Aboriginal use of the region for millennia.

Aboriginal Hand stencils photograph by Alan Fairley
Hand stencils photograph by Alan Fairley, Oatley Flora and Fauna Conservation Society Inc.

Botany Bay surveyed by British explorers.

Botany Bay surveyed by British explorers
By James Cook Contributed By State Library of Queensland [Image No: 397436] (Copied and digitised from Entrance of Endeavour River, in New South Wales [J. Cook] ; J. Gibson & T. Bowen sculp. [London : Strahan & Cadell, 1773])

First Fleet arrived in Botany Bay for settlement but rejected it in favour of Sydney Harbour.


Bass and Flinders surveyed Georges River.


Timber and lime from shells harvested from Georges River waterways.

Timber and lime from shells harvested from Georges River waterways
Burning Shells to Make Lime. (1874, June 13). Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW 1870 - 1907), p. 17.Image courtesy of National Library of Australia

Main land use changed from land grant farming to aristocrats for large country estates. In 1832, land grants were replaced by land purchase.


Liverpool Weir built using convict labour.

Liverpool Weir
Liverpool Weir, ‘Liverpool: dam and paper mills’ from the State Library of NSW.

Proposals to dam Cooks River and Georges River for water supply abandoned.


Railways and tramways built and lower catchment transformed to mainly residential.

Railways and tramways built and lower catchment
(a) Original artist (unknown) circa 1886.(b) The Kogarah, Oatley and South Hurstville Libraries for their valuable historical photographs digitization & archiving program(s).Copyright: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA (Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike) Source:

Commercially successful oyster cultivation established in the river.

After 1900

Improved transport made coastal beaches and public pools more popular than rivers for swimming.

Georges River, Como NSW
Georges River, Como NSW, believed to be ca 1900

Pollution to the river from agricultural runoff, direct inflows of waste from riverside industry, and the open drains and pipes of emerging suburbs.


Pollution, mainly from stormwater, overtook unsustainable harvesting as biggest threat to fishing industry and ecology of waterways.


Construction of Woronora Dam begins, to capture water for supply to Sydney.

Construction of Woronora Dam begins
New South Wales. Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board. (1941). Woronora Dam under construction, [1] Retrieved May 24, 2021, from

Pollution shifted from mostly organic to inorganic pollutants, such as metals.


Large-scale sand mining in middle reaches, creating Chipping Norton Lakes. Reclamation of estuarine shorelines using garbage to build land above the high tide. The image that is currently in that position is of Georges River, Como NSW, believed to be c. 1900. Image courtesy of Georges River Libraries Local Studies Collection.

Sand mining
Council sand pit at Chipping Norton. Image courtesy of Liverpool Library Heritage Collection

Middle reaches of Georges River closed for swimming.


NSW State Pollution Control Commission (SPCC) created in 1974, with direct regulatory power over industrial pollution. SPCC became NSW Environmental Protection Agency in 1992


West Cliff coal mine begins operations in the upper Georges River catchment.


Establishment of Georges Riverkeeper.

Establishment of Georges Riverkeeper
Early photo of Georges Riverkeeper event

Towra Point listed as a Ramsar site.

Towra Point Aquatic and Nature Reserve
Towra Point Aquatic and Nature Reserve (Google Earth)

QX disease reaches the river and decimates cultivation of Sydney Rock Oysters.

From mid-1990s

Increased implementation of Water Sensitive Urban Design. Studies show stormwater responsible for most pollutants to the river. Licenced and unlicensed industrial discharge and sewerage continue to impact.


Sewage treatment systems, including overflows from pumping stations and reticulation systems licenced by NSW Environment Protection Authority


Georges Riverkeeper begins partnership with NSW Department Justice, Corrective Services.

Georges River Oyster Farm
Corrective Services team at work

Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome decimated cultivation of Pacific Oyster in Georges River


Aboriginal Riverkeeper Team project, conservation and land management traineeships. Engagement with Local Aboriginal Land Councils, Elders and knowledge holders, to acknowledge the continuity of Aboriginal culture, community and Country within the urban landscape of Sydney.


Federal Government Green Army conservation program, hands-on environmental conservation projects in the Georges River catchment.


NSW Government introduces the Return and Earn container deposit scheme.

Return and Earn
Return and Earn Container Deposit Scheme