Archaeology in the Dumps – THANK YOU ALL

In September 2020 members of Canberra and District Historical Society and the National Trust ACT received a request to participate in a community historical archaeology project. You were asked via emails and social media to delve back into your memory banks and let us know the locations of historical landfill and domestic waste sites in Canberra.

During the construction of Canberra from the early years up to the end of the 1980s a great deal of unwanted landfill, building material and domestic waste was deposited in unregistered land sites throughout the ACT suburbs. These often became temporary sites for commercial and domestic dumps as the suburbs expanded, then were abandoned. Regulations and guidelines on the disposal of waste and landfill were not as developed then as now and today there are many historic dump sites scattered around Canberra and the surrounding countryside, but their locations are not well known. Many have been covered over and are now lurking just below the ground surfaces.

Your responses were fantastic.

Eric Martin and Peter Dowling would like to thank all the members who replied to our request for information on these historic waste dumps. We received over 50 replies via Facebook and email. There were even replies from non-members who heard of the request by word of mouth and sent us their recollections.

After we had examined the replies, we were able to identify and locate 61 historic dump sites – 33 in the northern suburbs and 28 in in the southern suburbs. Some of the sites were identified several times in the replies which enabled us to confirm their location, period of use and contents. We suspected other site locations identified had been largely forgotten, covered over by more modern developments such as parks and ovals and so invisible on the present surface. One or two were submerged by Lake Burley Griffin. Other identified locations were visible as low mounds covered in grass or as artificially raised surfaces- but you would have to have an eye to the landscape to identify them as former tip sites. With your help we were able to do that. Other locations were in former ephemeral creeks and natural drainage lines.

The information provided by all respondents has been unbelievably valuable in a historic sense and will be highly valuable in future developments.

So, thank you all for your knowledge and your time in assisting us. Without your memories of these historic dumps sites we would not have been able to identify so many.

Eric Martin AM, National Trust Councillor

Dr Peter Dowling, National Trust Councillor & Canberra and District Historical Society Councillor