Publication Details

This book chapter was originally published as Organ, MK and Speechley, C, Illawarra Aborigines, in Hagan, JS and Wells, A (eds), A History of Wollongong, University of Wollongong Press, 1997, 7-22.


Archaeological evidence indicates Aboriginal people were resident in the Illawarra region of coastal New South Wales, Australia, for at least 20,000 years prior to the arrival of European after 1788. The non-Aboriginal view is that they reached the area as a result of migration from South-East Asia, across the former land bridge to the north, or in canoes by a similar route, and then along the coast to areas such as Sydney, Illawarra and Tasmania, where they found rich food resources. Aboriginal people themselves believe that they came from the land, that it is their mother, and that the Dreaming contains the answers to such mysteries. The Dreaming lies at the core of Aboriginal spiritual belief - it has no beginning, no end, and does not recognise time linearly, as in days, months and years. It is a part of everyday life, encompassing totems, ceremony, the division of labour, social structure and storytelling. This chapter provides a brief overview of local Aboriginal history and culture, along with an account of events following the European invasion.