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anonymous aboriginal art

Aboriginal History

For tens of thousands of years before European settlement, what would become the Cumberland local government area was home to several clans of the Darug (also spelt Dharug, Daruk or Dharik) people.

The Darug are thought to have inhabited the area between Port Jackson and Botany Bay in the east, the Georges River to the south and south-west, the Hawkesbury River in the north-west, and then as far west as the Blue Mountains. There were three distinct dialects in the Darug territory – the coastal, the hinterland (or plains) and the mountains.

The Cennemegal or Weymaly clan occupied what is now Prospect and Greystanes and the Bidjigal clan occupied the areas now known as Merrylands, Guildford, Villawood and Bankstown. The Burramattagal clan of Parramatta and Granville were part of the western Darug clan. Darug land extends from Parramatta to Sydney Harbour. The Auburn area was located on the border between the Darug inland group and the Darug and Dharawal coastal groups. The Wangal and Wategoro clans are recognised as the original inhabitants of the Auburn and Homebush Bay regions.

(Statement – based on the recommendation of Darug Elders and the Cumberland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Consultative Committee, the word “Eora” has been removed and replace with word Darug. Eora is the name given by the earliest European settlers to a group of indigenous people belonging to the clans along the coastal area of what is now known as the Sydney basin, in New South Wales, AustraliaReference “From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia)

Like all Aboriginal people, the Darug people did not own the land but belonged to the land. They respected it and referred to it as their mother and had excellent land management skills which meant they did not have to artificially cultivate crops to survive. Being primarily hunters and gatherers of their food, the Darug displayed seasonal and ecologically friendly practices within their environment. They only harvested food as was needed, before moving on to other sources, ensuring that plants and animals would be available the following year.

Darug culture had (and still has) a strong spiritual connection with the place an individual was born or conceived, which demanded a response by each person to look after the land, as well as plant and animal life. Depending on their time and place of conception, children were allocated totem animals and they had to respect and protect their totem.

Warali Wali means possum in the Darug language and the possum is one of the traditional totems of the Darug people.

the possum is on of the traditional totems of the Darug people


On 5 February 1788, soon after the landing of Captain Phillip at Sydney Cove, Captain John Hunter and Lieutenant William Bradley sailed up what is now known as the Parramatta River, to the area now known as Homebush Bay.

Ten days later, the Governor, along with a well-armed party in three boats, reached Homebush Bay and ventured about 3 kilometres inland. The following day, a party of explorers traced the river in a westerly direction, reaching the place where the Duck River enters the Parramatta River. They explored the tributary as far as the depth of water permitted.

In 1788, the Aboriginal population of the Sydney region was estimated to be between 5000 and 8000 people, of which about 2000 belonged to the Darug people. They lived in semi-nomadic communities of around 50 members, each with their own hunting district.

On 26 June 1789, Watkin Tench, a young Marine officer of the First Fleet, and his party of five were the first Europeans to walk from Rosehill wharf (now Parramatta) to Marrong (now Prospect Hill). His route to Prospect Hill probably followed an existing Darug track, which today would be similar to the Great Western Highway and Old Prospect Road.

It was also noted by Watkin Tench, during a boat journey with Phillip up the Hawkesbury River in June 1789, ‘Natives were found on the banks in several parts, many of whom were labouring under the small-pox’. The epidemic had struck in April with terrifying swiftness and killed at least half the Aboriginal population within three months.

Significant Aboriginal Heritage Sites

Cumberland Local Government Area includes many areas of historical importance including the Auburn, Granville and Prospect Hill areas.

Auburn Area

The Auburn area was once used by Aboriginal people as a marketplace for the exchange of goods, a site for ritual battles and a 'Law Place' for ceremonies. Close to Auburn, visitors can still see evidence of Aboriginal settlement in Millennium Park where four scar trees are preserved.

The Duck River

The Duck River is a site of Aboriginal significance. Following the arrival of Captain Arthur Phillip and his men at Homebush Bay, a party of explorers traced the river in a westerly direction, reaching the place where the Duck River enters the Parramatta River. At the head of the navigable river, they landed on the shore near Clyde. Seeing what appeared to be ducks rising out of a swamp, they named the waterway Duck River. The ducks were actually Eastern Swamp Hens, but the name Duck River remained.

