11 Stories From The River Dyarubbin

11 Stories from the river Dyarubbin is a series of 11 audio walks sharing stories of the river at the places where they happened : streamable from your mobile phone at 11 public locations along Dyarubbin / the Hawkesbury River between Yarramundi and Sackville, or streamable from where you are.

Underscored by original music, the audio walks share stories of the history of Dyarubbin’s first people, the Dharug, colonial contact, settlement and frontier violence, floods and farming, geology, ecology and sustainability, told by over 100 participants.

11 Stories From the River Dyarubbin is a collaborative public art work led by composer/ producer Oonagh Sherrard with Hawkesbury Regional Museum, Darug Custodian Aboriginal Corporation, Western Sydney University Sustainable Futures and Hawkesbury Historical Society.

The project has been created with support from the NSW Government through Create NSW, Museums and Galleries NSW and assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its Arts funding and advisory body.

Leanne Mulgo Watson, Marri Badu Muru – Big Water Path, Acrylic paint and ink on canvas, 2022


Howe and Deerubbin Parks Audio Walk - Balga - Ngurrang / Windsor

Listen: to stories of  Dyarubbin / The Hawkesbury River; the history, ecology and culture of this place and original music inspired by them as you walk along the river.

Stories of the Dharug people and the survival of Dharug culture, bush regeneration, recurrent floods, river crossings, settlers, farming, boat building, frontier violence, the bridge protest, sand mining, riverbank ecology, and the beautiful mathematics of rivers.


Starting on the Balga, the hill on Thompson Square, you will walk down to the wharf via the viewing platform, then back along the riverside path through Howe Park, across Rickaby’s Creek into Deerubbin Park then return to the Museum.

Narrated by:

Rhiannon Wright, Dharug educator

Stories told (in order of appearance) by:

  • Erin Wilkins, Dharug educator
  • Leanne Mulgo Watson, Dharug artist
  • Jasmine Seymour, Dharug artist, writer and educator
  • Children form Windsor Public School, years 5 & 6 2019
  • Ted Books, Hawkesbury local, former Hawkesbury Councillor and descendant of John Grono
  • Kate Mackaness, Community Action For Windsor Bridge
  • Grace Karskens, Emeritus Professor of History at UNSW and author of “People of the River"
  • Martin Gauci, Community Bushcare Officer, Hawkesbury City Council
  • Tom Hubble, Associate Professor of Geology, University of Sydney
  • Jen Dollin, Head of Sustainability Education, Western Sydney University
  • Sharon Lamb, Hawkesbury local and descendant of Henry Kable
  • Sue Cusbert, Technical Officer, Western Sydney University
  • Ron Males, Hawkesbury local
  • Jan Barkley-Jack, Historian and author of "Hawkesbury Settlement Revealed”
  • Children from Windsor South Public School’s Dharug language class 2021
  • Bruce Gardiner, Cornwallis farmer (from an archival interview recorded in 1984 for the On the Record Project, Courtesy of Hawkesbury Voices, Hawkesbury Library Service.)
  • Kirstie Fryirs, Professor, School of Natural Sciences, Macquarie University

Readings by

Ian Moxon, from:

  • The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser Jun16 1864, Edward Knapp – (description of flood )
  • Sydney Gazette 6 Aug 1809  - (description of flood)
  • Sydney Gazette 1802 – (description of woman “rescued” by Rickerby)
  • IIlustrated Sydney News 16 jul 1867 – (account from Eather family)


  • Marri Badu Muru by Leanne Mulgo Watson
  • Wiyanga Badu by Leanne Mulgo Watson


Written by Oonagh Sherrard with oversight from Dharug Custodians Jasmine Seymour and Rhiannon Wright and Historian Jan Barkley-Jack.

Music: “11 Stories from the River Dyarubbin”

Composed by Oonagh Sherrard, with Dharug songs by Jasmine Seymour and Stacy Jane Etal.

Musicians: Dimitri Vouros: Clarinet, Gary Daley: piano accordion, Jess Ciampa : percussion, Jasmine Seymour and Stacy Jane Etal : vocals, Oonagh Sherrard : guitar/cello/piano/programming

Recorded by Oonagh Sherrard at Wheeny Creek Studios, Andrei Shabunov at ABC Ultimo and Craig Field at Underwood Studios.

image © Oonagh Sherrard


Image © Amber Sherrard

Sarah Rhodes, Lyndal Irons, Robbie Dunn, Amber Sherrard, Oonagh Sherrard

Archival images courtesy of Ted Books, Hawkesbury Library Service and the State Library of NSW.

Feedback: Please email  feedback or comments 11storiesfromtheriver@gmail.com


I was born and have lived most of my life in the embrace of this ancient river.

“the river is our life blood” Erin Wilkins, Darug educator

11 Stories from the river Dyarubbin is an offering to this river Country that is my home. It seeks to bring to light the rivers underbelly – her stories, moves, and generosity…to inspire better relationships between people and place, to invite listeners to better know and understand Dyarubbin and the people who have cared for this Country for at least 60 000 years. The stories are all around us, the river’s history tells this story clearly, Aboriginal people continue to shine a light on what true custodianship of Country looks like.

