Eighteenth Century – Indigenous landscapes and European settlement
In April 1770, Captain James Cook, the first European to sail down the east coast of Australia, anchored the Endeavour in a bay in what is now southern Sydney. The ship’s naturalist, Sir Joseph Banks, was so impressed by the indigenous flora that Cook named the inlet Botany Bay.
In January 1788, after the arrival of the First Fleet under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip, the British colony of New South Wales was established. The one thousand new arrivals, including soldiers, government officials and 778 convicts, were initially settled at Sydney Cove.
At that stage the area around the cove was still a place of extraordinary biodiversity, and provided for the needs of the Indigenous inhabitants. The habitats ranged from tidal flats to forested valley floors to shrubby woodlands on the rugged slopes and hilltops. Within one hundred years, almost all this natural vegetation was cleared.
In 1788, the first farm was established to feed the struggling Colony at a place known to the local Aboriginal people as ‘Woccanmagully’, later known as ‘Farm Cove’. In 1792, Governor Phillip incorporated the farm into the Government Domain, which he set aside for Crown use. The Domain extended east from the Tank Stream to Woolloomooloo Bay.