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Historical Statement


We stand today in Cameraygal Country. The Cameraygal are a clan of the Eora nation who had first contact with the First Fleet of January 1788 and with Governor Phillip, his marines and convicts. We come together today to give public recognition of Aboriginal resistance to British invasion.

Aboriginal Australians belong to the oldest, continuous, living culture in the world and for whom land forms the basis of identity, culture, religion and economy. Aboriginal people have been living in the Sydney region since the time of the Dreaming. All their lands and waters were occupied and honoured in accordance with ancestral rules and customs and on the basis of reciprocity.

The sharing of resources was governed by the spiritually and culturally complex rules of obligation which the Creator Spirit Baiame and the Rainbow Serpent and other Totemic Spirits had established according to the Skin Grouping of these people.

The concept of the invasion of another nation for the acquisition of land was inconceivable to Aboriginal society and thus no formal defences were maintained. Witnessing the arrival of the British, the Eora could not comprehend the imperial drive by a colonising power to take all lands, territories, waters and resources without regard to the traditional owners and to the reciprocal obligations.

In 1789, a smallpox epidemic decimated the Eora, including the Cameraygal. The Eora had no immunity and no defence against all other introduced diseases such as influenza, measles, typhoid and syphilis brought by the convicts, sailors, soldiers and others.

The first record of contact in the Lane Cove area between the British and the Cameraygal people is in the diary of Lt. Ralph Clark of the marines, who landed at Woodford Bay on 14 February 1790. He reported amicable encounters with Dourrawan and Tirriwan, two Cameraygal men, exchanging gifts as well as food. Clark also recorded that Dourrawan's wife had already died of smallpox.

Over the following years, convicts, grasscutters and timbergetters worked in the Lane Cove area. An early British settlement north of the Harbour was established at Woodford Bay where a stockade was built to protect the convicts and settlers from Cameraygal attacks.

In 1794, free land grants of Cameraygal country were made in the vicinity of the area which is now occupied by the Lane Cove Shopping Centre. With the destruction of native fauna and flora and the interference with their gathering, hunting and fishing practices and their sacred, cultural areas, the Eora realised that permanent changes were taking place to their countries without their consent. Armed resistance was the logical consequence to this arrogant disregard of Aboriginal Law and Customs.

The settlers' clearance of Cameraygal land triggered further resistance in the Lane Cove area, with the burning of crops and attacks on farmhouses and settlers.

An Aboriginal hero of these times was Pemulwuy, a Bidgigal man and Eora patriot. From 1790, he and his resistance fighters conducted a sustained campaign using guerilla tactics against the invaders of the Sydney region. For twelve years Pemulwuy ensured that spears and tactics were a match for the musket and gunpowder of the British military corps and for a while, halted the march of colonisation at Parramatta.

Pemulwuy was active in areas from Castle Hill and Toongabbie to Botany Bay; and extending into the areas of Kissing Point (Putney) and Lane Cove. Pemulwuy was shot and killed in 1802 and his head was sent, on request for study, to Sir Joseph Banks in London. The resistance continued under the leadership of Pemulwuy's son, Tedbury.

Former Judge Advocate and Secretary of the Colony, David Collins had recorded that in 1797 the Eora were 'exceedingly troublesome to the settlers in the Lane Cove area' and that settlers were 'perpetually alarmed'. The 'Sydney Gazette' of September 1804 reported an attack on Wilshire's Farm at Lane Cove, estimating that the number of Eora involved 'must have exceeded 200'.

In 1816, in response to raids on farms from Lane Cove to the Nepean River, Governor Macquarie dispatched a military expedition, lasting twenty three days, to the Nepean, Hawkesbury and Grose Rivers. Orders were to capture Aboriginal people and to shoot all resisters. The aim, as Macquarie recorded, was to 'strike them with Terror against Committing Similar Acts of Violence' and 'to drive them to a distance from the Settlements of White Men.' Aboriginal people were now outlawed in their own land, but Aboriginal resistance continued and sovereignty was never ceded.

Free land grants continued until the 'Ripon Land Regulations' in mid-1831. Rupert Kirk was the last person to receive a land grant in the Lane Cove district when he received 320 acres, which took in all of the Longueville peninsular, extending from the water at Woodford Bay, where we meet today, northwards to Longueville Road.

We stand today in Cameraygal Country. In the spirit of Reconciliation, we move forward, working together for social justice and the inherent rights of Aboriginal Australians; the truth-telling of our shared Australian history and the healing of our nation. We can then one day all walk together as Australians, with dignity, on this sacred land.