“Ngara badu – listen to the water” Jasmine Seymour

It would not have been possible without the generous support and collaboration of Hawkesbury Regional Museum’s Kath Von Witt and Elissa Blair, Darug Custodians Leanne Watson, Erin Wilkins, Jasmine Seymour and Rhiannon Wright, Hawkesbury Historical Society & their President and historian Jan Barkley-Jack, Western Sydney University scientists Jen Dollin, Ian Wright, Michelle Ryan and Basant Maheswari, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of NSW Grace Karskens and the gift of Dharug and Darkinjung place names that her research brought to light and all the interviewees, children and artists who have shared their love of this wonderful place. Thanks also to Hawkesbury Environment Network, Windsor Public, Windsor South Public and Windsor High Schools, Hawkesbury Independent School and Brewongle Environmental Education Centre.

And to my family who lost me for a time to the river….thank you. Marri Didyarigura.

Oonagh Sherrard, composer and producer, May 2022

image © Sarah Rhodes

Further Information

Information, understanding and inspiration has been sought from the following sources:

  • Karskens Grace, Watson Edna, Watson Leanne, Seymour Jasmine, Wilkins Erin, Laws Cindy, Wright Rhiannon Dyarubbin : Aboriginal history, culture and stories of the Hawkesbury River, New South Wales online StoryMap 2021
  • Karskens Grace The Colony: A history of Early SydneyAllen and Unwin 2010
  • Karskens Grace People of the River : Lost Worlds of Early AustraliaAllen and Unwin 2020
  • Barkley-Jack Jan Hawkesbury Settlement Revealed: A New Look at Australia’s Third Mainland Settlement 1793-1802Rosenberg 2009
  • Boon Paul The Hawkesbury River : A Social and Natural HistoryCSIRO 2017
  • Rosen Sue Losing ground: An environmental history of the Hawkesbury-Nepean Catchment ‎ Hale & Iremonger 1995
  • The Improvers Legacy: Environmental Studies of the Hawkesbury edited by Jocelyn Powell Deerubbin Press 1998
  • Jones Gil Powers of Nature Bulga Books 2018
  • Jones Gil Bulga Bala Boree Bulga Books 2017
  • Jones Gil Wasteland Wilderness Wonderland Blue Mountains Education and Research trust 2013
  • Watson Leanne and Seymour Jasmine: Cooee Mittigar: A story on Darug Songlines Magabala Books2019
  • Cross Currents: Historical Studies of the Hawkesburyedited by J P Powell, Deerubbin Press 1997
  • Brook Jack Shut Out From the World : Hawkesbury Aboriginal Reserve and Mission 1889-1946 Deerubbin Press 1999
  • Pascoe Bruce Dark Emu : Aboriginal Australia and the Birth of Agriculture Magabala Books 2018
  • Clendinnen Inga Dancing With Strangers: The True History of the Meeting of the British First Fleet and the Aboriginal Australians, 1788 Canongate 2006
  • Barkley-Jack J and Nichols M Hawkesbury 1794-1994 :the first two hundred years of the second colonisation Hawkesbury City Council 1994
  • Ford G.E, Darkiñung Recognition : An Analysis of the Historiography for the Aborigines
    from the Hawkesbury-Hunter Ranges to the Northwest of Sydney , Research Thesis, university of Sydney 2010
  • Elder, Bruce Blood on the Wattle :Massacres and Maltreatment of Aboriginal Australians since 1788 New Holland 2003
  • Connor John Australian Frontier Wars, 1788-1838 New Holland Publishing 2002
  • Turbert Peter The First Frontier: The Occupation of the Sydney Region 1788-1816 Rosenberg 2011
  • Tench Watkins A Complete account of the Settlement at Port Jackson
  • Collins David An account of the English Colony in NSW
  • Gow Rod and Wendy Hawkesbury District: Chronicles of the 1880sself published 2008
  • Jack Ian Exploring the Hawkesbury Kangaroo Press 1986
  • Nichols Michelle Disastrous Decade: flood and fire in Windsor 1864-1874 Deerubbin Press 2001
  • Purtell Jean The Mosquito Fleet : Hawkesbury River Trade and Traders 1794-1994 Deerubbin Press 1995
  • Hughes, Lewis Floods, Flutters and Butchers in Boats : The History of The Water Brigades and Flood Rescue In New South Wales Since 1870 self published 1998
  • Bowd D.G. Hawkesbury Journey Library of Australian History 1986
  • A Colonial scene : the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley edited by R. Ian Jack University of Sydney 1980
  • Josephson, J.P. History of floods in the Hawkesbury River Thomas Richards 1886
  • Hawkesbury River History : Governor Phillip, exploration, and early settlement / edited by Jocelyn Powell and Lorraine Banks Dharug and lower Hawkesbury Historical Society 1990
  • River Meanders-Theory of Minimum Variance,by W Langbein and L Leopold Physiolgraphic and Hydraulic Studies of Rivers, Geological Survey Professional Paper 422H, 1966
  • History of Our Association and A history of turf growing in the Hawkesbury NSW Turf Growers Association Website.


11 Stories From the River Dyarubbin acknowledges the Dharug and Darkinjung peoples as the Traditional Custodians of Country on which the project has its home and recognises their continuing connection to Country, Culture and Community.

We offer our deepest respect to elders past, present and emerging and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today. Sovereignty has never been ceded. It always was and always will be, Aboriginal land.

We recognise the past atrocities against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of this land and that Australia was founded on the genocide and dispossession of First Nations people. We acknowledge that colonial structures and policies remain in place today and recognise the ongoing struggles of First Nations people in dismantling those structures. The struggle to seek justice, to acknowledge and address this nation’s past is ongoing and is a necessary requirement for individual and collective healing process.

Yanmawu gulbanga Dharug yura budyari gumadawa ngubadygu

We walk with and respect/support Dharug people in good spirit, towards lateral love.

Image © Robbie Dunn

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