|Historical notes: ||The "Eora people" was the name given to the coastal Aborigines around Sydney. Central Sydney is therefore often referred to as "Eora Country". Within the City of Sydney local government area, the traditional owners are the Cadigal and Wangal bands of the Eora. There is no written record of the name of the language spoken and currently there are debates as whether the coastal peoples spoke a separate language "Eora" or whether this was actually a dialect of the Dharug language. Remnant bushland in places like Blackwattle Bay retain elements of traditional plant, bird and animal life, including fish and rock oysters.
With the invasion of the Sydney region, the Cadigal and Wangal people were decimated but there are descendants still living in Sydney today. All cities include many immigrants in their population. Aboriginal people from across the state have been attracted to suburbs such as Pyrmont, Balmain, Rozelle, Glebe and Redfern since the 1930s. Changes in government legislation in the 1960s provided freedom of movement enabling more Aboriginal people to choose to live in Sydney.
(Information sourced from Anita Heiss, "Aboriginal People and Place", Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/barani )
The building is within the area that was part of the original grant to the first Surry Hills landowner - Captain Joseph Foveaux, who was assigned 105 acres in 1793 and subsequently increased his holdings to encompass most of Surry Hills. By 1800, John Palmer - farmer and grazier, had acquired more than 200 acres of Surry Hills and become Commissary General. However by 1814, Palmer had fallen into financial trouble and lost his position in the colony, resulting in his estate being divided and sold at public auction. Edwards Riley attempted to reassemble the Palmer Estate during the 1820s, although after his suicide in 1825 the holdings were once again subdivided according to Meehan’s original plan and sold to the public. The economic boom of the 1830s acted as the necessary catalyst for residential development in Surry Hills with the original allotments being initially subdivided into villa estates. With much of the Riley Estate still locked up in a legal battle, the early development in Surry Hills focused on the lands around Albion and Bourke Streets. It wasn’t until the gold rush boom of the 1850s that the Riley Estate finally become available, and provided substantial land for the development of workers housing locally employed by the breweries and other industries. In 1908 the NSW Government allocated funds for the construction of a children's court and shelter in a more central location (than the existing children's court operating from Juniper Hall, Paddington at the time). The site chosen in Albion Street (corner Commonwealth Street) was part of the Fosterville Estate. The corner block was owned by the Sparke family in the 1880s but ownership was transferred to Sydney Municipal Council in 1905. In 1906 the new Central Railway Station opened nearby, making the site more accessible. The Government Architect Walter Liberty Vernon designed the Children's Court and Shelter and it was constructed by builder C.C. Coleman of Petersham for 9555 pounds, replacing earlier buildings.The Court was completed in 1911, opening on 7 October 1911. In the first six months of operation 553 boys passed through the Shelter. By 1913 boys were being remanded to the Shelter by the Magistrate for up to 2 weeks for offences such as petty theft and truancy. Scenes in the Children's Court during World War II were incorporated into Dymphna Cusack and Florence James' novel "Come in Spinner" (later made into a film). The internal courtyard was used as an overcrowded waiting area. The Boys Shelter became outdated, and detention rules were changed in 1976, after adverse publicity concerning absconding and violent incidents. "In a dramatic gesture signifying the changes in child protection policy of the time, the Minister for Young and Community Services Rex Jackson took an axe to the detention room door in November 1980. Jackson's ambition to close the Shelter, which he called 'one of the most obnoxious complexes in Australia', was realised on 14 November 1980 [when all the boys were transferred to Minda Remand Centre at Lidcombe]" (page 37 "For Their Own Good.."Christa Ludlow ). The last sitting of the Albion Street Children's Court was held on Friday 29 April 1983. The building has since been used by Sydney City Mission and a range of community organisations.