South of Gerringong there’s a veritable nest of ‘Ongs that we knew of – Tomerong, Bewong, Comerong Island – and a couple we stumbled upon like Currarong, Yerriyong, Bendalong and Warrawong. Well may you ask what’s on in Tomerong? The chalk board on the front of the community hall in that town told us there are markets on Saturday, from 8am.
Other than that not much, we suspect, although there was a sense of a place waking up from winter and girding its loins for the coming summer influx of holiday-makers. And there would be far worse places to be in an Australian summer, for sure. Apart from lots of ‘Ongs, if you ever travel down this way you’ll also find some of the whitest sand beaches in Australia and the world at some non-Ongs like Huskisson, Vincentia and Hyams Beach of the Jervis Bay National Park.
Sawmilling and timber seem to be the mainstay employment of the European inhabitants in the Tomerong and surrounding area which encompasses Bewong, as opposed to the gold mining of ‘Ong towns that we came through in central western NSW. Apparently the name Tomerong is derived from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘tall timbers’, so there you go. The Tharawal (also known as Dharawal, Darawal, Carawal, Turawal, Thurawal, Thurrawal, Thurrawall, Turu-wal, Turuwul, Turrubul, Turuwull) Indigenous nation covers this area, running from Botany Bay to the Shoalhaven area we are currently exploring.
Trees, rivers, inlets and oceans are the order of the day around here. There’s the Yerriyong State Forest to the west of us (14 kms of unsealed road which tested the suspension of our trusty ‘Ong Tour van) and the scenic Booderee National Park alongside Jervis Bay, which means “bay of plenty” in the local Indigenous language. Throughout this area sea life, native trees, grasses, seeds, plants, blubs and native fruit would not only have fed the good people of the Tharawal nation but formed the basis of their bush medicine.
There’s also a nature reserve in this vicinity – Comerong Island – a 660 hectare area that was created in August 1986. Convict labour was used to dig a roughly 200 metre canal joining the Crookhaven and Shoalhaven Rivers. According to a Sydney Morning Herald travel article on Nowra and surrounds from 2004, this was the first canal to be constructed in Australia, taking twelve days and resulting in the formation of Comerong Island which is now an internationally recognised habitat for a range of shorebirds and waders.