Archived site – Last updated in May 2017
The stories and history of an area are important to its character and the communities who live there. Central to Eveleigh will celebrate its rich diversity to create great places, each with a unique character that is shared, enjoyed and celebrated by the community. The stories of the past can be seen in the buildings, streets and places that reflect the social movements of the last century.
Central to Eveleigh is highly significant for its Aboriginal heritage, and this history is important, complex and interwoven with European heritage. Redfern is particularly significant to the local Aboriginal community and we need to reflect Aboriginal stories and history in the area, from the ancient to the contemporary, to create an enduring presence. There is also a significant amount of industrial and railway heritage, including the Eveleigh Railway Workshops, heritage buildings such as the Chief Mechanical Engineers Office, Central Station and Redfern Station.
This heritage extends beyond the rail yards to influence the style of houses, as well as the diverse cultural mix of the area. Heritage will be central to the future character of the area and our ambition to recognise Aboriginal heritage, enhance the setting of heritage buildings and nominate appropriate public uses of these buildings.
Read more in the Urban Transformation Strategy.
History of the place
- Pre 1790
Aboriginals as the first Australians The Gadigal people were the first inhabitants of this area known as Cadi Country.
- 1790 to 1824
Aboriginal camps and government paddocks.
Site of today’s Belmore Park and Central Station is the location of Aboriginal performances, ceremonies and trials.
- Area remains largely undeveloped in th early stages of this century
- The ‘Cleveland Gardens’ area, around Regent, Cleveland and Devonshire Streets, grows oranges from 1809.
Major land grants distributed.
Cleveland House, one of the earliest buildings in the area, constructed.
- 1840 to 1865
An industrial hub
- Government legislation is passed, requiring polluting industries to move away from the Tank Stream, and many move to Redfern.
- Redfern, Waterloo and Eveleigh become industrial hubs.
1840s – 50s
Land developed into terraces for the working class and villas for the professional and merchant classes.
The University of Sydney was founded.
Redfern Station opens, transforming the area and leading to a period of sustained economic and population growth.
First national school opens in Redfern.
Prince Alfred Park becomes one of the earliest gazetted parks and begins to play an important role in Sydney’s social landscape
- 1875 to 1892
Eveleigh Railway Workshops constructed, followed by shopping facilities along major thoroughfares.
1880s – 90s
- Eveleigh workshops become the larges complex of its type in the southern hemisphere, drawing increasing amounts of people to the area and acting as a significant employer of Aboriginal people.
- Lebanese people settle in the area and establish warehousing and retail businesses.
- Elizabeth Street in Redfern becomes an economic and social hub for Syrian and Lebanese communities.
Redfern Electric Light Station, as the first municipal power station in Sydney, provides residential and street lighting
- 1900 to 1970s
Redfern Station’s main terminal relocates north, becoming Central Station.
High levels of unemployment and homelessness hit during the Great Depression.
Redfern increasingly becomes the location of protests and political rallies as the area’s Aboriginal population grows.
The first all-Aboriginal football club – the Redfern All Blacks – holds games at Alexandria Park, which become an important platform for expression of community pride and Aboriginal identity.
Waterloo and Redfern public housing estates are constructed.
- 1960 to 1988
- Eveleigh workshops become obsolete.
- Aboriginal population exceeds 12,000.
- Redfern often referred to as a ‘slum’ due to unemployment, crime and negative media coverage.
- Those who can afford to leave move, as increasing numbers of underprivileged people move into the area.
NSW Department of Housing begins resettling Aboriginal people in areas like Campbelltown and Mount Druitt.
- The 1967 referendum and better social policies represent a key turning point for the community.
- The Aboriginal population grows to over 35,000 as many people relocate from rural areas.
The Australian Government buys a number of houses around Louis Street after a formal submission for funding from the area’s community. This is the first housing collective in the country and the first successful land rights claim by an Aboriginal community.
The Eora Centre was established in Redfern and is now located in Darlington, as a community focused education centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The University of Technology Sydney was founded.
- 1990 to 2000
Central to Eveleigh today The area remains a significant site for those who have lived there for generations and those who identify with the area’s political symbolism.
Paul Keating delivers an iconic speech on dispossession for the United Nations Year for the World’s Indigenous Peoples in Redfern Park.
The Aboriginal Housing Company approve the demolition of ‘The Block’ and initiate the Pemulwuy Project.
- The rapid gentrification of the area brings about a significant shift in the landscape, placing renewed pressure on the Aboriginal and working class families that remain.
- An influx of students and young professionals sees the development of many cafés and bars, and the conversion of industrial spaces into studios and apartments