The Strathfield district was once inhabited by the Wangal clan of the Darug tribe. Little remains of the former Aboriginal occupation of this area. The Wangal clan's country or territory was known as Wanne and it originally extended from the suburbs of Birchgrove and Balmain in the east, to Silverwater and Auburn in the west, the northern boundary was the Parramatta River but the southern boundary is unknown.

The Wangal clan's neighbours were the Cadigal to the east, the Wategora to the west, the Wallumedegal to the north and the Bediagal to the south. All these clans of the Darug tribe spoke the coastal or Eora dialect of the Darug language. The Darug tribe's inland clans known as the 'woods tribes' spoke a different dialect.

The earliest recorded contact with Aborigines near Strathfield took place at Breakfast Point, Mortlake, on the southern bank of the Parramatta River. This encounter on the 5th February 1788 was noted in the diary of Lieutenant William Bradley RN thus:

 'At daylight having a guard of marines proceeded to the upper part of the harbour again, passed several natives in the caves as we went up and on the shore near the place we left beads and some other things, who followed us along the rocks calling to us. We landed to cook our breakfast on the opposite shore to them. We made signs for them to come over and waved green boughs. Soon after seven of them came over in two canoes and landed near our boats. They left their spears in the canoes and came to us. We tied beads etc. about them and left them our fire to dress mussels which they went about as soon as we put off'.

Strathfield would have been an integral part of the Wangal clan's territory being close to the Parramatta River, a source of food. The Strathfield Municipality once supported large forests of eucalypt trees with many native grasses growing as a understorey as well as areas of very dense scrub. It is unlikely that the Wangal clan camped in the district as Strathfield does not have any rock shelters or overhangs suitable for camping, but they probably frequented the area to gather or hunt food.

The most famous Wangal warrior was Bennelong who became the only member of the Wangal tribe to travel overseas to England in 1792 and returned three years later to tell his people of what he saw there. Bennelong would have travelled through the Strathfield Municipality many times with the Wangal tribe.

There have been no relics of Aboriginal occupation of Strathfield Municipality nor burial sites discovered. This is mainly due to the geology of the area ie no large flat areas of sandstone or rock shelters. However, it has been recorded that sites had been in evidence. An example of this is recorded in the Royal Australian Historical Society's Journal and proceedings Volume VIII supplement 1923, the recollection of C A Henderson 'Sydney to Homebush' 1855:

'On the Redmire Estate was a leaning tree with native bear tracks upon it. It stood about one hundred yards from the present Strathfield Council Chambers'.

This is a reference to the Aboriginal Scarred Tree bearing markings of koala tracks. It may have been of ceremonial significance as trees bearing designs were used as burial markers.

References

Henderson, C A., 'Sydney to Homebush', Royal Australian Historical Society Journal and proceedings Volume VIII supplement, 1923

Jones, C., Aboriginal History of Strathfield district, on http://strathfieldheritage.org/placenames/aboriginal-history-of-strathfield-district/

 

Further Information

Strathfield Council Aboriginal Recognition and Protocol Policy (See below)

Cadigal and Wangal Website

AnTAR website

Aboriginal Indigineous Services at State Library of NSW

Australian Museum - Aboriginal people of Coastal Sydney

Guide to NSW State Records relating  to Aboriginal people