A fresh state government heritage report has now confirmed that one of the most important Aboriginal heritage sites in Sydney has been destroyed for the light rail stabling yards in Randwick.
The report was delivered for Transport for NSW in November 2018 and only just released. It has identified conclusively the irreplaceable and critical heritage importance of the site especially for the first thirty years of conflict and exchange between First Nations people and the expanding colonial settlement in Sydney.
The site was excavated and destroyed to speed up construction of the light rail in 2016, despite pleas from First Nations elders and an unsuccessful application for protection under Commonwealth heritage laws.
Greens MP and Aboriginal Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
“It was clear in 2016 that this was a crucial heritage site, and we now know for certain that it was a central gathering site for First Nations people up to and including 1820 as they responded to the invasion of their land.
“The post excavation report shows that First Nations people used the area surrounding this site to forge tools from flint brought to Sydney Cove on British ships.
“Tools produced on this site appear to have then been transported and traded via traditional networks across Australia.
“We knew in 2016 that this site was important, with tens of thousands of stone objects unearthed, however neither the state or federal heritage laws gave it any protection.
“Then Federal Heritage Minister Greg Hunt refused to intervene because he wasn’t convinced the site was significant. It’s now clear he was wrong and the advice he relied upon was woefully inadequate.
“The final report has found that this site has “considerable heritage” value and that “it is significant to Sydney’s historical narrative.
“This is a tragic loss for the Bidjigal people, but also for the whole of Australia.
“This only happened because state planning laws turn off all Aboriginal heritage protections once a project is deemed “state significant.” These laws need to change.
“We must learn the lesson from this site and will be seeking to change the law in the NSW Parliament this year to prevent a repeat of this tragedy,” Mr Shoebridge said.