of Railway Parade at Annandale; however, no engravings, pigment art or any other signs of cultural use and/or modification were identified during the visual inspection (see Figure 21-2).

As no AHIMS registered Aboriginal sites occur within the areas of surface disturbance within the project footprint, none would be either directly or indirectly impacted by the project (see Figure 21-2). As no Aboriginal sites or areas of potential were identified for impacts, no recommendations for the
project were provided by MLALC.

Based on the results of the Aboriginal heritage assessment, impacts on identified objects or places of Aboriginal heritage are considered unlikely. No known, potential or intangible cultural heritage values were identified within the project footprint. No known places of Aboriginal cultural heritage significance would be impacted by the project, and no known archaeological remains would be disturbed. Indirect impacts, such as those resulting from vibration during construction and settlement during operation, are also not anticipated or are considered to be negligible. Therefore, impacts on Aboriginal heritage would be avoided and no further assessment is required.

An assessment of potential cumulative impacts on Aboriginal heritage is provided in Chapter 26 (Cumulative impacts).

21.4 Environmental management measures

The project is not anticipated to have any impact on identified Aboriginal objects or places of Aboriginal heritage significance. Mitigation and management measures would be implemented to avoid, minimise or mitigate impacts on unidentified Aboriginal heritage objects or places. These mitigation and management measures are outlined in Table 21-4.

Table 21-4 Environmental management measures – Aboriginal heritage
Impacts on unexpected finds of Aboriginal objects
AH1 Any items of potential Aboriginal archaeological or cultural heritage conservation significance or human remains discovered during construction will be managed in accordance with the Unexpected Heritage Finds and Humans Remains Procedure developed for the project.

Vibration impacts on Aboriginal items
AH2 Subject to gaining access from the relevant landholder, a suitably qualified archaeologist would visit AHIMS site #45-6-2278 prior to the commencement of any vibration intensive construction activities in the vicinity of the site to verify the site to confirm and record its current condition.

AH3 If the AHIMS site #45-6-2278 is verified, an assessment will be completed by a suitably qualified and experienced person prior to the commencement of any vibration intensive construction activities in the vicinity. The assessment will consider all vibration intensive activities that will occur in the vicinity, the likely vibration levels and relevant vibration criteria and identify the management measures, including monitoring, that will be implemented to prevent and reduce potential impacts. A final condition assessment will be carried out at the completion of construction detailing recommendations for remediation measures if required.