Prospect Hill

Prospect Hill was the site of the first Aboriginal – European reconciliation held in Sydney. On the 3rd of May 1805, a group of Aboriginal women together with a young free settler, John Kennedy, facilitated a meeting on Prospect Hill between the Aboriginal leaders of the Darug clan and European settlers headed by Rev John Marsden. This was the first recorded act of reconciliation between Aboriginal people and Europeans in Australia and brought about an end to the ongoing conflict in Parramatta and Prospect.

Since 2010 this event has been commemorated on 3rd May each year in a ceremony on Prospect Hill.

Prospect Creek

Prospect Creek was a traditional travel route connecting the Darug and D’harawal people. Today this creek forms the border between Cumberland and Fairfield City Council.

In 2005 Warali Wali, a series of interpretive Indigenous artworks was installed along the banks of Prospect Creek. The project consisted of four sets of artworks and pathmarkers, interpreting the flora and fauna of Prospect Creek, as seen by the Darug.

The four stories are:

  • Yandel’ora – the Ravens and the Crows by Jean and Jon South;
  • Mananga The Eagle Warrior by Clive and Jason Groves
  • Dahl’wah – The Casuarinas by Clive and Jason Groves
  • The Sisters Boo’kerrikin - The Story of the Local Wattles by Joe Hurst


Pemulwuy, a suburb created in 2004 is located on the historic Prospect Hill and is named in honour of the Bidigal clan leader who fought against the European colonists for his people’s right to live on their land. The suburb name was nominated by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Consultative Committee of the former Holroyd City Council.

Pemulwuy was a warrior who carried out a guerrilla war against the European settlers from 1790 to his death in 1802. After the atrocities carried out by John McIntyre (Governor Phillip’s gamekeeper) against his people, Pemulwuy carried out a revenge killing using a death spear against McIntyre on 9 December 1790. McIntyre confessed his crime against the Aboriginal people to Watkin Tench before dying three days later.

In March 1797, Pemulwuy led a hundred warriors on an attack raid causing the then third settlement of Toongabbie to be evacuated. This culminated in the Battle of Parramatta in which Pemulwuy was shot seven times and captured. He later escaped and continued the war until his death in June 1802 then his son Tedbury continued the struggle for their country.

There is little doubt that Pemulwuy would have used Marrong (Prospect Hill) in his struggle, it being the highest point in the Sydney Basin.

Ritual Conflicts & Corroborees near Old Prospect Road

The Rev. James Hassell’s description of the 1833 ritual combat closely resembles accounts of similar contests at Sydney in the 1790s and reflects a surprisingly strong persistence of this aspect of Aboriginal culture in the early 1830s after 45 years of settlement. This combats occurred somewhere near Old Prospect Road.

Granville and Merrylands Areas

Two other important Aboriginal sites were in what is now Union Street, Granville and Carhullen Street Merrylands. These provide important evidence for the identification of the Aboriginal people of the area as Paiendra, members of the inland culture who specialised in hunting possum. This evidence suggests that, although members of the Daurg tribal and language group, they had links with the Dharawal and Gundungurra tribes of the south and south-west.

Suburbs and Street Names

The Aboriginal past of Cumberland is being recognized in Cumberland, with numerous streets and parks bearing the names of Darug and D’harawal words. Half of the streets in the suburb of Pemulwuy are named in Darug, including Butu Wargun Drive (meaning Black Crow which was Pemulwuy’s Totem) with the other half named after early Europeans - Watkin Tench Parade (after one of the first Europeans to climb Prospect Hill).

Several of its suburbs have Aboriginal origins, including its oldest: Toongabbie, Girraween, and Yennora were named in the early twentieth century after Indigenous words.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Protocols and Guidelines

What are protocols?

Cultural protocols are customs, values, and codes of behaviour that are important to the identity of a particular cultural group. Protocols are an important part of all cultures and provide guidance on how to treat and work with people in a respectful and useful way.

Indigenous Australians, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, are the original inhabitants of Australia. Observing Aboriginal cultural protocols at meetings, events, conferences and forums demonstrates respect and appreciation for the cultural traditions, history, diversity and contribution made by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait community as the first people of this nation.

Aboriginal protocols of respect

In any event, meeting, forum or conference, paying respect at the beginning of the function is the appropriate protocol when working with both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. This could involve either a Welcome to Country or an Acknowledgement of Country. These protocols recognise the knowledge, standing and status of Aboriginal people in Australian culture and history, and demonstrate respect for Aboriginal people.

When planning to include a Welcome to Country and/or an Acknowledgement of Country, it is important to consult with Aboriginal people of the community where the event will take place. This ensures that the event or meeting pays the appropriate level of recognition and involves the right people for the land on which you meet.

The Darug people are the traditional custodians of the land on which Cumberland Council stands.

Welcome to Country

A ‘Welcome to Country’ is where a Traditional Owner or descendant of the original Aboriginal clan usually elders, called an uncle or aunty, welcomes people to their land at the beginning of a major event, ceremony or meeting.

It is an important mark of respect for Aboriginal people and history, and recognises respect for the land and culture. It was used to welcome people who visit and meet on the traditional area and set agreements of behaviour. The ‘Welcome to Country’ should be undertaken by a traditional Aboriginal Elder of the land where the event is taking place.

A ‘Welcome to Country’ should be performed at all significant or major Council and community events, including but not limited to Australia Day and Festivals, as well as openings, launches or where it is appropriate to welcome people into the local community.

The Elder or representative of the Aboriginal community performing the Welcome to Country should always be seated alongside other dignitaries and speakers at the event. Traditional Aboriginal Elders should be asked how they would like to be referred to (e.g. Aunty or Uncle). There is no exact wording for a Welcome to Country and how it is performed is dependent upon the decision by the elder (uncle/aunty) undertaking the role. It is carried out through a formal process, and maybe a speech or a performance, such as a traditional dance, song or smoking ceremony or a combination of these. However, the following is an example wording of a Welcome to Country speech, from an Aboriginal perspective:

“Hello my name is [insert name of speaker] a representative/Elder of the Darug people. I would like to begin by paying my respect to the Darug people, the traditional custodians of this land where we are meeting upon today. On behalf of the traditional custodians [the Darug people] I welcome you all.”

A non-Aboriginal person, or an Aboriginal person from a different community, CANNOT do a ‘Welcome to Country’. They should do an Acknowledgement of Country/Traditional Owners. Please note: a "Welcome to Country" ceremony is a right and not a privilege.

Acknowledgment of Country

An ‘Acknowledgement of Country/Traditional Owners’ is a way that non-Aboriginal people and Aboriginal people not from that land can show respect for the Traditional Aboriginal people and heritage and the ongoing relationship of traditional owners with the land where the event, meeting, function or conference will take place.

‘Acknowledgement of Country’ can occur with or without a Welcome to Country and may take place when traditional Elders are not available to provide an official Welcome to Country. A chair or speaker begins the meeting by acknowledging that the event or meeting is taking place in the country of the traditional owners. In Cumberland, this is the Darug people.

The following is considered a standard wording for an Acknowledgement of Country by a Council staff member: “Cumberland Council acknowledges the traditional custodians of this land, the Darug people, and pays respects to their elders both past, present and future”

Where the person doing an Acknowledgement of Country is an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person, they are required to use the following format for their acknowledgment:

  • Name
  • Mention their Tribe
  • Where they come from
  • Permission from local Elders
  • Acknowledge local Aboriginal Peoples

The following is an example of wording from an Aboriginal perspective:  “I am (name) an Aboriginal person from (tribe/clan) and I acknowledge the traditional owners of the Darug nation we are meeting on. I also acknowledge any Aboriginal Elder present here today and pay my respect to the Elders both past and present.

It is recommended that council, community organisations, and businesses perform an Acknowledgement of Country when running meetings, small-scale community programs or events.

The Acknowledgment of Country is a minimum requirement for all Council and community events and meetings. Please note: In the case of opening an important event, a “Welcome to Country’ should be performed, not an ‘Acknowledgement of Country’.

Smoking Ceremony

A smoking ceremony is a religious ceremony and should only be performed with permission from the Traditional Owners as the Darug/Darug people did not perform smoking ceremonies. The Traditional people performed other rituals such as water cleansing ceremonies with song and dance.

Smoking ceremonies are religious practices conducted by Aboriginal people with specialised cultural knowledge, such as an Elder, Aboriginal people with the spiritual knowledge or cultural teacher. Most Aboriginal dance groups also provide Smoking Ceremonies as part of their services but it is a separate religious ceremony.

The Smoking Ceremony aims to spiritually cleanse the space in which the ceremony takes place, so as to allow peace and recognise the importance of event or meeting. Given the significant nature of the ceremony, smoking ceremonies are usually only performed on special occasions or at major events and places of spiritual significance.

It should also be noted that Smoking Ceremonies are also more appropriate for outdoor occasions due to ventilation requirements.

A Smoking Ceremony should be performed on special occasions or at major outdoor events, such as Australia Day, Festivals, and other culturally significant activities including Sorry Day, Cumberland Reconciliation Day and Reconciliation and NAIDOC Week and when permission has been given by the Traditional Owners.

Please note: Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Consultative Committee or Community Development & Planning Team can provide contact details for Traditional Owners and suitable Aboriginal people who can be engaged for performing smoking ceremonies.

Aboriginal Cultural Practices and Considerations

Gender Protocols - Men’s and Women’s Business

Aboriginal society still regards some information as specific and sacred to either men or women. This knowledge is sacred and recorded in a way that only men or only women can access.

It is unlikely that you will be able to distinguish between men’s and women’s business. Councils need to be aware that such issues exist and seek advice from the Traditional Owners and Aboriginal people about when they are likely to arise and how to manage such issues.

Sacred Sites

Sacred sites are places of cultural significance to Aboriginal people. They may be parts of the natural landscape such as hills, rocks, trees and springs that are not always spectacular or interesting to non-Aboriginal people. They may be places that are significant because they mark a particular act of a created being. They also include burial grounds and places where particular ceremonies have been held.

In some cases the act of identifying or talking about a site may in itself be a violation. Custodians have particular responsibilities to protect and maintain sacred sites. This may be done in various ways including holding ceremonies, visiting the places and singing the songs associated with them.

Under the National Parks and Wildlife Act, the National Parks and Wildlife Service is responsible for the care, control and management of all historic sites, reserves and Aboriginal areas. More information is available from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage website under the National Parks & Wildlife Act.

There are a number of significant Aboriginal sites in the Cumberland Council area around Duck River and Prospect Hill, Pemulwuy.

One of these sites was a meeting place where exchanges took place between the four main tribes of the Sydney area: Darug/Darug, Gandangara, Guringai and Tharawal people. Further information about the cultural heritage and significance of the Duck River to the Wategora/Wangal people and documentation of sites and places may be available through the ‘On the Dreaming Tracks’ project.

Please note: These sites must not be visited without first contacting a Traditional Aboriginal Elder or knowledge holder of this area.


Aboriginal people have traditional customs, stories, and sacred information that may or may not be passed onto you. If you are given this information/knowledge, remember, it is given in trust. That trust requires that you respect that confidentiality. This includes translating, reproducing or passing on any information, practices or cultural product without permission.

You should assume that all information is confidential unless you have specifically negotiated permission to use it.

Naming the Deceased

Aboriginal communities in NSW may have different protocols regarding naming deceased Aboriginal persons than that which is often raised with northern Australian Aboriginal communities. In many Aboriginal communities in northern Australia, it is offensive to refer to a deceased person by name or show photographic images of the person during the mourning period unless agreed to by the relevant family. Cultural warnings are often used to avoid causing offence to the families of deceased persons.

The best way for Council to use the appropriate protocol for their area regarding naming the deceased or showing photographic images is to consult the Local Aboriginal Land Council regarding the background of the particular community member(s).

Dignity and Respect

The past experience of many Aboriginal people is that they were considered to be lesser people needing protection and assimilation into Australian society.

It is critical to ensure that Aboriginal people are treated with dignity and respect. This is much more than attitude. It must include tangible recognition of Aboriginal history, heritage, culture and protocols.

Community Engagement

Getting Permission

Getting permission is essential before starting work on any project that has an impact directly on Aboriginal communities.

Getting permission involves forming strong partnerships with the Aboriginal community and Traditional Elders. They can advise of the correct protocol for gaining consent.

Permission will rarely be refused if the purpose of the work is clearly understood and way of undertaking the work is properly negotiated. Where it is refused, the reason may relate to issues that are sacred or taboo, related to a death custom, or be specifically women’s or men’s business.


It is important that Cumberland Council uses a range of strategies to involve and consult with the local Aboriginal communities and provide opportunities for the communities to participate in Council decision-making.

For ideas on appropriate consultation and engagement strategies with the Aboriginal community, contact Council’s Community Development & Planning Team.

In the past, non-Aboriginal people have appropriated Aboriginal stories, language, songs, dance, and knowledge. Aboriginal people have not been recognised as the owners of this knowledge. In some cases, non-Aboriginal authors, who have benefited from the knowledge given to them, have claimed the copyright and have profited from the information.

As a result, copyright and the protection of intellectual property are vital issues for Aboriginal people. They are the custodians of their culture and have the right to own and control their cultural heritage.

Any access to and use of Aboriginal cultural information must have permission from relevant individuals. Rights to use Aboriginal material may be held by an individual, but mostly cultural material belongs to the traditional owners of that knowledge as a community.

Council should reach a formal agreement with the owner/s of knowledge before commencing a project that uses it. In some cases, this should be in the form of a written contract.

Copyright and moral rights are complex issues and not always clear in relation to Aboriginal culture. The Arts Law Centre of Australia can provide further advice on relevant legal issues (website:

Communicating with the Aboriginal Community

When seeking to engage with Aboriginal people, the issues must be clearly communicated, including priorities, limitations, and benefits to the community. Care needs to be taken to cross-check that all participants have understood these issues.

On any issue, the limitations to negotiation need to be clearly articulated. There may be legal, financial or policy restraints on Cumberland Council that will limit what can be achievable.

Aboriginal Community Contacts & Organisations

Council’s Community Development Team maintains a database of Traditional Aboriginal Elders, Knowledge Holders, Aboriginal community contacts that are suitable for engaging for Welcome Ceremonies, smoking ceremonies, other cultural performances as well as Aboriginal media.

Other Ceremonies

As indicated previously, other ceremonies may be undertaken along with those outlined above. Agencies are encouraged to consult with local Aboriginal communities on the best form of recognition for each event the ceremony reflects the NSW Government’s commitment to Reconciliation. In providing cultural services such as Welcome to Country, artistic performances and ceremonies Aboriginal people are using their intellectual property. For this reason, it is appropriate that people receive payment for their service. As such providers of these services should be appropriately remunerated. The remuneration should take into account travel to the event, the time and complexity of the service as well as the profile of the event. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs has developed guidelines for government agencies to consider when engaging Aboriginal people in cultural performances, or when conducting a Welcome to Country, Smoking Ceremonies or other Aboriginal cultural protocol.

It is important to note that this schedule below is only a guide and sets minimum fees for a range of Aboriginal cultural services.

Fee for Service

Cultural Practice

Welcome to Country - Minimum Fee - $250
Smoking Ceremony - Minimum Fee - $530 (depending on the accepted religious person)
Didgeridoo Performance - Minimum Fee - $360 (men only)
Dancer category (basic) - Minimum Fee  - $430
Dancer(s) category 2 (professional - Minimum Fee - $450 - $1800
Guest Lecturer/Speaker - Minimum Fee - $110 - $500 (depending on knowledge)
Sitting Fee* - Minimum Fee - $35

Source: Cultural Practices and Performers Fee Schedule - Department of Aboriginal Affairs 2005

*Note: Sitting fees may be paid, where appropriate and by prior written agreement, to Aboriginal members of a committee/advisory board to acknowledge the value of the unique and specialist expertise on cultural heritage issues provided by Aboriginal committee members. This is determined by the funding of the specific project being undertaken.

Aboriginal Significant Dates and Events

26 January

Australia Day is a day of celebration for most Australians however, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people it is a day that represents invasion, dispossession and loss of culture and sovereign rights. For this reason, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people choose to refer to Australia Day as Survival Day. The Survival Day concept was born out of the 1988 Bicentenary Australia Day celebrations in Sydney. Many Indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians who took part in the Bicentennial marches felt they would like to have an alternative celebration which told the story of how their history and culture had survived since colonisation. The first Survival concert was held in 1992 and local Australia/Survival Day ceremonies and celebrations are held annually across New South Wales.

21 March

Harmony Day is held on March 21 each year, which is also the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Harmony Day is an Australian Government initiative designed to promote community harmony, build relationships between people and address racism where it occurs. Harmony Day was first held in 1999 and has since developed into Australia’s largest annual multicultural event.

25 April

Coloured Diggers Day

A Coloured Diggers March is held during Anzac Day each year as a way of raising awareness as well as honouring and recognising the contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders war veterans that were accorded to other servicemen and servicewomen but denied for so many years to Aboriginal people.

More than 5,500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans served in World War I and WWII although many

Aboriginal Diggers did not identify themselves as Aboriginal when they joined the armed forces because as Aboriginal people they would not have been allowed to join, or they wanted to avoid exposure to racism. Instead they pretended to be Maori or Indian.

Upon their return to Australia, instead of recognition, Aboriginal Diggers received ignorance and racism, were not eligible for returned servicemen land grants or even membership of Returned Services League (RSL) clubs, and sometimes even found that the government had taken their children away while they defended their country.

The first official Coloured Diggers March was held on Anzac Day 2007 in Redfern, Sydney, with hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans and their descendants marching in Sydney’s first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Anzac Day parade.

3 May 1805

Prospect Hill was the site of the first Aboriginal – European reconciliation held in Sydney. On 3 May 1805, a group of Aboriginal women together with a young free settler, John Kennedy, facilitated a meeting on Prospect Hill between the Aboriginal leaders of the Darug clan and European settlers headed by Rev John Marsden. This was the first recorded act of reconciliation between Indigenous people and Europeans in Australia, and brought about an end to the ongoing conflict in Parramatta and Prospect.

Since 2010 this event has been commemorated on 3rd May each year in a ceremony on Prospect Hill.

26 May

National Sorry Day

The start of the week (26 May) is National Sorry Day (a recommendation of the Stolen Generation Report) followed by the Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum which removed from the Constitution clauses that discriminated against the First Australians (27 May) and the end of the week

Sorry Day is recognised as a national day of commemoration and remembrance honouring the Stolen Generations, all they endured, and all they lost through the removal of generations of Aboriginal children as a result of the policies of forced removal in the past.

26 May to 3 June

National Reconciliation Week

Each year National Reconciliation Week celebrates the rich culture and history of the First Australians. It provides the opportunity to focus on reconciliation and to explore new and better ways of meeting challenges in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

*27 May

Amendments to the Constitution regarding Aboriginal people (Referendum)

3 June

Mabo Day is the anniversary of the High Court decision in the Eddie Mabo land rights case of 1992. For more information go to:

1 July

Coming of the Light Festival (Torres Strait Islander celebration)

The start of the week (1 July) is the Coming of the Light Festival, a significant day for many of the predominantly Christian Torres Strait Islanders, as it marks the day that the London Missionary Society first arrived in the Torres Strait.

1st Week of July (Sunday to Sunday)

National Aboriginal & Islander Day of Celebration (NAIDOC) Week

National Aboriginal & Islander Day of Celebration (NAIDOC) celebrations are held around Australia in the first full week in July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

For more information go

4 August

National Aboriginal and Islander Children’s Day

National Aboriginal and Islander Children’s Day (4 August) This is an annual event which aims to raise awareness of the significance of providing a safe, nurturing, and healthy environment for Indigenous children. The focus of the day is to enhance Aboriginal Protocols and Guidelines 13 [M1] family relationships and emphasise the importance of culture for young children. Each year, the Children’s Day has a theme to highlight a significant issue, concern or hope for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.


9 August

International Day of the World’s Indigenous People

The day recognises the value and diversity of the cultures of Indigenous communities and the contributions that they can make to humanity.

*Note: 27 May 3 June National Reconciliation Week Incorporates the following significant dates: - National Sorry Day - Amendments to the Constitution regarding Aboriginal people (Referendum)


Aboriginal Flag

The Aboriginal flag is divided horizontally into equal halves of black (top) and red (bottom), and has a yellow circle in the centre. The colour black symbolises the Aboriginal people, the colour red represents the earth and the colour ochre which is used in Aboriginal ceremonies, and the yellow circle represents the sun.

The Aboriginal flag should be flown at all times and at half-mast on Sorry Day. If the flag cannot be raised all the time, it should be raised on important Aboriginal calendar events such as Survival Day, Sorry Day, and Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC Week.

aboriginal flag

Torres Strait Islander flag

The Torres Strait Islander flag is used for business relating to the Torres Strait Islander Community.  The flag is emblazoned with a white Dhari (headdress) which is a symbol of Torres Strait Islanders. The white five pointed star beneath it symbolises peace, the five major island groups and the navigational importance of stars to the seafaring people of the Torres Strait.

torres strait islander flag

Flag Flying Protocols

Flag Flying Protocols

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet provides protocols for the appropriate use and the flying of official Australian flags in the publication ‘Australian flags - Part 2: The protocols for the appropriate use and the flying of the flag’.[M1] 

The flag order should follow the rules of precedence as follows, dependent upon the number of flag poles erected in any one location:

  1. Australian National Flag (should always take precedence and be flown on the far left of the person/s facing the flags)
  2. New South Wales state flag
  3. Australian Aboriginal flag and/or Torres Strait Islander Flag in either order

 (Source: Flying and Use of the Australian National Flag)

When lowering the flag from a half-mast position it should be briefly raised to the peak and then lowered ceremoniously.

The flag should never be flown at half-mast at night even if it is illuminated.

When flying the Australian National Flag with other flags, all flags in the set should be flown at half-mast. (Commonwealth of Australia, Australian flags - Part 2: The protocols for the appropriate use and the flying of the flag, 2006,

Recommended Practice:

The hierarchy for flying flags on Council property should follow the rules of precedence outlined above.

Council should fly both the Aboriginal flag and Torres Strait Islander flags on important Indigenous calendar events such as Sorry Day, Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC Week. During NAIDOC Week, Sorry Day and Reconciliation Week, the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander flags take precedence over the NSW State flag where only two flagpoles are available. They should not replace the Australian flag which will continue to be flown in the first flagpole in the position of precedence. Where there are three flagpoles, the Australian flag would be flown, followed by the NSW, followed by the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander flags.

Special days for flying flags

May 26 - National Sorry Day

Sorry Day is recognised as a national day of commemoration and remembrance honouring the Stolen Generations, all they endured, and all they lost through the removal of generations of Aboriginal children as a result of the policies of forced removal in the past.

27 May to 3 June – National Reconciliation Week

National Reconciliation Week celebrates the rich culture and history of the First Australians. It provides the opportunity to focus on reconciliation and to explore new and better ways of meeting challenges in Indigenous communities.

It commences on 27 May in recognition of the anniversary of the 1967 Referendum which successfully removed from the Constitution clauses that discriminated against Indigenous Australians. It ends on 3 June (Mabo Day) as the anniversary of the High Court decision in the Eddie Mabo land rights case of 1992. For more information go to  

Recommended Practice:

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags should both be flown at half-mast on Sorry Day (26th May) and then fly them both at full for the duration of National Reconciliation Week (27 May to 3 June).

For more information go to

The first week of July (Sunday to Sunday) - NAIDOC Week

NAIDOC Week (originally an acronym for National Aboriginal and Islanders’ Day Observance Committee, the acronym has since become the name of the week) is held every year to celebrate and promote a greater understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and culture.

Recommended Practice:

The Australian Aboriginal Flag and the Torres Strait Islander Flag should be flown on additional flagpoles, where available, next to or near the Australian National Flag. If there is only one flagpole available, the Australian Aboriginal Flag and the Torres Strait Islander Flag should not replace the Australian National Flag. If there are two flagpoles available, the Aboriginal Flag should be flown with the Australian National Flag.

Locations of Council-owned flag poles in Cumberland

  • Merrylands Council Building (16 Memorial Drive, Merrylands)
  • Auburn Council Building (1 Susan Street, Auburn)
  • Auburn Memorial Park (corner of Rawson Street)
  • Peacock Gallery and Artist Studio, Auburn Botanic Gardens (Corner of Chiswick and Chisholm Street, Auburn) - Note: 1 flag pole only

Definitions and Terms

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

It is important to remember that while both are First Nations of Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are very different. As with Aboriginal People each Nation has its own cultural language and traditions with their own histories, beliefs and values. It is respectful to give each cultural group their own identity.

In written works it is considered offensive to include a footnote to the word Aboriginal stating that ‘It includes both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’, so it is advised not to do this.

When specifically referring to both cultures; use the term ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’. In all other circumstances, use Aboriginal peoples. Always capitalise the ‘A’ in Aboriginal. Lowercase refers to an aboriginal person or indigenous people in any part of the world.


Elders are custodians of knowledge. They are chosen and accepted by their own communities and are highly respected. An Elder is a member of a particular Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community, male or female, who is respected and has the authority within the community to give permission, advise others, and pass on knowledge. Elders are usually the holder of traditional knowledge and customs and are the only ones who have the authority to talk about it or not, and to pass it on or not.

An Elder is usually, but not always, an older person. Young people may also be given permission to talk on behalf of an acknowledged Elder not a ‘self-proclaimed Elder’. You must also be aware of addressing an Elder in the appropriate way. Some Elders are referred to as Uncle or Aunty, but you should only use these titles if given permission by them to do so. Simply asking politely is the best way to find out if you can do so or not.


The term ‘Indigenous’ is generally used when referring to both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. ‘Indigenous’ is generally used by the Commonwealth Government as they have a charter of providing services and programs to both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at a national level.

The term Aboriginal refers specifically to the Aboriginal people of the mainland and Tasmania and does not necessarily include Torres Strait Islander people. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are opposed to the term ‘Indigenous’ being used as it generalises both cultures. Council and agencies are advised against using this term where possible.

Land Council

An Aboriginal Land Council is a community organisationorganised by regions that are state legislated and are caretakers of the land on behalf of Aboriginal people. They are organised by Aboriginal people but (in some instances) they are not the Traditional Owners of the land they care for. They have historically advocated for recognition of traditional land rights, and also for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in other areas such as equal wages and adequate housing and basic human rights.

Land Councils aim to provide employment, training and to explore business and community development opportunities for members. Land Council regions can be reflective of Aboriginal clan boundaries.

Under the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act, the function of a land council is to “to improve, protect and foster the best interests of all Aboriginal persons within the council’ area and other persons who are members of that land council”. This includes promoting the protection of Aboriginal culture and the heritage of Aboriginal persons in its area, conservation and land management of Aboriginal sites and relics, and promoting the protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage with other Government authorities by advising and educating the broader community about the significance of Aboriginal culture, heritage and sites.

Cumberland Council falls within the Metropolitan Aboriginal Land Council. The Darug were bounded by the Kuringgai to the northeast around Broken Bay, the Darkinjung to the north, the Wiradjuri to the west on the western fringe of the Blue Mountains, the Gandangara to the southwest in the Southern Highlands and the Tharawal to the southeast in the Illawarra area.

Nation, Tribe, Clan and Mob

These are all terms referring to a culturally distinct group of Aboriginal people associated with a particular, culturally defined area of land or country. A number of ‘tribes’ or ‘clans’ comprise a larger grouping of Aboriginal people that identify as a ‘nation’.

Mob is a term that is being increasingly used by Aboriginal communities as a generic term. Aboriginal people will often refer to themselves as being Koori, Goori or Murri. These are terms drawn from Aboriginal languages.

‘Koori’ is usually used by Aboriginal people in parts of NSW and Victoria. ‘Goori’ is usually used by Aboriginal people in northern NSW coastal regions. ‘Murri’ is usually used by Aboriginal people in north-west NSW and Queensland. Koori is the term used by the local Aboriginal community in the Bega region.

Traditional Owners/Custodians

‘Traditional Owners/Custodians’ is the term to describe the original Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people who inhabited an area. Traditional custodians today are descendants of the original inhabitants and have ongoing spiritual and cultural ties to the land and waterways where their ancestors lived.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Protocols, City of Sydney (2005),

Aboriginal Cultural Protocols and Practices Policy
Department of Aboriginal Affairs, NSW (2005),

Australian flags - Part 2: The protocols for the appropriate use and the flying of the flag
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (2006),

Aboriginal Heritage Office - Sydney (2009),

Draft Aboriginal Protocols,
Office of Local Government (2010),

Engaging with Aboriginal Communities: A Resource Kit for Local Government in NSW,
Department of Local Government & the Local Government & Shires Associations of NSW (2007),

Marrickville Aboriginal Cultural Protocols,
Marrickville Council (2006),

Reconciliation Australia

Holroyd History and the Silent Boundary Project
Research Report by Michael Flynn August 1997.