SIRA committee for 2021-2022
Left to right: Mark Martin, Juliet Wills
(Secretary), Colin Haskell (President), Sue
Armstrong, Duncan Watts,
Sharon Dwyer (Treasurer), Janette Davis, Tim
Turpin, Robyn Iredale, CB Floyd, Shane
Not included in photo: Sharon Kinnison, Boyd
Attewell and Fabienne d'Hautefeuille.
Photo: Natalie Page, O'Neill Photographics
The AGM for the Scotland Island Residents' Association,
held on 14 November, saw few changes to the committee.
The principal office holders remain much the same, with
Colin Haskell staying on as president, Sharon Kinnison as
vice-president and Juliet Wills as secretary. The one
change is that Tim Turpin steps down as treasurer,
although he will remain on the committee. The new
treasurer is Sharon Dwyer.
Marie Minslow and Brian Rodgers resigned from the
committee. Its ordinary members are now: Sue Armstrong,
Boyd Attewell, Fabienne d'Hautefeuille, Janette Davis, CB
Floyd, Robyn Iredale, Mark Martin, Shane O'Neill, Tim
Turpin and Duncan Watts.
Congratulations go the new members of the committee, and
our thanks to both departing and continuing members.
SIRA has won a major grant
which takes the community a step closer to being able to
once again make full use of the building vacated by the
kindergarten some time ago.
Under the stewardship of
Robyn Iredale and the Scotland Island Recreation Club,
SIRA had applied to the NSW state government for a grant
under its Community Building Partnership program. This
is primarily intended to support new community
infrastructure, as well as the refurbishment, repair and
maintenance of existing facilities.
SIRA has been awarded
$48,000 under the scheme. This will be used to buy sun
shelters for the Two Catherine Café, which meets outside
the Community Hall in Catherine Park on the second and
fourth Sunday of each month. It will also fund the
installation of lighting for the steps outside the hall.
SIRA felt that this was needed because a resident
recently broke her leg.
The grant will also be used
to buy kitchen equipment for the old kindy building, now
known as the Recreation Centre. At the same time, SIRA
has secured the agreement of Northern Beaches Council to
refurbish the building so that it is better suited to
adult as well as child-related recreational activities.
The works to be carried out by the NBC include extending
A survey, conducted among
island residents, indicated considerable community
interest in turning the old kindy into a multi-purpose
recreational centre. The plan is that the building will
be shared among various groups who will use it for such
activities as art workshops, children playgroups and
book clubs. Anyone interested in setting up recreational
groups should contact SIRA. The Centre will also house a
document and photographic archive for the island.
Around 100 residents
regularly attend the café, which has provided paid work
for a number of young helpers. The café is otherwise run
by volunteers. All funds raised by the café go towards
Recreation Club activities.
A talk presented by
Scotland Island Recreation Club
forum's panel (left to right): islander
Craig Burton, local historian Paul
Griffiths, chair Robyn Iredale
& Neil Evers, chair of the local
Aboriginal support group.
On 6 November, three authorities on local history met with
offshore residents to discuss Pittwater’s Indigenous past.
The forum, held in Scotland Island’s Recreation Centre,
was the first step towards the writing of a play, to be
staged on the island next year, focusing on the lives of
Catherine Benns and Catherine Bouffier. These two
Catherines, remembered in the name of the Recreation
Club’s café, both played a part in Pittwater's past.
Bouffier was mother of the eponymous Elvina, who gave her
name to the bay, while Benns was called ‘Queen of Scotland
This, the first of two historical talks, focused on
Catherine Benns. She was a descendant of Bungaree, known
to early European settlers as ‘Chief of the Broken Bay
Tribe’. The event was chaired by Robyn Iredale, who
identified its two purposes: to examine the life of
Catherine Benns, and to explore Pittwater’s Indigenous
heritage more broadly.
(1775 - 1830), by Augustus Earle (1826)
The panel consisted of three speakers. The first, Neil
Evers, is chair of the Aboriginal Support Group, Manly
Warringah Pittwater. Like Catherine Benns, Neil is a
direct descendant of Bungaree. Neil described how his
ancestor accompanied Matthew Flinders on the first known
circumnavigation of Australia, which began in 1801. During
the voyage Bungaree played a vital diplomatic role,
liaising with the Indigenous peoples met along the way.
