Waves of People

Parramatta has a unique identity as a gathering place for many different cultures. It is the place where Aboriginal peoples lived through periods of intense change, including a period of colonization and massive disruption. As Australia’s first inland European settlement, Parramatta is often described as the ‘cradle of the colony’.

Following the first arrival of Europeans, successive waves of migration have shaped the culture and identity of the city in vital ways. Parramatta is now home to many people with many different pasts.

The ‘Waves of People’ report was produced by Western Sydney University for the City of Parramatta. The research recounts the history of Parramatta’s inhabitants – from the generations of Darug families living along the Parramatta River and Australia’s first inland European settlement, to the waves of migrants and refugees from all over the world who made a home here.

Parramatta movements, arrivals, migrations: timeline of key events
Date Event Significance
Radiocarbon dating of the site known as RTA-G1, George St, Parramatta, suggests that prior to European contact Parramatta had been inhabited continuously by Aboriginal people over a period stretching back 30,000 years.
1788 24 April, site of Parramatta chosen by Governor Phillip. Marked the arrival of Europeans to Parramatta.
2 November, settlement at Rose Hill (now Parramatta) founded.
Kings Wharf established
1789 November, James Ruse established the first private farm in Australia. Use of Parramatta for European farming purposes. Parramatta as a site for experimentation in agriculture and farming.
First wheat crop harvested at Rose Hill.
1789 Smallpox epidemic of 1789, understood to have killed approximately half of the Aboriginal people of the Sydney basin. Loss of the Darug population in Parramatta.
1790 October, Maugaron & Boorong protest to Governor Phillip about the loss of their country. Constituted the first formal protest in Australia.
1791 James Ruse granted 30 acres. Early experiments in European agricultural practices in Australia.
Australia’s first grape vines planted in the Governor’s garden, Parramatta Park
Experiment Farm, No. 1 grant.
4 June, Rose Hill renamed Parramatta
1791 Commencement of the ‘Maize Wars’ around Prospect and Toongabbie between 1791, continued until 1794. Aboriginal resistance to occupation by Europeans.
1792 22 February, John Irving, Australia’s first emancipated convict, granted land on the Parramatta River. Parramatta as a site of convict emancipation.
1793 Elizabeth Farm House built. Parramatta’s connectivity with the wider Sydney region.
First road constructed to Parramatta. An unsealed road travelled from Sydney to current Flemington then to Mona Street, South Granville and then to the south of Parramatta around Pitt and Church Street.
1796 First Parramatta Goal built near the southern boundary of Prince Alfred Park. First goal of the colony.
1797 22 March 1797. The ‘Battle of Parramatta’, involving 100 of the warrior Pemulwuy’s fighters. Took place in what is now known as Robin Thomas Reserve. Formal battle between Aboriginal and European settlers. Pemulwuy and his warriors would continue their resistance across Sydney for the next 5 years.
Captain John Macarthur imported merino sheep from the Cape of Good Hope to his Elizabeth Farm Early experiments in colonial farming would lead to the establishment of major export industries for Australia.
1799 First part Old Government House, Australia’s oldest surviving public building, completed. Establishment of Parramatta as a site for early experiments in colonial governance.
First Parramatta Gaol is torched by arsonists and burns down
1801 17 August, female Orphan School opens. A home for many European orphans in the early years of the colony. Shows the influence of the British Poor Laws, emphasising discipline and austerity.
1803 John Macarthur visits England to promote his merino sheep venture to English businessmen. Promises he can supply England’s woollen requirements within 20 years. Establishment of one of Australia’s major export industries.
1803 Reconstruction of the Parramatta Goal in what is now Prince Alfred Square. Second story used for newly arrived convict women and became known as the first ‘Female Factory’. Establishment of Parramatta as a site for early experiments in colonial governance.
1805 Governor King issues a proclamation against settlers co-operating with Aboriginal people, effectively banishing Aborigines from farms and towns. Banishment of Aboriginals from farms around Parramatta.
1814 28 December, ‘Native Institution’ school for Aboriginal people founded. A precursor for policies associated with the Stolen Generations. Marked a new strategy by the Europeans to facilitate European occupation of Darug land, by weakening the customary ties of Aboriginal clans and families.
First of the Native ‘Feasts’. Part of the new strategy supporting European settlement of Parramatta.
1816 November 1816, amnesty declared for Aboriginal warriors wanted by the government. Ending of hostile relations.
28 December, ‘General Friendly Meeting of the Natives’ at which 180 Aboriginal people gathered in the Parramatta marketplace, reportedly grouped according to ‘chiefs’.
