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Dharug people
aka Dharug, Dharruk, Dharrook, Darrook, Dharung, Broken Bay tribe[1]
IBRA 6.1 Sydney Basin.png
Sydney Basin bioregion
Language family:Pama–Nyungan
Language branch:Yuin–Kuric
Language group:Dharug
Group dialects:Dharuk, Gamaraygal, Iora
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; 150.583Coordinates: 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 Darug or Dharug people 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 Darug, 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, the Eora to the east[2] and the Tharawal to the southeast in the Illawarra area.

Darug language[edit]

The Dharug language, now largely extinct, is generally considered one of two dialects, the other being the language spoken by the neighbouring Eora, constituting a single language.[3][4] The word myall, a pejorative word in Australian dialect denoting any Aboriginal person who kept up a traditional way of life,[5] originally came from the Dharug language term mayal, which denoted any person hailing from another tribe.[6]


Norman Tindale reckoned Darug 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 western Darug and the Eora, whom they call the coastal Darug, 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 Darug were paiendra or "tomahawk people". They hunted kangaroos, emus and other land animals, and used stone axes more extensively.[7]


The Darug 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.

  • (1) Bediagal
  • (2) Bididal
  • (3) Boolbainora
  • (4) Burreberongal
  • (5) Burramattagal
  • (6) Cabragal
  • (7) Cannemegal
  • (8) Cattai
  • (9) Gommerigal
  • (10) Kurrajong
  • (11) Mulgoa
  • (12) Murringong
  • (13) Tugagal[a]
  • (14) Wandeandegal
  • (15) Warrawarry[8]

History of contact[edit]

Smallpox, introduced in 1789 by the British settlers, 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 Darug people has been the "Blacks Town" (at the modern suburb of Colebee) in the Blacktown local government area (formerly Blacktown Shire). However, in September 2012 the Blacktown City Council decided to cease recognising the Darug tribe 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 Darug. According to one of the Liberal Councillors, Jess Diaz, "a consensus must be reached once and for all on who composed the traditional owners apart from the Darug people".[10]

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

Notable Darug people[edit]

  • Anthony Fernando, early twentieth century activist.
  • Daniel Moowattin, third Australian Aboriginal person to visit England.
  • Jamal Idris
  • Kurtley Beale, is an Australian professional rugby union representative player who has made over 90 national representative appearances in a ten-year playing career at the world-class level.
  • Marion Leane Smith, only Australian Aboriginal woman known to have served in the First World War.
  • Yarramundi, a Boorooberongal clansman, whose daughter Maria Lock and son Colebee have a significant role in early assimilation history.
  • Maria Lock

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. ^ Mossfield 2000, p. 157.
  3. ^ Dixon 2002, p. xxxv.
  4. ^ Troy 1992, p. 145.
  5. ^ Wilson & O'Brien 2003, p. 63, n.26.
  6. ^ Hughes 1989, p. 354.
  7. ^ Flynn 1997, p. 3.
  8. ^ Mossfield 2000, p. 158.
  9. ^ Petersen, Chen & Schlagenhauf-Lawlor 2017, p. 5.
  10. ^ Diaz 2012, p. 5.
  11. ^ Xiao 2020.


External links[edit]