The Dictionary of Sydney has recently launched a series of online histories about the Cooks River valley. Laced with colourful characters and curious facts, the new entries trace life along the Cooks River from Aboriginal times to the present through 14 fascinating articles written by nine expert historians.
Today we might think twice about eating the fish from the Cooks River or swimming in its water yet, up until the early twentieth century, fishing, bathing and boating were common along its banks. Navigating its histories, visitors to the Dictionary meet the Kameygal people who first fished the pristine beach and mud flats of Botony Bay. Removed from their land through death, disease and conflict, a community of English, Scottish and Welsh fisherman took up residence on the northern foreshores. A few weather-beaten cottages of the village of Booralee are all that remain of a community that thrived for over 100 years.
The Cooks River project places these and other histories within the wider picture of Sydney’s past. Both familiar and unexpected, they enrich our understanding of Sydney as both a place and a community.