ICS Seminar Series

Next Seminar

Date: Thursday 22 February 2018
Time: 11.30am–1pm
Venue: EZ.G.23, Conference Room 1 (Female Orphan School), Western Sydney University Parramatta South campus

Paul Irish

(University of Sydney)

Aboriginal Sydney: The Legacy and Heritage of a Hidden History


The idea that Aboriginal people have lived in Sydney throughout its entire European history is often asserted without discussing what that really means. Who are we talking about? How did they survive and adapt to a rapidly changing colonial world and how did it change them? What is the legacy of that survival today – for Aboriginal descendants, for other residents of Sydney, and for the city’s heritage? A decade of collaborative research with members of the La Perouse Aboriginal community has traced a continuous and cross-culturally entangled history of Aboriginal people across coastal Sydney, which has parallels across other parts of the Sydney region. This talk will discuss some of these broader issues of legacy and visibility, and the structural forgetting of Aboriginal history that has allowed it to be hidden for so long. Ironically, this history is often bound up in places that have been part of the forgetting by being regarded as exclusively ‘European’ – places that are in plain view if we begin to tune in our eyes.


Paul Irish is a historian and archaeologist with heritage consultancy MDCA. For over ten years he has been piecing together the Aboriginal history of coastal Sydney with researchers from the La Perouse Aboriginal community, including the 2015 NSW History Fellowship exhibition This Is Where They Travelled: Historical Aboriginal Lives in Sydney and the 2017 book Hidden In Plain View: The Aboriginal People of Coastal Sydney (NewSouth Publishing).

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Three students listening to a seminar presentation.Seminar audience listening to a seminar presentation.

Handel Wright presenting at the ICS Seminar Series.

Handel Wright presents at the ICS Seminar Series. The photo shows attendees sitting around table.