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Melbourne Seminar – The Hawkesbury River: A Social & Natural History (plus AGM)

27/10/2016 @ 5:30 pm - 8:00 pm


The Hawkesbury River: A Social & Natural History (Paul Boon)

The River Basin Management Society committee invites you to a sneak peak of the long awaited book, “The Hawkesbury River: A Social & Natural History” by Professor Paul Boon.

A short Annual General Meeting of the RBMS will precede the seminar.


“The Hawkesbury River: A Social & Natural History” will be published in April 2017 by CSIRO Publishing Australia, this representing a nine-year gestation period between the book being conceived by Paul on the road to Kakadu and being finally born into the world.

The presentation gives an overview of the ecology and environmental history of the Hawkesbury River. It starts by describing the unique geology of the Sydney Basin and how the Narrabeen, Hawkesbury and Wiannamatta sequences of sedimentary rocks shape the Basin, its soils and the paths of its rivers. It then describes the genesis of the Hawkesbury River estuary in terms of the rise in ocean levels that took place 20,000 years ago and flooded a previously terrestrial river valley.

The unique hydrology of the river is described next, with particular reference to the way floods and droughts have shaped the way Europeans have used the river since it was first colonised by the British in 1794. Water quality is discussed in detail, along with mosaic of protected areas that surround the river and contribute to the fine water quality in, for example, the Colo River, an important tributary of the Hawkesbury. The way the river’s floodplain was used by Europeans is then discussed, with a focus on how they cleared the land and the impacts this had on river navigability and on water quality.

The talk then moves onto how the river has acted as a barrier and as a conduit for human movement, and finishes with an overview of how the river has inspired artists, poets and other creative folk since the earliest times. There’s also a short section on how the Hawkesbury has maintained very great military and strategic importance to Sydney, with military planners from at least the middle of the 19th century considering it a springboard for possible foreign (Russian, American (!) and Japanese) invasion of NSW.



Professor Paul Boon has lived in Melbourne for the past 25 years but spent his childhood and adolescence on the Hawkesbury River north of Sydney, fishing in Cowan Creek and Berowra Creek, and walking and exploring in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and Berowra Valley National Park.

For reasons that now seem inexplicable, while taking his two children on an annual holiday pilgrimage (to Kakadu NP in the Northern Territory, from Melbourne) in 2008, he decided to write a book on the Hawkesbury and its surrounding land. While driving from Alice Springs it dawned on him that almost all the place names had ‘creek’ or ‘springs’ or ‘water’ or ‘well’ in their name, and that this must reflect something about the pivotal role that fresh waters and rivers play in the Australian psyche.

Surprisingly, given that the Hawkesbury is only a 60 minute drive north of Sydney and is the longest coastal river in NSW, there is no single up-to-date book that adequately describes the ecology of the river and how it has informed human use and, in turn, how these have been shaped by that use. (In comparison, the Yarra River in Melbourne, a rather trivial stream (according to Paul), has had four books written on it in the past 10 years alone.)



Nibbles and drinks start at 5.30 pm. The RBMS AGM will start at 6.00 pm. The seminar will start at approximately 6.20 pm.




Not currently a member and want to avoid the seminar fee? RBMS memberships are available at the door or in advance at Note: RBMS is currently reviewing the cost of seminars for non-members and cannot guarantee that costs will be the same for future events.


Theatre 2 – Basement
221 Bouverie St
Carlton, VIC 3053 Australia
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