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These resources will arm you with a better ability to understand and analyse this text. They cover Aboriginal culture and experiences/history since British colonisation.
Barani is an Aboriginal word of the Sydney language. It 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 (Barani, 2013).
BACKGROUND: Contemporary Settler Literature
This information is intended to suggest connections that exist between Aboriginal- and settler-authored texts, primarily in Australia, but also in the US. Included are groups of primary and secondary texts that can be brought together, for teachers, as units of study in the classroom or, for students, as potential paper topics.
Barani: Sydney's Aboriginal History
Access resources, maps, essays, and more to better understand The Secret River.
First Contact : An Essay
"In 1770 Captain James Cook met few Aboriginal people on the Eastern Australian shoreline. Because they did not grow crops and because he assumed there were no inland fishable rivers, he concluded that Australia’s interior was empty. Sir Joseph Banks thought the Aboriginal people would run away and abandon their rights to land. They were both wrong, as the Gadigal and other local Aboriginal people later proved by ambushing the convicts who were often sent to work into the bush ... "
"History, every history student learns, is written by the victors. But in writing about themselves, the victors must also write about those whose lands they have occupied. This is a story of the Eora, created through a close and innovative interrogation of the European records of early colonisation ... "
Why the number of Indigenous deaths in the frontier wars matters
"If new research is right, Australia should be poised for a new debate about its bloody colonial genesis and the near eradication of one of the world’s oldest peoples ... "
First Australians: They have come to stay
The first Australians and the British, the most powerful Empire in history, come face to face in Sydney on January 26, 1788. Their differences are immense but apprehension quickly turns to curiosity.
New South Wales History
The following links will provide you with the necessary background information to better understand the historical context of The Secret River.
At the end of the 18th century, a tiny British penal colony was established on the east coast of a vast southern continent. In their minds this was uncharted land, but the colony they helped to establish displaced the many Aboriginal groups who called it home (Crockett, 2017).
The Convicts' Colony
" ... For the new arrivals, this was to be a self-sufficient farming settlement utilising the labour of criminals, or convicts, banished from England and Ireland. Rather than being chained and coerced, these castaways forged lively and productive communities, embracing the relative freedoms of this place ‘beyond the seas' ... "
Francis Greenway is remembered as a prominent convict in NSW. "Francis Greenway (1777-1837), architect, was born at Mangotsfield, near Bristol, England ... Francis was in private practice as an architect in Bristol when in March 1812 he was found guilty of forging a document. He was sentenced to death but the penalty was later changed to transportation for fourteen years. He arrived in Sydney in February 1814 ... "
Arthur Phillip: 1788. The Foundation Year
This link details the first year in Australian colonial history.
Migration Heritage Centre
This site details the migration to Australia over time. Each period in our history is identified and includes key events, people and places
The Hawkesbury River : The Dictionary of Sydney
"The Aboriginal name for the Hawkesbury River is Deerubbin, which is believed to mean 'wide, deep water' ... "