Only minutes from Sydney Airport, in the heavily developed residential and industrial region of inner southwest Sydney, lies the Wolli Creek Valley, the only remaining natural bushland area of any significant size in this region.
Just south of Marrickville and the Cooks River, the Wolli Valley is bounded by Earlwood, Turrella, Bardwell Park and Bexley North and can easily be accessed by train on the East Hills/Airport line.
History of the Wolli Valley
The Valley’s traditional owners were the Eora people. The tidal river provided plenty of saltwater foods and old middens can still be seen on the northeast banks of Wolli Creek, near the junction with the Cooks River. The upper creek supplied fresh water and the sandstone outcrops offered many rock shelters.
In colonial times, the valley became known as the home of the ‘Cabbage Tree Hat Mob’, settlers who wore hats woven from the leaves of cabbage tree palms that grew on the shady slopes.
From the mid 1800s to early 1900s, Wolli Creek filled with orchards, market gardens and dairies, as well as poultry and pig farms. Wolli Valley was saved from most building development in the colony’s early days by its rugged terrain and by being off the main road and rail lines as Sydney expanded. The East Hills rail line didn’t come through the valley till 1931.
In the 1950s, the green corridor of bush and open space was fortunately preserved from development by a major road reservation for what was eventually known as the M5E proposal.
Resident action in 1967 stopped a plan to level Nannygoat Hill and use its sandstone rubble as fill for a new runway at the Airport.
In 1978 an eight-lane freeway was proposed to run the length of the Wolli Valley as part of a road link from Redfern to Liverpool. The local community raised strong objections and in 1984 the Wolli Creek Preservation Society was formed. The fight over the freeway wasn’t won until 1998, when the plan for an alternative tunnel was adopted instead. The M5 tunnel opened in 2002, slightly further south under Arncliffe.
In 1998, the State Government committed to establishing a 60 ha Wolli Creek Regional Park, later revised down to 50 ha. But despite public meetings organised by the Wolli Creek Preservation Society and much campaigning by residents, approval of a draft Plan of Management is still being delayed.
Until all 50 ha of the Wolli Creek Valley bushland are under the control of NSW National Parks and Wildlife as a complete Regional Park, it won’t be safe from development and damage.