Sydney’s Oldest Unsolved Murders

When people talk about the convicts sent to Australia across the early years of colonisation, there are two dominant stories that emerge. There’s the story of the unjustly treated convict: driven, by poverty, to steal basic supplies such as clothing and food to... read more

The Stolen Girls

Walking around Sydney’s wealthy suburbs it is easy to be seduced by beautiful heritage houses with their immaculate shingled gables, filigreed iron lace work balconies and stain glass windows. But behind closed doors some these grand houses hide a grim history.... read more


FREE downloadable units of study linked to the Australian history curriculum here.

Read our latest book reviews here.


Catch up on our latest news here including reviews of some of the best books in 2016.

PIC: Man reading newspaper on deck of ferry approaching Circular Quay, 1906. By Harold Cazneaux. Contributed by National Library of Australia (nla.pic-an23242011).


The free Dictionary of Sydney app for your mobile device has four self directed walking tours for you to explore. Click here for details.


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The Dictionary of Sydney

Reading the Landscape: The History & Heritage of a Site

4 August at the Living Heritage Festival

Join archaeologists, historians, authors, curators, maritime and heritage experts for a symposium on the landscape and site of the Tempe House Precinct and the Cooks River.

Nine inspiring speakers come together to discuss and delve into the layered histories of Tempe House site, landscape and the river environment. Each session of three speakers focuses on a specific theme ranging from histories of place, architecture and social life to popular expressions of history and questions of identity.

Booking essential. Tickets are available online via the website.
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4 days ago

The Dictionary of Sydney

It is 230 years since First Fleet officer William Dawes recorded his conversations with Aboriginal people, including a young woman named Patyegarang.

This was the earliest attempt to transcribe and understand the Sydney coastal language, and to recognise the speaker’s intelligence, wit and humour.

In one interaction, Dawes told Patye (as he called her) that she would become white if she washed more often. She threw down her towel and yelled ‘terabarrbowaryoau!’ meaning, ‘I SHALL NOT BECOME WHITE.’

According to the Library's Indigenous Engagement team: "To read the words of Patyegarang is to come close to seeing the new colony through the eyes of an Aboriginal person, and to be reminded that despite the violence of colonisation, there were figures on both sides, trying to understand each other."

These notebooks (1788-1791) have returned to Gadigal land (on loan from the University of London) for our new 'Living Language' exhibition.

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Image: Melissa Jackson (Bundjalung) with Dawes notebooks.
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Detail from MS Hill's 1888 map 'The City of Sydney',  a birds-eye view over the city looking to the south and west across Darling Harbour.

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