1818 Arrival of Mak Sai Ying, first of Australia’s permanent Chinese migrants. First Chinese migrant to Australia.
1819 Colebee and Nurragingy awarded land grants. Both had assisted Macquarie’s forces in military actions, and had instructions to procure Aboriginal children for the Native Institution in Parramatta. Now recognised by some as the first recognition of Aboriginal people’s rights to land (despite the circumstances in which they the land grants were offered).
1821 Second Female Factory completed, North Parramatta. A home for many European females, housed here either as recent arrivals or inmates. Shows the influence of the British Poor Laws, emphasising discipline and austerity.
1820s Acute labour shortages lead to use of Chinese contract labour. Early examples of Chinese settlers in Australia.
1822 Aboriginal Meetings in Parramatta Square, 1822-1833. Early examples of intercultural relations.
Agricultural Society established.
1824 Closing of the Parramatta Native Institution, with a new institution established in Blacktown until 1829. Early attempts to forcibly remove Aboriginals from their families.
1824 Marriage of Robert and Maria Lock in 1824. First legitimated intercultural marriage. Also important because of the substantial impact of their descendants in repopulating Darug Sydney.
1832 Ending of the program of land grants, to be replaced by an assisted migration scheme, leading to the arrival of many English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh migrants. Includes a program to attract single women, leading to an influx of women and girls at the Parramatta Female Factory. Increase of female migrants to the Female Factory.
1837 Mak Sai Ying returns to Parramatta after returning to his native Guangzhou. Chinese migration to Parramatta.
1840 End of convict transportation to NSW. Increasing labour shortages, leading to growth of migrant contract labour.
1840 Roman Catholic Female Orphan School opens (later repurposed as the Parramatta Girls Home). Ran for 42 years and housed approximately 9000 girls over this time.
1855 26 September, 1st Railway opened to Parramatta Junction near Granville. Important infrastructure connecting Parramatta to inner city, attracting new migrants including the first Lebanese migrants.
1860 4 July, rail line extended to current Parramatta Station. Promotes connectivity between Parramatta and CBD.
1861 Some 26 Chinese men are documented as settling in Parramatta, thought to be one of the largest groups of Chinese outside the goldfields. Early Chinese migration to Australia.
1871 1871 Census records that 28 per cent of Parramatta’s population was based in one of the 28 institutions based in Parramatta. Colonial governances in Parramatta was characterised by prisons and welfare institutions at a distance from Sydney.
1880 Sing Choy reportedly established the first market garden in the area, in North Parramatta. Establishment of Chinese market gardens in Parramatta, part of early Chinese wave of migration.
Scottish migrants begin playing soccer, called British football, in Granville. The first match was played by the Wanderers. The sport grew in popularity with the support of post-war immigrants. First Australian-based soccer club.
1887 The Industrial School for Girls opened, later known as the Parramatta Girls Home. Would run until 1983. Known for its harsh punishment of Aboriginal girls.
1890 Toongabbie Creek appears on a map as ‘Chinamen Gardens’, cultivated by up to 50 Chinese market gardens. Parramatta’s role as a food bowl for the wider region.
c. 1897 Rosie Broheen, a Lebanese migrant from the village of Kfarsghab, is one of the first of her village to arrive in Sydney. She saves enough money working as a hawker to purchase land in Parramatta. Another early settler is Zahra Youssef Assad Rizk. One of the first arrivals from the town of Kfarsghab, Lebanon. Migrants from this community would become a significant presence in Parramatta over the following centuries.
1901 Census records a total of 124 Chinese men living in Parramatta, and one woman. Chinese migration to Parramatta.
1901 A suite of measures is introduced by the new Australian Government that cumulate in the ‘White Australia Policy’, including the Immigration Restriction Act 1901, a Pacific Island Labourers Act 1901 and then a Naturalization Act 1903. Restrictions to non-European migration imposed by the Australian Government. Migration largely restricted to assisted passage schemes for British and Irish migrants.
c. 1920 Greek milk bars in Parramatta run by the Psaltis family. Jim Tortas runs a chain of Italian restaurants including Bar Roma Steakhouse. Maltese migration to Parramatta following connections made with Australians during WW1. Pre-WWII European migration to Parramatta. Impact of WWI on European migration to Parramatta.
1925 Parramatta’s first shopping arcade opened. Commercial development of Parramatta CBD.
1945 Victory in the Pacific, August 1945. End of WWII, beginning of mass migration to Australia.
