For more than 65,000 years prior to European settlement Wareamah was a site of immense cultural significance for the Wallumedegal, Wangal, Cammeraygal and Gadigal people comprising the Eora Nation. Wareamah translates to ‘Women’s Place’ as the island was traditionally used by women in cultural ceremony and for birthing.
The physical signs of the Eora's connection to Cockatoo Island were destroyed over time, likely commencing in 1839 when the Governor of New South Wales, chose Cockatoo Island as the site of a new penal establishment.
The natural balance of the island was disturbed by gunpowder blasting rocks and convicts manually excavating the site. Over time, industrial waste and the continual disturbance of the environment eroded any physical evidence of First Nations Peoples stewardship or culture on the island.
In more recent history, Wareamah has become a site of First Nation’s struggle against the damages of colonisation.
In 2000, a branch of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy set up a camp for four months on the island to gain back Native Title over the island due to its cultural significance. Isabel Coe, the group’s leader stating:
“This would have been a very sacred site. It is where the rivers join and is in the middle of where the sun rises and sets over the harbour. It is part of the milky way dreamtime stories”
Although this group was unsuccessful in reclaiming their rightful ownership of the island, physical evidence of Indigenous culture was once again restored to the Island through murals depicting the Aboriginal Flag and native animals.
Since then, Wareamah has become a site of reconciliation, managed by the Harbour Trust with consultation from the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council. Efforts to reconcile commenced in 2020 with the Reconciliation Action Plan.
We feel immensely grateful to have the support of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council to use the space for Mode Festival.