Wamboin Community Association


Origins of the Name, the Parish and the Locality

by David McDonald   [30-Sep-18]


This document provides information on the origins of the name of the parish and locality of Wamboin, and on its early maps.

The Parish of Wamboin

The creation of the County of Murray, in which the parish of Wamboin is located, was notified in the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (hereafter the Gazette) on 17 October 1829. The County was at the south-western extremity of authorised settlement, the ‘limits of location’:

The initial division of the central coastal area into nineteen (19) counties was completed by May 6, 1830, followed by another batch in 1843 and a further number in 1848, which completed the task. By the end of the 19 th century, the whole of the colony of New South Wales was divided into counties, the counties into parishes and the parishes more gradually into portions. In all, the colony was divided into one hundred and forty one (141) counties - which exist today, and these counties in turn into a total of 7459 parishes, which have formed one of the principal bases of the Lands Department’s administration. Unlike their counterparts in England, counties and parishes in the colony served no other purpose than that of indicating certain tracts of country, as they were not conterminous with any jurisdiction, either civil or ecclesiastical (Marshall 2006, p.2).

The Surveyor General’s Regulations of 1864 provided that the size of parishes should be approximately 25 square miles (65 square kilometres), and that ‘The boundaries should, wherever practicable, consist of creeks, ranges, or other natural features, but failing the existence of these in suitable positions, arbitrary lines may be adopted as boundaries, and which should, unless a strong reason to the contrary exists, be directed to the cardinal points’ (Marshall 2006, p.3).

The name of a parish did not need to have any relationship to its locality, although sometimes it did, for example the parish of Bywong is named after Bywong Hill. Furthermore, ‘Where euphonious aboriginal names can be ascertained, it is desirable that they should be suggested by the Surveyor for new parishes’ (Surveyor General’s Regulations of 1864, cited in Marshall 2006, pp. 3-4). ‘Euphonious’ means ‘pleasing to the ear’. ‘Wamboin’ is a euphonious Aboriginal word however, as discussed below, the word has no direct connection to where Wamboin is located.

When was the parish of Wamboin created?

The first thing to note is that the creation of parishes was not notified in the Gazette as they were developed for administrative (land management) purposes, and their boundaries could be changed from time-to-time, without formal notification (Surveyor General’s Regulations of 1864, cited in Marshall 2006, p.3).

Baker’s 1843 Australian atlas includes parish boundaries, but none are shown for the County of Murray, suggesting that its parishes had not been created at that date. The parish is not mentioned in Wells’ A geographical dictionary, or, Gazetteer of the Australian colonies… (1848), nor is it mentioned in Bailliere’s 1866 New South Wales Gazetteer and Road Guide. This source mentions other parishes in the area, such as ‘the parish of Nerriga’ and ‘the parish of Collector’. Note that the parish names (and the county names) are not headwords in Bailliere’s Gazetteer. Presumably Wamboin was not included as there was then no settlement nor locality called Wamboin in the area. That said, the first grants of land in what became the parish were to Richard Brooks in 1833, James Anlezark in 1837 and William Guise in 1838. Most of the land of the parish was taken up by selectors in the 1870s and 1880s.

Notices of land for sale by auction, published in the Gazette on 16 March 1841 (p.4), refer to a block in a ‘parish unnamed near Bungendore’ in what is now Wamboin. From then until the mid-1860s other blocks in ‘parish unnamed’, in the vicinity of what would become Wamboin, were notified. This included a block of land ‘Reserved from Conditional Purchase’ (i.e. from selection) at Doughboy Creek (now called Amungula Creek)/Reedy Creek, notified on 8 November 1864.

With respect to the parishes neighbouring Wamboin, the first references in the Gazette were:

  • Parish of Majura (to the south-east of the parish of Wamboin): 1 February 1866
  • Parish of Currandooly (to the east): 1 February 1866
  • Parish of Goorooyarroo (to the west): 2 February 1866
  • Parish of Amungula (to the south-west): 8 October 1866
  • Parish of Bywong (to the north): 19 June 1868

It is possible that some or all of these parishes were created at the same time, since they shared, and still share, some common boundaries.

