Our History

The first grants were taken up in the 1850’s. Unfortunately there are no documented interactions with local Aboriginals in Duffys Forest from this time. It is thought that the local Aboriginal populations had all been ravaged by smallpox introduced to Sydney inadvertently in 1788.
Peter Joseph Duffy was awarded 100 acres of land in the current Duffys Forest area, and he immediately commenced the construction of a wharf at Cowan Creek, widened the road and commenced felling trees. The remains of the old wharf built on an Aboriginal midden are still there, partly submerged. The steep but wellmaintained track to the wharf starts at the end of Booralie Rd. Most of the workers did not have permanent settlements in Duffys Forest, and the area was home to people living ‘rough’.
Around 1907 land was offered by the Government on conditional purchase at a rate of £1 per acre with a minimum purchase of 5 acres.
By the late 1930’s there were about 40 families in the area of Duffys Forest and Terrey Hills, each with their own ‘farmlet’.
The volunteer Duffys Forest Rural Fire Brigade was formed in 1942, and in 1965 the current premises in Anembo Rd were built by volunteer labour.
Seventy 5 acre (2Ha) lots were released for soldier settlements. However, as the land was not suitable for agriculture and poor public transport made accessing jobs outside the area difficult, many settlers walked off their properties or sold up and left the district. However, some residents persisted and the area was known for its nurseries, chicken sheds and riding schools.
The Public Meeting that formed the Duffys Forest Progress Association was held on June 1st, 1965. It was decided that Duffys Forest needed a separate Association, as its special needs were not being served by the Terrey Hills Progress Association. There was a great need to improve the supply of electricity, roads, water and telephone lines to the area. The major item discussed at the early meetings, and one of the main reasons for the formation of the Association, was the plan for a road to be constructed from the end of Booralie Road through to Bobbin Head and Hornsby. This idea was quickly dropped because of oppos­ition from the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.
Duffys Forest became famous in the 1970’s when land was purchased to film the Skippy TV series. This land became known as Waratah Park, home of Skippy. The ownership of Waratah Park has since been transferred to the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council (MLALC), and it is being rehabilitated by the DFRA working in close consultation with the MLALC. It is envisioned that Waratah Park could become the Headquarters of a new Aboriginal State Park.

The airport proposal was an early and major hurdle for the fledgling association and opposition to this plan was maintained until 1971 when a separate Anti-Airport Committee was formed as a Sub-committee of the Terrey Hills and Duffys Forest Progress Associations to continue the battle.

The eventual political victory over the airfield development also reinforced the desire of residents, and through them their elected representatives in the Council, to keep Duffys Forest as free as possible from undesirable commercial developments, particularly if they would appear in any way to prejudice neighbourhood amenity or future planning of the area.

The two year planning study of the Terrey Hills/Duffys Forest area conducted by the NSW Planning & Environment Commission and Warringah Shire Council, and involving a great deal of resident participation, recommended in April 1976 that:

