The Dictionary of Sydney has a large number of articles, images and information about Aboriginal Sydneyand this content is among our most visited articles.
We recently published nine new articles about key Aboriginal sites in the Sydney basin. This content was supported by Office of Environment and Heritage through their Aboriginal Heritage Projects. The articles cover early land grants to Aboriginal people, massacres, institution and mission sites, social and leisure hubs and hotels.
There are many “I didn’t know that?!” moments in the articles. For example, did you know that long before native title, some Aboriginal people were granted land by the colonial government in western Sydney and their families lived on the land for over 80 years?
Governor Lachlan Macquarie granted 30 acres to Colebee and Nurragingy on 31 August 1819. It was given in recognition of their cooperation. Colebee helped guide William Cox when surveying the Blue Mountains road and later worked as the Native Constable at Windsor; while Nurragingy participated in the punitive expeditions of Governor Macquarie in 1816 to punish theft and violence against settlers.
The land was located on the Richmond Road at the intersection of what is now Rooty Hill Road. Although the registration of the land grant was in Colebee’s name only, the land continued to be occupied by Nurragingy until his death and formed the crucial locus for several more land grants and the establishment of the Black Town Native Institution.
Heidi Norman‘s article on Colebee and Nurragingy’s land grant out west around Blacktown demonstrates the complexity of Aboriginal-government attitudes to land. The government saw land grants as a form of reward – it was not a recognition of attachment to place or country. Nevertheless, some Aboriginal people tried to use the system to legitimise in colonial eyes their connection to traditional lands. This certainly seems to be the case for Colebee and Nurragingy.
Heidi Norman explains that the location of the land grant was significant because it was apparently nominated by Nurragingy. Ongoing archaeological work continues to reveal the presence of stone artefacts and the important source of silcrete, a hard stone useful for making hunting equipment which would also have been a useful trading substance before and after the Europeans arrived.
The site was resumed by government in the 1920s, and more recently was partially developed as a housing estate, but Heidi Norman writes, “…it continues as a space that connects pre-colonial traditional Aboriginal people with post-contact Aboriginal modernity and where the justice claims of post-colonialism await.” The site’s importance for its historical and contemporary connections was recognised in 2012 when the site of the original land grant was listed on the state heritage register.
To read the story of Nurragingy, Colebee and his wife Black Kitty, and their descendants, including Maria Lock, who we have highlighted before, have a look at Heidi Norman’s article.
You can listen to a podcast of Lisa’s segment with Mitch at 2SER Breakfast here. Tune in again next week for more of Sydney’s history courtesy of the Dictionary of Sydney, on 107.3 at 8:20am. Don’t miss it!