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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples of Parramatta
The Darug Traditional Owners
City of Parramatta Council acknowledges the Traditional Owners of this land the Darug Peoples.
For around 60,000 years, the area of Parramatta has been occupied by the Burramattagal people, a clan of the Darug, who lived here along the upper reaches of the Parramatta River. Burramattagal is thought to be derived from the Aboriginal word for 'place where the eels lie down' to breed (in Parramatta River).
The Burramattagal have a close relationship with the river, from which they caught fish, eels, and other food. Their stable bark canoes often carried a small fire in the middle - built on a mound of soil to allow them to cook their catch fresh. 'Firebrand farming' was also practiced in the region.
Soon after Governor Phillip's arrival with the First Fleet (of convicts from England) in 1788, Parramatta was developed as a farming settlement to feed the new English colony. This led to the immediate and tragic displacement of local Aborigines from the land they had lived off for hundreds of thousands of years. Local Aboriginal groups led a resistance against the new settlers and the most prominent warrior was Pemulwuy. More of this history can be found in resources in Parramatta Library and Parramatta Heritage Centre
The Darug Peoples survive to this day with populations in Parramatta, Greater Western Sydney, La Perouse and the Blue Mountains. There are a number of Darug Organisations and advisory committees that include active Darug peoples, as well as prominent Darug artists.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community
Parramatta has always been an important meeting place for Aboriginal peoples. In early colonial times many Aboriginal people were brought to Sydney and Parramatta as cheap labour as domestic servants or building infrastructure. This resulted in a large Aboriginal population in inner-city Sydney and Western Sydney. In fact Western Sydney has the largest ATSI population of any region in Australia.
In addition, Aboriginal people have a very close and special connection to a number of institutions in Parramatta including the Parramatta Jail, Native Institution, Parramatta Park, and the Women's Factory.
Many policies and initiatives were first implemented in Parramatta which had major impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander society. For example the policies that lead to the Stolen Generation began outside the Parramatta Town Hall in 1810 through the Assimilation Policy (1810-1825), which had profound effects throughout Australia and lasted into the 1970s.
Today there are many ATSI people who work, live and play in Parramatta. Statistical information on Parramatta's Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander communities, by suburb, is available by entering 'Indigenous' in the ethnicity section of the Community Atlas
Last updated on 22 May 2015