At the time of early colonial settlement, Barangaroo - a powerful Cammeraygal woman - was a key figure in local Aboriginal culture and community. One of her husbands was Bennelong, after whom Bennelong Point - the site of the Sydney Opera House - is named.
The Barangaroo site was part of the territory of the Gadigal people, the traditional owners of the Sydney city region, and was used for fishing and hunting. Large shell middens and numerous rock engravings close to the site indicate indigenous occupation dating back around 6,000 years, while radio carbon dates from other parts of Sydney indicate that the wider area was occupied for at least 14,500 years prior to European settlement.
At the time of European and Aboriginal contact, Governor Phillip estimated that there were about 1500 Aboriginal people inhabiting the coastal area of Botany Bay, Port Jackson and Broken Bay. The population reduced dramatically with the introduction of smallpox into Sydney's Aboriginal community in the first years of European settlement. More than half of Sydney's Aboriginal population is believed to have died in the smallpox epidemic of 1789.
The Aboriginal people moved about the landscape, within their territories, in order to access the resources they needed. Campsites were usually located close to the shore, especially during summer when fish and shellfish was the staple diet.
The shores of Darling Harbour were an important source of cockles and oysters for both the indigenous and European population.
Aboriginal people continued to live around the harbour following European occupation.
An idyllic lithograph from 1823 shows two windmills, a few small buildings, sailing vessels and Aboriginal people continuing their traditional lifestyle as cattle and sheep graze around them.
Millers Point and its western city foreshore have always played a pivotal role in the growth of Sydney as a major port city.
By the mid 1820s the first wharf was built at Walsh Bay followed by the wharves of Millers Point. What is now the Barangaroo area buzzed with the exotic life of this South Pacific port.
In 1900 the NSW Government elected to seize control of the area to rebuild the wharves and shipping infrastructure for the new century of trade. The government's Sydney Harbour Trust dramatically cut the landscape to create Hickson Road and lined East Darling Harbour with long wharves and shore shed buildings - examples of which can still be seen at Walsh Bay.
During the Great Depression, Hickson Road came to be known as "The Hungry Mile" from the men who went from wharf to wharf in search of work.
Containerisation of shipping created perhaps the most dramatic modification of the wharves when, in the 1960s, a large concrete apron built for this new method of shipping demolished almost the entire previous built environment. It is this same concrete apron which defines the site today.
Changes to shipping technology and the inability to create heavy freight rail access to the site made it unsustainable as a modern stevedoring port facility for the late 20th and early 21st century.
In 2003, the State Government announced that the stevedoring wharves at East Darling Harbour would be transformed into a new urban precinct.
An international urban design competition was held in 2005, attracting 139 entries from around the world. The winning design by Hill Thalis Architecture + Urban Projects, Paul Berkemeier Architects and Jane Irwin Landscape Architecture was announced in March 2006 together with a naming competition for the new precinct.
The Barangaroo Concept Plan was approved in February 2007 and covers urban design and policy initiatives and is the statutory master planning instrument, to guide the urban renewal of Barangaroo. In 2008, the Concept Plan was amended to increase the floor space and in 2009 was further amended to refine Barangaroo Reserve & Northern Cove. In 2010, it was amended to include a hotel on a pier, additional height and additional floorspace. Go to the Concept Plan section of the website for more information.