This was the first Aboriginal scarred tree we found.
It is next to the gravel public road on Warra Warra, directly opposite the gate between two of our properties. We have passed it many hundreds of times without really seeing it. But I guess it could be seen to have been hiding in plain sight.
We saw a tree, we saw a scar, we saw a road surveyor’s mark; but we didn’t see an Aboriginal scarred tree, one that had been fortuitously used by the whitefella surveyor to mark the line of the road.
And though the white box tree looked too small, not old enough to bear an Aboriginal scar, the scar with its broad arrow and with letters ‘Rd’ was totally the wrong shape for a surveyor’s mark, which is traditionally shield-shaped – flat across the top, curved sides down to a point at the bottom.
This is the scar of a different type of shield.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service’s Aboriginal Heritage Officer for the Central Coast and Hunter Regions visited our property last August and confirmed that this is an Aboriginal scar tree. Subsequently, a botanist and a former surveyor, both of whom were with the Catchment Management Authority (as it was then known), have confirmed that white box can be very slow growing depending on their soil and their site; and that the shape of the original scar is not a surveyor’s mark.
The Aboriginal scar is slowly growing over. It is growing over the whitefella mark; the broad arrow appears about to be covered by overgrowing bark. The strangely high position of the chiseled broad arrow and letters is a result of time. These marks most likely date from the late 19th century when the road was made. Time passing, measured in bark.
The public road now ends only 20 or so metres from this tree, but the ghost of it remains across further paddocks, the other side of Kewell Creek, across several properties. Its legacy as a former public road remains, in that, what is now a bush track is always sound in all weathers.