1945 An American Naval Base Hospital established in Granville Park in 1942 was used after 1945 as a hostel for migrants. Parramatta established as a key location for short term migrant accommodation and assistance.
1945 Introduction of the Assisted Passage Migration Scheme by the Chifley Government. Reflected the ‘Populate or Perish’ campaign by the Australian Government, resulting in an influx of British and European migrants to Parramatta.
1949 The Dundas Migrant Workers’ Hostel established by the Commonwealth Government in 1949 to house the major influx of migrants from Eastern Europe, many of them Polish. Parramatta as a welcoming place for recent migrants.
1960 The Greek Orthodox Parish and Community of St Ioannis Parramatta was established, to meet the needs of the many tens of thousands of Greek migrants who arrived in Sydney between 1950s and 1970s. Post-War European migration to Parramatta.
c. 1965 People from the village of Hadchit begin settling in Parramatta, growing to some 500 Hadchiti households in Westmead and Harris Park by 2016. Lebanese migration to Parramatta.
1966 Introduction of the 1966 Migration Act by the Holt Government, establishing legal equality between British, European and non-European migrants to Australia. Facilitated the diversification of migration to Parramatta.
1967 Indigenous Referendum. Over 90% of Australians vote to alter the constitution and allow Aboriginal people to be counted in the census and be subject to Commonwealth law. Aboriginals included in Australian Census and are subjected to Commonwealth Law.
1972 Election of the Whitlam Government. The concept of a multicultural Australian society is introduced into government policy. The election marks a turning point in Australia’s relationship with Asia.
1973 Abolition of the ‘White Australia Policy’ through the removal of remaining discriminatory measures in immigration programs such as the Assisted Passage Migration Scheme. Marked the diversification of migration to Parramatta, and the emergence of the concept of ‘multi-culturalism’ in Australian life.
1975 End of Vietnam War; arrival of Vietnamese ‘boat people’. Role of Parramatta as a welcoming space for refugees.
1977 The Department of Immigration opened two experimental multicultural resources centres for migrants. The first to be run by the Department was located in Parramatta. Parramatta as a welcoming place for new migrants, informing wider approaches to refugee resettlement across Australia.
1991 Lebanese are recorded as the largest ethnic group in Harris Park. Lebanese migration to Parramatta.
1995 The Parramatta Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee formed to advise Council about ATSI needs and priorities. Elevation of ATSI needs and priorities within Council.
1996 Introduction of the 457 Temporary Business (Long Stay) Visa by the Howard [CR4] Government. [SB5] Marks a shift in federal immigration policy from permanent and family reunion migration programs to temporary and skills based migration.
1997 One of the first apologies by local government authorities in response to the Bringing Them Home Report made by Parramatta City Council. Apology for the forced removal of Aboriginals from their homes.
2001 Changes to immigration policies introduced allowing applications for permanent residency enhanced by specified university degrees. A new wave of migration based around education and training.
2005 A wave of Indian students arrive in Australia, after trades courses were added to the list of educational programs students could undertake before applying for permanent residency. A new wave of Indian students arriving in Australia.
2006 The 2006 census records that half of Harris Park’s residents are students. Indians are recorded as the largest ethnic group in Harris Park. Indian and student migration to Parramatta.
2008 A total of 10,000 people in Parramatta trace their ancestry to the town of Kfarsghab. The significance of the Kfarsghab community in Parramatta.
2010 Old Government House and Parramatta Park, as well as ten other Australian sites with a significant association with convict transportation, were inscribed as a group on the World Heritage List as the Australian Convict Sites. Recognition of the role of Parramatta in early convict settlement of Australia.
2014 December. Deerubbin Land Council wins a land rights claim over Parramatta Gaol. Recognition of Aboriginal land rights. Ignites conflict over the continued presence of Darug people in Parramatta.
2015 Parramatta City hosts a commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Parramatta Native Institution. Recognition of the role of the Institution in the development of policies associated with the Stolen Generations.
2016 The 2016 Census shows a doubling of the number of Indian born residents in Parramatta, from 15,059 in 2011 (7.8% of Parramatta’s population) to 30,776 in 2016 (13.9%). The number of Chinese residents grew from 15,640 in 2011 (8.1%) to 27,604 in 2016 (12.4%). Growing numbers of Indian and Chinese migrants settling in Parramatta.
Research by Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University (WSU) for the City of Parramatta, Parramatta Heritage Centre, 2017

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