Gosford CBD Project

Project leader: Dr Chris Krogh

The researchers acknowledge the Darkinjung people, the traditional owners of the ancestral lands upon which we work and walk and upon which Gosford CBD now stands.

Gosford is a suburb of the Central Coast Council local government area, located about half way between Newcastle and Sydney. If you have been to Gosford CBD recently, you will have seen that the city is changing. There are old buildings coming down and new ones going up. New businesses are opening and new facilities are being created. These changes are part of a strategic redevelopment involving the Central Coast Council, the NSW Government and the Australian Government, as well as private developers, businesses and community groups. This is all intended to add to the economic and social life of the city.

So far, talk about the redevelopment of Gosford CBD has been focused on the availability of facilities and economic improvement. Now, researchers from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Newcastle want to find out how people are feeling about the changes and how these changes make a difference to people's lives.

The intention is to contribute discipline-specific and analytic thinking about the processes of revitalising, reimagining and remaking Gosford CBD. Undertaking a number of individual and independent projects, our aim is to focus on Gosford CBD’s broad ecological history (physical and social; Indigenous and non-Indigenous), it’s present and future. The project will follow the changes to Gosford CBD over a 15 to 20 year period. This timeline has been chosen because we understand that changes (including those which are felt immediately) will continue to have effects in the longer-term.

Current projects

1. Survey: Gosford CBD Project: Capabilities Approach survey wave 1

The Gosford CBD project will span the next 20 years tracking the changing role of Gosford CBD in people's lives as the city itself changes. This survey provides a baseline - a starting point against which change can be measured - for the longer-term research project. It doesn't look to the past but asks for participant's views about how things are now.

This survey is open to anyone who has a connection to Gosford CBD or the Central Coast. You don't have to live or work in Gosford CBD to participate. The project team are trying to get a broad-cross section of the community involved and we encourage you to share the survey link amongst your family, friends and colleagues, so they can complete the survey too.

The responses to the survey will be analysed using research software and written up into a publicly available research report. The survey closes Monday 14th December 2020.

Start the Gosford CBD Survey

2. Guri gayi wu barayi guri wu ngura (people of country; people of place); stories of contact and invasion on the Central Coast

Introduction to the short film and the project

These thoughts are being written from Darkinung Country; land that rubs shoulders with the Country of the Awaba; the area we now call the Central Coast (of New South Wales). In writing these thoughts, to introduce this project, I pay my respects to the ancient continuity of Elders whose wisdom guides present and future generations in this place. In writing these words, I hope not to lose sight of the area’s first people and that which they held sacred – the kin and relations, the warriors, teachers and carers, the land, water and sky and every living thing they cradle in never-ending cycles across time.

These thoughts, and the project they are linked to, come from wondering, ‘what does it mean to think of this place as Home?’

The Central Coast of NSW is where I have lived the most of my life. If anywhere in this world is Home, this is it. Starting from when I was two, when we left behind the caravan for a newly built house on a newly cleared block on a newly subdivided side of an ancient hill, to when I waved goodbye after high school, this place grew me up. Walking and exploring in the bush at the top of the street, multiple family picnics at Girrakool, fishing in Brisbane Waters, spending teenage years at Wamberal, Spoon Bay, Forresters, Maitland Bay, Here was soaked into my pores. And, like the childhood house that sheltered and nurtured me, Here welcomed me back every time I returned after shorter or longer periods Away.

Away is somewhere I spent a lot of time. It was somewhere I was keen to get as soon as high school was over. It was where I was sure I would find Home, feeling for sure here couldn’t be it. Away is somewhere I never lasted. I don’t know why that is, but I have come to accept that this place is the one that matters most in my life.

Like many a white man, I count my life starting from the moment air flowed into the lungs that I still rely on today. Despite these lungs, and all of me, being a gift from my parents and their parents before them, all the way down a line that continues beyond our seeing, with the genes and the breaths and steps of these people mingling to make every generation a new version of the ancient pattern, they are not counted as part of the lifetime I think of as mine. Similarly, the places where they each grew, and thought of as home, are not my home.

Like many, many, not-of-this-place families, my parents moved from where they started life, to set up a new life and raise us children here. Like my mother’s parents, and their parents before them, work drew them from childhood homes to a new place. Work and children and sport and friends and church and play wove memories that bound them into the fabric of somewhere new. But, I think home was the places that formed them, not the one they adopted for their children’s sake.

When we moved to the Central Coast we didn’t have a thread to follow; no family or community history connecting Us to Here. We didn’t know its stories – those small openings that can offer a doorway for knowing a new place. Everything was taken at face value. I played sports on green fields and didn’t ever think ‘how was this ground used before now?’ I was schooled in brand-new buildings and didn’t ever ask ‘what learning took place here before these buildings went up?’ I walked through the bits of remaining bush and didn’t ever wonder ‘in whose footsteps might I be walking?’ I grew to love this place without realising I heard only the surface layers of its complex music.

