Saltwater People of The Fatal Shore


Reduced from $90.00 to $45.00 

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ISBN 9780980561920

Saltwater People of the Fatal Shore was awarded the 2013 Biennial Frank Broeze Maritime History Book Prize sponsored     jointly by the Australian Association for Maritime History (AAMH) and the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM).

Saltwater People of the Fatal Shore - Sydney’s Southern Beaches is a detailed history of that beautiful stretch of Sydney's coastline between South Head and Royal National Park. This coastline features world renown beaches such as Bondi, Maroubra and Cronulla, as well as places of great historical interest. Botany Bay was where James Cook first made landfall on the east coast of Australia and made claim to the continent. It was also were the First Fleet arrived with its human cargo. Before these events it was home to the Aboriginal people of the Eora, Dharug and Dharawal nations for tens of thousands of years.

The focus of Saltwater People of the Fatal Shore is on the shoreline … that high energy intersection between sea and land where waves, whipped-up by wind and storms, sometimes thousands of kilometers out to sea, announce their arrival in a final dramatic explosion … or caress it with a gentle cascade. This constant, hypnotic dance with the shore can be calming, and it can be confronting. When the swell appears excitement grows and the coastline becomes energized. The surfzone both attracts and influences us … and in turn our presence affects this playground on the edge of the vast Pacific.

It is not just surfers that are attracted to this zone. Sydney’s magnificent beaches have produced some truly unique individuals and some incredible stories. They are home of the world’s most recognized painters, potters, writers, poets, photographers, film-makers, musicians and architects. Saltwater People of the Fatal Shore – Sydney’s Southern Beaches pays homage to those remarkable people who have made this coastline home. The many beautiful photographs found in the book include work by Harold Cazneaux, Max Dupain, David Moore, Frank Hurley, Jack Eden, Bob Weeks, Peter Solness, Bill Morris, Brad Malyon and many other great contemporary photographers.

When asked, very few people living in Sydney know about the Aborigine people who lived along the coast before the coming of the Europeans. There are also many misconceptions about the culture of the first people. One common belief is that they were all somehow frightened of the ocean, but this is far from the truth. The Aborigine clans along Sydney’s beaches were true saltwater people, at home not only in the sparkling estuaries and rivers, but also in the ocean waves. Theirs was a canoe culture. They fished with spears, or lines and hooks, and were accomplished swimmers completely at home in the surf. This part of our history has remained largely hidden, and it is important to reveal here the influence of our Aboriginal heritage not only the people of Sydney, but also on our national psyche.

If we had listened, the Saltwater People would have also taught us much about protecting the coast and its valuable resources. There is now a growing awareness that something is wrong. The natural beauty of the area is under threat. It is obvious that the first people protected this country, and, as they did for many millennia before us, we need to think from the heart and preserve the area for future generations.

The foreword for the book was written by the Hon. Linda Burney MP. Upon her election she became the first Aboriginal person to serve in the New South Wales Parliament. Burney, a Wiradjuri woman, is currently Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and is the shadow minister in several key portfolios.

The Saltwater People books have been shortlisted for the 2013 biennial Frank Broeze History Prize through the Australian National Maritime Museum. In 2012 Cyclops Press was recognized with a Pauline McLeod Reconciliation Award for its work promoting meaningful reconciliation.

Companion book to: Saltwater People of the Broken Bays: Sydney's Northern Beaches  
Boxed Set edition NO LONGER AVAILABLE. 


John Ogden has a particular gift to enrich the story of what we do know about the Saltwater People. More than three decades spent photographing Aboriginal life has given him a wonderful appreciation of the Aboriginal way of seeing. The Saltwater People companion books follow in the footsteps of his landmark book Portraits from a Land Without People, a photographic anthology that opened up a treasure trove of knowledge.                             Jeff McMullen

Review: History Teachers Association Newssheet

Saltwater People of the Fatal Shore

Just occasionally you are sent a book to review that is quite simply magnificent. There is simply no other way to describe this history of Sydney’s southern beaches from South Head to Royal National Park. It is a combination of illustrations and words that should be a compulsory addition to every school library in the country.

 By covering the region across all its human occupation, Saltwater People of the Fatal Shore is an essential addition to our understanding of our indigenous history as well as an invaluable contributor to the emerging and much needed field of serious cultural history.

 As a people, Australians, regardless of skin colour, ethnicity or origin, have flocked to our coasts. We would like to think of ourselves as a water people, and in this wonderful book, John Ogden takes us on a deep journey towards understanding that essential obsession. This is a companion to the equally magnificent Saltwater People of the Broken Bays, which covers the geographical area from North Head to Barrenjoey. Taken as a set, they will ensure students are captivated by history, as they explore continuity and change across cultures and time.

 It is difficult to convey in words the printing quality, the richness and exquisite beauty of the illustrations, and the compelling accessibility of the text. Obviously this is too precious a resource to become a class set, but I was serious when suggesting every school library should own at least one copy. What other book could take you and your students from an 1813 depiction of Aboriginal men wearing body paint, carrying spears and shields to a 1925 police photo of the fabled Tilly Devine to a photo of the Abberton brothers in four pages? There’s the birth of surfing as a major leisure activity, Royal visits and biographies of indigenous figures such as Maroot that will enable to move your students beyond the usual brief textbook coverage.

 Ultimately that is perhaps this book’s greatest gift—a depth of understanding for both you and your students. Such is its breathtaking beauty that it would be a perfect for a loved one that understands what the coastline means to us, but I think it is much more important than that. John Ogden has produced a compelling narrative that is supported by an amazing array of primary resources. In the hands of History teachers and students this book will help everyone move to a deeper understanding of who we are and why we are. I know that’s a grand claim, but I stand by it.

 This is a magnificent book, an essential book that everyone studying in high school should have the opportunity to immerse themselves in. Don’t just take my word for it, go to: and go through the 35 page preview. But remember, no matter how good it looks there, it is a much, much richer experience holding the real book in your hand!

 Bernie Hewitt, History Teachers Association

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