Aboriginal people have always lived in this place we call Sydney. The Barani website highlight’s Sydney’s Aboriginal journey: its places, its history and its people. Barani celebrates a living culture in the heart of the city.

Barani is an Aboriginal word of the Sydney language that means ‘yesterday’. ‘Sydney’ as a place name dates from the arrival of the first convicts in 1788. For Aboriginal people who have lived here for at least 40,000 years, that is only yesterday. The word barani (yesterday) reminds us that there has been a continued presence of Aboriginal people in Sydney.

The original inhabitants of the Sydney city region are the Gadigal people. Despite the destructive impact of first contact, Gadigal culture survived. As the town of Sydney developed into a city, the Gadigal were joined by other Aboriginal people from elsewhere in NSW, to live, work and forge relationships within the urban Aboriginal community. Aboriginal people in our city have a devastating yet profound past (barani) and a diverse yet shared future (barrabugu). They’re ‘black, proud and deadly’.

The Barani website has been developed by the history team at the City of Sydney with assistance from the City’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel.

What’s on this website?

The Barani website provides histories of people, places and events in the City of Sydney local government area that are associated with the histories of Sydney’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The Barani website has:

  • Thematic essays that explore aspects of Sydney’s Aboriginal history
  • Places that have historical associations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • Biographies of significant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations that have strong associations to Sydney
  • Resources including books, films, images and websites
  • Historical and cultural events on our news page


The Barani website includes places that historical associations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Sydney. Each of these sites is connected with a historical theme that expresses an aspect of cultural life in Sydney – these are colour coded throughout the website and on the maps. Together these themes provide a layered narrative of the lived experience of Sydney’s Aboriginal people.

A map which covers Sydney’s inner city area identifies the location of these sites. While all the sites have historical significance, many have changed or disappeared. Others are private buildings or educational facilities that are not suitable to visit.

Lucy Simpson / Gaawaa Miyay Designs

The graphic elements within the website were designed Lucy Simpson. Born and based in Sydney, Lucy is a Yuwaalaraay woman belonging to the freshwater country of the Walgett, Lightning Ridge and Angledool areas of North West NSW.

Lucy established her design business Gaawaa Miyay (River Daughter) Designs in 2009 during her graduating year at the College of Fine Arts (UNSW), where she majored in textile, jewellery and graphic design.

Design for Lucy is a passion, and though both her own work with the Gaawaa Miyay range, and the commissioned graphics work she creates for her clients she is able to share, celebrate and represent aspects of culture, family, story and life in contemporary ways through functional everyday design.

Lucy worked with the City of Sydney’s web team who developed the website.

Artist statement: ‘Warran’ Sydney Cove

The Warran design represents Sydney, and was created to celebrate NAIDOC week throughout the City of Sydney.

The Sydney Opera House motif was incorporated into the artwork to represent what we now know as Sydney cove – or traditionally Warran (Warrane). Warran was chosen to highlight the strong connection to country by Indigenous Australians that span many generations and centuries.

Bennelong Point, the site of the Sydney Opera House is also a significant place for many reasons. People have been gathering, celebrating and sharing here for many years, and this is reflected in the history of the site. Bennelong Point was originally a shell midden – a place of life, celebration, exchange and unity. Many of the city’s buildings (including the very foundations of the Sydney Harbour Bridge) are built from remnant Sydney shell middens. The opera house’s opening in 1973 saw many subsequent ceremonies and performances continue on the site and now it sits as one of the most important cultural sites in contemporary Australian life.

Sydney has been made strong with the culture and life of its traditional custodians – this design embodies the notion that Aboriginal Sydney is forever present in this country… in the earth, bloodlines, and even in its modern day iconic city skyline.

The landscape may change and time may pass, but the essence of the land and its people remnant strong and ever present in this beautiful country.

Research and development

The Barani website has been developed by the History Unit at the City of Sydney with assistance from the City’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel.

The Barani website was first published in 2001, winning a NSW Premier’s History Award in the audiovisual category in 2002. In 2013, the website was upgraded and redesigned and new content was added, much of it drawn from the Aboriginal history guide, Barani / Barrabugu (Yesterday / Tomorrow): Sydney’s Aboriginal Journey.

In January 2010, the City’s History Program engaged Steve Miller from Museums & Galleries to start the process of mapping historical sites that have associations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people in the local government area.

Steve and his team of researchers identified over 255 sites, which he presented to the the City’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel in June 2010. The panel was excited by his work and established a cultural mapping working group to advise staff on planning the Eora Journey. With their advice, the History Unit has drawn on Steve’s research to produce the Barani / Barrabugu (Yesterday / Tomorrow): Sydney’s Aboriginal Journey, and now, the upgraded Barani website.

The historical essays on the Barani website were written by Dr Anita Heiss, a Wiradjuri author and social commentator, in 2001. Additional historical research and writing was carried out by Terri McCormack and Steven Ross.

This project was first conceived and published in 2001. A number of people and organisations contributed to the development of the content, particularly around the essays. We’d like to acknowledge the following people:

  • Anita Heiss
  • Steven Ross
  • Terri McCormack
  • Department of Aboriginal Affairs
  • Wendy Brady (Aboriginal Research & Resource Centre, University of NSW)
  • Barrina South & Keith Munro (Australian Museum)
  • Allen Madden (Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council)
  • Ronald Briggs, Melissa Jackson, Richard Neville, Kevin Leamon, Greg McDonald, and Jodie Ward (Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW)
  • Tess McLennan (Tourism NSW)
  • Brenda Palma (National Aboriginal History & Heritage Council)
  • Ken Watson & Angela Martin (Yiribana Gallery, Art Gallery of NSW)
  • Lyne Syme (Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative)
  • Tracey Bradford (Heritage Centre, Parramatta City Council) Kirsten Thorpe (State Records)
  • Julia Mant, Yvonne Jackson & Kevin Cook (Tranby Aboriginal Co-operative College)
  • Steve Miller, James Miller, Fabri Blacklock, Ann Stevens, Ian Hickson, Kathy Hackett, & Elizabeth Pastor (Powerhouse Museum)
  • Margaret Campbell (Sydney Aboriginal Discoveries)
  • Melinda Hinkson & Library Staff (Australian Institute of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Studies)
  • Krys Green (Australian Local Government Association)
  • Vicki Barton, Graham Mooney & Daryl French (NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group)
  • Robbie Lloyd (NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs)
  • Paul True (Construction, Forestry, Mining & Energy Union)
  • Nadia Iacono (Godden, Mackay & Logan)
  • Les Jenkins (Leichhardt Municipal Council)
  • Blackbooks
  • Kyrn Stevens (Gadigal Information Services)
  • Merrima Aboriginal Design Unit
  • Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation
  • Peter Murphy (Search Foundation)
  • Wayne Johnson (Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority)
  • Trevor Dodds & Nancia Guivarra (Radio National)
  • Ken Williams (Australian Railway Historical Society)
  • Pauline Clague
  • Father Frank Fletcher
  • Father Eugene Stockton
  • School of Oriental and African Studies, London