The Hawkesbury River: a Social and Natural History


The Hawkesbury River: a Social and Natural History

Room 1.24 (basement level)
207 Bouverie Street
207 Bouverie Street


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T: 90359781

One way of understanding the natural world is through the data-centric lens of ecology. If humans are taken into account in ecological investigations, we are almost always considered in terms of the effect we have had on biodiversity, on the integrity of ecological processes or, more recently, on the provision of ecosystem services. An alternative, arguably complementary, approach focuses not on quantitative assessments of ecosystems and of the impact that humans have had on the environment, but on how the natural world has affected the beliefs, behaviour and culture of people. The terms 'historical ecology' and 'environmental history' have been used to describe these two practices.

This talk focuses on the Hawkesbury River, the longest coastal river in New South Wales and the river with the longest record of European use of any in Australia (starting in 1794), in terms of its historical ecology and its ecological history. The almost data-free presentation demonstrates the pivotal role the Hawkesbury has played in the Aboriginal and the European history of Australia, in supplying food, as a barrier and a conduit, as a route for invasion, in the election of governments, and as an inspiration for creative folk, especially artists.


  • Professor Paul Boon
    Professor Paul Boon, Honorary Professorial Fellow