Tuesday, 22 October 2019
Manly Warringah War Memorial Park
Sydney's Kakadu, an urban arc, a vital green lung of Sydney: all of these phrases have been used over the years to describe the natural beauty of the Manly Warringah War Memorial Park, known locally to us simply as Manly Dam. Located among the suburbs Manly Vale, North Balgowlah, Allambie Heights and Frenches Forest, this beautiful area of dense bushland and tranquil waters is cherished by locals and visitors alike. It's a place where Aboriginal dreaming and European heritage combine, where a diversity of flora and fauna thrive and where generations of families have spent hours picnicking, swimming, hiking, kayaking, waterskiing, bike riding and playing, connecting to each other and nature. The sense of tranquillity and connection to nature clearly dates back to the Dreamtime, as throughout the park there is evidence of Aboriginal campsites, artefacts and rock art, which pay homage to the creation story of Sydney watercourses. I take this opportunity to thank the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council and the local Aboriginal Heritage Office for their efforts in not only identifying and protecting these sacred sites but for educating us in the local community about their cultural significance and importance.
After tens of thousands of years of undisturbed peace, these beautiful areas underwent a radical transformation over the last 150 years. Like most parts of colonial Sydney, the catchment area quickly became populated. In 1892, Curl Curl Creek was dammed to create a reservoir to provide a permanent supply of fresh water to the nearby village of Manly. Over subsequent years the dam wall was raised so that the reservoir could supply neighbouring suburbs, eventually all the way up the coastal strip as far north as Mona Vale. As the population grew, the dam's capacity became insufficient and pumping from the dam ceased in 1933. For visitors to the park today, when looking at a fairly bland concrete dam wall it's easy to forget the engineering significance it represented and the importance it played to those early settlers in Manly Warringah. The significance was recognised in November 1999 when that bland concrete wall was listed on the State Heritage Register for its role in the development of Sydney's water supply. This engineering feat is just one of the threads that combine to weave a rich tapestry of history at Manly Dam.
For many locals, the fondness they feel for the area derives from the fact that the park is one of the only living, breathing war memorials in Australia. The area around Manly Dam was established as a war memorial park after World War I, when a committee of ex-servicemen were given the responsibility of managing the bushland catchment. To this day, the Manly Warringah War Memorial Park Reserve Trust continues that tradition of custodianship. I thank the former and current members of the trust for their dedication and their service in organising the various commemorations that take place at this important site, in particular the Anzac Day dawn service, when every year a quiet and respectful crowd gathers on the water's edge to remember all who served. In a deeply moving ceremony, the park provides a special sense of peace and reflection.
The park has become a community gathering point and the focus of much activity. As one of the only freshwater swimming holes in Sydney, it is a popular place of recreation. With that, of course, comes the danger of the park being loved to death. It is a delicate balance to manage human impact and environmental protection. On that front, I must commend the work of the Northern Beaches Council for their efforts to maintain this balance, but also the various volunteer groups who dedicate their time, energy and resources to ensuring the park is maintained and enhanced for all inhabitants. By this, I also refer to the wide variety of native wildlife that call Manly Dam home. More than 80 species of birds have been recorded in the park, and in the waterways several species of frogs can be found, including the common eastern froglet and the threatened red-crowned toadlet. Native fish include species such as the climbing galaxias, which can climb up wet rock faces and cliffs and can breathe through its skin. It has lived in the area for an estimated 60 million years.
The park has great educational relevance for local primary and secondary schools and universities that use the park to study subjects like ecology, environmental management, water quality, Indigenous heritage and aquatic biology. The biodiversity is breathtaking. I am so pleased that in June this year the Northern Beaches Council voted unanimously to nominate the park for inclusion in the National Heritage List. I thank all the custodians for the amazing gift to future generations.