The first mention of ‘Wamboin’ in the Gazette was the issue dated 1 February 1866 (No.33 (Supplement)), p.333: ‘Department of Lands, Sydney, 31st January, 1866. APPROVED CLAIMS FOR PRE-EMPTIVE LEASES’. It was a notification of claims for three leases, situated in the ‘Parish of Wamboin’, for John Murphy whose address was given as ‘Creekborough’.

A week later, on 8 February 1866, the Queanbeyan Age and General Advertiser (p.2), included the same information:

APPROVED CLAIMS FOR PRE-EMPTIVE LEASES.--The claims of the undermentioned persons for pre-emptive leases in the Queanbeyan district are gazetted as approved by the government: … John Murphy, 150 acres, parish of Wamboin; John Murphy, 90 acres, parish of Wamboin; John Murphy, 90 acres, parish of Wamboin;…

The next mention of Wamboin occurred the following year: Queanbeyan Age 12 July 1867, p.5, the auction (owing to the insolvency of the land owner) of ‘A Free Selection of 40 acres of Land, situate (sic) in the parish of Wamboin, between Bungendore and Cohen, well known as SMITHGROVE’. Numerous mentions of the parish in the Gazette, the Queanbeyan Age, and other sources, followed.

The second mention of Wamboin in the Gazette was the issue dated 19 June 1868 (No.146 (Supplement)), p.1795, ‘Sales of Leases of Crown Lands’: three lots sized 700 acres (lot 8), 1,180 acres (lot 9) and 640 acres (lot 10), respectively. Lots 8 and 9 were on Reedy Creek just before where it passes under the Bungendore Road, and lot 10 was on Brooks Creek.

From this we can conclude (with some, but not perfect, confidence) that the parish of Wamboin was created between November 1864 and February 1866.

The parish boundaries do not accord with those of the current locality of Wamboin, discussed below. The parish is much larger than the locality. In particular, the parish’s south-eastern border is Turallo Creek in Bungendore, and its southern border lies between Norton Road and the ACT border.

The Parish of Wamboin Maps

Some people who have searched for the first edition of the parish of Wamboin map have suggested that it is lost. This is because the first editions of many of the NSW parish maps are believed to have been destroyed when the Garden Palace Exhibition Building (in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens) burned down in 1882. Most of colony’s official maps were stored there while the Lands Department’s building on Bridge Street was being constructed. Two copies of the maps were made, however, with one held in Sydney at the Lands Department and the other in the Department’s relevant regional office: Goulburn in the case of the Wamboin parish map.

The confusion about the first edition of the parish of Wamboin map stems from its mis-labelling by the former NSW Department of Lands in their Historical Land Records Viewer (HLRV). What is labelled there as the second edition of the parish of Wamboin map is actually the first edition, dated 1881. The map contains the following annotations:

Reserves charted and examined 13 Sep. 81
Compiled by C.G. Ireland 20th Oct. 81
Railway line charted A Paton 3.6.84
Cancelled by new map CG. Ireland 20th Aug 1904.

The following year the Gazette of 7 February 1882 (No. 52), p.684, included a notice:


ON SALE at the Surveyor General's Office, Sydney, and at the respective Land Offices hereunder mentioned, the following Lithographs of PARISH MAPS: Price One Shilling each:— …Parishes of Amungula, Wamboin, and Majura, county of Murray—Land Office, Queanbeyan.

The parish of Wamboin map referenced in this notice is almost certainly the first edition, 1881.

The second edition of the map, published in 1891, is not currently available online but it is held in the collection of the State Library of NSW. It includes the annotations ‘Reserves charted and examined 13 Sep. 81’ and ‘Compiled by C.G. Ireland 20th Oct. 81’, carried across from the first edition (1881). The price was still one shilling. I have had it scanned, and hope that the State Library will make it available to the public, online.

