The area known as Campbelltown City is located on the custodial lands of the Dharawal people and there are many reminders of their traditional and ongoing connection to the land.
Scattered throughout the area are many sites of cultural significance. One of these is what is known as a 'first contact' site – where local Dharawal people had drawn charcoal sketches of bulls that had escaped from Sydney Cove and made their way to what was known as "the Cowpastures" - an area near Campbelltown.
As colonists moved from Sydney Cove into this area interaction between the settlers and the Dharawal people was sometimes peaceful but not always. Resulting from disputes between settlers and Aboriginal people from another clan group an intervention from colonial military saw many of the local Dharawal people perish in what is known as the Appin Massacre.
Today Campbelltown City has one of the largest urban populations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in New South Wales.
The Appin massacre of 1816 is perhaps the most devastating and tragic event to occur to the Dharawal and other local clans, and was a low point in the relationship between Aboriginal and European inhabitants.
Diseases brought by the Europeans also depleted the Dharawal population. In 1845, the number of Aboriginal people in the Campbelltown Police District had dropped in 10 years from 20 to none. Tribal life in the district continued in a limited way.
Corroborees were still held at Camden Park and Denham Court until at least the 1850s. During 1858, about 200 Aboriginal people attended the celebrations at Campbelltown marking the opening of the railway line.
Today, the Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation, Tharawal Local Aboriginal Land Council and the Aboriginal Committee Reference Group of Campbelltown City Council, foster Aboriginal culture in the Campbelltown area. Campbelltown City Council also holds a memorial flag raising ceremony to remember those who perished and to show Council's commitment to reconciliation.
Non-Aboriginal Australians are fortunate to have the opportunity to learn about local Aboriginal culture and history through the work of these groups. A determined willingness to learn from our history will assist the process of reconciliation.