Central - Sydney Aboriginal history

The Central section encloses the southern shoreline of Sydney Harbour, the inner city suburbs, west to Ashfield and south to Kensington.  Many of the events and interviews in this section took place in Redfern where the Aboriginal Health, Legal and Childrens Services were created in the 1970s. Many more Aboriginal organisations were created in the 1980s.

The name of the language mainly spoken in the region is unclear. For some years it has been taken to have been Eora, but more recently the so-called Eora language has been claimed to have been an eastern variant of the so-called Darug tongue spoken in western Sydney. Probably we shall never know, and it seems sensible to keep on referring to the language spoken round the southern part of harbour, as the Sydney language. The most important point to bear in mind is that Aboriginal people were multilingual, speaking not only their own language, but the two or three others spoken by their neighbours. Central Sydney, always populated by many Aboriginal visitors as well as the traditional owners, would have resounded with very many different Aboriginal languages until at least 1850.

The timeline relating to this part of the website looks a little different from other sections because early Sydney received so many English and European visitors too. Many of them wanted to write about what was, to at least 1820, the most interesting topic - the Indigenous people. So there are many more informative references to people in the early Central district, especially round the harbour, than there are in other parts of Sydney.

The other dense section of the timeline begins in the 1950s. Aboriginal people were flocking to Sydney in even greater numbers than before. The authorities replied with the force previously seen only in country towns when the local population began to increase. Yet the arrival of the newcomers in the inner-city resulted in the establishment of dozens of new Aboriginal organisations like the Legal and Health Services.

What the pictures, videos and text show most clearly is that that there never was a time when Aboriginal people were not living in sizeable numbers Sydney, in the Central region as much as anywhere else. They never went away, they just kept themselves out of sight, as they had learned to do very early. It was only when their numbers built up in certain locations - Sydney town in the 1810s, Circular Quay in the 1870s, Redfern in the 1960s, that Koori people were noticed.