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Indigenous Connections - Railway Days

The Eveleigh Railway Workshops were a source of employment for Aboriginal people, who were employed in the foundry, boiler room, workshops and later the goods yard. Aboriginal people travelling into Redfern from the country had family connections here, where rental housing was affordable.

Indigenous Connections

Eveleigh is Gadigal country. We acknowledge their ownership of this land and pay our respects to past, present and emerging elders.
  • 1217

    Pre contact – Members of Cadigal, or Gadigal, people inhabit Redfern, Erskineville and surrounds. The Gadigal Traditional Owners who today speak for the Sydney clan area stretched “from the south side of Port Jackson from South Head to Petersham”. The Gadigal people spoke the coastal Eora dialect of the Darug language and are often referred to as the Eora people. Redfern as a site was important to its people because it had a source of water – Shea's Creek, which today is Alexandra Canal, as well as a source of food from the wetlands that drained into the creek. Redfern’s high point on the terrain offered views of the trade route from Circular Quay to Parramatta, on which the colony’s first railway would be built. These trade routes connected with larger routes which linked the north and south, and east and west of Australia. Not only goods, but ideas, songs, ceremonies and news travelled along these routes.

  • 1788

    The British arrive in January with catastrophic effect on the Aboriginal way of life. The Eora people do not flee, as Captain James Cook predicted, but stand their ground. Governor Phillip attempts to create good relations, but these soon disintegrate due to the persecution of the Aboriginals by the convicts. The Aboriginals are pushed out of Sydney town with fear of being shot, and with the quick pollution of the Tank Stream by tanneries, they are forced to use water sources near Redfern.

  • 1789

    The smallpox plague devastates the Aboriginal people. Without immunity to the disease brought by the British, a large percentage of the Cadigal clan is wiped out. Following the plague, survivors from surrounding clans join together to survive, and to participate in the guerrilla movement led by Pemulwuy.

  • 1793

    Settler David Collins observes Cadigal people performing a ceremony “between the town and the brickfield”.

  • 1842

    On Hutchinson’s land, one of his sons-in-law, John Rose Holden, builds Eveleigh House. Named after Holden's mother whose maiden name was 'Everleigh', it stood on what is now known as The Block and is remembered by Eveleigh Street, which borders The Block.

  • 1852

    Cora Gooseberry, wife of Bungaree, is buried in the Presbyterian section of the Sandhills (Devonshire Street) Cemetery. Found dead on 30 July, E. Borton (or Berton) pays for her burial and headstone in the Presbyterian section.

  • 1900

    La Perouse is declared an Aboriginal Reserve, the closest Aboriginal community to the city.

  • 1920

    Large numbers of Aboriginal people migrate from rural areas to Redfern and surrounds with hope of employment. The largest employer of Redfern’s inhabitants is the Eveleigh Railway Workshops.

  • 1956

    The Aboriginal Australian Fellowship is established by Pearl Gibbs and Faith Bandler.

  • 1967

    In the National Referendum, Australians vote to include Aboriginal people in the census and allow the Commonwealth to make laws for Aboriginal peoples.

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