LIVERPOOL'S FIRST NATIONS | To honour our Cabrogal

Stephen Gapps will talk on the Cabrogal clan of the Liverpool district, exploring our own First Nations people of the Darug nation, at Liverpool Historical Society’s 52nd Annual Havard Memorial Lecture on Saturday in Liverpool library's Gold Room at 11.30am. Free entry.

Aboriginal artefacts from the society’s collection will be on show. There will be a free light lunch afterwards with bush tucker, including locally grown lemon myrtle tea, lemon myrtle cheesecake, Warrigal green (native spinach) pesto and kangaroo sausages with Kakadu plum chilli sauce.

Dr Gapps is an historian, curator and author. His latest book, The Sydney Wars: Conflict on the Cumberland Plains, will be on sale. Also for sale is the reprint edition of The Aborigines of Australia by Liverpool’s first mayor, Richard Sadleir, who wrote this at 88 in 1883.

I am the only surviving native woman of the Georges River and Liverpool district, residing here ever since my birth 53 years ago, as the undersigned witnesses can vouch for and attest. Being a bona fide original native of Australia and of this district, your petitioner requests of you the supply of a boat, as granted by the government in all such cases, for the purpose of carrying on trade.

Lucy Leane

For perhaps 60,000 years before the first European settlers arrived, the lands that now include the Liverpool local government area was home to the Cabrogal clan, which was an Aboriginal clan of the Darug First Nations people.

The Cabrogal lands extended along the Georges River and its tributaries, such as the Prospect Creek and the Cabramatta Creek.

In 1795, when George Bass and Matthew Flinders first explored the Georges River before the colonisation of what is now the Liverpool area, the Darug, Tharawal and Gandangara tribes lived in the region.

These three tribal groups were divided into smaller clans or bands.

Each of these clans was named after the area of land where they usually lived.

The suffix “gal” was added to the place name to distinguish the members of that clan.

In 1795, when Bass and Flinders first explored the Georges River before the colonisation of our area, the Darug, Tharawal and Gandangara tribes lived here. These three tribal groups were divided into smaller clans, each named after the area of land where they usually lived.

The clan group around Liverpool was the Cabrogal, named after the cohbra grubs they harvested on the banks of the Georges River.

Evidence of this period has been found in the form of scarred trees, stone tools and campsites, largely around the creeks.

Inevitable conflict occurred between settlers and the native inhabitants as they were dispossessed of their lands.

Leaders of the settler community, such as significant local landowners Charles Throsby and Thomas Moore, and later Richard Sadleir, sympathised with the Cabrogals plight.

This eased their hardship but did nothing to arrest their dispossession.

In 1815, Governor Lachlan Macquarie instigated a policy to reward local Aborigines who expressed a “desire to settle on some favourable spot of land, with a view to proceed to the cultivation of it”.

FIRST NATIONS: The Aborigines of Australia by Liverpool’s first mayor, Richard Sadleir, who wrote this at 88 in 1883.

FIRST NATIONS: The Aborigines of Australia by Liverpool’s first mayor, Richard Sadleir, who wrote this at 88 in 1883.

In 1816, a yearly ritual was begun of presenting breastplates to Aboriginal chiefs to further recognise their co-operation.

At least 38 chiefs were recogised in this way by Macquarie until the end of his governorship in 1821.

Early 19th century Chief Kogy – referred to as the chief of the Cow-Pasture Tribe – was recognised with such a breastplate, now tragically lost.

Kogy was embroiled in skirmishes around the Liverpool area and found protection with Charles Throsby at his Glenfield property.

His grandson Johnathon settled on land which is now known as Voyager Point.

Another clan member of repute was Namut who, in 1826, was called on to track down the body of Frederick Fisher, of Fisher’s Ghost fame.

The clan’s numbers and culture struggled on for survival as they lived along the banks of the Georges River and their numbers dwindled as they assimilated with the settler population. 

The 1840 Phelps sketch famously depicts some of the members of the clan in Bigge Square.

One example of the Cabrogal culture surviving is embodied by Lucy Leane who was born about 1840.

She was born Lucy Burn and she married William Leane in 1865.

They worked a farm of 82 acres along Williams Creek and raised 13 children.

In 1893, Lucy petitioned the New South Wales Aborigines Protection Board for a boat, describing herself as: “I am the only surviving native woman of the Georges River and Liverpool district, residing here ever since my birth 53 years ago, as the undersigned witnesses can vouch for and attest.

“Being a bona fide original native of Australia and of this district, your petitioner requests of you the supply of a boat, as granted by the government in all such cases, for the purpose of carrying on trade.”

The descendants of the Cabrogal clan today are immensely proud of their history and culture.

Dr Stephen Gapps wrote Cabrogal to Fairfield: A History of a Multicultural Community, which was awarded the Premier’s NSW Community & Regional History Prize in 2011.

In the book he acknowledges that the Cabrogal clan has ties to both Liverpool and Fairfield but establishes that the Cabrogal clan’s lands extend through the Liverpool area.

Local names for the clan also included the Liverpool Tribe, the Georges River Tribe and the Cabramatta Tribe.

  • Society president Glen op den Brouw, 0403 107 496.

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