The Cronulla sand dunes are located on the Kurnell Peninsula in the local government area of Sutherland Shire, Sydney Australia. The Cronulla sand dunes are a protected area that became listed on the NSW State Heritage Register on 26 September 2003.
The sand dune system which is also referred to as the Kurnell sand dune is estimated to be about 15,000 years old. It was formed when the sea reached its present level and began to stabilise, between 9000 and 6000 BC. The Georges, Cooks and Towra Rivers flowed to the south-east beneath the present sand dune system near Wanda and joined the ocean at Bate Bay. This resulted in the isolation of Kurnell which was an island from the mainland.
The rivers eventually became blocked with accumulating sand and sediment as the sea level rose. As the rivers gradually silted up they were forced into changing their course and were led out to sea via La Perouse rather than continue to maintain an opening in an ever-growing sand barrier near Wanda. This resulted in a tombolo being formed and joined Kurnell with the Cronulla mainland. The deepest part of the ancient river channel now lies 100 meters below the surface at the southern end of the peninsula, near Wanda Beach.
The sand hills of Kurnell possess historical, cultural, scientific and natural significance as a place of early European contact with the Gweagal Aborigines. The site has significant Aboriginal signs of habitation, from carvings, ceremonial sites, middens and sites of flaked sharpening stones. The site is of significant interest to the Aboriginal community as many of the other hills and dunes that were inhabited by their ancestors have now disappeared. As the dunes move or drift, most of the sites once occupied by the Aboriginal people have been covered and preserved.
The original inhabitants on the Kurnell Peninsula were the Gweagal people, a clan of the Tharawal (or Dharawal) tribe who occupied the region for thousands of years. Their tribe spanned the areas between the Cooks and Georges Rivers from the shores of Botany Bay and westwards towards Liverpool. According to a Gweagal elder, Dharawal is similar to a state and Gweagal is similar to a shire within the state, Cunnel (Kurnell) is a family village within the shire. A clan consisted of approximately 20 to 50 people who lived in their own territory. They had no written language and each tribe had its own dialect. They knew how to light fires long before the arrival of white man. Their clothing consisted of a woven hair sash in which they used to carry tools and weapons and sometimes the optional possum-skin coat for the winter season.
The Gweagal Aborigines were the northernmost tribe of the Dharawal nation. They fished from canoes or from the shore using barbed spears and fishing lines with hooks in and around Botany Bay and the Georges River. Waterfowl could be caught in the swamplands (Towra Point), and the variety of soils would have supported a variety of edible and medicinal plants. Birds and their eggs, possums, wallabies and goannas were also a part of their staple diet, in which they made fur coats and ceremonial attire. The abundance of fish and other foodstuffs in these heavily timbered waterways meant that these natives were less nomadic than those of Outback Australia. The various middens, rock carvings and paintings in the area confirm this.
In 1933 the Sutherland Shire Council asked the Government to set aside the 2,000 acres (8.1 sq km) between Cronulla Golf Club and Kurnell as a reserve. In April 1937, Haymarket Land and Building Co. offered Sutherland Shire Council 720 acres (2.9 sq km) of land near The Entrance to Kurnell for 8 pounds per acre. Most of the councillors wanted to declare the site a National Park. They wanted it to be titled "the Birthplace of Australian History and Gateway to Captain Cooks Landing Place."
The dunes at Towra Point were to be included in this park. The Council was evenly split, but Joe Monro, the Council's President [now referred to as the Mayor], argued that because the site "was nothing but sand it was completely useless". He decided to vote against the purchase. The sandhills were doomed from that point. The Government couldn't see any reason to establish another National Reserve so near to Captain Cooks Landing Place Reserve.
Geology and Geomorphology:
The geology and geomorphology of the area is characterised by an island of outcropping bedrock on the eastern headland and joined to other bedrock outcrops on its western end by a sand spit which forms the main part of the headland. The Peninsula still has quite a view overlapping transgressive barrier dunes and it is believed that they have shifted north from Bate Bay. Older stable parabolic dunes occur on a series of north to south oriented ridges and while most of the vegetation has been cleared, some dry sclerophyll woodland remains.