The Western Sydney region has been occupied by Darug, Darkinung and Gundungurra people for 30 000 years and possibly longer. The Darug's traditional area was from the Hawkesbury River in the North to Appin, the Cowpastures and Georges Rivers in the south, and west into the Blue Mountains.
The Hawkesbury River appears to have marked the traditional boundary between the Darug and their neighbours to the northwest, the Darkinung. Darug is also spelled Dharug, Daruk, Dharuk, Dharuck or Dharruk. The Dharruk suburb of Blacktown was named after the Darug tribe.
The Darug traditionally obtained much of their diet from in and around wetlands and waterways including:
- Meat: Bandicoots, Moorhens, Tortoise, Ducks, Kangaroo Rats, Platypus, Possums, Yabbies, Water Rats, Black Snakes, fish (eg Mullet), Freshwater Mussels, Coots, Lizards, Emus and Quail
- Eggs: The large and small ants plus their eggs (crushed together). Duck and Swam eggs were also part of the Darug Diet
- Fruit: Berries, Native Grapes, Red Burrawang fruits (fruits were poisonous so the Aborigines soaked and pounded the fruits to remove the poisons), Burrawang fruit (the seeds from the fruits of this plant were made into flour for flat cakes)
- Sweet Drink: Banksia flowers (the Aboriginal people would drink the nectar of this flower)
- Edible Root: Sedges & Bull Rushes (from within creek), Fern roots and Yams and Lilies (from along the creek's edge)
Evidence of early Aboriginal people has been found in several locations within the Blacktown LGA. Shell middens (a pile of discarded shells) from the Darug people have been found near the Sewage Treatment Plant on Breakfast Creek and South Creek. The area within Timbertop Reserve was historically the eastern boundary of the Darug people's homeland. As this site has changed so much over the years, it is unlikely that any items of Aboriginal significance still remain.
The Darug people used the name 'Deerubbin' for the Hawkesbury River. The name means 'wide, deep water'.
Several artefacts such as scarred trees, open scatters of imported stones (silcrete, chert, quartz, basalt) and hammerstone have been found around wetlands and waterways in the Blacktown Local Government Area. In the past, the Darug used wetlands and waterways around Blacktown frequently as campsites, which makes these areas very significant.
The tribes would move in and out of their clan lands to visit relatives in other clans. Most of the stone artefacts found in the Blacktown area are made from Hawkesbury gravel which provides some evidence of this clan movement. There are many artefacts along Second Ponds Creek to the north of the Blacktown area.
Wetlands and waterways were of great importance to the Darug tribe in the Blacktown area as 95 per cent of Aboriginal sites were up to 100 metres away from the wetlands and waterways. There are Aboriginal sites of some significance along the banks of Bungarribee Creek, Rickaby's Creek and South Creek. The Darug tribe used Blacktown wetlands and waterways as a drinking supply close to their campsites and also as a source of plant and animal foods.
The early Darug used the swimming holes along the stretch of Eastern Creek as they moved around. Ropes Creek has significant value to the Darug, as there are areas along the creek that were used as a burial ground for some Darug children.
The early European settlers used many of the wetlands and waterways in the Blacktown area in different ways. Unfortunately, some uses have been harmful eg wetlands and waterways were used as a dumping ground for factory waste by industries in the area.
Some of the first European farms were set up along the edges of South Creek in sections with few trees. Evidence of the degradation of waterways such as South Creek was recorded as early as 18th December 1803 with a letter written to the Sydney Gazette from a concerned resident. The letter outlined the problem that South Creek had become unsafe to sail boats down because so much wood and rubbish had been dumped in the water. The same creek was used in earlier years by large ships in the river trade with no problem.
Documents recording early European history in the Blacktown area states that the area now known as Timbertop Reserve was used for cattle grazing and small quarrying activities. Some old fence lines still exist on this site.
The early European settlers used the Mt Druitt Waterholes as a water source for the Druitt Estate. It was also where travellers stopped to water their horses travelling to of from Penrith and the Blue Mountains.
Along Caddies Creek (in the Cattai Creek Catchment), a line of stones on the edge of a pond are believed to be either an early Aboriginal fishing trap or a stone feature built by early Europeans to stop animals from entering the pond.