After his return to Sydney, Bungaree was granted a farm on
George’s Head at Mosman. Neil described how, while there,
a convict fell in love with Bungaree’s granddaughter. The
couple had 10 children, one of whom was James, Neil’s
great-grandfather. Another of the children was Catherine
Benns, making her the aunt of Neil’s grandfather.
Catherine’s link with Scotland Island came through her
husband Joe Benns. Born in Belgium, Benns arrived in
Pittwater sometime around 1850 and leased the island from
the estate of its purported owner, John Dickson. Later,
Benns successfully challenged Dickson’s title to the
island and then laid claim to it.
After their marriage in 1874, Catherine and Joe Benns
occupied the site of the house built by Andrew Thompson,
Scotland Island’s first European owner. This stood close
to what is now known as Tennis Court Wharf. Prior to
marrying Joe, Catherine had a daughter out of wedlock,
named Emily. This girl married George Godbold in 1887, and
the Benns and Godbold families lived in the same house on
Joe Benns died in 1900 and in 1903 Catherine and the
Godbold family moved to Bayview. But Catherine kept her
connection with Scotland Island, and there is a
description of her rowing across to the island ‘in the
teeth of a stiff nor’-easter’. Catherine later moved to
Manly, where she died in 1920.
Benns (1838 - 1920)
The panel of speakers also included islander Craig Burton,
a landscape architect with a long interest in Indigenous
history. Craig has studied middens and also the planting
by Aboriginal peoples of kurrajong trees, which held
particular cultural and practical significance.
Craig told the meeting how he first came across Catherine
Benns. Contrary to what is sometimes thought, local
Indigenous people did not simply disappear after European
incursion. Rather, they remained ‘hidden in plain view’,
their Aboriginality not always explicitly acknowledged.
But Craig suspected from the beginning that Catherine was
Aboriginal: ‘she was described as a “small dark woman”.
That’s interesting, I thought’.
Although Catherine is commonly termed a ‘midwife’, Craig
suggested that it’s likely she was more broadly involved
in traditional ‘women’s business’. She was also said to
trade in sea shells, which might also suggest a deeper
connection with ongoing Indigenous culture, given the
reliance of coastal Aborigines on seafood.
Later Craig’s career led him to a project at George’s
Head, which involved him in research into Bungaree.
According to Craig, Bungaree’s family wasn’t originally
from Broken Bay but came from further north. Bungaree’s
people were renowned for their linguistic skills, hence
Bungaree’s usefulness to Flinders. Bungaree, finding
himself outside his native country, would have been
bemused at the British description of him as ‘King’ of
Local historian Paul Griffiths spoke about Australia and
Indigenous history more broadly, emphasising the latter's
richness and complexity. ‘We tend to go to Europe to
experience culture, but imagine the level of cultural
concentration in Australia, with thousands of generations
living in one place, and imagine too the diplomacy
required to manage 250 nations, more nations than in the
entire world today’. Paul even alluded to the possibility
that Australia is the cradle of humanity, as opposed to
Africa. ‘The Aboriginal peoples tell us they have been
here forever’, he said. ‘They tell us stuff. And the thing
is, they keep turning out to be right’.
wallabies, Elvina Bay Track Aboriginal rock
Looking at northern Sydney more specifically, this area
has, according to Paul, one of the largest concentrations
of cultural sites in the world, with over 2,000 recorded
instances of rock art and painting. Their preservation, it
seems, is an accident of history. The Pittwater area would
have offered Aboriginal people a plentiful food supply,
but the land was of little interest to Europeans since,
unlike western Sydney, it didn’t lend itself to
agriculture. Thus we have a region of relatively dense
Indigenous settlement, yet one comparatively undisturbed
by European ingress.
Paul described local Aboriginal cultural sites as a ‘three
dimensional encyclopaedia of knowledge’. The land, the
people, the songs, the sky and the stars are all
interconnected. This struck a chord with Neil Evers. ‘I
call our rock art the first computers’, he said.
