The Kuringai people, and groups such as the Cadigal and Kameraygal, lived amongst the waterways of the ‘Sydney’ region then known as Eora country.
They differed in appearance and lifestyle, to the Darug people, who belonged to the area now known as ‘the Western Suburbs’ and the Darkinjung – who belonged to the land of the ‘Central Coast’ area. Both main groups shared a similar language, distinct cultures and unchanged boundaries since time began.
A Place for Everything
This description by Captain Collins in 1798 gives a vivid picture of the peaceful life of the people who lived on the lakes district of the Central Coast.
“The lake abounded with fish of all sorts, but what attracted my attention were the black swans; their nests built in the water of sticks were dotted over the whole of the shallow beaches of the lake. Every nest contains several eggs, and we each collected as many as we could conveniently carry. The several points of land which extended into the lake were black with ducks, and waterfowl; they were in their thousands, and covered acres of ground. The outlines of the sand flats were indicated by a countless number of pelicans…
…A bark canoe, paddled by a very old, grey headed man, now silently approached and drew close to our camp. The canoe was so laden with fish of all sorts as to be but a few inches above water. The old man by name “Jew Fish”, at once commenced to throw the fish onshore. There was no rush or scramble for them; In fact no one seemed to pay the slightest attention..”
Keep the Fires Burning
To call Aboriginal people ‘nomads’ was a mistake. Aboriginal peoples moved in a cyclic pattern, returning to the same place at regular intervals and improving the land through the careful use of fire, looking after the land and belonging to it.
The use of the firestick was an important part of caring for the land – commonly known as “firestick farming” or “mosaic (pattern) burning”. It was often a responsibility for women. When extended family groups returned to a region it would be fully regrown with abundant flora and fauna to share. This practice was carried out in Australia for tens of thousands of years.
Certain areas were communal and shared in special ways, some were sacred places and others were personal Dreaming Places.
“Aboriginal society appeared democratic to European observers because there were no chiefs and no inequalities based on birth or wealth. The important distinctions were sex, age and knowledge. Of these knowledge was the most important.
Aboriginal society was ruled by the Elders, select older people who had passed through all the stages of initiation… Their power was based on their knowledge of the ceremonies. They arbitrated and settled disputes, they held inquests if anyone died unexpectedly, fixed punishments if laws were broken, and decided on revenge parties or war against other tribes. They were keepers of the Law, the source of practical and spiritual wisdom, and responsible for the well being of all their people and their land…”
The Elders and the Rule of the Law – from ‘Survival’ by Nigel Parbury
We are a peaceful people here
Sea-food is plentiful year after year
A place for everything
In the stories that we say
This our home –
On the waterway
Keep the fire burning,
Keep control in your hand
Our way of living cares for the land.
There’s a time for moving
And the land will burn
More better land when we return
All the spirits of the world we know
Ancestors made it long – long ago
Our Elders hold the secrets of the Law
This our home – on the waterway
All people have their place
In the time and space all around
Dreaming Places everywhere
Here to the western plains