Many people love the Central Coast and sing its praises. People value its opportunities, marvel at its beauty, revel in the fun, benefit from the health, pray for a fresh start, hope for a better future, feel relieved by its safety and cherish it as a place for their children to grow. Many of us agree that it is a place full of possibilities. But many of us, I feel, forget that it is also a place where something vital is missing; a place where the flows of the ancient past were dammed and its rivers of history bled almost dry. And we have ignored how that emptying came about. To return some drops of knowledge into those parched streams is what this project has been about.


guri gayi –wu  barayi  guri –wu ngura (people of country; people of place) is a project through which we have started to see our place a little more – to learn about points of contact and invasion on the Central Coast. Led by local Elder Uncle Kevin (Gavi) Duncan, from Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council, the project involved a group of First Nations students from the University of Newcastle and Pymble Ladies’ College visiting sites at the southern end of (what is now called) the Central Coast and hearing stories of contact and resistance in those places. They heard about interactions between black and white as our place was (un)settled, invaded and colonised. Ryan Stewart, history teacher at Pymble Ladies’ College and PhD candidate at the University of Newcastle, interwove a critically analysed colonial historical perspective with Uncle Gavi’s knowledge, to enrich the students’ learning about local places, local people and local history.

The project started after some long conversations with Uncle Gavi, standing in the grounds where the Gosford Anglican Church now stands and thinking about the creeks and streams, now entirely covered over by the city, that ran (and may still run underground) down the hills and into what we now call Brisbane Waters. We imagined the canoes that would once have plied the waters there. This imagining was assisted by The Voyage of Arthur Phillip to Botany Bay, a published account of Arthur Phillip’s earliest activities in Australia. This includes a description of the first journey up to Broken Bay that started on 2nd March 1788, just six weeks after the founding of the colony at Port Jackson.

The project was given the gift of its name by Aunty Bronwyn Chambers, Elder in Residence at the Wollotuka Institute of the University of Newcastle Central Coast campus, who has also contributed ongoing consultation for the project and all other elements of the Gosford CBD Project.

Also from Wollotuka, Tahleigha and Sally provided the most fantastic connection with students and assistance with logistics. This would not have been what it was without them.

Simone Hudson at Gudjagang Ngara Li-dhi Aboriginal Corporation (GNL) generously shared the GNL space for an art workshop and knowledge sharing from Uncle Gavi and Ryan Stewart. Simone connected us with other members of the community and expanded the project’s reach. The workshop was directed by local printmaker Cheryl McCoy whose skilful facilitation and artistry led to the series of prints that accompany the film.

The funds for the project were provided through the Heritage Grants of Central Coast Council.

Imagining the project, and being successful with the funding application, was only possible because of the work of the Gosford CBD Project team. At that time the team was made up of Dr Lyn Hicks, Dr Jennifer Debenham, Dr Michael Kilmister, and Leonie Brann. This group, with varied membership, continues to work on a range of projects to help better understand Gosford CBD and surrounds. Visit the online project page for updates about what the project is doing.

I thank everyone who has contributed to this project so far. The beautiful film made by Ryan Lee captures a moment in time – it presents the structure of the project and reflects some of the learning participants gained. But this is only a start of coming to know our place more deeply. Some of that learning is painful; but that truth is needed for healing. Some of it is complicated; but the uncertainty that complication brings is needed for understanding. As the participants in the film say, learning more about local history adds new layers and depth to belonging in this place.

There are many things I have learned through being involved in this project – much more than I ever imagined I would. I have learned that the names we know this place by, even now, are contested and potentially a point of conflict. The Aboriginal Heritage Office of the northern Sydney councils show well how that uncertainty is a legacy of colonial processes that communities are still being divided by today (see Filling A Void). Also, that our streets and landmarks carry names of people whose fuller stories we haven’t heard, and whose deeds will be uncomfortable to acknowledge, is another example of this complexity of naming and of living here. There are many others. Some additional beginning points you might find useful are:

  • The Wyong Shire-wide heritage review: thematic history, undertaken in 2010 for the Wyong Shire Council and the NSW Heritage Office by David Scobie Architects and historian Nicole Secomb. This document contains a detailed chapter, with extracts of writing from 1828 onwards, about displacement of Darkinjung people across the Central Coast and their active resistance to this.
  • Umillico’s Report to A.I.A.T.S.I.S. Darkinjung: our voices, our place. Published in 2003 through a joint project between University of Newcastle and Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council. This can be found at the University of Newcastle, Central Coast campus library.
  • Aboriginal people of the Central Coast of NSW, edited by F C Bennett, published in 1969 by (jointly) the Brisbane Water Historical Society and The Entrance and Districts Historical Society. This publication made an early attempt to see the local frontier wars from an Aboriginal perspective.

Thank you for visiting our site. Thank you for thinking about these issues and thank you for being willing to learn and to engage more fully with the Central Coast. Please enjoy the film that so much skill, knowledge and good will have gone into making possible.

Video: Central Coast First Contact heritage project
Video: Song: "Walk With Me"

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.