The third (1904), fourth (1916), fifth (1926) and sixth (1967) editions of the parish map are available online at the Historical Land Records Viewer (the sixth is located there under ‘Charting maps’, not under ‘Historical parish maps’). The fifth edition (1926) is also online at the National Library of Australia’s website. The sixth edition, 1967, is the final version.

The first official, Government of NSW, map of the County of Murray is dated 1888. It shows the parish of Wamboin.

The first editions of the maps of the parishes of Majura and Amungula, that are also part of the current locality of Wamboin (discussed below), are dated October 1881, the same month that the parish of Wamboin map was created. At the HLRV, as with the Wamboin map these first editions are incorrectly labelled as the second editions.

Parish boundaries are shown in blue dashes on the maps in the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council online mapping system (select the layers Boundaries | Parish, and zoom in to Wamboin or other parishes of interest).

The Locality of Wamboin

The initial subdivision of the land that became known as Wamboin was called ‘Canberra Country Estate’. The developer was Norton Towers Estate Pty Ltd. The first advertisement for the land published in the Canberra Times was in the issue dated 2 December 1972, p.31. It was the land along Norton Road from Sutton Road to Fernloff Road.

On 24 April 1980 Captain D. G. (David) Robertson, OBE, RN, one of the first residents of Wamboin and the first person from Wamboin to serve as a Yarralumla Shire Councillor, wrote to Council explaining that, on 20 April 1980, a meeting of local resident and non-resident landowners was held to discuss the name of the locality. Some 60 people participated. Robertson wrote:

Geographical Names – ‘Canberra Country Estate’

For some time residents have been complaining that the name ‘Canberra Country Estate’ is both inelegant and inappropriate for an area of New South Wales. Furthermore it is understood that this name has no official status whatsoever. [It was the name used by the developers.]

This matter has been mentioned to Mr R. E. Guy as a representative of the present developers of the area. The present developers apparently have no particular liking for the name ‘Canberra Country Estate’ and would probably prefer a name which has some historical association with the area, for example ‘Amungula’ or ‘Wamboin’ which are the names of the two parishes covered by the development area.

… After considerable discussion and a series of votes I was asked to suggest to the Shire Council the following names, which are given in order of preference:

Kowen Hills;
Wamboin Hills;
Amungula Hills;
Mount Poppet;
Poppet Hills.

It is requested that the Shire Council take such steps as may be necessary to have one of these names officially bestowed on the area.

I am sending a copy of this letter to Mr R. E. Guy so that the present developers may have an opportunity to comment.

(Letter reproduced in The Wamboin Whisper, November 1987, p.17).

The minutes of a Special Meeting of Yarrowlumla Shire Council, held in Queanbeyan on 5 September 1980, record Council’s response to this request:

524. CAPTAIN D.G. ROBERTSON, (G3/1): Advising that for some time residents have been complaining that the name ‘Canberra Country Estate’ is both inelegant and inappropriate for an area of New South Wales and stating that at a recent meeting, it was decided to submit possible names for Council’s consideration.

It was resolved that the area commonly known as ‘Canberra Country Estate’ be officially known as ‘Wamboin’.

Consequently, ‘Wamboin’ was gazetted as a ‘locality’ within the parishes of Amungula, Goorooyarroo and Wamboin on 31 Jul 1981, with the co-ordinates 35° 15’ S, 149° 17’ E. These co-ordinates are between Fernloff Road and Canning Close. Note that this is not intended to be a precise location, as a minute of latitude is 1.85 km and a minute of longitude at Wamboin’s latitude is 1.5 km. The current NSW Government map locates Wamboin at the junction of Norton Road and Poppet Road.

The first issue of the Wamboin Whisper is dated July 1981. Its title, its mentions of the Wamboin Community Association and the Wamboin Sub-Committee of the Sutton Bushfire Brigade, all suggest that the community had embraced the name Wamboin by that point.

The name Wamboin was assigned as a ‘Rural Place’ on 8 November 2002 by the NSW Geographical Names Board (GNB):

Description: A Rural Place centered around the junction of the parishes of Wamboin, Amungula and Goorooyarroo and bordered in the south by the NSW/ACT border.

