Throsby Creek – a history

The meandering watercourses of Throsby and Styx Creeks were originally mangrove lined, forming the beginning of the estuary leading into Newcastle Harbour. The clearing of the alluvial flats for cultivation resulted in erosion and siltation of the watercourses. These impacts were then exacerbated in the 1870s by the establishment of polluting industries along the banks. A slaughterhouse, a brewery and various other industries were established adjacent to Throsby Creek. Eventually, as a result, the creek became a ‘degraded, evil smelling drain’. 1

Despite its pollution in the early 1900s the creek was a prominent social and recreational area. Elaine Richards remembers during the depression that ‘Throsby Creek was a great place for boys wagging school to go swimming in the raw. Even at low tide they’d find a hole deep enough for a swim, the mud knee-deep and an abundance of old tin cans and cats that had ended up in a watery grave…The girls would walk primly past on their way to school, pretending not to see, except for one or two who would sneak a look’. 2

Source: provided courtesy of the University of Newcastle Cultural Collection

Source: provided courtesy of the University of Newcastle Cultural Collection

By 1910 the creek branched and re-joined itself where the TAFE oval and the dog park are to be found now (see the map, above). Major modifications to the creek were carried out during the 1930s depression. The banks of the creek below Maitland Road were cemented and the creek was converted into a storm water drain. During this time sharks often attacked horses and dogs swimming in the creek. In 1960 fishing in Throsby Creek was banned because of pollution. Despite this the Throsby Creek Regatta often held boat races in the water. 3

Source: provided courtesy of University of Newcastle Cultural Collection

Source: provided courtesy of University of Newcastle Cultural Collection

In 1979 Islington residents formed an action group called the Islington Residents Association. It was originally formed to oppose a petrol pipeline being built right through the middle of the residential suburb. This campaign failed but its 250 members subsequently began lobbying council to beautify Islington Park and improve Throsby Creek. 3

In 1989 the levels of heavy metals were still high and fishing continued to be banned. The Throsby Creek Regatta was re-established in 1990 as a public awareness campaign of the continuing poor water quality in Throsby Creek and again became an annual event. Rather than having the boat races in the creek, a dry land boat race was held call ‘Hardly on Throsby’. There were also carnival clowns, games, kite flying, gumboot throwing and environmental displays. 3

In 1989, after much lobbying from residents a Total Catchment Management Study was produced. This was the first such strategy in NSW and it provided a revolutionary turning point towards an integrated approach to future management of catchments all over NSW. Throsby Landcare was formed in 1990 as a sub-committee of the local residents group. It was one of the first urban Landcare groups in Australia. 9,13,14 Mangroves started to be planted along Throsby Creek from 1992.2,3,4

By 1993 the water quality in Throsby Creek had improved and it was announced that the annual ‘regatta will be getting wet for the first time’. The years of dedication and hard work were slowly starting to improve the condition of the creek. 3

Today the community continues to contribute time and hard work towards ensuring improvements in the quality of the water in Throsby Creek. Clean up Australia Day in Islington Park has removed large amounts of rubbish from the park and the creek and students at Islington Public School hold a number of ‘Binless’ days were no rubbish is allowed in lunchboxes.


  1. Newcastle City Council (2000). Islington Park Strategic Plan and Plans of Management – Heritage Places Strategic Plan Part I.
  2. Elaine Richards ‘Images of Islington’ Newcastle Herald, July 17, 1982
  3. Green Conscience – the ongoing struggle for a clean, green Newcastle – a history (2002). Wesley Uniting Employment Newcastle West.
  4. Ron Cummings, ‘Days Gone By on Throsby Creek’ in Turning the Tide – the Throsby Creek campaign produced by Throsby Land Care and the Tighes Hill, Islington and Maryville Residents Action Group.




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