Author(s): Bruce Watt
250 years ago the first encounter between British and Aboriginal people on the east coast of Australia occurred at Botany in 1770. For the British, it heralded the beginning of endless possibilities for Empire. For Aboriginal people it marked the beginning of the decimation of a culture that was thousands of years old. The traditional country of these people, the Dharawal, were the coastal lands from Botany Bay to the Shoalhaven district and some distance inland. Traditional pre-contact culture and practices are outlined and these can be compared with later post-contact periods to illustrate the cumulative impacts of white contact over time.
This is a local story with a national and international significance. Dharawal history and experiences in some ways provide a metaphor or parallel for all Aboriginal people across the continent and a yardstick by which to measure the clash of cultures. Though effectively decimated as a fully functioning tribal group by the 1840s, their descendants continue to live in the community and keep traditions alive. This is an account of their journey from the Dreaming to the first encounter and through to today. In some respects it is a difficult story but it needs to be told. What's done is done. This is our shared history. Knowing it and understanding it is a pathway to a better future.