Coordinates: 33°35′S 150°35′E / 33.583°S 150.583°E / -33.583; 150.583
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Dharug people
aka Dharug, Dharruk, Dharrook, Darrook, Dharung, Broken Bay tribe[1]
Sydney Basin bioregion
Language family:Pama–Nyungan
Language branch:Yuin–Kuric
Language group:Dharug
Group dialects:Inland Dharug & Coastal Dharug
Area (approx. 6,000 sq. km)
Location:Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Coordinates:33°35′S 150°35′E / 33.583°S 150.583°E / -33.583; 150.583[1]
Mountains:Blue Mountains
Rivers:Cooks, Georges, Hawkesbury, Lane Cove, Nepean, Parramatta
Notable individuals
Anthony Fernando

The Dharug or Darug people, formerly known as the Broken Bay tribe, are an Aboriginal Australian people, who share strong ties of kinship and, in pre-colonial times, lived as skilled hunters in family groups or clans, scattered throughout much of what is modern-day Sydney.

The Dharug, originally a Western Sydney people, were bounded by the Kuringgai to the northeast around Broken Bay, the Darkinjung to the north, the Wiradjuri to the west on the eastern fringe of the Blue Mountains, the Gandangara to the southwest in the Southern Highlands, and the Tharawal to the southeast in the Illawarra area.

Darug language[edit]

The Dharug language, now in a period of revitalisation, is generally considered one of two dialects, inland and coastal, constituting a single language.[2][3] The word myall, a pejorative word in Australian dialect denoting any Aboriginal person who kept up a traditional way of life,[4] originally came from the Dharug language term mayal, which denoted any person hailing from another tribe.[5]


Norman Tindale reckoned Dharug lands as encompassing 2,300 square miles (6,000 km2), taking in the mouth of the Hawkesbury River, and running inland as far as Mount Victoria. It took in the areas around Campbelltown, Liverpool, Camden, Penrith and Windsor.[1]

Social organisation[edit]

Traditionally, there was a cultural divide between the inland Dharug and the coastal Dharug, katungal or "sea people". They built canoes, and their diet was primarily seafood, including fish and shellfish from Sydney Harbour, Botany Bay and their associated rivers. The inland Dharug were paiendra or tool people. They hunted kangaroos, emus and other land animals, and used stone axes more extensively.[6]


The Dharug nation was divided up into a number of woodland clans who each tended to live in a certain geographic area. This geographic area would also house descendant clans. Each clan typically included 50 to 100 people. According to James Kohen, they numbered 15 but more accurate records highlight 29 clans:[7]

  • (1) Bediagal
  • (2) Bidjigal
  • (3) Boolbainora
  • (4) Buruberongal
  • (5) Burramattagal
  • (6) Cabrogal
  • (7) Cannemegal
  • (8) Cattai
  • (9) Gommerigal
  • (10) Kurrajong
  • (11) Mulgoa
  • (12) Murringong
  • (13) Tugagal[a]
  • (14) Wandeandegal
  • (15) Warrawarry
  • (16) Kurrajong
  • (17) Carigal
  • (18) Cannalgal
  • (19) Borogegal
  • (20) Kayimai
  • (21) Terramerragal
  • (22) Cammeraigal
  • (23) Gorualgal
  • (24) Birrabirragal
  • (25) Cadigal
  • (26) Wallumattagal
  • (27) Wangal
  • (28) Muruoradial
  • (29) Kameygal

History of contact[edit]

By the late 1790s, the Hawkesbury River area was claimed by more than 400 British settlers. The farms made by the settlers were barriers to the river and to the food supply of the Dharug people, who were rightly upset by this invasion. The Dharug who crossed the farms to pick up corn were killed by the settlers, so they organizing raids to burn the crops. The conflict scaled and in 1795 the government provided troops to protect the farms. The bodies of any Dharug killed should be put in iron gibbets and hung from trees as a warning. In 1801, Governor King ordered troops to patrol farms on the Georges River and shoot any Dharug on sight. The guerrilla was so effective, in 1816 Governor Macquaire forbade Aboriginals from carrying any weapons within two kilometers from a house or a town and to congregate in groups bigger than six. He also authorised settlers to establish vigilante groups and the creation of three new military outposts.[8]

A group led by Pemulwuy made a daring raid on Parramatta, where he was severely wounded and fled. His band was accused of killing four settlers and falsely accused of raping women. The government issued orders for his capture, dead or alive. He was killed by two settlers in 1802, and his head was severed, pickled and dispatched by King to Sir Joseph Banks. To date Pemulwuy's head has not been returned and he has not had a proper burial. It is 'lost' in the British Museum in London. Pemulwuy's son, Tedbury, raided farms until 1810. Another famous raider was Mosquito. He led a group for two decades, until he was captured and hanged in Van Diemen's land in 1823.[8]

Smallpox, introduced in 1789 by the British, wiped out up to 90% of the population in some areas.[9] They lived in the natural caves and overhangs in the sandstone of the Hawksbury region, although some did choose to make huts out of bark, sticks and branches.

Recent controversy[edit]

A strong centre of cultural attachment for the Dharug people has been the "Blacks Town" (at the modern suburb of Colebee) in the Blacktown local government area. However, in September 2012 the City of Blacktown decided to cease recognising the Dharug people as the traditional owners of the area. The council also passed a motion, opposed by some councillors, to begin a process to consider changing the name "Blacktown". An online petition was launched calling for the recognition of the Dharug people in 2012.[10]

In 2020, the Hills Shire Council, whose local government area covers Dharug land, caused controversy by rejecting requests to include an Acknowledgement of Country at its meetings. The Hills Shire Council is the only Sydney local council that does not include an Acknowledgement of Country at its meetings.[11]

Notable Dharug people[edit]

  • Jamal Idris
  • Kurtley Beale, Australian professional rugby union player
  • Anthony Fernando, early twentieth century activist
  • Daniel Moowattin, third Australian Aboriginal person to visit England
  • Marion Leane Smith, only Australian Aboriginal woman known to have served in the First World War
  • Yarramundi, Boorooberongal clansman, whose daughter Maria Lock and son Colebee have a significant role in early assimilation history
  • Maria Lock, Aboriginal Australian landowner in colonial times
  • Quincy Dodd, Australian rugby league player

Alternative names[edit]

  • Broken Bay tribe
  • Dharruk, Dharrook, Dhar'rook, Darrook, Dharug

Source: Tindale 1974, p. 193

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Alternative spelling Toongagal, as per Parramatta River article.


  1. ^ a b c Tindale 1974, p. 193.
  2. ^ Dixon 2002, p. xxxv.
  3. ^ Troy 1992, p. 145.
  4. ^ Wilson & O'Brien 2003, p. 63, n.26.
  5. ^ Hughes 1989, p. 354.
  6. ^ Flynn 1997, p. 3.
  7. ^ Mossfield 2000, p. 158.
  8. ^ a b Broome 2019, p. 25-26.
  9. ^ Petersen, Chen & Schlagenhauf-Lawlor 2017, p. 5.
  10. ^ Diaz 2012, p. 5.
  11. ^ Xiao 2020.


External links[edit]