Eora PeopleTo People
The Aboriginal people of the Eora language group are the traditional caretakers of the land that stretches along the coast from South Head inland to Petersham. The word Eora was used by the Indigenous people from Sydney to describe where they came from to the white colonisers and simply means 'from this place'. Home to the Wangal, the Cammeraigal, the Cadigal and the Bidjigal clans, Eora country would be the first area affected by white settlement following the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788.
Initially relations between the Eora people and the settlers were good, yet the constant abuses of the land and their precious resources at the hands of the white people soon had the settlers regarded with disgust by the Aboriginal people. One of the most prominent Eora elders in colonial Australia was Bennelong. He quickly adapted to the English way of life, taking on the English customs, way of dress and language. He took an active role in teaching the white settlers Aboriginal customs and language and as a trusted servant of Governor Phillip, his role as an intermediary between the English and Aboriginal people was crucial. Sydney's Bennelong point was the site where he asked Governor Phillip for a hut to be built for him. The historic site is now home to the iconic Opera House.
Having had no previous exposure to European diseases, a smallpox epidemic which swept through the colony would claim the lives of approximately 70% of the Eora people. With their population diminished by disease and their land ravaged, it is noted that tribes of the Eora country were likely to have fled to nearby less populated places including Ryde and Concord. With a growing Aboriginal population in La Perouse, Aboriginal people still living in the centre of Sydney in the early 1900s were encouraged to move to there.
Having always housed an Aboriginal community, following the Depression in the 1930s, the community in Redfern was largely dispossessed with many squatting in empty buildings. It was in the 1970s that the squatters formed the Aboriginal Housing Company and in conjunction with the property owners and the newly elected Whitlam government were given a grant to buy six squatted terrace houses in Redfern's Eveleigh Street which would become known as The Block. This was the first urban Aboriginal land rights claim of its kind in Australia and brought significant positive renewal for the Aboriginal community in Redfern. Despite intermittent government funding, the community based company had purchased all houses in The Block by 1994.
Today, Redfern is home to descendants of many Aboriginal tribes and Eora people continue to live in Redfern and surrounding suburbs such as Glebe.