About Lane Cove

Colour children's area in St Leonards Library. There are shelves with picture books and colourful ottomans to sit on.

The Municipality of Lane Cove is just over 10 square kilometres in size and is bounded by Lane Cove River, the Pacific Highway, Mowbray and Epping Roads.

Aboriginal Heritage


In the spirit of reconciliation Lane Cove Council acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the Land, the Cameraygal people. We pay our respects to Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.

What council is doing?

  • The Aboriginal Flag is flown at all times outside Council's Civic Centre
  • The Aboriginal Flag is flown in the Council Chambers
  • Acknowledgment of Country given at the beginning of events and Council meetings
  • Harmony Day - 21 March – a range of cultural activities are organised to encourage tolerance between all Australians regardless of their heritage or cultural background
  • Fallen Aboriginal soldiers remembered in the ANZAC Day Ceremony
  • National Reconciliation Week (http://www.reconciliation.org.au/nrw/, from 26 June – 3 July, is included in the Gai-mariagal Festival
  • NAIDOC Week, (http://www.naidoc.org.au/) the first full week in July celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and culture – these events are included in Gai-mariagal Festival
  • Bush Regeneration Program – The program is an ongoing weekly activity run collaboratively with the Tribal Warrior where Aboriginal mentees work on Council's bush regeneration program with a view to training and employment
  • Ongoing commitment to provide funds to support the Aboriginal Heritage Office    

The Aboriginal Heritage Office

The Aboriginal Heritage Office is a joint initiative by Lane Cove, North Sydney, Ku-ring-gai, Northern Beaches, Willoughby and Strathfield Councils, in a progressive move to protect Aboriginal Heritage in these areas.

The role of the Aboriginal Heritage Office is to:

  • monitor the Aboriginal Sites in these Council areas on a day to day basis and develop long term management reports to ensure their preservation and protection.
  • give the Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people involved with these Council areas an avenue of approach to discuss issues or concerns they may have.
  • communicate with schools and other groups and teach children a deeper understanding of the unique culture of Aboriginal people.
  • in association with the local councils, conduct talks, walks and activities to enhance appreciation of Aboriginal culture in the wider community.

A selection of information leaflets on various Aboriginal Heritage topics are available to download from the Aboriginal Heritage website and include topics such as 'Aboriginal Site Awareness' and 'Bush Regeneration and Aboriginal Sites'

Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council

Lane Cove Council has signed a 'Principles of Cooperation' agreement with the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council which outlines a range of guidelines for government departments that provide services to the Aboriginal community.

Aboriginal History in "Brief"

For thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Lane Cove area was home to the Cameraygal people. Living primarily along the foreshores of the harbour, they fished and hunted in the waters and hinterlands of the area, and harvested food from the surrounding bush.  Moving throughout their country in accordance with the seasons, Aboriginal people spent only 4-5 hours per day working to ensure their survival.  With such a large amount of leisure time available, they developed a rich and complex ritual life -- language, customs, spirituality, and law -- the heart of which was connection to Land.

The arrival of Lt James Cook in 1770 marked the beginning of the end for this ancient way of life. Because the vast majority of clans living in the Sydney Basin were killed as a result of the 1788 invasion, the stories of the land have been lost forever.  Much of what we do know about the Cameraygal people must be gleaned from their archaeological remains.  Middens, shelters, engravings, art remnants of indigenous life are prolific throughout the region, but no one remains to reveal their particular meanings or ancient significance.  No one remains to bring this archaeology truly alive.

Aboriginal Sites

The Sydney Basin is one of the richest provinces in Australia in terms of Aboriginal archaeological sites, comparable even to Kakadu National Park.  In the Sydney metropolitan area there are approximately 4,500 Aboriginal Sites registered by NPWS, which is only a small portion of what once existed here.  More than half of these sites contain rock art, and in Sydney’s sandstone belt at least 1,500 rockshelters have been discovered to contain cultural deposit. 

Physical evidence of occupation of the Sydney area dates on the coast from around 7,000 years ago at the Prince of Wales Hospital Site. Older sites would have been submerged as the sea level rose following the last ice age (around 20,000 years ago) and stabilised to its current level only 6,000 years ago.  Hundreds of shell middens have been recorded along the coast and estuaries.

Aboriginal Sites in Lane Cove Council Area

Aboriginal sites are a very important factor in Aboriginal culture today, and just as important to the broader community.  There are a significant number of sites in the Lane Cove Council area and while most of these sites have been recorded, there are likely to be many more that have yet to be identified.  All Aboriginal sites have legal protection under both state and federal law.

