Aboriginal History in “Brief”
The Sydney area has been home to Aboriginal people for over 30,000 years. For thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Lane Cove area was home to the Cameraygal people. Living primarily along the foreshores of the harbour, they fished and hunted in the waters and hinterlands of the area, and harvested food from the surrounding bush. Moving throughout their country in accordance with the seasons, Aboriginal people spent only 4-5 hours per day working to ensure their survival. With such a large amount of leisure time available, they developed a rich and complex ritual life -- language, customs, spirituality, and law -- the heart of which was connection to Land.
The arrival of Lt James Cook in 1770 marked the beginning of the end for this ancient way of life. Because the vast majority of clans living in the Sydney Basin were killed as a result of the 1788 invasion, the stories of the land have been lost forever. Much of what we do know about the Cameraygal people must be gleaned from their archaeological remains. Middens, shelters, engravings, art remnants of indigenous life are prolific throughout the region, but no one remains to reveal their particular meanings or ancient significance. No one remains to bring this archaeology truly alive.
The Sydney Basin is one of the richest provinces in Australia in terms of Aboriginal archaeological sites, comparable even to Kakadu National Park. In the Sydney metropolitan area there are approximately 4,500 Aboriginal Sites registered by NPWS, which is only a small portion of what once existed here. More than half of these sites contain rock art, and in Sydney’s sandstone belt at least 1,500 rockshelters have been discovered to contain cultural deposit.
Physical evidence of occupation of the Sydney area dates on the coast from around 7,000 years ago at the Prince of Wales Hospital Site. Older sites would have been submerged as the sea level rose following the last ice age (around 20,000 years ago) and stabilised to its current level only 6,000 years ago. Hundreds of shell middens have been recorded along the coast and estuaries.
Aboriginal Sites in Lane Cove Council Area
Aboriginal sites are a very important factor in Aboriginal culture today, and just as important to the broader community. There are a significant number of sites in the Lane Cove Council area and while most of these sites have been recorded, there are likely to be many more that have yet to be identified. All Aboriginal sites have legal protection under both state and federal law.
These sites are under threat every day from development, vandalism and natural erosion. The sites cannot be replaced and once they are destroyed, they are gone forever. The sites that are located in Lane Cove Council area are still in reasonable condition and hold an important part in our history.
Areas with Potential for Aboriginal Sites
In addition to according protection to sites that are known and registered, the law protects sites not yet revealed. Although Lane Cove LGA is highly developed, there are areas that still hold great potential for uncovering further archaeological evidence of residence, including bush land, residential areas, as well as some commercial areas.
Council is responsible for protecting known sites and for implementing planning mechanisms that account for the possibility of uncovering sites. Educating Council staff, contractors, bush care volunteers, and the public about the identification of sites and the landscapes in which they generally occur, as well as how to proceed should such a site be discovered, are essential measures.
Find out more about local Aboriginal history at the Aboriginal Heritage Office website: www.aboriginalheritage.org