Sydney Olympic Park - Aboriginal dancers at Sydney Dreaming - Photo by Gordon Hammond

Aboriginal Timeline

More than 20,000 years ago

Over the past 20,000 years, the Sydney area has had at least 1,000 generations, of continuous occupation by Aboriginal people. Aboriginal people were most likely living in the area now known as Homebush Bay by this time.

15,000 to 6,000 years ago

As the last Ice Age (which occurred about 20,000 years ago) came to an end, rising seas submerged large areas of Sydney's old coast and river valleys, creating the environment of Homebush Bay first seen by Europeans in 1788. Aboriginal people would have lived through and adapted to these changes at Homebush Bay.

6,000 years ago to early 1800s

Aboriginal people lived in and around Homebush Bay, using its varied and abundant resources.


Homebush Bay was part of the estate of the Wangal, whose lands stretch along the southern side of the Parramatta River between Cockle Bay (now known as Darling Harbour) and Rose Hill.


The First Fleet arrived from Britain. Homebush Bay was first visited by Europeans in February and described as 'The Flats' after the extensive mangroves and mud flats of the area. A European settlement is established on Burramatta-gal land at Rose Hill. Contact between the Wangal at Homebush Bay and the Europeans begins with boat traffic along the Parramatta River between Sydney Cove and Rose Hill and escaped and lost convicts and marines straying into the Homebush Bay area from Rose Hill (Parramatta).


Smallpox claimed the lives of many Aboriginal people in the Sydney area and is likely to have severely changed cultural practices of the Wangal at Homebush Bay.


Aboriginal man Balloderry speared a convict at or near Homebush in retaliation for the destruction of his canoe, which he had been using to catch fish to trade with the Europeans at Parramatta.


The appropriation of Wangal lands at Homebush Bay began with land grants around the present day Bicentennial Park area.


Despite many small land grants in the area, it remained largely uncleared and is likely to have had continued use by Aboriginal people.

Early 1800s

Aboriginal people were working for and trading fish with the Blaxland family at their Newington Estate on the Parramatta River.


Bennelong, a Wangal man, passed away and was buried within the property of James Squires at Kissing Point (Ryde), with whom he had lived his final years.


By the 1830s, Aboriginal people along the Parramatta River were living in small groups at several locations. The 'Kissing Point Tribe', lived across the Parramatta River from Homebush and may have included some Wangal people from the Homebush Bay area.

Late 1800s

It is not known whether Aboriginal people were using or living at or around Homebush Bay, although it is highly likely from what is known about other parts of the Parramatta River.

Early to Mid 1900s

Aboriginal people from La Perouse occasionally visited the Homebush Bay mangroves to collect mangrove wood suitable for the production of boomerangs.

Mid 1900s

Aboriginal people were among the many industrial workers of Homebush, such as in the abattoir, brickworks and the Newington naval base.


Aboriginal stone artefacts were discovered at Homebush Bay near the Newington Village site, as the process of remediating and developing the site commenced.

Late 1990s

Prior to the 2000 Olympic Games, Sydney Local Aboriginal Land Councils, Traditional Owner and Descendant groups were involved in researching the Aboriginal usage of the Homebush Bay area.


The Olympic Games held at Sydney Olympic Park had strong Aboriginal cultural themes in the opening ceremony and an Aboriginal culture and history pavilion at the Olympic site. Australian indigenous athlete Cathy Freeman won an Olympic Gold Medal at Sydney Olympic Park in the 400m


Saw the commencement of the Aboriginal History and Connections Program at Homebush and the inaugural Sydney Dreaming Festival.


Aboriginal stone artefacts and an axe-marked tree, used by Aboriginal people for hunting possums, were located within Newington Nature Reserve. This finding demonstrates the usage of the Sydney Olympic Park area by Aboriginal people both before and after the arrival of Europeans at Homebush Bay.

2003 and 2004

Presented Sydney Dreaming, an ambitious Aboriginal arts and cultural festival under the direction of Rhoda Roberts, one of Australia’s leading Indigenous performing arts practitioners.


The Authority commenced an education project to enhance the existing school environmental excursion programs with place-based Aboriginal history and culture. This aligned the school programs content with the National School Curriculum priorities. 

2013 - 2015

Arising from the work in 2012, the Authority developed a teacher professional development workshop ‘The Koori Classroom’ and achieved accreditation by the NSW Board of Studies for Teacher Professional Learning.


New  indigenous place-based environmental excursion programs ‘Let’s go Walkabout ‘, ‘Wangal Walkabout’ and ‘Bennelong and the Wangal’ were developed and successfully delivered to primary school students .

Building on the success and partnerships around our annual Youth Eco Summit (YES), the Authority has pioneered development of an Indigenous youth summit: Murama (which means "yes" in the Sydney language).

Murama involves Indigenous youth from around Australia connecting and sharing in residence at Sydney Olympic Park and then leading visiting primary students through a second day of cultural activities. The event piloted in October 2016 and involved program oversight from Western Sydney Traditional Owners, participant mentoring by Indigenous community leaders from around NSW, cultural program development by 7 Gen International, Australian Museum, Western Sydney University, Australian Catholic University; and sponsorship from Accor Hotels, Bunnings, GWS Giants and City of Parramatta.

We are currently exploring the feasibility of a cultural education centre on site that could provide learning, employment and community engagement opportunities as a hub for Indigenous programs and events. 

Reconciliation Plan - what/why?

The RAP is a business plan that documents what an organisation commits to do to contribute to reconciliation in Australia. A RAP will assist us to identify, implement and measure practical actions that build respectful relationships and create opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The RAP program is coordinated by Reconciliation Australia.

Download ButtonReconciliation Action Plan (RAP) (PDF 5.33MB)