These sites are under threat every day from development, vandalism and natural erosion.  The sites cannot be replaced and once they are destroyed, they are gone forever.  The sites that are located in Lane Cove Council area are still in reasonable condition and hold an important part in our history. 

Areas with Potential for Aboriginal Sites

In addition to according protection to sites that are known and registered, the law protects sites not yet revealed.  Although Lane Cove LGA is highly developed, there are areas that still hold great potential for uncovering further archaeological evidence of residence, including bush land, residential areas, as well as some commercial areas. 

Council is responsible for protecting known sites and for implementing planning mechanisms that account for the possibility of uncovering sites. Educating Council staff, contractors, bush care volunteers, and the public about the identification of sites and the landscapes in which they generally occur, as well as how to proceed should such a site be discovered, are essential measures.

Find out more about local Aboriginal history at the Aboriginal Heritage Office website: www.aboriginalheritage.org.

A Brief History of Lane Cove

The area which is now Lane Cove was originally inhabited by the Cam-mer-ray-gal Group of the Ku-ring-gai Aboriginal Tribe. The group, which inhabited the north shore of Port Jackson, was one of the largest in the Sydney area.

The first recorded landing of a white man occurred in 1788, when Lieutenant Henry Ball crossed the Greenwich Peninsula on return from a trip to Middle Harbour. Lieutenant Ralph Clark landed not far from the entrance to the Lane Cove River on 14 February 1790.

The first written use of the name Lane Cove occurred on 2 February 1788, shortly after the arrival of the First Fleet in Port Jackson. Lieutenant William Bradley, while surveying, referred to the river into which he sailed by this name. Several possibilities for the origin of the name have been suggested, but none have been supported by written evidence. One suggestion was that it was named after Lieutenant Michael Lane, a respected cartographer, who worked with Captain James Cook in Canadian waters. The other possibility is that the name was bestowed in honour of John Lane, son of the Lord Mayor of London, and a good friend of Governor Arthur Phillip.

During much of the nineteenth century the name Lane Cove referred to a much larger area than the Municipality of Lane Cove. The current suburb of Lane Cove was more commonly known as Longueville.

The first land grants in the present area of Lane Cove were made in 1794, the majority going to privates and non-commissioned officers in the New South Wales Corp. Many of these grants were never settled by the owners, being exchanged for land elsewhere, sold or cancelled. For those who attempted to settle, life was not easy. Much of the area was steep, heavily timbered, with poor, rocky soil and few roads. The settlers were plagued with bushrangers and bushfires.

From the earliest days of settlement, Lane Cove was an important source of timber for house and ship building, of grass for animal fodder, and of shells which were burnt to produce lime for building. Throughout the 19th century, farms and dairies were established.

One of the earliest manufacturing industries was Rupert Kirk's soap and candle factory, established in 1831, in what is now Longueville. Later factories established included the Ludowici and Radke tanneries in Burns Bay in the 1860s and the Phoenix and Sydney Potteries late in the century (operated adjacent to the site now known as Pottery Green). These were followed by the boiling down works of the Charlish and Whatmore families in West Lane Cove, and the Australian Woodpipe Company in Burns Bay in 1912.

The Chicago Cornflour Factory was opened on the Lane Cove River near Stringybark Creek in 1894, to be followed by the Cumberland Paper Mill in 1912. After the almost complete demolition of the latter plant in a fire in 1928, the site was used for a chemicals manufacturing plant, owned firstly by Robert Corbett and Sons, and later by CSR Chemicals. The largest industrial complex was the Shell Company of Australia's distribution and storage depot at Greenwich. It was started in 1903 as John Fell and Company Ltd, oil refiners, blenders and distributors and the Gore Bay Terminal is currently operated by Viva Energy Australia.

In 1909 the North Sydney electric tramway service was extended from Gore Hill to a Lane Cove terminus, near Longueville and Burns Bay Roads. From this time the name Lane Cove came in to common use for the local area.Many residential subdivisions followed during the early part of the twentieth century, bringing a change to the district from its dairying and rural orgins.

Local government in its present form did not extend north of the harbour until 1865, when an area of the North Shore, including the present municipality of Lane Cove, was proclaimed the Borough of North Willoughby. There were no wards until 1876, when Lane Cove formed part of the Lane Cove River Ward. After a petition from ratepayers of the area, the Governor proclaimed the Borough of Lane Cove a municipality in its own right in February 1895.

Extracted from A brief history of Lane Cove by Judy Washington (revised 2023).