Blacktown City Council has hosted an event of major importance to the Indigenous heritage and history of Western Sydney.
The ceremony was held on Thursday in the Colebee Neighbourhood Park commemorating the 200th anniversary of the first Aboriginal Land Grant.
Blacktown City Mayor Tony Bleasdale OAM said; “Blacktown city has the highest urban aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in New South Wales.
“With more than 8,000 people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage calling our city home, it is fitting that we gather here to commemorate the first Aboriginal Land Grant.”
The heritage listed former farm at Richmond Road, Colebee was part of an original grant of 30 acres made by Governor Macquarie in 1819 to two Aboriginal men, Colebee and Nurragingy.
“Governor Macquarie had only recently passed laws to allow Aboriginal people to own land, land that had been in their traditional ownership for tens of thousands of years.” Mayor Bleasdale said.
In 1816 Governor Macquarie ordered a ‘punitive expedition’ of soldiers to the western areas of Sydney to quell disputes between Aboriginal people and settlers. A number of Aboriginal guides accompanied the parties of soldiers, including Nurragingy and the son of Aboriginal elder Yarramundi, Colebee.
Following the ‘expedition’, Governor Macquarie declared Nurragingy “Chief of the South Creek Tribe” and granted him and Colebee 30 acres of land, the first such grant to Aboriginal people in Australian European history.
The land was chosen by Nurragingy and was on the land of his clan. Colebee did not stay long but Nurragingy remained and farmed the land.
After the passing of Nurragingy and Colebee, the farm was taken up by Colebee’s young sister Maria Lock.
Mayor Bleasdale said, “Maria Lock is unique in Australian history as an Aboriginal woman in the nineteenth century who achieved considerable academic, commercial, political and cultural success and recognition. She was a remarkable person.”
In 1815 Maria was voluntarily placed in the Parramatta Native Institute where she achieved academic success and won the anniversary School Examinations ahead of 20 children from the Native Institution and 100 European students.
At the age of 16 she married 24 year old convict Robert Lock in the first officially sanctioned union between an Aboriginal woman and a British convict. Robert was officially placed under her care, a unique situation for those times.
Maria and Robert had 10 children and she acquired 40 acres of land in Liverpool in a grant from Governor Macquarie as well as the 60 acres at Blacktown. The Lock family descendants occupied the land until 1917. The land is now owned by the NSW Government.
A memorial was recently unveiled at St Bartholomew’s Church, Prospect commemorating the life and final resting place of Maria Lock.
Councillor Kathie Collins attended the ceremony and said. “The history and heritage of Nurragingy, Colebee and Maria Lock was forged at a time of expansion of colonial Sydney and drought.”
“Blacktown City is today experiencing massive expansion and development and again is experiencing drought, but Council is determined to retain, support and promote our Aboriginal community’s rich cultural history and heritage.