1780s. There are waterholes here in the front land between Redfern Park and Centennial Park.


Lieutenant Tench describes a ridge on the north west arm of Botany Bay with ‘more than a dozen houses and perhaps five times that number of people; being the most considerable establishment that we are acquainted within this country. The huts occupied by this clan of about sixty people live near the outlet’ (of the Cooks River). This area according to the historian Vincent Smith is the heartland of the Kameygal Spear Clan.

  • Landing at Botany Bay, courtesy of National Library of Australia

Captain Hunter describes the people of the Harbour.

  • Sydney Cove Port Jackson 1788 by William Bradley
  • Wooloomooloo by Joseph Lycett, courtesy of the National Library of Australia


A group of Eora warriors attack the crew of the 'Sirius’ fishing boat and take half the catch. Later this year the brick makers on Brickfield Hill see an attack party coming towards them of perhaps 100 people. (Karskens, pp. 371-372)

Arabanoo is captured

Captain Hunter: 'We had here an opportunity of examining their canoes and weapons'.....(see stories) (Cobley, p. 42)

Lieutenant Bradley: ‘The Governor’s fishing boat met a great number of the natives in the lower part of the Harbour as they were hauling the Sein (fishing net). The people gave fish to all the natives, but they were not satisfied with that. They closed upon the people employed in the boat, and took what they pleased, their musquet happening to be left in the boat.’ One of the women made a fishing hook from the inside of what is commonly called the Pearl Oyster shell, by rubbing it down on the rocks until thin enough and then cut it circular with another, shaped the hook with a sharp point, rather bent in and not bearded or barbed''. (Cobley, pp. 98, 183)

  • The Governor attempting to return to his boat after spearing by William Bradley

Note: Distribution of named clans or bands in the Sydney region. (p. xxiii.)

The Cadigal people around Sydney Cove are reduced from about 60 in 1788 to 3 in 1791 due to small pox. Hinkson and Harris, p. xix.

  • Five Half length portraits of Aborigines 1788-1792 , courtesy of the National Library of Australia


Just over half the place names (60) were recorded initially by officers of the first fleet between 1788 and 1800. (Koch and Hercus, p. 13)


Phillip orders another kidnapping on Manly beach. The prisoners are Coleby (the uncle of Nanbury, a captured Koori child) and Bennelong. (Banelong). Bennelong becomes well known to the colonists. The historian Vincent Smith writes that “a body of evidence places Bennelong as the leader of an Aboriginal clan observed on the north side of the Parramatta river, between Kissing Point and Parramatta in the early years of the 19th Century'. He becomes a favourite of Phillip. (Vincent Smith p. 24, Karskens, pp. 379-380)

  • Taking of Colebee and Bennelong 1789 by William Bradley


The Eora resume their attacks on the Berewalgal (colonists), roaming their country and threatening armed officers and fishing boats too. Even the fear of muskets seems to be diminishing. Karskens, p. 379.

A convict searching for a local herb known as ‘sweet tea’ in the Brickfields area is killed and his body mangled possibly by ‘Gomerigal’ (Camaraigal) or Cadigal people. Other brick-makers form a revenge party and march down what is today’s Oxford Street, armed with work tools and large clubs. They meet 50 Eora warriors who run away from them. The historian Karskens interprets the incident as the officer Collins realising that the attack was an attempt by the Cadigal at containment, trying to restrict the colonists to Sydney Cove. On the same day Phillip sends out two armed parties to march to Botany Bay and elsewhere. Collins writes ‘that the natives might see their late acts of violence would neither intimidate nor prevent us from moving beyond the settlement whenever occasion required.’ Karskens, pp. 356- 368.

Arabanoo is taken back down the harbour to look for his Cammeraigal family and friends. Collins writes, ‘He looked anxiously around him … Not a vestige on the sand was to be found of human foot … not a living person was anywhere to be met with. It seemed as if in flying from contagion they had left the dead to bury the dead (from small pox). He lifted up his hands and eyes in silent agony for some time: at last he exclaimed ‘All dead! All dead!’ and then hung his head in mournful silence.’ He himself dies, probably of smallpox, later the same year. Karskens, p. 373.

  • Distant View of Sydney, Courtesy of National Library of Australia


Describing the effects of smallpox, David Collins, Judge Advocate of the colony, writes that 'Kooris are seen lying on the ground, either in excavations of the rock, or lying upon the beaches and points of the different coves which they had been in, the bodies of many of the wretched natives of this country. The cause of this mortality remained unknown until a family was brought up, and the disorder pronounced to have been small pox.’

Nambarry (Nanbury) is brought seriously ill from smallpox into the Sydney settlement. He is adopted by surgeon John White. He is initiated and he becomes a seaman on the Ship Reliance, making regular trips to Norfolk Island. (Vincent Smith, p. 24)

Phillip writes that the Cammeraigal (Gai-mariagal), whose country is north of the harbour) are the most numerous, robust and muscular people. They seem to dominate much of Sydney society and the male initiation ceremonies. (Karskens, p. 381)