‘40,000 years still on my mind’: the marginalisation of Indigenous memory in Sydney

Burnum Burnum, an Aboriginal activist, stated that when the British settled in Sydney in 1788 ‘they landed in the middle of a huge art gallery’. In fact, in the Sydney region, there are more than 10,000 pieces of Aboriginal artwork. From fish painted on rocks in Broken Bay to footprints carved into the ground, the memory of Sydney’s Indigenous inhabitants is etched into the landscape. Yet there is a common perception that indigeneity in Australia only exists in remote outback locations. In reality, 76% of Aboriginal people inhabit urban spaces with over 52,000 living in urban Sydney

Tension between Indigenous and settler memory is an issue in many cities with a legacy of settler colonialism. As the region where British settlements were first founded, this contention is especially apparent in Sydney. This article will explore the ways in which the legacy of colonial dispossession has marginalised, misrepresented and erased Indigenous memory from Sydney. Despite claiming to be a multicultural city, the formal representations of Indigenous history in Sydney conform to dominant national narratives of settler superiority. 

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