‘Generations input information. Now we have to figure out
what it all means’.
petroglyph of male and female dancers,
Chase National Park.
Paul described Aboriginal society as non-hierarchical.
‘Responsibilities were shared, everyone had a role to
play.' And that’s why the decimation of the population
after 1788 was so catastrophic, since it caused gaps in
Aboriginal society which were not easily filled.
Obviously a two-hour talk could barely scratch the surface
of a topic such as Indigenous culture. Among the valuable
things to come out of the event were Paul’s suggestions as
to further reading. The more accessible recommendations
A recording of the event, made on behalf of the Scotland
Island Recreation Club, can be found here.
- Jo McDonald, Dreamtime Superhighway – an
Analysis of Sydney Basin Rock Art and Prehistoric
Information Exchange (ANU 2008, 380 pages),
available here. This explores how cultural
places convey both sacred and practical information
across a wide area.
- Val Attenbrow, Sydney’s Aboriginal Past:
Investigating Archaeological and Historical Records
(2nd Edition, April 2010), details available here. This lists hundreds of
sites in northern Sydney, with carbon dating
- Paul Irish, Hidden in Plain View: The Aboriginal
People of Coastal Sydney (2017), details
For details of the second history talk, see below.
Scotland Island Community
Saturday 20 November, 2 -
Bouffier (1857 - 1940),
whom Scotland Island's Catherine Park is
daughter, Elvina, after whom Elvina Bay is
named. Elvina's two children, Pat and Hilda,
gave their names to a reserve on Scotland
Saturday will see the second of two talks relating to the
history of Pittwater.
This talk will look at the arrival of European settlers in
the area, and their relations with Indigenous locals.
Speakers include local historian Paul Griffiths and
islander Craig Burton. It will include a Welcome to
Country from Neil Evers, Chair of the Aboriginal Support
Group, Manly Warringah Pittwater.
The event will focus on Catherine Bouffier. Descended from
German migrants, Catherine married into the Bouffier
family, pioneers in the wine industry in the Hunter
Valley. Catherine kept her husband's business afloat after
his death and Bouffier Brothers became a major Australian
wine label around the time of federation.
Catherine was the mother of Florence and Elvina. Florence
went on to marry Herbert Fitzpatrick, who developed
Scotland Island and Elvina Bay for housing in the 1920s.
Florence gave her name to Florence Terrace, while Elvina
Bay is named after her sister.
A video on Herbert and Florence Fitzpatrick, as well as
Catherine Bouffier, can be found here.
Afternoon tea will be served.
In order to be COVID-compliant, registration is essential.
Participants must be fully vaccinated (unless exempt).
Please bring a mask and a phone to check in.
To register, click here.
Scotland Island Community
Most Saturdays, 3 - 5 pm
With COVID restrictions
lifting, table tennis sessions have recommenced. Groups
meet most Saturdays.
Anyone over 12 is welcome,
provided that those over 16 are fully vaccinated (unless
exempt). Please bring a mask to wear indoors, although
it may be removed during physical exercise.
Saturday 20 November, 10
- 12 noon
Fully vaccinated brigade members are welcome to this
training session at the fire station.
Sunday 21 November, 9 -
Please register your attendance using the SIRFB website.
COVID protocols will be observed, including the wearing of
Saturday 27 November, 7
- 9 pm
party: please bring a plate and a bottle to share
NB:COVID protocols apply:
- everyone aged 16 or older must be fully
vaccinated (unless exempt)
- Please bring a mask.
Sunday 28 November, 10 -
Kids and double
vaxxed adults are welcome!
The 28 November café will
include stalls selling goods made by islanders. Get in
early and do some Christmas shopping of hand-crafted
Further makers' stalls
will also be at our 5 and 12 December island cafés.
Recreation Centre, Sunday 5 December
Sunday 5 December, 2- 4
Family and friends are
invited to enjoy music provided by local young and
Come and watch your
neighbours, and the children of your neighbours, show
what they can do.
Please bring a plate
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Festival of Making,
expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily the
views of the Scotland Island Residents Association
(SIRA), or the Western Pittwater Community