Summary The concentration and influx of charcoal in a 210Pb-dated sediment core were used to investigate the recent fire history of Jibbon Lagoon in Royal National Park, NSW. Fire events of the recent (historic) past were compared to this record in an attempt to test its sensitivity. Recent fire events were not always reflected in the charcoal results. Nonetheless it can be concluded that since about AD 1930 the area has been characterized by a relatively high frequency of fires. The analysed sediments of the pre-European period contained a low concentration of charcoal, and only one large conflagration appears to have occurred in approximately the last 1600 years. How Aboriginal people used fire in this landscape is still uncertain. However, it is possible that they did not regularly burn the landscape, or if they did, it was in such a way that the delivery of charcoal to the lagoon was minimal. This study thus suggests that the idea of the ubiquitous use of fire by Aboriginal people should be further, and critically, analysed.