Visual directory of Sydney - virtual travel to Australia
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Visual directory of Sydney - virtual travel to Australia
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Sydney Aboriginal History

Aboriginals arrived to Australia from south-East Asia between 50,000 and 70,000 years ago. There is also some evidence to suggest they arrived up to 175,000 years ago. It is thought that around 3000 Aborigines lived around what is now called Sydney. They used the area to gather food, provide shelter and to perform ceremonies, which integrated religion, history, law, art and special codes of behaviour consistent with living in harmony with the land.

The first recorded contact the British had with the indigenous inhabitants of Australia was in 1770 when Cook first landed at Botany Bay. According to notes in Cook's journal warriors confronted the landing party and threatened them with spears. Cook's journal noted that “All they seem'd to want for us was to be gone”. When the British returned in 1788 a campaign of annihilation was put in motion. Local Aborigines were almost all wiped out within a few decades of British occupation due to their land and hunting grounds being taken away, disease and sometimes deliberate massacre.

The Aborigines that occupied the Sydney area before the British arrived were the Eora people. Despite instructions from England commanding Governor Phillip “to endeavor by every possible means to open an intercourse with the natives, and to conciliate their affections, enjoining all our subjects to live in friendship and kindness with them”, some 20,000 of these people were killed as a direct result of British colonization. Others were victims of so called dispersal and assimilation programs introduced by the government of the day. This meant sending aboriginal children to schools in the city, away from their parents and family so that they could be brought up as whites.

Apart from rock paintings and engravings, there is little evidence of the artistic and cultural activities of Aboriginal people prior to the white invasion. However, there are several accounts, such as the journals of officials and others in the First Fleet, that document the cultural traditions of Sydney’s Aborigines at the time of European settlement.

The witnesses of the time note that singing and dancing were a large part of daily life for Aboriginal people in Port Jackson. Some observers like Governor John Hunter claimed that Aboriginal women would sing all day, particularly while fishing, keeping time with a song while they paddled. The songs and dances performed at corroborees told stories of hunting and fighting and ancient gods. For the Port Jackson aboriginals the corroborees took place at Bennelong Point (where the Opera House is now).

Today the plight of Aborigines in Australia does not seem to have improved a great deal. Alcohol and drugs are causing enormous problems for many Aborigines residing in Sydney today. On Sunday 15th of February 2004 rioters set fire to a train station and pelted police officers with gasoline bombs in an Aborigine neighborhood during a nine-hour street battle that began after a black teenager died, apparently while being chased by police. Even after more than 100 years there is still lot of tension between aboriginal and white people. Until everyone puts aside the differences and realizes that we are all people of the Earth, Australia will never be one united nation.

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