Culture and heritage

Aboriginal cultural heritage

A history of the Aboriginal people of the Illawarra

This book provides a thematic history of the Aboriginal people in the Illawarra area, south of Sydney, from 1770 to 1970. It covers the period from just before European invasion to the evolution of the late 20th-century Aboriginal political institutions. It was undertaken in consultation with various Aboriginal groups and people from the Illawarra along with extensive historical research.

The book includes several maps that show areas of historical and contemporary significance to Aboriginal people, and identifies sites that are of local or statewide significance. Eight sites were recognised as being especially important for Aboriginal people:

  • the Five Islands
  • Hill 60/Red Point
  • Gooseberry Island
  • Hooka Island
  • Mount Keira
  • Mount Kembla
  • Coomaditchy/official camps site
  • Fig tree site at Figtree.

'A history of the Aboriginal People of the Illawarra' is consistent with a change in emphasis in the organisation's cultural heritage research. For many years, OEH's Aboriginal cultural heritage management efforts were focused on archaeological sites and objects. More recently, OEH tried to expand this focus to acknowledge the deep and ongoing connections between Aboriginal communities and their country.

This new publication is part of the Illawarra Aboriginal Heritage Regional Studies program which also includes 'Murni, Dhungang, Jirrar: Living in the Illawarra', a book on wild resource use. These books have already made an impact on national park management and educational activities in the Illawarra. OEH hopes that they will become a valuable resource for the Illawarra Aboriginal community and the wider community for years to come.

Documents to download

This publication is available in two versions.

If you have a broadband internet connection, you may wish to download the complete book (2.7MB), as well as the 'early contact map' (7MB) that was included with the book in its printed form:

If you have a dial-up internet connection, you may wish to download sections of the book individually:

  • A history of the Aboriginal people of the Illawarra


    • Part 1 (PDF - 728KB)


      • Contents
      • Introduction
      • Chapter 1 - Belonging to the land; the cabbage tree palm people
    • Part 2 (PDF - 703KB)


      • Chapter 2 - Invasion: Europeans arrive and stay
      • Chapter 3 - Strategies for coping; taking on some European practices
    • Part 3 (PDF - 1.4MB)


      • Chapter 4 - Fighting: the battle for human rights
      • Appendices
      • Bibliography
      • Index

More information


The format and structure of this publication may have been adapted for web delivery.

Page last updated: 29 November 2011