Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

Recognising the First Peoples of Australia

Our Constitution has served Australia well in many ways, but it doesn't recognise the first chapter of our national story.

Today, Australia prides itself on being a place of fairness. But our founding document is yet to recognise the people who have lived in this land for tens of thousands of years and are custodians of the world's oldest continuing cultures. 

The City of Sydney supports the Recognise campaign to fix the historical exclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from Australia's Constitution, and remove racial discrimination from it.

We encourage you to find out more about the Recognise campaign for constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and support this important amendment to our Constitution. 

What we do

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are a diverse and vibrant Sydney community that comprises many language and community groups from all over Australia.

The City of Sydney acknowledges the traditional custodians of this land and strives to support our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents.

In addition to providing general and specific community services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, we work on projects designed to celebrate Aboriginal culture and history, and to promote reconciliation.

Reconciliation action plan 

The City’s inaugural reconciliation action plan outlines our progress so far and the City’s desire to continue working towards improving relationships between non-Indigenous Australians and our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Reconciliation action plans document what organisations can do to further the goal of reconciliation focusing on 3 key areas:

  • building respect
  • forging relationships
  • creating opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Reconciliation Australia has endorsed the City's plan, which was also endorsed by Council at its June meeting in 2015.

The Eora Journey

The Eora Journey is a visionary project that celebrates the living culture of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Sydney. Eora means 'the people' in the Gadigal language, so the Eora Journey is 'the people's journey'.

The City consulted widely with the community when we developed the Sustainable Sydney 2030 vision and the feedback called for better recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and heritage, which led to the Eora Journey.

Barani Barrabugu

The Eora Journey builds on existing work undertaken by the City to celebrate our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and community. In June 2011 the City published the free booklet, Barani Barrabugu (Yesterday Tomorrow), a historical walking tour that takes in more than 60 sites around Sydney significant to Aboriginal people. Visit the Sydney Barani website to download a copy.

The award-winning Barani Barrabugu was the result of 2 years of extensive research by the City’s History Unit and Aboriginal historian Steve Miller, under the guidance of the City’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel. This information will help the City develop the Eora Journey Walking Trail.

Our protocols

When consulting and working with Aboriginal peoples, the Council and City of Sydney staff are guided by a set of protocols based on respect, trust and a spirit of openness. The protocols express our commitment to working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents.

They also outline ways in which the City of Sydney can demonstrate its committment to reconciliation, such as:

  • acknowledging the traditional custodians of Sydney
  • flying the Aboriginal flag above Sydney Town Hall
  • recognising Aboriginal peoples' right to self-determination
  • challenging negative stereotypes
  • marking significant ceremonies and dates.

You can download the protocols.

Welcome to Country

As a mark of respect to the traditional custodians of Sydney, the City incorporates 'Welcome to Country' and 'Acknowledgement of Country' proceedings for appropriate events, functions and meetings. We encourage other organisations in the local area to do the same and, as we receive many requests, we have put together a guide to organising a Welcome to Country.  

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Advisory Panel

The City's advisory panel informs and shapes our work with Aboriginal communities. Made up of a cross-section of community members, including industry professionals, young people and Elders, it was established to advise our organisation on matters that are important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Following a strong recommendation from the panel, a full meeting of Council in 2010 voted in favour of using the term 'invasion' to describe European settlement of Sydney. The sentence below was subsequently included in the City's 10-year corporate plan.

"Despite the destructive impact of this invasion, Aboriginal culture endured."

The panel is responsible for reviewing the City's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Protocols, in conjunction with members of the community.

Koori collection

More than 1,250 items make up the City of Sydney Library’s Koori collection, a wide range of titles dedicated to Aboriginal histories and cultures. Topics covered include land rights, Aboriginal leaders and sporting greats. The Koori collection is held at Waterloo Library

Significant partnerships

Joining forces with the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, the City put together the Principles of Cooperation, a set of guidelines for government departments that provide services to the Aboriginal community. You can download the agreement.

The City is also an active member of the Eastern Region Local Government Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Forum. The aim of the forum is to stimulate and advocate a commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Events in the forum’s calendar include the Reconciliation Week Primary Schools Art Competition and the Pauline McLeod Awards for Reconciliation.


Find out more about our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander projects and programs:

David Beaumont
Community Engagement Coordinator (Aboriginal Community Development)
02 9265 9333


Eora Journey City Art: Eora JourneySydney 2030: Eora Journey Barani : Sydney's Aboriginal history Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council

Tony Albert, the artist creating the City’s artwork in honour of our Coloured Diggers, talks about the importance of constitutional recognition.

Last updated: Wednesday, 16 December 2015