European history

The first European settlement of Jervis Bay started in the early 1880s. At the beginning of the 20th Century Booderee was used for agriculture – farming and forestry. Jervis Bay Territory is unusual, in that it became Commonwealth territory in 1915 so the national government based in Canberra could have access to the sea. A desire to protect Booderee’s unique natural and cultural history didn’t really start until the early 1970s.

The explorers

Lieutenant Richard Bowen of the transport ship 'Atlantic' sailed into Jervis Bay in 1791 and named the area Port Jervis after naval officer and, later, admiral of the British fleet, Sir John Jervis under whom Bowen had served. The area was described as having good anchoring ground with a fine depth of water and during his short stay in the area he recorded that he saw two kangaroos and many traces of inhabitants.

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European settlement of the district began about 1827. Construction of the Cape St George lighthouse began in 1854, and the elegant structure was completed in 1856. Unfortunately the lighthouse was built in the wrong spot, and it came to be regarded as a navigational hazard, resulting in its partial demolition in the early 1900s. Read about the history of the lighthouse here.

Farmers and foresters

In the early 1880s, Jacob Ellmoos established what appears to have been the first European settlement, other than the lighthouse, in the Jervis Bay Territory. He selected 120 acres (48 hectares) on the eastern shore of Sussex Inlet, where he and his family set up a fishing enterprise and farm. In 1890 the Ellmoos family opened a guesthouse there, named Christian's Minde in memory of Jacob's brother Christian who had died in 1888. This historic building, although still standing, no longer serves as a guesthouse.

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By about 1900 Octavius Beale owned a farm named Bherwerre located on the shore of Lake McKenzie, now within the boundary of Booderee Botanic Gardens. Almost all of the park area became subject to grazing, although only small areas were cleared. Management for grazing included frequent burning to encourage new growth.

From 1954, forestry activities removed about 500 hectares of the best blackbutt forest (Eucalyptus pilularis), some of which was replanted with pines. Most of the pines in the eastern area were destroyed by fire in 1972. The majority of remaining pines have since been removed to allow regeneration of native vegetation.

Royal Australian Naval College - HMAS Creswell

On 7 November 1911 the Australian Federal Parliament selected the site of Captain's Point, Jervis Bay, for the Royal Australian Naval College.

The Jervis Bay Territory was surrendered by New South Wales to the Commonwealth in 1915 under the Jervis Bay Territory Acceptance Act 1915, in order that the national seat of government would have access to the sea.

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Funding cuts driven by the Great Depression forced the closure of the Royal Australian Naval College in 1930, which then relocated to HMAS Cerberus in Victoria. The College buildings were leased as hotels and guesthouses, although Navy retained use of the waterfront and some married quarters. From 1944 to 1946 the RAAF 2nd Military Rehabilitation Unit was housed in some of the college buildings.

In 1956, the Federal Government decided to return the College to Jervis Bay, which was achieved on 20 January 1958. On this occasion the establishment was commissioned as HMAS Creswell, being named after Vice Admiral Sir William Creswell, KCMG, KBE, First Naval Member of the Naval Board from 1911 to 1919.

Today Booderee National Park has a draft Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Defence for fire management, which is critical to the continued survival of heath and other vegetation types in the area.