Cabrogal People and Cabramatta

As someone who grew up and is currently living in the area of Cabramatta, or more specifically the border of Cabramatta and Canley Heights, I’ve always been curious about the Aboriginal history of the area. It should also be noted that while the area of Cabramatta is predominantly Vietnamese, most of the highlighted or the more commonly known history of the area from the Vietnam War onward. For example, the area was notorious for its gang violence which was even noted in the documentary by SBS, ‘Once Upon a Time in Cabramatta’.

During both primary and secondary schools, we learned about the overall history of Aboriginal people and the important figures during the time of colonisation such as Pemulwuy or Bennelong. The only mention of the Aboriginal group was during the assemblies where they paid their respects to the land and the respective group, in this case being the Dharug people. However, the Dharug people inhabited a large area, and the people that inhabited the area of Fairfield to Liverpool were the Cabrogal people. The Cabrogal people had sustained themselves on the land for thirty thousand years as it was a source of freshwater and food due to the local waterways [1]. It can also be assumed that as with other groups, they occupied the land seasonally as they lived on the land from Cabramatta to Liverpool. The area itself is also Aboriginal in name, as the name Cabramatta means ‘freshwater grub place’ as ‘Cabra’ is the name for an edible ‘freshwater grub’ and ‘matta’ is ‘place’. Some also believe the name is derived from the Cabrogal people as it is also spelled as ‘Cabragal’. The word ‘cabrogal’ can also be translated into ‘freshwater grub’ and ‘man’.

The history of the Cabrogal people is not well recorded when compared to other Aboriginal groups yet there is still some history. The people were discovered by George Bass and Mathew Flinders during their exploration of the George River in 1795 [2]. However, as is common with discovering new people, the onset of disease, specifically a smallpox epidemic almost destroyed the group and the surviving warriors then joined Pemulwuy’s resistance and died in ensuing skirmishes and battles as they removed from their land [3]. The Cabrogal people had been mostly assimilated by the time of the 1830s, however, the culture did manage to survive with a notable example being Lucy Leane [3]. Lucy Leane was a cabrogal woman who married William Leane in 1865 and in 1893 petitions for a boat and essentially declares that she is only Cabrogal woman living on the Georges River in the Liverpool district since her birth [4]

“Sir,

The petition of your humble Petitioner Lucy Leane showeth that She is the only surviving Native Woman of the Georges River and Liverpool District, residing here ever since her birth, Fifty Three years ago, as the undersigned witnesses can 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 on the Georges River, and your Petitioner will ever pray.

Holdsworthy, Liverpool, 31 May 1893” [5]

 During the 1920s, when the racial policies were in full effect, many of the already ‘assimilated’ people were ‘unassimilated’ and thus had to adopt non-aboriginal identities [3]

The Aboriginal history of the Cabramatta area has been overshadowed by the history of the area during the 20th century once it became a hotspot for gang violence and became the home of vietnamese refugees. Despite being vietnamese myself, I am saddened at the lack of knowledge of the Aboriginal history of the area, however it is still great to see that the culture has still somewhat survived and the descendants are rather proud of their heritage.

[1] – Movizio, Vicki, St Johns Park, Dictionary of Sydney, 2011

[2] – Brouw, Glen, LIVERPOOL’S FIRST NATION To Honour Our Cabrogal, Liverpool Champion

[3] – Neurodrooling, Cabrogal, WordPress, 2014,

[4] – Goodall, Heather, Cadzow, Allison, Aboriginal People on Sydney’s Georges River from 1820

[5] – Mrs Lucy Leane, petition to Colonial Secretary, 31 May 1893

References

Movizio, Vicki, St Johns Park, Dictionary of Sydney, 2011, http://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/st_johns_park, viewed 19 Sep 2019

Goodall, Heather, Cadzow, Allison, Aboriginal People on Sydney’s Georges River from 1820, Dictionary of Sydney, 2014, http://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/aboriginal_people_on_sydneys_georges_river_from_1820, viewed 19 Sep 2019

Neurodrooling, Cabrogal, WordPress, 2014, https://neurodrooling.wordpress.com/2014/02/27/cabrogal/, viewed 19 Sep 2019

Brouw, Glen, LIVERPOOL’S FIRST NATION To Honour Our Cabrogal, Liverpool Champion, 2019, https://www.liverpoolchampion.com.au/story/5554093/to-honour-our-cabrogal/, viewed 19 Sep 2019

Signed by numerous witnesses including the Mayor of Liverpool, numerous aldermen and the local school teacher. Mrs Lucy Leane, petition to Colonial Secretary, 31 May 1893, Colonial Secretary Main Series, letters received, 1826–1982, NRS 905, container 5/6135 [93/7210] State Records of New South Wales

Join the Conversation

2 Comments

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create your website at WordPress.com
Get started
%d bloggers like this: