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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
The City of Canterbury Bankstown acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land, water and skies of Canterbury-Bankstown, the Darug (Darag, Dharug, Daruk, Dharuk) People. We recognise and respect Darug cultural heritage, beliefs and relationship with the land. We acknowledge the First Peoples’ continuing importance to our CBCity community.

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. 

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 Pemulwy – he led the local resistance to white settlement. ​

Pemulwy 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.

At Council, we recognise the original inhabitants of the land and make every effort to work closely with this community.

A number of residents of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background have been meeting for more than 10 years to consider what is being done to promote better access to services for the Aboriginal residents and to promote the culture and heritage of local Aboriginal people.

Indigenous residents have been supported by Council staff and implemented many cultural and community education projects in the past including NAIDOC Week events, The Two Valley Trail Reconciliation Walks, Close the Gap Days, Reconciliation Week events, Aboriginal film screenings, Aboriginal School Awareness programs and Indigenous walks for schools​.

Members of the group also provided input into the development of Aboriginal web pages across our website, which has proved to be a very useful resource to our local communities.

Meetings of the group are open to any Aboriginal residents of Canterbury-Bankstown, or Aboriginal people who work in our City. New ideas and suggestions are welcome.

Previously we have supported reconciliation via Sorry Day and developed a conservation and protection strategy for Aboriginal sites in our area.

We celebrate NAIDOC Week with special activities each year and display the Aboriginal flag to honour Sorry Day, Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC Week.

In 2004, we constructed a unique mosaic depicting the Aboriginal heritage and recognis​ing the two most important figures in the local Aboriginal history, Pemulwy and his son Tedbury. You can find it in Gough Whitlam Park at Earlwood along the Cooks River not far from the cricket oval and the children's play area.

​​​​The original people of the land have their own distinct boundaries which we at Council respect. The distribution of linguistic tribes in the Sydney area in 1788 is shown in a map which also highlights the locations of Aboriginal groups in the Sydney Area. Clans or bands (called "tribes" by the Europeans) within Sydney belonged to several major language groups, often with coastal and inland dialects. They were often very distinct from one another.​

The Daruk language was spoken between Botany Bay and Port Jackson and out West into the Blue Mountains. It also spread from the Hawkesbury River in the North West to Appin in the South.

Within this area at least two (or possibly even three) dialects were spoken, the coastal dialect sometimes referred to as 'eora' (yura), and the inland dialect. The Bediagal clan of the Canterbury Bankstown area would speak the inland dialect.

Other Aboriginal languages of the Sydney Region included Garigal (also spelt Kari, Karikal or Karr,eē) in the North and Dharawal (also spelt Tharawal, Turawal or Thurwal) in the South.

  • Source: A Tourist's Guide to the Sydney Aboriginal Language by Jeremy Steele, Preseus Press, May 2003
  • Source: Communicating positively, a guide to appropriate Aboriginal terminology, NSW Health, May 2004

Canterbury-​Bankstown, like many local government areas, has a number of streets named with Aboriginal words.

A new cultural space, with a focus on bringing together the First Nations and non-Indigenous community has opened its doors in the Bankstown CBD, on Darug Country

Significant dates

​​​'NAIDOC' originally stood for 'National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee'.

We celebrate and observe NAIDOC week with the direct guidance of local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It's held in the first week of July. The concept of NAIDOC Week is to bring people together from different backgrounds and to recognise the important place of the first people of Australia. It's been a staple of the Australian calendar since 1975.

Our celebrations

Every July, we celebrate NAIDOC Week as a community. There is always a positive and enthusiastic atmosphere among our local Indigenous and non-Indigenous families and it's always great to see the members of the Aboriginal community directly working hard to contribute to the event.

There are lots of activities and opportunities for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community to proudly share their culture for the community to appreciate.

An Acknowledgement of Country is always delivered as well; and all of these activities are directly administered by dedicated members of the Aboriginal community.

This is the anniversary of the formal apology made on 13 February 2008 by the Government and the Parliament of Australia to Australis’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, in particular to the Stolen Generations.

National Close the Gap Day is an annual event held to raise awareness around Indigenous health. For more than a decade now, Australians from every corner of the country in schools, businesses and community groups have shown support for Close the Gap on National Close the Gap Day. The aim of the day is to bring people together to share information, and most importantly, to take meaningful action in support of achieving health equality for First Nations Peoples by 2032

This is an annual event that has been held on 26 May in Australia since 1998. The event remembers and commemorates the mistreatment of the country's Indigenous peoples as part of an ongoing process of reconciliation between the First Nation peoples of Australia and the settler population.

Every 26 May, National Sorry Day prompts us to remember the mistreatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. During the 20th century, Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families to be “assimilated” into white Australian culture. They are known as the “Stolen Generations.” An official apology was eventually made to First Nation Australians and actions are still being undertaken to repair the damage caused by tearing native families apart.

In 1967 more than 90 per cent of Australians voted in a Referendum to remove clauses from the Australian Constitution which discriminated against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. The Referendum also gave the Commonwealth Government power to make laws on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

This week promotes reconciliation between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples of Australia.

Mabo Day marks the anniversary of the High Court of Australia’s judgement in 1992 in the Mabo case. 

This is day of significance for Torres Strait Islander Australians. Eddie ‘Koiki’ Mabo’s name is synonymous with native title rights. His story began in May 1982 when he and fellow Murray (Mer) Islanders David Passi, Sam Passi, James Rice and Celuila Salee instituted a claim in the High Court for a native title to the Murray (Mer) Islands in the Torres Strait. 

The claim was made against the State of Queensland, which responded by seeking to legislate to extinguish retrospectively any native title on the Islands. This was challenged in the High Court on the grounds that it was inconsistent with the 1975 Racial Discrimination Act. The High Court, in a historical judgment delivered on 3 June 1992, accepted the claim by Eddie Mabo and the other claimants that their people (the Meriam people) had occupied the Islands of Mer for hundreds of years before the arrival of the British. 

The High Court found that the Meriam people were ‘entitled as against the whole world to possession, occupation, use and employment of lands in the Murray Islands’. The decision overturned a legal fiction that Australia was terra nullius (land belonging to no one) at the time of British colonisation.

This day marks the day the London Missionary Society first arrived in the Torres Strait. The missionaries landed at Erub Island on 1 July 1871. 

Torres Strait Islander Christians hold religious and cultural ceremonies across the Torres Strait and on the mainland to commemorate this day.

This is celebrated as a part of NAIDOC Week, and marks the end of the celebrations.

Children’s day and the week leading up to it, is a time for Aboriginal and Torres Strait families to celebrate the strengths and culture of their children. 

The day is an opportunity for all Australians to show their support for Aboriginal children as well as learn about the crucial impact that community, culture and family play in the life of every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child.

This day draws attention globally to the poverty and discrimination suffered by many of the world's 350 million Indigenous people, and their continued struggle for equality, respect and human rights.

Indigenous Literacy Day aims to help raise funds to raise literacy levels and improve the lives and opportunities of Indigenous Australians living in remote and isolated regions. Funds are needed to buy books and literacy resources for children in these communities.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly during its 61st session at the UN Headquarters in New York City on 13 September 2007.

We follow a 'respect, acknowledge and listen' practical protocol for working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Canterbury-Bankstown.


For more information, contact Council's Indigenous Community Development Officer ​on