Emu Plains

Location: Where is Emu Plains?

Emu Plains, New South Wales, Australia is located on the western side of the Nepean River, at the foot of the Blue Mountains. The suburb of Leonay is the southern boundary, with Emu Heights the western boundary. Along with the suburb of Penrith, Emu Plains is one of the oldest districts in the Penrith Local Government Area. It is situated in pleasant and peaceful surroundings enriched with the colour of jacaranda trees and autumn tones. Emu Plains has many historic buildings and sites to visit. Situated just five minutes drive from Penrith; Emu Plains is ideally located to all amenities.

33 45’00″S 150 40’00″E

Postcode: 2750 Population: 7944 (2006 Census) Distance from Sydney: 57.5 km
Land Area:7.92 km2 or 792 hectares Density:  10.03 people per hectare (2006 Census) Emu Plains NSW on Google Maps
Government Electorates

Local Government: Emu Plains is located in both North and South Wards of the Penrith Local Government area. Next elections will be held in 2012.

State Government: Emu Plains is located in the State Government Electorate of Penrith. Next elections are scheduled for March 2015.
Federal Government: Emu Plains is located in the Federal Government Electorate of Lindsay. Next elections will be held in 2013.
Aboriginal Districts:  Emu Plains is located in the Deerubbin Local Aboriginal Land Council Area. Next elections will be held in 2011


  • Emu Plains General Cemetery :
    This cemetery is accessed through either Short or Nixon Street and lies on a knoll overlooking the Western Railway Line. The cemetery incorporates the churchyard of St Pauls Anglican Church. The original section was located to the east of the Church. In 1967, the whole cemetery was handed over to the administration of Penrith City Council. The most notable burial is that of Toby and Mary Ryan. Toby was a grandson of First Fleeters Anthony and Elizabeth Rope. Nepean Family History Society transcribed this cemetery in 1994.


  • Melrose Hall:  Cnr Great Western Highway and Park Street, Emu Plains, 2750.
    Ph: (02) 4735 4117.


Galleries & Museums

This art gallery was formerly the home and workplace of artists Margo and Gerald Lewers. The permanent collection is an important survey of the development of Modernism in Australian art from the early 1930s to the late 1970s. The collection focuses on abstraction and is represented by the Lewers and their contemporaries, including artists such as Ralph Balson, Yvonne Audette, Carl Plate, Frank and Margel Hinder and Tony Tuckson. The Gallery has three distinct exhibition spaces – a large purpose built gallery; the original homestead (c1900); and Ancher House, a fine example of domestic architecture from the 1960s. It is set on two acres of garden overlooking the Nepean River.

  • Arms of Australia Inn Museum: Corner of Great Western Highway and Gardenia Avenue Emu Plains, 2750.
    Ph: (02) 4735 4394. Open Sundays 1pm-5pm.

In 1976, the Nepean District Historical Society opened a Museum in the Arms of Australia Inn. This building dates back to 1841 and possibly earlier. It was an important stopping place for coaches and travellers on their way over the Blue Mountains and especially those going to and from the gold fields. The building was acquired by Penrith City Council and restored by members of the Society with Council and Government funding.


  • Nepean District Historical Society: Located in Arms of Australia Museum, Cnr Gardenia Avenue and Great Western Highway, Emu Plains, 2750; P.O. Box 441 Penrith, 2751.
    Ph: (02) 4735 4394.

The Society aims to promote and encourage the study of Australian history and in particular the history of the Penrith City Council area: to disseminate information on the history of the area through lectures, discussions, excursions, exhibitions and with the compilation of booklets; to attempt to secure the retention and preservation of buildings and sites of historical significance.

  • Nepean Family History Society: Located in the Old School Residence, Emu Plains, Lawson Street, Emu Plains. Postal Address: P.O. Box 81 Emu Plains, 2750.
    Ph: (02) 4735 3798.

The aims of the Society are to provide the family historian in the Nepean area with better access to genealogical records and related reference material. The Society helps members research their family history by providing a resource Library, knowledgeable guest speakers at monthly general meetings, quarterly journal Timespan and bimonthly newsletter Bullytin.


  • Nepean Valley Bridge (M4 Bridge) across the Nepean River.
  • Victoria Bridge across the Nepean River


Roads & Streets

Although the Great Western Highway cuts through Emu Plains, most through traffic uses the M4 motorway, south of the suburb. The Great Western Highway is used as a major local thoroughfare.
Russell Street named after Captain William Russell who married Sir John Jamison’s daughter. This street is a major connecting road between Old Bathurst Road and the M4 Motorway.
Old Bathurst Road the second road built over the Blue Mountains to Bathurst replacing Cox’s original road. Built by convicts, this road connects to Mt Riverview in the Blue Mountains.
Nepean Street was part of the original Cox’s Road over the Blue Mountains.
Punt Road was the western access to the punt (ferry) across the river before the bridge was built.
Beach Street named after William Beach, a sculler from Dapto, who in 1884 raced and beat world champion Edward Hanlon on the Nepean River.
Government House Drive</span> named after the Government House (later Dungarth) which was located close by and demolished in 1973.
Forbes Street named after Sir Francis Forbes who was granted land nearby.
Mortimer Street was named after John Mortimer who was licensee for the Arms of Australia Inn
Sheppard Street named after R.M. Sheppard who owned an orange orchard at Emu Plains.
Westbank Avenue named after the home (still in Nepean Street) of the Sheppard family.
Imperial Avenue named after a new variety of mandarin developed by Sheppard.