Meaning: The Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies advised the proposer that the word Wamboin meant kangaroo in the Didawall language.

Origin: A decision by [the Yarrowlumla Shire] Council at the Council Meeting of the 5-Sep-1980

A search of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Studies (AIATSIS) databases for the ‘Didawall’ language does not reveal any mentions of it, nor of any language with a similar name. The AIATSIS Library staff have confirmed (to the author in 2009) that they have no record of a language called ‘Didawall’. Their AUSTLANG database has details on the Bidawal/Bidwell language which is/was used from the NSW/Vic. border at the coast, inland to Delegate, and south to the headwaters of the Cann and Bern rivers (although these location details are disputed). It is unlikely that this language is the ‘Didawall’ referred to by the GNB. Yarrowlumla Shire Council’s records concerning the naming of the locality of Wamboin make no mention of this ‘Didawall’ origin, nor of any other Aboriginal name origin, nor of any other meaning of the name (Yarrowlumla Shire Council file G3/1). It is possible that the GNB made a clerical error in its references to AIATSIS and the ‘Didawall’ language.

Wamboin was officially designated as a ‘Locality’, assigned 2 September 2005. A ‘locality’ is the rural equivalent of a ‘suburb’ in an urban area.

The locality of Wamboin’s boundaries are shown in reddish dashes on the map in the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council online mapping system (select the layers Boundaries | Suburbs, and zoom in to Wamboin).

The Wiradjuri word ‘wamboin/womboin’

‘Wamboin’ is a Wiradjuri word for one or more species of kangaroo. As pointed out above, the surveyors who determined the boundaries of the NSW parishes in the 19th century, and named them, did not need to use names that had any relationship to where the parishes were located. The fact that Wamboin is a Wiradjuri word tells us nothing about the Aboriginal people who were the custodians of the lands that we now call Wamboin.

The traditional lands of the Wiradjuri people extend from the Albury/Tumbarumba region in the south-east, to Coolah in the north-east, Willandra in the north-west, and Darlington Point/Lockhart in the south-west (Kabaila 1998, p.6).


The name ‘Wamboin’, which is probably not a local placename but taken from the Wiradjuri word wambuny ‘kangaroo’, shows the vowel u, which has a common variant pronunciation as o followed by a palatal nasal, with a transitional glide that is interpreted by English speakers as combining with the preceding vowel to form a diphthong oi, while the palatal nasal ny is interpreted as a simple n (Koch 2009, p.133).

Early records of the Wiradjuri meaning of Wamboin/Womboin include the following:

Being a native of, and a constant traveller on, the Bogan, Lachlan, Darling, and Macquarie Rivers, I am in a position to collect and send you some aboriginal names of places, with their meanings, and if they are of any use to the Society I will forward some more, as I collect them from reliable sources.

The names referred to hereunder are within the Dubbo and Narromine districts, and you will notice that the Government way of spelling the names is somewhat different to the aboriginal pronunciation of them…

Wambangalang (aboriginal, wamboin goolah). Mob of grey kangaroos (Garnsey 1900, p.98). [Wambangalang is a rural locality about 27 km south of Dubbo.]

The Society is indebted to Mr. Licensed Surveyor R. B. Mackenzie, of Dubbo, for this information…
Aboriginal: Womboin English: Wamboin Meaning: Red kangaroo, black or dark’ (Mackenzie 1904, p.43).

The reference here to the English rendering is to the locality and pastoral property known as Wamboin in NW NSW, mentioned above.

Vocabulary of Wiradyuri Words…Kangaroo womboin
(Mathews 1904, p.300).

Word lists from various parts of Wiradjuri country collected by Curr, and published in 1886, contain a number of references to ‘wamboin’, ‘wamboine’ and ‘womboin’, all meaning ‘kangaroo’.

