A powerful indigenous woman, Barangaroo played
an important role in the early days of colonial Sydney. She
was also the wife of Bennelong, after whom Bennelong Point - the
site of the Sydney Opera House - was named.
The Barangaroo site was
part of the territory of the Cadigal 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
At the time of European and Indigenous 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
Indigenous 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
The shores of Darling Harbour were an important
source of cockles and oysters for both the indigenous and European
Indigenous 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
In 1900 the State 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
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. Modern ships require more space and direct access to
freight rail. The site becomes unsustainable, and Ports Botany and
Kembla are expanded to increase New South Wales' export capacity.
This change is not at all unique to Sydney. In the past 50
years these challenges have presented themselves to almost every
major port city in the world.
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
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
the Headland Park & 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