The second half of the nineteenth century saw a rapid expansion in New South Wales railways. In Sydney, this meant both the early stations and workshop facilities quickly became too small, and had to be expanded or relocated.
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.
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.
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.
James Chisholm arrives in the colony of New South Wales aged 19 as a non-commissioned officer.
Settler David Collins observes Cadigal people performing a ceremony “between the town and the brickfield”.