Thursday, November 19, 2009

Balmain - Land of the Eora People

There has been many extensive works on the European settlement of the Balmain peninsular but little is know about it's original Aboriginal inhabitants - the Eora and Wangal People (Eora meaning "from this place").

The Eora People is the name given to the Aboriginal people who had resided on the coastal areas around Sydney before European occupation. They mainly lived in the area of what is now known as Leichhardt and Annandale, while the Wangal people lived within the Rozelle and Lilyfield area. Balmain and Birchgrove's original inhabitants were known as the Birrabirragal people. All spoke a dialect of the Sydney Basin Dharug language and have been estimated to have lived in Sydney for at least 10,000 years before European occupation.
The initial contact with European settlers was disastrous with an estimated half of the local Aboriginal population killed by Smallpox in the first eighteen months. Before Europeans settled in Balmain, the peninsular was used as an area for European game hunting with large hordes of Kangaroos, deer and other species driven in from the plains of Ashfield to be hunted.
There is little evidence of Aboriginal culture surviving on the Balmain peninsular. Most of the archaeological sites revolve around midden mounds in caves and coves around the bays, holding the remains of shellfish, the staple diet of the local Aboriginal people. Leichhardt Council has 16 identified midden sites including sites at Whitehorse Point in Elkington Park, Balmain and Callan Point, Rozelle. These sites have been estimated to be about 4,500 years old. There is also a sign at Yurulbin Point in Birchgrove recognising the traditional owners of the area.

The sign at Yurulbin Point reading: "Leichhardt Council on 8th July 1994 this point was renamed Yurulbin Point from its former name of Long Nose Point at a ceremony symbolising reconciliation between Aborigines/Torres Strait Islanders and the non-indigenous Australian community."

It is interesting to note that some of the Dharug language from the area has left it's legacy in English, with words like "Wombat", "Boomerang", and "Woomera" being incorporated into our vocabulary.
The local native fauna also suffered with the intervention of Europeans, many are now extinct like the nuwalgang - Magpie Goose and the Bulungga - Eastern Native Cat, a cousin of Tasmania's Eastern Quoll.

The Tasmanian Eastern Quoll, it's relative used to be hunted by the local Aborignial communities in Birchgrove.

It is unfortunate to conclude that European settlement forever changed the Balmain peninsular and virtually wiped out the local Aboriginal population for good. Sadly, today less than one percent of Leichhardt County's population is identified as being from Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander decent.

Source: Leichhardt Council website
A Pictorial History of Balmain to Glebe J.Lawrence & C. Warne 1995

No comments:

Post a Comment