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Sydney's Aboriginal History

There is till some disagreement among scholars as to the exact time when Aborigines first arrived in Australia. There is general consensus, however, that the first humans came to the continent from South-East Asia between 50,000 and 70,000 years ago, although there is some evidence to suggest they arrived up to 175,000 years ago. It is thought that around 3000 Aborigines lived around what is now Sydney and they used the area to gather food, provide shelter and to perform ceremonies which integrated religion, history, law, art and special codes of behaviour consistent with living in harmony with the land.

The first recorded contact the British had with the indigenous inhabitants of Australia was in 1770 when Cook first landed at Botany Bay. According to notes in Cook's journal warriors confronted the landing party and threatened them with spears. Cook's journal noted that 'All they seem'd to want for us was to be gone'. When the British returned in 1788 a campaign of annihilation was put in motion. From the introduction of disease, wanton displacement and deliberate murder, the local Aborigines were all but wiped out within a few decades of British occupation.

The Aborigines that occupied the area before the British arrived were the Eora people. Despite instructions from England commanding Governor Phillip 'to endeavour by every possible means to open an intercourse with the natives, and to conciliate their affections, enjoining all our subjects to live in amity and kindness with them' some 20,000 of these people were killed as a direct result of British colonisation and others were victims of so called dispersal and assimilation programs introduced by the government of the day.

Today the plight of Aborigines in Australia does not seem to have improved a great deal. Combined with enduring disenfranchisement from the land, alcohol and drugs are causing enormous problems for many Aborigines residing in Sydney today.

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