When the first Europeans settled in Sydney, Barangaroo – a powerful Cammeraygal woman – was a key leader in the local Aboriginal community.
The Barangaroo precinct named after her was part of the territory of the Gadigal people, Traditional Owners of the Sydney city region. It had been used for fishing and hunting for around 6,000 years.
At the time of first contact between the colonists and the Indigenous locals, Governor Arthur Phillip estimated there were 1,500 Aboriginal people living in the coastal area from Botany Bay to Broken Bay.
Aboriginal people continued to live here after European occupation, as depicted in an 1823 lithograph which shows the Aboriginal people continuing their traditional lifestyle as cattle and sheep graze in a landscape which by then included two windmills, several houses and sailing ships.
Sydney soon developed into a major port. By the 1820s, the first wharf was built at Walsh Bay, quickly followed by the wharves of Millers Point, at what is now Barangaroo Reserve.
WHARVES, PLAGUE AND HUNGER
For the rest of the 19th Century, this entire waterfront bustled with the unregulated seediness of a working port.
When the Bubonic Plague hit Sydney in 1900, the NSW Government seized control to rebuild the wharves, dramatically altering the landscape with the creation of Hickson Road and a series of finger wharves and store sheds.
During the Great Depression, Hickson Road was called The Hungry Mile because of the scores of unemployed men seeking work on the wharves.
In the 1960s the shipping container revolution led to the creation of a vast, featureless concrete apron, obliterating any sign of what had gone before.
In 2003, the NSW Government announced Sydney Harbour’s life as a working port would end, with stevedoring services moving to Botany Bay.
The way was open for “an iconic future development” at what is now Barangaroo.