Near Broulee Point, south of Batemans Bay, once stood a wooden look-out platform used for generations by Leonard Nye’s family. The Dhurga were fisherfolk and through the ages they would gather to assess the seas and the weather before setting off. The job of the lookout who remained there was to signal those on the water and on the beach below about the location and direction of sea mammals and shoals of fish. Such lookout posts exist also at Hill 60 at Port Kembla and up and down the South Coast, and it is from them that people observed the passage of James Cook’s ship in 1770. One of them told her granddaughter Coomee, who died at Ulladulla in 1914, all about “the first time the white birds came by”. During the vessel’s slow northward movement along the South Coast over eight days, heavy surf at Bulli Beach prevented a provisioning party from getting ashore on 28 April. A plaque on the roof of the bathers’ pavilion at Woonona, overlooking Collins Point, commemorates this non-event.
The northern-most Dharawal clan, the Gweagal, were the first people on the east coast of the continent to meet Europeans face to face. It took several years for news, stories, songs and trade goods to travel to Illawarra from the continent’s west and north coasts, so it is possible that they had heard of the half a dozen European visits that had occurred there during the previous 200 years. Over this time, a few clans absorbed a handful or two of survivors of shipwreck and piracy, and with the help of the locals, the pirate crew of William Dampier happily replenished their ship for two months at King Sound in the Kimberley. But Wik warriors, who killed nine murderous Dutch seafarers near Weipa on the Cape York Peninsula in 1606, had rebuffed all the Dutch, Spanish and French visitors particularly fiercely.