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The Aboriginal groups of the entire Sydney region were part of the Australian south-east coast cultural group, and they are the original people of Canterbury Bankstown. It is believed that the Darug and Eora people were the original inhabitants of the Bankstown and Canterbury area, for many thousands of years before European settlement. The Darug is the largest Aboriginal language group in the LGA.
These societies lived in a close symbiotic relationship with their environment. The land provided kangaroo, emu, possum, wild honey, plants and roots. Botany Bay, the Cooks River and Georges River provided fish and shellfish. Reminders of their lifestyle dating back 3,000 years can still be found along the Georges River, Cooks River and other areas, including rock and overhang paintings, stone scrapers, middens and axe grinding grooves. Signs of occupation are found in rock shelters, which were used as cooking and camping places, and middens, made up of shells discarded from shellfish meals over hundreds of years. The new British settlers burned oyster shells from the middens along Cooks River to produce lime, which was then used in mortar for building.
Signs of Aboriginal occupation are, as stated, found in local rock shelters which were used as cooking and camping places. Among the most important of the surviving Aboriginal artwork sites in Canterbury Bankstown is a rock shelter located at Undercliff, in the environs of Cooks River. Archaeologists have labelled this site as a rarity in the Sydney region and the paintings and etching are believed to be 1,000 to 5,000 years old.
A site of Aboriginal resistance to settlers has been commemorated on a heritage panel at Punchbowl. The incident in 1809 involved a group of Aboriginal people, including an Aboriginal leader, Tedbury, who was a son of Pamulwy – he led the local resistance to white settlement.
Pamulwy and Tedbury also feature in the design of the Indigenous Mosaic in Gough Whitlam Park at Undercliff, which was built by Council in 2004 to pay tribute to the original custodians of the area, the Bediagal people and their care and protection of the land around the Cooks River.