Historical profile

Origin of the place name – Emu Plains

Emu Plains is located on the west side of the Nepean River extending to the foot of the Blue Mountains. Part of this name (i.e. “Emu”) is thought to have originated with the sighting of emus there when the country was first explored by Europeans in the late 1700’s. A survey map of 26th August 1790 has the annotation “saw three cassowaries” marked near the ford. Early explorers often confused emu with cassowary. The locality was first known as “Emu Island” – the name thought to have originated with Captain Watkin Tench (1758?-1833), who first explored the region.

In Government Orders of 16 July 1814, Governor Macquarie referred to “Emu Plains (hitherto erroneously called Emu Island)”, which officially heralded the area’s change of name. And again in October 1814, George Suttor in his correspondence with Sir Joseph Banks, mentioned that the name Emu Plains had recently been changed from Emu Island. Up to this date the area had obviously been thought of as an island. The reason for this can possibly be explained by a contemporary observer, Barron Field (1786-1846), Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. Field noted that Emu Plains had been called “Emu Island” because the plains had, at times, been turned into an island by the “washing of the mountains when the Nepean ……flooded”. Another more recent explanation (offered by the late local historian and resident Arthur W. Street) claims that the name Emu Island originated because the Nepean River was divided near Emu Ford, thus forming an island. The island, Mr. Street claims, has slowly disappeared through constant excavation of gravel for building purposes. A further resolution of the confusion is detailed in the book Emu Plains by Joan Steege, where she explores all the divergent theories regarding its naming.

Governor Macquarie established a government farm at Emu Plains in 1819. Here convicts cleared the land and grew wheat, maize, tobacco and other crops for thirteen years. Land was not available for private settlement until the early 1830’s, when a town named Emu was surveyed.

On 25 October, 1963, the Emu Plains area was transferred from the Blue Mountains City Council to Penrith City Council.


The alluvial flats immediately flanking the Nepean River were often used for widespread orchard growing in the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century, especially at Emu Plains. Emu Plains also had extensive dairy farming and grape growing before residential development occurred.

Source: Phillips, H.,
Historic Blue Mountains, 1813-1938 .

Aerial view of Nepean River and Victoria Bridge looking south, c1935. Note orchards on right hand side at Emu Plains.

[LCPH S13] Penrith City Library Photographic Collection


Historical Timeline

1789 26 June Captain Watkin Tench set out to explore western-most parts of the colony
1790 26 August Tench & Dawes explored the Nepean river and ‘saw three cassowaries’ – a precursor to naming Emu Plains.
1806 12 September Proclamation by William Bligh to prohibit crossing of the Nepean River.
1808 8 July Rebel Governor, Major Johnston, issued a land grant at Emu Plains to his son.
1813 20 November Surveyor Evans set out from Emu Plains to explore inland


18 July

William Cox began construction of the road over the Blue Mountains.


14 January

William Cox completed first road over the Blue Mountains from Emu Plains to Bathurst.

1815 26 April Governor Macquarie’s tour over the Blue Mountains


4 January

James ‘Toby’ Ryan born at Castlereagh, well known Emu Plains and Penrith identity

1819 11 September Proclamation to set up a convict Agricultural Establishment with Richard Fitzgerald as Superintendent.
1822 22 April Scotsman Lieutenant Peter Murdoch appointed Superintendent of the convict farm at the resignation of Fitzgerald.
1823 24 March Tenders called for toll collector at Emu Ferry.
1824 December Alexander Kinghorne appointed Superintendent of the convict farm at the resignation of Murdoch.
1825 16 May First performance held at the convict theatre of Barissa or the Hermit Robber, The Farce of the Mock Doctor or the Dumb Lady Cured, and the favourite Bombastes Furioso.
1826 February James Kinghorne took over from his father as Superintendent at the farm.
1826 6 October Land grant to Francis Forbes, Chief Justice of the colony of 120 acres at Emu Plains (now Leonay) which he named Edinglassie.
1829 10 September Superintendent at Wellington Valley, John Maxwell became Superintendent at Emu Plains and Superintendent of Government Stock for the colony.
1831 August Superintendent at Grose Farm and Longbottom government farms, James Smith appointed as Superintendent at Emu Plains.
1832 20 May Village of Emu was laid out by the Government Surveyor
1832 31 August Emu Plains Convict farm officially closed.
1832 1 October David Lennox appointed to work on “Lennox Bridge”


