15 August 2020
Sullivan's Creek, 2020, Kirsten Wehner
Sullivan’s Creek’s waters work their way down from Mount Majura and Mount Ainslie in the northeast of its catchment, and O’Connor Ridge and Black Mountain in the southwest.
The creek rises in Goorooyarroo Nature Reserve, flows through grassy woodlands and former grazing land and then into the tunnels, drains and constructed wetlands of north Canberra.
Aboriginal people experienced extreme environmental changes in this landscape, including the Last Glacial Maximum about 20,000 years ago when freezing temperatures on the catchment’s mountains shattered rocks. Some of these tumbled down and lie still on the lower slopes.
Europeans seized the land around Sullivan’s Creek from the 1820s. Joshua John Moore established a station here – Canberry or Camberry – and around the 1880s, Canberry Creek was renamed Sullivan’s Creek after landholder William Sullivan.
As Canberra’s northern suburbs grew, paved streets, footpaths and parking lots increased stormwater runoff. Concrete channels enabled building closer to the creek, and increased flood risk. In 2018, Sullivan’s Creek overflowed its banks and inundated the Australian National University’s Chifley Library, destroying over one hundred thousand books.