Jenolan Caves

Our Heritage for the Future

April 27, 2021

The National Trust Australian Heritage Festival goes for a whole month, from April 18 to May 15.  The festival started 40 years ago and has become Australia’s largest history festival.

Australian Heritage Festival logo“This year the theme is ‘Our Heritage for the Future’ as we look with twenty-twenty vision to the importance of all facets of heritage in honouring the stories of our past, celebrating lived heritage as it evolves in the present, and looking to the future to ensure the stories of our culture, significant historical and natural places and Indigenous heritage is protected for future generations.”[i]

Communities all over Australia are holding events as part of the Australian heritage Festival.  There may be an event near you.

Annie Wyatt, founder of the Australian National TrustWhat is the Australian National Trust? 

It was established in NSW in 1945 by conservationist, Annie Wyatt, who, along with a group of other citizens, shone a spotlight on the widespread destruction of Sydney’s built and natural heritage.

The National Trust movement quickly spread across Australia with the other States establishing offices throughout the 1950’s and 60’s.

The National Trusts are the only conservation organisations in Australia concerned with all aspects of heritage (including indigenous), natural and cultural, tangible and intangible.  Collectively the organisation owns or manages over 300 heritage places. To manage them, they have a volunteer workforce of 7000 and they employ about 350 people nationwide.  To do their work, they rely on community support.  Anyone can help support the Australian National Trust, by becoming a member (with great benefits), donating or working for them on a voluntary basis.

Jenolan circa 1910A few of the colourful characters who worked at Jenolan Caves circa 1890Jenolan’s quirky heritage

As guardians of Australia’s most spectacular caves, located in a huge, but isolated, wildlife sanctuary, with a grand, heritage-listed hotel, the little Jenolan community has a long and unusual history. During Jenolan’s long COVID-19 closure, we began writing our stories and posting them on our blog, on Facebook and in our e-news.  Pre-COVID, we knew we had lots of stories. Our tour guides often told some of our stories to visitors on tours.  But now it clear that we have many more stories than we realised.  See some of our stories.

Jenolan’s stories start from the Gundungurra Dreamtime creation story. Then there are stories about the discovery of each of the caves, the many people who have worked and lived at Jenolan, how they overcame adversity, how Jenolan became a reserve and later a wildlife sanctuary, the building of the various stages of the iconic hotel, how 19th century travellers reached Jenolan Caves, how technology enabled visitors to experience the underworld, the many VIPs who visited and much more. There are stories of our wildlife, such as how the brush-tailed rock wallaby was saved from extinction. There are even ghostly tales of the unexplained!

People love our stories, so we know that our unique history, and all our stories, are worth preserving.  Jenolan Caves Historical and Preservation Society (JCHAPS) is the custodian of our history.  JCHAPS was established in 1972 and continues to do important work to conserve Jenolan’s unique history.  Members continue to build their substantial collection, which is collated and stored off site.  They maintain a fascinating website and produce a quarterly newsletter.  If you would like to become a member of the Jenolan Caves Historical and Preservation Society, please complete the Membership Form and return it to info@jenolanhistory.org.au.

Your community has a history too – maybe a fascinating one! It starts with simply taking an interest. One thing you can do is to contact your own local historical society.

Unfortunately, at Jenolan, our whole precinct is temporarily closed. But we hope to reopen soon, in mid-May.  Keep watching our website, sign up for our e-news or follow us on Facebook for news of our reopening. In the fullness of time, the extraordinary rain event of early March, which caused the current closure, will simply become one of many events that form part of our quirky heritage.


[i] https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/ahf/nsw/

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4655 Jenolan Caves Road, Jenolan Caves, Blue Mountains NSW. Ph: 1300 76 33 11 or +61 2 6359 3911
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