Aboriginal history

Moorebank is part of the traditional country of the Darug and Dharawal groups, and is a culturally significant location. It was part of the boundary of these groups, and nearby was an important travel corridor between the Cumberland Plain and the Illawarra region. With the Georges River close by, this area would have been rich with food, water, medicinal plants and other resources. Aboriginal people practised environmental management here through the cultivation and seasonal harvesting of plants, fishing practices, and firing the area to herd animals for hunting and encourage new plant growth. Archaeological excavations for the construction of the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal uncovered more than 1,500 stone artefacts, some of which were dated to at least 22,000 years ago.

Joseph Lycett, 1817 Aborigines using fire to hunt kangaroos. (National Library of Australia)

Joseph Lycett, 1817 Aborigines using fire to hunt kangaroos. (National Library of Australia)

Augustus Earle, c1826 A native family of New South Wales sitting down on an English settlers’ farm. (National Library of Australia) The farm has been identified as Glenfield, the home of Charles Throsby at Liverpool.

Augustus Earle, c1826 A native family of New South Wales sitting down on an English settlers’ farm.  (National Library of Australia)
The farm has been identified as Glenfield, the home of Charles Throsby at Liverpool.

A selection of stone tools excavated at Moorebank (Biosis, 2018)

A selection of stone tools excavated at Moorebank (Biosis, 2018)

With the arrival of European settlers in the area, Aboriginal people were increasingly displaced from their traditional land, as settlers cleared, fenced and cultivated the area and claimed many natural resources, such as timber, fishing grounds and drinking water. Others built homesteads on the highest elevations restricting access by the Aboriginal people to traditional lookout points and high-ground meeting places. Aboriginal communities defended their right to their land, which often resulted in violent confrontations. Some amicable relationships developed, such as those with Charles Throsby of the nearby Glenfield Estate who provided shelter for Aboriginal families on his estate, and some Aboriginal people adapted their skills to work as farm labourers and guides. Following a drought in 1814-15, resources became even more scarce, causing tensions to increase. In 1816, after increased violence, Governor Macquarie issued an order for Aboriginal men to be taken as prisoners, with any resisters to be shot and hung from trees as a warning to others.

Introduced diseases such as smallpox and measles devastated the Aboriginal population during the mid-1800s. However, the commitment to traditional life remained strong – corroborees were still held in Campbelltown until the 1850s, often with up to a hundred participants. Aboriginal connections to the Moorebank area continued into the site’s military phase, with many Aboriginal servicemen working at the Moorebank barracks. Despite the vast impacts on Aboriginal culture since European arrival, the Moorebank area continues to hold great cultural significance for Aboriginal people. Local Aboriginal people are actively involved in caring for the many significant sites in the area. Today the Liverpool area has one of the highest populations of Aboriginal people in the Sydney region.

Developed by Artefact Heritage