Sydney's first Aboriginal Reserve recognised for its cultural significance
The former La Perouse Aboriginal Reserve and Mission, where Aboriginal families have lived for more than 7,500 years, has been declared an Aboriginal place by the NSW Government.
Executive Director Heritage NSW Sam Kidman said the site is a testament to the great resilience of Aboriginal people following European invasion, despite its history of oppression and dispossession.
“This site, located at Frenchmans Bay in La Perouse, has close associations with early Aboriginal and European encounters in Kamay–Botany Bay,” Mr Kidman said.
“It is a very special place of ancient history and ongoing cultural practices that we’re acknowledging for its cultural significance, and to help protect it for future generations.”
In the late 1800s Aboriginal people were forced out of the city and its metropolitan camps, with many moving to La Perouse, leading to the creation of Sydney’s first Aboriginal Reserve.
“The La Perouse Aboriginal community nurtured and inspired several significant historical figures, including Queen Emma Timbery, an Aboriginal ‘matriarch’ and one of the earliest converts involved in mission work.
“This site remained a camping and meeting place for the Aboriginal community into the 1880s, before becoming Sydney’s first Aboriginal Reserve from the 1890s to the 1930s,” he said.
The NSW Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee’s Acting Chair Paul Knight said, for many Aboriginal people, La Perouse has a strong and special connection to the bicentenary events of 1988, when thousands of Aboriginal people from across Australia came to protest in Sydney.
“Today, the La Perouse Aboriginal community retains their connection to the site as it sits alongside Aboriginal housing,” Mr Knight said.
“Together with Redfern, La Perouse is the urban face of Aboriginal Sydney.”
As a place of political activism and resistance, the Former La Perouse Aboriginal Reserve and Mission is also associated with a strong sense of freedom and independence for many Aboriginal communities across New South Wales.
La Perouse Local Aboriginal Land Council’s Chairperson Ms Noeleen Timbery welcomed the declaration.
“On behalf of the La Perouse Aboriginal Community, including current members of the La Perouse Aboriginal Community, who resided or had parents and grandparents who had resided on the ‘old La Perouse Mission site’, we are pleased the NSW Government has recognised and provided legislative protections for the heritage significance of the site to our people,” Ms Timbery said.
The NSW Government’s formal declaration and protection of the La Perouse Aboriginal Place ensures it will be preserved and managed in a way that respects the culture and spiritual practices of the Traditional Owners of the land and can be enjoyed by future generations.