The area of Parramatta was known by the Darug people as Burramatta ("Burra" meaning eel and "matta" meaning creek). The people who lived in the area called themselves the Burramatta. The Darug people organised themselves into family groups or clans which consisted of between five to 60 people. Each clan group had their own well defined territory and their own traditional rights and responsibilities over the land.
The Burramatta clan encompassed present day Parramatta. Their eastern boundary was probably Duck River, Homebush Bay or some point between the two. The core of their territory appears to have been the tidal estuary between the Crescent in the Park and Duck River.
Although the colonial settlement at Parramatta was originally called Rose Hill on 4 June 1791 Phillip officially declared the name of the settlement as Parramatta.
Evidence of Aboriginal occupation exists within the Park along the ridgeline of the Crescent and around Domain Creek. Several scarred trees and artefact scatters have been located.
Liaison is undertaken with relevant local Aboriginal people and groups to ensure their input into management of the Park and specific Park projects.
The Burramatta Aboriginal Landscape Trail has been created by rehabilitating the areas of endangered Cumberland Plain Woodland and River Flat Forest at the Domain creek and demonstrates the plants and raw materials that local Aboriginal people used for traditional food and medicine. The trail has also improved the species diversity of the habitat available to native fauna and now encompasses underrepresented native plant species in this habitat.
The trail seeks to develop community understanding of the Burramatta people’s traditional food and resources and land use techniques. It was developed in partnership with the Western Sydney Aboriginal Landcare Group.
European Settlement in Parramatta
In September 1788 Governor Phillip announced his intention to establish a settlement at Parramatta. The soil of the area was found to be more suitable for farming than the area surrounding the settlement of Port Jackson.
By 1790 under the supervision of Henry Dodd who was a member of Governor Phillip’s personal staff, fruit trees were planted, cattle introduced and crops of wheat, barley, maize and oats were being cultivated. One hundred convicts worked under the supervision of Superintendent Dodd on the farm. They were also engaged in constructing the town of Parramatta. A small house was built for Phillip replacing the original redoubt structure.
In 1791 the first four settlers of New South Wales were granted land in the Parramatta area.
Farming continued in the area under a succession of Governors. Hunter created an improved Government House in 1799, which was later extended in 1815 by Governor Macquarie.
Governor Hunter granted George Salter 30 acres in 1796. Salter erected a small cottage sometime between 1796 and 1800, which was later purchased by Governor Macquarie for Government use. This cottage, which is still standing, was enlarged by Macquarie and became known as the Governor's Dairy. It is one of the oldest buildings in Australia.
Under Macquarie, Government lands were consolidated and the Government Domain provided more area for farming activities for the Government Stores and also provided a "Gentleman's Park". It comprised approximately 800 hectares. Macquarie enlarged Government House, acquired the Dairy building, and constructed numerous cottages in the surrounding area.
Brisbane replaced Macquarie as Governor in 1822 and in the same year ordered the construction of an observatory, the transit stones built to support a transit telescope, are still standing today.
In 1823 Brisbane also constructed a bathhouse west of Old Government House. When in operation a sunken bath was located in the centre of the building surrounded by a suite of rooms. In 1886 the building was converted to its present form as a pavilion after it had been extensively vandalised following the Domain becoming a public Park in 1857.