Although it is recognised as an important base for military operations, Georges Heights is also known as the site of Bungaree’s Farm, established in 1815.
Georges Heights and Bungaree's Farm
Bungaree’s Farm was established by Governor Lachlan Macquarie as a way of introducing Aboriginal people to European agriculture. 16 Aboriginal men and their families were provided a piece of fertile land each, as well as related farming tools and equipment. They were also given access to the harbour for fishing.
Although Georges Heights is the traditional land of the Borogegal people, the Aboriginal farmers at Bungaree’s Farm originated from Broken Bay. They were led by an Aboriginal man named Bungaree.
It’s not known what the exact boundaries of Bungaree’s Farm were, but it’s likely the location was in the area now occupied by Georges Heights Oval.
The collaboration between Bungaree and Macquarie was recognised as one of the first effective relationships between the colonists and the local Aboriginal people. In fact, Macquarie and Bungaree became close friends and Bungaree accompanied Matthew Flinders on his circumnavigation of the Australian continent in 1802.
Sydney's defence strategy
Years passed and, in 1870, the British Government withdrew its troops from the Australian colonies. The colonies became responsible for their own defence strategy, and the NSW government responded with an “outer line” of defence on Sydney Harbour.
This “outer line” of defence consisted of stations where soldiers could take aim at enemy ships as they entered the harbour. There were a series of these batteries on the outer reaches of the harbour, and, in 1871, construction began on the Georges Head Battery, which consisted of six circular gun pits and associated zig-zag passages and tunnels that led to underground shot magazines.
Post-war military presence
In 1916, the third largest military hospital in Australia was built at Georges Heights (Hospital on the Hill) to accommodate the increasing number of World War I casualties returning from the trenches of the Western Front. The hospital operated until 1921, and many of the timber-framed buildings are still intact today. An exhibition in Building 21 (Ward I) commemorates the medical staff and soldiers who worked and recuperated at the Hospital on the Hill.
When Australia was drawn into World War II, there was another surge of military activity. A submarine net was erected across the harbour between Georges Head and Green Point in 1942, and quick firing guns were set up at Obelisk Point and Georges Head. However, in 1942, Japanese midget submarines penetrated the incomplete defences at Georges Head and raided allied ships that were moored in the harbour.
In the wake of World War II, military activity at Georges Heights did not ebb; rather, it would continue to serve as a defence hub for a further five decades. Notable residents during this period included the Women’s Royal Australian Army Corps, which operated a training centre at Georges Heights from the 1970s until 1984.
Georges Heights today
In 1996, as Defence was planning to vacate Georges Heights, Middle Head and Chowder Bay, the Headland Preservation Group was formed to campaign against private residential development of this land. This campaign was successful and led to the establishment of the Harbour Trust in 2001.
The involvement of the Harbour Trust in the restoration, conservation and interpretation of existing buildings has paved the way for Georges Heights to become a thriving community of artists, local businesses, bushwalks and cafés.
Georges Heights is easily accessible via Middle Head Road. Visitors can enjoy scenic coastal walks with breathtaking harbour views and are invited to learn about the layered history of the area.