The Wiradjuri word, as reconstructed by linguists, is spelled wambuny (Koch 2009, p.133), wambuwany, and wambuuwayn (Wafer & Lissarrague 2008, p.699). The company that owns and operates Wamboin’s Contentious Character winery is Wambuwayyn Pty Ltd. The spelling differences between wamboin and wambuuwayn (and their cognates) reflect (in part) the difficulties experienced by many colonial observers of Aboriginal languages to discern all the syllables in some words. The ‘uu’ in wambuuwayn is pronounced like the vowel sound in ‘book’ or ‘put’, and the ‘yn’ is pronounced ‘ny’ as in ‘onion’ or ‘canyon’ (McNicol & Hosking 1994, p.82).

Mark Saddler, a Wiradjuri man who runs cultural tours in the area, explains to his tour guests that ‘There are certain Wiradjuri words for individual items, kangaroo is Wamboin … which is like the noise of the kangaroo, Wamboin, Wamboin’ (Tungandame 2017). Presumably the ‘noise’ referred to comes from the kangaroos’ hopping, not from their vocalisations!

Aboriginal Wamboin

So far as I am aware, no historical documents, nor recorded oral history, exist clarifying what the Aboriginal people who were the custodians of the lands of Wamboin called themselves, nor what they called their language. We do know, however, from scholarly linguistics research covering the Canberra region more broadly, that their language was similar to, if not identical to, that of the Monaro people: the Ngarigu/Ngarigo language–and Ngarigu/Ngarigo was apparently the name the Monaro people called themselves (Koch 2010).

In referring to the Amungula area, one writer states that:

This area has been greatly reduced in modern times. It once stretched from south-west of Lake George (possibly from the lake itself, or at least from Bald Hill), incorporating the area now known as Kowen Forest as well as Molonglo Gorge and stretching almost as far as Sutton … At present, only Amungula Creek bears the name of this once extensive Ngambri region. At one time, the Creek would have separated the Amangula (sic) region to the east and the Goorooyarroo region to the west (Jackson-Nakano 2005, p.4, and see p.23).

The author does not provide a source for this claim, and I have not been able to find any documentary corroboration of it. The author is a historian, not an anthropologist or linguist. The identity, and the geographical location, of the Ngambri people prior to European occupation of the area is contested, whereas those of the Ngarigu/Ngarigo people of the Monaro are not. Wamboin is at the northern edge of Ngarigu/Ngarigo country.

Other localities called ‘Wamboin’, or similar names

  1. The property ‘Wamboin’ located on Marra Creek between Brewarrina and Nyngan, some distance north of Wiradjuri country.
  2. The parish of Womboin near Brewarrina, NSW.
  3. The parish of Womboin near Gloucester, NSW.
  4. Mathews (1905) records wamboin/womboin meaning kangaroo in the language of the ‘Thangatti Tribe’, people from the valley of the Macleay River (p.30), as well as in the language of the Ngeumba-speaking people who ‘formerly occupied the country from Brewarrina on the Darling River southerly up the Bogan almost to Nyngan’ (p.17).
  5. The parish of Wamboyne (‘aboriginal word meaning wombat hole’ (GNB)) near West Wyalong.
  6. The parish of Wonboyn and the village of Wonboyn Lake on the far south coast of NSW.


F. F. Bailliere (Firm) & Whitworth, RP 1866, Bailliere’s New South Wales gazetteer and road guide: containing the most recent and accurate information as to every place in the colony: with map, F. F. Bailliere, Sydney.

Baker, W & Mitchell, T 1843, A map of the County of Murray [cartographic material]: dedicated by permission to Sir T.L. Mitchell, Knt., Surveyor General of New South Wales / compiled expressly for the printer and publisher of the Australian Atlas, W. Baker, Hibernian Press, 103 King Street, East Sydney http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-230982550.

Cannon, Geoff (compiler) & Department of Land and Water Conservation New South Wales (issuing body) 2015, The first title holders of land in the County of Murray, the author, Green Hills, NSW.

Curr, EM 1886, The Australian race: its origin, languages, customs, place of landing in Australia, and the routes by which it spread itself over that continent, 4 vols, John Farnes, Govt. Printer, Melbourne & Trubner, London.