8 June

First licence of Arms of Australia Inn granted to John Mortimer

1845 13 August Government land was sold to Michael Hogan
1848 8 November St Paul’s Church School opened


25 July

Bridge over Nepean River washed away in flood

1863   Methodist Church built using the stones from Edinglassie house


19 February

Mary Ryan died at Emu Hall and is buried at St Paul’s Cemetery, Emu Plains

1867 17 June First passenger train crosses Victoria Bridge
1868 August First railway station opened called Emu on south side of Old Bathurst Road


16 August

St. Paul’s Church of England consecrated


19 May

Eliza Bisset appointed as postmistress at Emu Ferry


30 January

Emu Plains Railway disaster. A Katoomba train carrying kerosene shale collided with the up train

1880 circa Quarry site opened on alluvial gavel pit on a bend of the Nepean River at Emu Plains
1885 20 March The town of Emu was proclaimed
1886 22 November A new railway station building and stationmaster’s residence opened
1887 A Telegraph Office opened at the railway station using Morse code
1896 The Telegraph Office converted to a Telephone Office
1899 17 October James ‘Toby’ Ryan died at Woolloomooloo and was buried at Emu Plains. He was a well known Emu Plains & Penrith identity


2 June

New Railway Bridge opened over Nepean River. Victoria Bridge becomes road traffic only.

1914 December Emu Plains prison farm commenced


4 January

St. Paul’s Church Rectory was destroyed by fire. All church records lost.


9 April

Armed robbery of the Emu Plains train of $9,400.

1934 21 Dec Melrose Hall opened. Named after C.J. Melrose a famous aviator of the time
1956 Electrification of the railway line between Penrith and Emu Plains.


29 May

Nepean High School opened.

1963 25 October Emu Plains transferred from Blue Mountains Council to Penrith City Council.
1973 11 October Official opening of F4 Freeway Bridge over Nepean River.
1976 27 March Arms of Australia Inn opened as a museum.


3 July

Old Emu Plains Post Office destroyed by fire (formerly the Australian Arms Inn)

1982 15 October Edinglassie Retirement Village opened
1982 14 Dec Lennox Bridge reopened for traffic after major restoration


28 January

McCarthy Catholic Senior High School (now McCarthy Catholic College) took in its first students


For more information on Emu Plains:


  • Hickey, Denise, Gerald and Margo Lewers: Their Lives and their Work, Grasstree Press, Mosman, 1982.


  • Synnot & Wilkinson and Recyclers of NSW, Paper and Glass Recycling Plant, Emu Plains: Environmental Impact Statement, the authors, October 1995.


  • Morris, L. and Davies, E. Community Services Needs of Emu Plains, Penrith City Council, Penrith, 1981.


  • Currey, C.M. Sir Francis Forbes, the First Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1968.
  • Gyford, George, Australian Arms Inn, Old Post Office, Emu Plains: Report, Nepean District Historical Archaeology Group, Penrith, 1984.
  • Gyford, George, Emu Plains Old and New Police Stations, Nepean District Historical Archaeology Group, Penrith, 1981.
  • Gyford, George, A History of the Emu Plains Railway Station 1868-1984, Nepean District Historical Archaeology Group, Penrith, 1984.
  • Kohen, J.L., An Archaeological Re-Appraisal of the Jamison’s Creek Site Complex, Emu Plains, the author, November 1984.
  • Long, Michael Reminiscences of a district veteran: Mr. Michael Long, JP Lambridge: an account of early days in the Nepean district, ed. by Colin Stevenson. Penrith City Council, Penrith, 1984.
  • Murray, Robert and White, Kate Dharug & Dungaree: The History of Penrith and St.Marys to 1860 , Hargreen Publishing, 1988.
  • Nepean District Historical Society, From Castlereagh to Claremont Meadows: Historical Places of Penrith City Council, Penrith,1997.
  • Parr, Lorna, A History of the Nepean and District Street Names, Nepean District Historical Society, Penrith, 1990.
  • Parr, Lorna, Penrith Calendar, Nepean District Historical Society, 1987.
  • Parr, Lorna, Penrith City Library Oral History Project, 1997.
  • Stacker, Lorraine, Chained to the Soil on the Plains of Emu: A History of the Emu Plains Government Agricultural Establishment 1819-1832, Penrith, 2000.
  • Stacker, Lorraine Pictorial history: Penrith & St Marys, Kingsclear Books, 2002.
  • Steege, Joan Emu Plains (2nd ed.) Nepean District Historical Society, Penrith, 1977.
  • Steege, Joan and Eardley, Gifford, Emu Plains & thereabouts, Nepean District Historical Society, Penrith, 1980.
  • Stevenson, Colin R.,  Place Names and their Origins within the City of Penrith, Penrith City Council, Penrith, 1985.
  • Stickley, Christine, The Old Charm of Penrith, 2nd ed., the author, St. Marys, 1984.