This week on Scratching Sydney’s Surface, we’re going to venture south. It was announced in the news on 18 March 2015 that 50 hectares of the Malabar Headland would be handed over by the Commonwealth to the State Government and converted to national park.

Wreck of the Malabar in 1932 (City of Sydney Archives, 89979:Graeme Andrews Working Harbour Collection)
Wreck of the MV Malabar in 1932 (City of Sydney Archives, 89979:Graeme Andrews Working Harbour Collection)

Malabar Headland is located just to the south of Maroubra Beach. The isolated headland has had multiple uses over the last two centuries, but none of them residential. The village of Long Bay, to the south of the headland, was first subdivided for sale at the end of the 19th century, but take up was slow, even though a tram to La Perouse (built by 1901) provided easy access to the suburb, the nearby gaol and an infectious diseases hospital called the Coast Hospital.

Subdivision plan for the Village of Brand (Long Bay) in 1889 (National Library of Australia, MAP Folder 100, LFSP 1494/2 - nla.gov.au/nla.map-lfsp1494-2)
Subdivision plan for the Village of Brand (Long Bay) in 1889 (National Library of Australia, MAP Folder 100, LFSP 1494/2 – nla.gov.au/nla.map-lfsp1494-2)

The women’s gaol at Long Bay was built in 1904, and the gaol for men built 10 years later. Although the area was originally known as the Village of Brand or Long Bay, it was renamed Malabar in the 1930s for a shipwreck, but also to dissociate it from the Long Bay Gaol.

http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-vn6258081
Panorama of Long Bay Rifle Range, Randwick, 1917-23 (From Enemark collection of panoramic photographs, National Library of Australia, nla.gov.au/nla.pic-vn6258081)

The Malabar headland is best known for being the location of a rifle range. Land here was used for rifle practice from the mid-19th century and for musketry practice during World War 1. The headland was part of Sydney’s coastal defences during World War 2. The ANZAC Rifle Range was on the site until 1988 when it moved out west to Liverpool, but the area continues to be used as a live firing range.

Army rifle shoot competition at Long Bay Range, 1934 (Photograph by Sam Hood, State Library of NSW - Digital Order number hood_03977)
Army rifle shoot competition at Long Bay Range, 1934 (Photograph by Sam Hood, State Library of NSW – Digital Order number hood_03977)

The other less salubrious association the Malabar Headland is with sewerage and pollution. Long Bay was earmarked for the removal of sewage out to sea in the late 19th century by Sydney C0uncil, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that a sewage outfall was built by the State Government. It was replaced with a deep sea outfall in the 1990s.

Although it’s good news that wild, albeit heavily polluted places, like the Malabar Headland are being opened up for public use, it remains to be seen what happens to the remaining 110 hectares of land that makes up the headland.

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