Info Blue Mountains History Plaza
Federal Pass 
3 Sisters, Blue Mountains, Australia.
Federal Pass, name of Katoomba, Gungdungurra Aborigines 


Hundredth Anniversary of the Federal Pass  

Speech given by Jim Smith at Katoomba Falls Reserve on 3rd November 2000.

In the 1870s, local landowner James Neale bought Betty Murrundah, a Gundungurra Aborigine, to the cliff-tops near here and asked her the name of this place.  She said: Katoomba, Kedumba or Godoomba.  Different people heard it differently - it was the name for what we call the Jamison Valley.

When she was asked what was the meaning of the word - again there are different reports of what she said.  The essence of the various meanings was that Katoomba was known as "the valley of shining waterfalls".

When the Gundungurra travelled through the Jamison Valley they looked up and saw Wentworth Falls, Gordon Falls, Leura Falls and Katoomba Falls, shining in the sun.

This is a sight unique in Australia. 

I believe that stories of the Jamison Valley were known throughout Aboriginal Australia.  Like such places as Uluru and the Bungle Bungles, the Katoomba Valley was a place so unique that stories of its creation were valued by all Aboriginal Australians.

Betty Murrundah was one of the generation of Aborigines born around the 1840s.  I will tell  you the names of some other Gundungurra born about this  time.  These are the children who came with their parents in the 1840s to Hartley Courthouse to collect their blanket each year from the Government. Mullinga; Munbinga; Burbua; Ginga; Mithagoran; Mudjery; Munjowee; Gawel; Mimigomobbee; Genaballa; Gillanai

Billy Russell or Werriberri said that Gundungurra children were usually named after the place where they were born.  Tens of thousands of these place names were lost, never recorded by us.  Perhaps Mimigomobbee was a place near here.  We'll never know.  We'll probably never know what happened to these children.  They seem to disappear from history. This was the last generation of Gundungurra known by true Aboriginal names, the last Gundungurra to be initiated and hear all of the stories of this country.

Also born about the same time as these Aboriginal children were the men who played a part of the building of the Federal Pass - some of them were: Charles Lindeman; William Goyder; John Nash; John North; Solomon Hyam; Duncan McKillop; George Kitch; William Copeland; John Tabrett. Some were born in Europe.  All were bought up very differently to the Aboriginal children who went to Hartley for their blankets.  Most achieved comfortable financial status, were property owners by our laws and had a degree of local fame.  Their names were not lost to history.  In the 1890s these men had a dream to link two of the waterfalls in the Katoomba Valley with a pathway, so that people could make a pilgrimage between them. Their dream was achieved with the help of a large number of donations from most of the local families and officially opened at this spot exactly 100 years ago.

Ten years later, with the construction of the Wentworth and Lindeman Passes, all of the great Gundungurra waterfalls were linked with a continuous walking track.  When walking the Federal Pass we can become aware of the presence of the millions of people who have travelled along it and the spirits of the Gundungurra.  Recently an idea has been spreading that, with the deepest respect for the ancient Aboriginal dreamings of this continent, we settlers have made the beginnings of a white man's dreaming in this country.  We have created art, stories, pathways and monuments that will be valued by Australians for thousands of years into the future.  One of the stories that goes to make up the white man's dreaming in this region is the epic of the creation of the Blue Mountains walking track network.

I will suggest one way in which we can approach reconciliation in the Blue Mountains.  When we make the pilgrimage along the pathways linking the Gundungurra waterfalls we can be aware that we are in what will always be the home of the Gundungurra people.  The descendents of the Gundungurra are today living with us in our communities.  Let us walk with them, sharing our stories of this country. 

Federal Pass bushwalking info 


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