We acknowledge and respect the traditional owners and custodians of this region, the Wiradjuri people. We honour their cultural, spiritual, and emotional connection to this land. We also acknowledge the many other Aboriginal people from other nations and lands, whose traditional homes are elsewhere, but who have come to the Central West NSW region to live or visit.
Wiradjuri people have lived along the land of the Wambool (Macquarie), Calare (Lachlan) and Murrumbidgee Rivers for more than 40,000 years. They signposted the land with carved trees to mark burial grounds and shaped the landscape through controlled burning which would encourage animals into cleared grassland for better hunting.
The first encounters between the Wiradjuri and British colonialists were recorded in 1813 and the first white settlement was established near the junction of the Macquarie River and Queen Charlotte’s Vale Creek in 1815, under the leadership of Governor Lachlan Macquarie.
By 1821 the white population had grown to 287 and the Wiradjuri hunting grounds, food sources and sacred sites were usurped by white settlers.
Conflict escalated between the Wiradjuri and the white settlers in the following years and one native leader known as Windradyne became legendary in his resistance to the settlers. Many attacks resulted in great loss of life among both communities however no record of casualties was kept.
In December 1824, Windradyne led a group of Wiradjuri to Parramatta to ask Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane for peace.
Windradyne was mortally wounded in tribal conflict on the 21st March 1829. He was reported to have died in the Bathurst Hospital a few hours later, but the Suttor family later disputed his death and claimed he died on the Brucedale property in 1835.
A monument was erected at the property in 1954, commemorating Windradyne as the chief of the Aborigines and a ‘true patriot’. His name is now immortalised in a suburb of Bathurst and at a student accommodation village in Wagga Wagga. His grave is listed on the NSW Heritage Register.
From the mid-19th Century, gold mining and free selection brought thousands of new settlers into Wiradjuri country which provided new opportunities for entrepreneurship – local tribespeople sold bark for huts on the Ophir goldfields, looked after horses and provided guiding services.
A loss of their hunting grounds meant the Wiradjuri had to change a lot of their living patterns, and segregation polices imposed in 1883 meant many families were relocated to missions at Cowra or Wellington and Mudgee. Government policies also meant children were separated from families and sent to orphanages.
In 1937, a movement to challenge the living conditions of Aboriginal people on New South Wales began under the leadership of Dubbo elders William Ferguson and Jack Patten. They lobbied for citizenship, education and miscegenation* rights.
In 1957 a petition was tabled with the Australian Census to form a Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders which became the first political voice for Wiradjuri and Aboriginal people. A referendum in 1968 to amend the constitution to give Aboriginal people citizenship was supported by 90.7% of Australians and gave Wiradjuri people the right to move around freely and vote in elections.
Once a Department of Aboriginal Affairs was established and there was recognition of Native Title in New South Wales, missions and reserves were broken up and many Wiradjuri families returned to Bathurst and since the 1970’s the Aboriginal population in the region has grown significantly.
Today many key Aboriginal organisations are based in Bathurst including the Bathurst Local Aboriginal Land Council, Towri Aboriginal Corporation, North East Wiradjuri Native Title Claimant Group, and the Bathurst Aboriginal Consultative Committee.
These groups work alongside the Bathurst Regional Council and state government agencies to ensure Aboriginal heritage and sacred sites are considered in applications for residential and industrial developments.
miscegenation* – the interbreeding of people considered to be of difference racial types.
Windradyne of the Wiradjuri: Studies in Australian and Pacific History No.4 T.Salisbury and P.J. Gresser
A Hundred Years War Peter Read, ANU Press
Windradyne: Wiradjuri Koorie Mary Coe, Blackbooks
Bells Falls Massacre and Bathurst’s History of Violence David Roberts, CSU Library
Bathurst Local Aboriginal Consultative Committee
Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies