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General History of the Area

The Sydney region, referred by the local aborigines as Warrane, itself has been inhabited for at least 50,000 years. When Captain James Cook made his epic voyage to Australia he claimed the whole East Coast in the name of King George III and called it New South Wales. The British did nothing with their new possession for a number of years and were then urged to establish a colony.

The First Fleet, commissioned by Thomas Townshend, Baron Sydney, set sail for Botany Bay on May 13, 1787, led by Captain Arthur Phillip. The fleet assembled at Mother Bank, the Isle of Wright, later arriving at Cape Town to take aboard plants, fruit trees (including vines) and animals. They reached their destination in Botany Bay on January 18, 1788, but pushed further north to Port Jackson where they decided to settle.

There they were to find a lush, pristine forest in a cove fed by a stream (now called the Tank Stream), where it was decided they would settle.

Captain Arthur Phillip was later to name the cove they landed at Sydney Cove, in honor of Thomas Townshend, Baron Sydney (1733-1800), the minister responsible for the Colony. Later usage of the name dropped 'Cove' and the area became known as Sydney.

Sydney began its life as a penal colony, with a total of 568 male and 191 female convicts with 13 children, 206 marines with 26 wives and 13 children, and 20 officials having made the voyage.

By the time that Governor Lachlan Macquarie reached Sydney in 1809, as the 5th Governor of the Colony, a number of new towns had been established, including Parramatta. But it was inland - to the west that the colony had developed beyond Parramatta to the foothills of the mountain range. At the foot of this range beside the Emu plains was the Nepean River, well beyond the newly formed towns of Liverpool and Campbelltown. Cowpastures (Camden) was almost beyond the limits of settlement in the southwest. To the north lay Green Hills (Windsor) on the rich agricultural soils of the Hawkesbury River, and along its length had developed a number of settlements. Macquarie proclaimed five towns Castlereagh, Windsor Richmond, Pitt Town and Wilberforce.

The area was the County of Cumberland, a patch of land barely 40 miles square.

Today the area referred to as Sydney is covered by some 45 local government boundaries.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics refer to a statistical division known as Sydney which consists broadly of the Cumberland Plain. To the north of the Plain, the Division includes the moderately elevated Hornsby Plateau and, beyond the Hawkesbury River, the coastal lowland plains containing Gosford and Wyong. To the northwest, north and southwest of the Cumberland Plain, the Division comprises the Blue Mountains and other associated ranges. The southern part of the Division is mainly composed of the moderately elevated Woronora Plateau.

Sydney is the focal point of the State's rail, road, and air services. It also provides port facilities for overseas, interstate and intrastate shipping. It is the seat of public administration for the State, and the leading commercial, industrial, financial, educational, and cultural centre.

For the purpose of marketing New South Wales as a tourist destination, Tourism NSW considers all of the areas in the Sydney Basin as Sydney. The Sydney Wine Trail and the Hawkesbury Harvest food and wine trail have been established as important tourist destinations for both Sydneysiders and visitors to the region.


Broadbent, James & Hughes, Joy., 1992, The Age of Macquarie, Melbourne University Press & Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales, Victoria, p194.


Geographical Indication: Sydney (proposed) ] [ General History of the Area ] Geology of the Sydney Basin ] Climate ] Wine & Grape History ]

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