  • the development of an aerodrome would be detrimental to the area and was a totally unsuitable proposition.
  1. the proximity of the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park made it essential to keep properties to a minimum size of 5 acres for the foreseeable future.
This event was of considerable significance and its outcome has influenced attitudes since then. A group of neighbours, supported by DFRA, opposed the development of a large Caravan Park on the corner of Mallawa and Booralie Roads. Despite objections, Council approved the plan. Three residents, with the support of DFRA, took legal advice and eventually won in the Supreme Court, thus defeating the project. The judgement handed down by Mr. Justice Street was that under the Planning Ordinance such a commercial development should be prohibited. This was indeed a victory for the industrious and tenacious Sub-committee who had worked so hard and effectively with the legal advisers. From that time on Warringah Shire Council had to pay careful attention to the desired future character of Duffys Forest in granting of permission to any commercial undertakings in non-urban areas.
In August 1978 a proposal to rezone a block of land in Mallawa Road in order to develop a tennis and squash complex was opposed by residents and the DFRA. Council, as a direct result of this resident action, did not proceed with a recommendation to the Minister that such a commercial rezoning should take place. In 1978 the DFRA approached Warringah Council because of the frequent need to object to inappropriate development applications. Council engaged Don Fox Planners to prepare a DCP (Development Control Plan) to accommodate many of these developments closer to Myoora Road, which was later given in WLEP2000 a different zoning (A4 Myoora Road). In the 1980s the Association was actively involved with the Non-urban Lands Study and its recommendations, which were to be incorporated into the WLEP2000.
Throughout the 90s the Association lobbied NP&WS, politicians and Council for the inclusion into the National Park of a number of crown land parcels adjacent to Kuring-gai Chase National Park. Addition of Portion 117 into the National Park followed 12 years of intense lobbying by the Association and other members of the local community. A major issue for the Association has been the sale by the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council of 2 portions of once crown land to developers, Lots 447 and 446. These once pristine bushland parcels had long been intended as a buffer between the residential plateau and Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, and were earmarked for inclusion into the Park. As a result of the long battle to save these lands lot numbers on each were reduced from 12 to 6, each lot development is sympathetic to the adjacent Park, public reserves have been set aside and public access to Cowan Creek via Bibbenluke track has been preserved.
On going

The uncertain future of Skippy Park has been at the forefront of concern for the Association.  The Association successfully lobbied the NSW Labour Government  to terminate the commercial lease held on the Park by the Melbourne based development company Prudentia Investments after the native animals were removed from the site by the RSPCA. We successfully urged both the Planning Department and Warringah Council to include the Rangers Cottage into both the State Heritage Register and the Local Government Register.


More recently the Association has obtained a number of grants to preserve and enhance local assets. Thanks to a $70k grant with NP&WS the heavily eroded Duffys Wharf track was restored, and hopefully with future grants will be enhanced with interpretive signage and a boardwalk through the mangroves on Cowan Creek.


Over the years the area has slowly changed, and today most of the properties now have equine facilities, and large houses have replaced the nurseries and chicken sheds of previous years. It is believed that Duffys Forest has one of the highest concentrations of horses in NSW. The DFRA has been instrumental in the building and refurbishing of the 2 Public Horse Arenas in the area (Anembo Rd and Kinka Rd) and the establishment of the Community Bridle Path along Booralie and Thuddungra Rds. There are 2 Pony Clubs in the area- Forest Hills Pony Club based at JJ Melbourne Hills Memorial Reserve on Mona Vale Rd, and Avondale Pony Club in St Ives. There is access to over 22kms of horse and walking trails through the neighbouring National Park, and the St Ives Showground, home of Northside Riding Club, is only a 15 minute drive (or 1 hour ride) away.

Duffys Forest is also home to the Terrey Hills Golf Club and the NSW Rifle Club.

A $30k grant from the 2009 NSW Community Building Partnership Programme (CBPP) was combined with generous donations from businesses and the local community to restore the Anembo Reserve Horse Arena. An additional $10k CBPP grant in 2010 and $5k funding from Council was obtained in 2011 to replace the existing fence.

Following 20 years of lobbying Council and another CBPP grant for $30k, a horse arena was constructed in Kinka Reserve in 2011.


In 2023 signage was erected on Guwara Rd at the entrance to what is now named Mary Newlinds Reserve, to honour the enormous contributions Mary made to the community over many years from the formation of DFRA. The views south and west from the reserve and adjacent National park are exquisite.

The Association continues to discuss and take action on such matters as planning, roadworks and repairs, water, bus services, street lighting, the Community Bridle Trail etc.. Liaison is maintained with Ku-ring-gai Chase authorities on relevant matters, particularly weed control and horse trails. The future of Waratah Park will remain a priority for the Association.
Residents of Duffys Forest can look with pride at this beautiful and unique area, the character of which is due to the efforts of vigilant residents both past and present, and of your elected political representatives.