Last week we saw how local man William Warrell often travelled into Sydney town from Aboriginal settlements in the Domain and elsewhere in the 1840s. Though he had friends in town, as this week’s story shows, Sydney could also be a rough place for Aboriginal people. A short article in the Sydney Morning Herald 144 years ago this week, reported how a group of Aboriginal people had been pelted with stones by a gang of youths while crossing Hyde Park (read the original article here - http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12417961). At this time Sydney had many street gangs, often made of up of the colony’s many orphaned or abandoned children. There were too few police on the streets to prevent the gangs from preying on the vulnerable, which was probably why Aboriginal people travelled in groups and sometimes carried weapons. But there are also stories of Aboriginal people fighting back, and local man Jack Harris was known to respond to harassment by proudly stating ‘this is my country’.
The article is also interesting because it says the Aboriginal group were attacked as they made their way to Woolloomooloo. Brief references like this in many historical documents have made it possible to figure out where Aboriginal people were living at different times. By the 1840s Aboriginal people no longer camped around the town, but had a number of settlements across the sparsely populated area that we now call the Eastern Suburbs. William Warrell and others lived near to the town in the Domain above Woolloomooloo Bay, around the bay and amongst the growing suburb above it. Other settlements were located further east and south as we will see in future posts. Aboriginal people lived in sandstone rockshelters and in bark or timber huts, sometimes very close to the houses of Europeans. They fished the bay for food, and sometimes sold their catch to locals or at the Sydney markets. To see what Woolloomooloo looked like around this time see here - http://archival-classic.sl.nsw.gov.au/item/itemLarge.aspx?itemID=52620. A picture of Hyde Park in the same year that the stone-throwing gang attacked can be seen here - http://acmssearch.sl.nsw.gov.au/search/itemDetailPaged.cgi?itemID=447074.