The History of


Learn how the past informs the present and influences the future.

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The suburb of Barangaroo is named after, and honours, an iconic woman in Australia’s history from the Cammeraygal clan of the Eora nation. Barangaroo lived as a proud Aboriginal woman under the strictures of British colonisation during the 18th century. Her legacy lives on in the cultural significance of Barangaroo the place, though her traditional lands were located around Manly. The Traditional Custodians, the Gadigal, used the land for hunting, the harbour for fishing and the foreshore as a place to gather and meet. Aboriginal people have been an integral part of the Barangaroo landscape for tens of thousands of years. Large shell middens and numerous rock engravings close to the site indicate Aboriginal occupation dating back some 6,000 years.

Soon after colonisation, the site began to flourish as maritime and industrial activities grew. Millers Point and the city’s western foreshore started to play a pivotal role in the growth of Sydney. What had been one of the spectacular rings of headlands surrounding Me-Mel (Goat Island) in Sydney Harbour was gradually whittled away to pave the way for industrialisation. In the 1820s, the first wharves were constructed to assist in the colony’s initial exports. Sydney had a colourful trade of sandalwood, cedar and turtle shell, as well as whaling and sealing industries.

By the mid-1800s, the Millers Point Gasworks brought the first gas-lit lanterns to Sydney, and the area, known today as Barangaroo, buzzed with the exotic life of a South Pacific port. Within decades, the wool trade stepped in, requiring more wharves, warehousing and storage facilities at Millers Point. The ships became highly specialised with triple-masted clippers racing each other to get the first cargoes of wool back to Britain. Historic features include Munn’s sandstone Slipway from the 1820s, Cuthbert sandstone seawall from 1865 and a sandstone seawall from 1903. Major shipbuilder John Cuthbert made this central part of the harbour the site of his new shipyard – building these iconic clippers alongside Australia’s first naval vessel, the Spitfire.

The 1840s gold rush brought unprecedented growth, and for a short time, the streets of Barangaroo were paved with gold, drawing a flood of immigrants seeking their fortune. The lure of the gold rush also gave labourers the upper hand over the employers. Workers began to organise, and these early labour movements shaped the character of the Millers Point community in later years. Growing industry also changed the physical character of Millers Point – local merchants Henry Moore and Robert Towns smoothed out the irregular shape of Walsh Bay. Cuthbert and Smith filled the southern side of the headland. The original shoreline was obliterated by the end of the 1860s.

For the rest of the 19th century, this entire waterfront bustled with the unregulated seediness of a working port. Some key highlights in its history includes:

  • When the Bubonic Plague hit Sydney in 1900, the NSW Government seized control of the area to clean it up, and build shipping infrastructure for what they saw as a new century of trade.
  • During the Great Depression, Hickson Road came to be known as The Hungry Mile because of the hundreds of men who went from wharf to wharf in search of work.
  • In the 1960s the global, Container Revolution led to further landscape and infrastructure changes to the area with the creation of a vast, featureless concrete apron, obliterating any sign of what had been before.

By the 20th century, modern shipping technology outgrew the capacity and sustainability of the site as a modern port facility. In 2003, the NSW Government announced that Sydney Harbour’s life as a working port would end, and the wharves at East Darling Harbour were to be redeveloped into a new urban precinct.

As part of this transformation, Lendlease partnered with the NSW Government and some of the world’s leading architects to create the ultimate business and lifestyle precinct. And, it was in 2016, the One International Towers building project – the last of the three International Towers here at Barangaroo South – finished to great aplomb. Honouring a building tradition hailing from Scandinavia, Barangaroo Delivery Authority CEO Craig van der Laan placed a tree on top of a new building to appease the tree-dwelling spirits displaced in its construction.

The tower is the third and largest of the commercial towers at the Barangaroo South precinct. Designed by internationally acclaimed architects Lord Richard Rogers and Ivan Harbour, International Towers Sydney has been benchmarked against the best office developments in New York, London, Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai.

The neighbourhood continues to grow and evolve to this day. The development at Barangaroo exposed this waterfront precinct to the public for the first time in more than 100 years. In doing so, the rich, Aboriginal history is woven into the fabric and essence of Barangaroo.