Garnsey, JJ 1900, ‘Aboriginal names of places in New South Wales’, Science of Man and Journal of the Royal Anthropological Society of Australasia, vol.3, no.6, p.98.

Jackson-Nakano, A 2005, Ngambri ancestral names: for geographical places and features in the Australian Capital Territory and surrounds, A. Jackson-Nakano, [Canberra].

Kabaila, PR 1998, Wiradjuri places, vol.3, the Macquarie River Basin and some places revisited, Black Mountain Projects, Canberra.

Koch, HJ 2009, ‘The methodology of reconstructing Indigenous placenames: Australian Capital Territory and south-eastern New South Wales’, in LA Hercus & HJ Koch (eds), Aboriginal placenames: naming and re-naming the Australian landscape, ANU E Press, Canberra.

------ 2010, ‘Aboriginal languages and social groups in the Canberra region: interpreting the historical documentation’, in BJ Baker, I Mushin, M Harvey & R Gardner (eds), Indigenous language and social identity: papers in honour of Michael Walsh, Pacific Linguistics 626, College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University, Canberra, pp.123-44.

[Mackenzie, R. B.] 1904, ‘Aboriginal place names’, Science of Man and Journal of the Royal Anthropological Society of Australasia, vol. 7, no. 3.

Marshall, IH 2006, The parish map, Board of Surveying and Spatial Information, Bathurst, NSW.

Mathews, RH 1904, ‘The Wiradyuri and other languages of New South Wales’, Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. 34, Jul.-Dec., pp.284-305.

Mathews, R. H. 1905, Ethnological notes on the Aboriginal tribes of New South Wales and Victoria, F.W. White ,Sydney.

McNicol, S & Hosking, D 1994, 'Wiradjuri', in N Thieberger & W McGregor (eds), Macquarie Aboriginal words: a dictionary of words from Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages, Macquarie Library, Macquarie University, North Ryde, N.S.W., pp.79-99.

NSW Land Registry Services n.d., Historical Land Records Viewer (HLRV) - Historical maps (cancelled editions) http://hlrv.nswlrs.com.au/ .

Tungandame, B 2017, A discovery tour of Wiradjuri country and culture, SBS NITV Radio, first broadcast 06 July 2017, https://www.sbs.com.au/yourlanguage/node/1040563?language=hi

Wafer, JW & Lissarrague, A 2008, A handbook of Aboriginal languages of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, Muurrbay Aboriginal Language and Culture Co-operative, Nambucca Heads, N.S.W.

Wells, WH 1848, A geographical dictionary, or, Gazetteer of the Australian colonies: their physical and political geography, together with a brief notice of all the capitals, principal towns, and villages, also of rivers, bays, gulfs, mountains, population, and general statistics, W. & F. Ford, Sydney.

Wikipedia contributors 2018, ‘Wamboin’,’ Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wamboin&oldid=851126783

Wikipedia contributors 2018, ‘Wiradjuri language’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wiradjuri_language&oldid=856405276

Online Resources

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) MURA collections catalogue

County of Murray map, 1843, Baker & Mitchell

County of Murray map, 1888, 1st official, government, edition

National Library of Australia (NLA) main catalogue (including maps)

National Library of Australia (NLA) Trove - searches on historic NSW Government Gazettes, digitised newspapers, maps, etc.

NSW Geographical Names Board

NSW Government’s SIX (Spatial Information eXchange) Maps

NSW Land Registry Services (LRS, formerly Land & Property Information LPI) searching guides - especially ‘First Stop Guide to the Records of the Registrar General’ and ‘Searching the Registrar General's Maps and Plans

NSW Land Registry Services’ Historical Land Records Viewer, including historical parish and charting maps

Parish of Wamboin map, 5th edition 1926

Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council (QPRC)’s online mapping system

State Library of NSW (SLNSW)

Wamboin Whisper community newsletter local history page

Wamboin Whisper community newsletter archive

Author’s Contacts

David McDonald
1004 Norton Road, Wamboin NSW 2620
T: (02) 6238 3706
M: 0416 231 890
F: (02) 9475 4274
E: david[at]dnmcdonald.id.au