Figure 2.7: The history of La Perouse

For tens of thousands of years before colonisation, Aboriginal people in the area prospered in communities where strict social values and rules were enforced and everyone contributed to the wellbeing of the broader community.


Families settle back in traditional camping grounds of La Perouse. Aboriginal men start using fishing as a successful business enterprise. La Perouse was a 'model community'.

Late 1880s – mid-1900s, Creating dependency

Government shuts down enterprise on threat of withholding rations from families. More Aboriginal people move into La Perouse as surrounding camps are closed down. A white ‘mission’ manager is installed to control the lives of the local Aboriginal population.


Salt Pan Creek camp is established on freehold land, outside the authority of the Protection Board. It becomes a focal point of intensifying Aboriginal resistance in New South Wales. Significant alliances, strategies and future leaders are developed in the camp, with Jack Campbell, George and Jack Patten and Bill Onus all spending time there.

Early 1930s – Time to lead

1933 Burraga calls for a petition to the King ‘in an endeavour to improve our conditions ... today we demand more than the white man’s charity ... there is plenty of fish in the river for us all’.

Late 1930s

26 January 1938, Jack Patten, President of the Aborigines' Progressive Association, announces: 'The conference is called to bring home to the white people of Australia the frightful conditions in which the native aborigines of this continent live.' One example is 'exemption certificates' where Aboriginal people were forced to give up their identity, culture and family connections in exchange for living in the wider community.


Government increases pressure on Aboriginal residents to relocate to Sydney’s west as land at La Perouse is wanted for mainstream residential and commercial purposes. Aboriginal workers enlist other union workers on the Port Botany and Balmain wharves to lobby the Labor Government against the forced move.


Aborigines Welfare Board abolished and the mission manager at La Perouse is dismissed.


Establishment of Aboriginal-founded and controlled organisations, many of which continue to provide services to the community today. But government funding arrangements and poor governance at times result in fractured relationships between organisations and poor outcomes for the community.


Unity and collaboration: Establishment of La Perouse Aboriginal Alliance where local Aboriginal organisations work hard to create trust, collaboration and a united voice on the community’s needs and wants.