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Being resourceful at Munibung Hill

Evelyn Ruth Petersen was no slouch when it comes to making the best of what’s at hand, as Sharon Walker (n.d.-b) her granddaughter, tells us in the first of two accounts about the Walker family.
In this account she recalls how Petersen was able to purchase a bush property in 1943 on Munibung Hill, as she had dreamed of owning a market garden. In the transition to her new property, she still lived at Cardiff South.

She and her family would go to the property and clear the bush with hand tools, the salvageable wood was used to build the house and sheds.

To clear room for her paddocks, she had to remove tree stumps. To do this she dug a hole under the stump and lit it on fire until the stump had burnt away.

This allowed her to begin her market garden, however the paddock was vandalised. After this she began to build her home on the property. However due to the Great Depression and WW2 it was difficult to get material to build the house. As such she used scrap wood and corrugated iron that she could find.

Hessian bags were used in place of windows; they were also used with newspaper to create the interior wall linings. The bedrooms had floor boards, however much of the house had dirt for the floor.

The chimney and fireplace were constructed from rocks she had collected on the property.

This house can be seen in the header image.

She also dug dams on the property. Each dam was constructed so that when it overflowed it would flow into another dam. This allowed her to collect enough water for the property. She also constructed drains to divert water from the house (S. Walker, n.d.-a).

There was also a small creek [Editor: later named Munibung Creek] that was a tributary of Winding Creek. And she built a dirt road from the house to Macquarie Road. The road was reinforced with sandstone rocks in the areas that would get boggy. Her son Skeet helped to build a bridge over a gully near the house for easier transport.

Petersen grew various different plants on her property. In the garden she grew fruit, berries, vegetables, and flowers; along with an orchard to grow fruit. She also had a cow she used for milk (S. Walker, n.d.-a). Some of the species she grew were: Strawberries, Raspberries, Boysenberries, Youngberries, Blackberries, Cape Goose Berries, Passionfruit and Grapes


In the second account, Marie Walker (n.d.-b) recounts her family’s history living at Munibung Hill.

In the audio Walker recounts a bush fire that occurred in October of 1991. On the day of the fire the weather was around 40C.

The fire first began in the direction of Teralba and Mount Sugarloaf. Towards 2.00pm the fire got closer and thick black smoke made it so that the other houses could not be seen.

At the Walker property there were large numbers of trees which caused a leaf build up in the gutters, there was also plenty of lantana and small vegetation on the ground.

The wind picked up causing embers to spread. The Walkers attempted to use the garden hose to fill the gutters with water, however the wind was too strong and wouldn’t allow the water to land in the gutters.

A neighbour then came to aid the Walkers as he knew the elderly mother was there, and with his help they evacuated. As they left the vegetation caught alight instantly.

Walker makes a point that the tops of the trees were on fire not just the bases. The daughter was arriving home on the bus. As she sees the fire, she rushes to the stables to release the horse and secure it safely away from the fire. The fire brigade then arrives and saves the house.

They then fought the fire from 3:30pm and 4.00pm when they arrived, until 8pm.

The police arrive the next day to inspect the damage. As they were there, they noticed some of the Macquarie Hills residences were still on fire and notified the fire brigade.

In the fire Walkers mother’s derelict house was burned down. All that was left after the fire was the chimney and fireplace.

Walker then explains the different methods that her mother would use to reduce bushfire damage. This included:

  • Burning vegetation around the house during winter to reduce the amount of vegetation that could burn.
  • Sinking a well and constructing a homemade dam as a storage of water to be used against fires.
  • Using wet branches and bags to put out any embers that would come near to the property.

The Walker family has produced multiple accounts for the Lake Macquarie City Library, Community History Department.

Walker, M. (n.d.-a). Evelyn Ruth (Lena) Peterson’s house at Munibung -now Macquarie Hills -c1949. In Lake Macquarie History. Walker, M. (n.d.-b).

Interview with Marie Walker of Lawson Road Macquarie Hills regarding the bushfires of1991 which threatened the property. (Lake Macquarie Library, Interviewer). Lake Macquarie History.

Walker, S. (n.d.-a). Evelyn Ruth (Lena) Peterson -Early landowner at Munibung, now Macquarie Hills.; Lake Macquarie City.

Walker, S. (n.d.-b). Evelyn Ruth Petersen -a brief biography.; Lake Macquarie City.

Extract from:
CESE* Summer Scholarship – University of Newcastle
Munibung Hill Report
By Jakob Kadlec, February-March 2023