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27 Jun 2018

The Domain: Sydney's stage

Located within the traditional land of the Cadigal people, the Domain has been a popular venue for outdoor concerts, open-air events, large political gatherings and cultural events. Once a small farming area of the First Fleet, it is now 34 hectares of stunning green space and has become one of Sydney’s most loved public areas, used every day by thousands for exercise, education, entertainment and events.

Throughout its history, the Domain has remained a park for the people, an important destination as a cultural hot spot and a gateway for visitors of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. As a public space, the Domain area was used largely for public meetings, official celebrations, gatherings and sporting activities.

One of the main purposes of the Domain has been to create cultural connection, bring people together and improve the health of Sydneysiders by providing a vital greenspace. To celebrate its importance, we’ve picked a few of the largest events hosted throughout the history of the Domain, which demonstrate the variety of ways the space has been used and how it has shaped the people of Sydney and the city.

It just IS cricket – A space for major sporting events

One of Australia’s favourite pastimes, which had been played in Hyde Park since the early 19th century, moved to the Domain in the 1850s. The site quickly became a popular area for major, competitive sporting events as a result. The second Intercolonial Cricket Match between New South Wales and Victoria was the beginning of many matches to be played there, which NSW (of course) won.

The 1857 Intercolonial Cricket Match held in the Domain

The ANZAC Buffet – A space to come together

In 1916, four entrepreneurial and influential women decided to set up an ‘ANZAC Buffet in the heart of the Domain’. The purpose was to bring returning soldiers from the war together with their families, to show the support for the troops at a time of high political and social emotion.

The buffet was entirely volunteer run, relying solely on donations from people, right down to the cutlery and crockery used.  For the men returning from war, the buffet acted as the place that they were welcomed home, to the point that friends and relatives had to have tickets in order to come. Once, on a particularly busy day when four transport ships arrived, there were about 6,000 people in the Domain welcoming 1,600 soldiers.

Today, a plaque commemorating the Anzac Buffet can be found under a fig tree near Hospital Road, behind the Sydney Hospital in the Domain.

The sacking of Jack Lang – A space for political meetings

Jack Lang was the Premier of NSW from 1925 – 1927 and again from 1930 – 1932. During his term, he was the unfortunate Premier during the Depression of 1931-32. Following the announcement of the ‘Lang Plan’ to combat the crisis, Lang withdrew all the state's funds from government bank accounts so that the federal government could not gain access to the money, which they demanded in order to adhere to debt commitments. This action ultimately led to the sacking of Lang and dismissal of his government. However, over 200,000 people rallied in the Domain in 1932 to protest the sacking by Governor Sir Philip Game, in one of the largest political turn outs in Sydney.

Thousands rallied in the Domain to protest the sacking of Jack Lang. Image taken 13 May 1932.


The Domain has a long-standing history of public gatherings, having hosted rallies for peace and against war, and the fall out of political crises. Similar to the sacking of Jack Lang, 100,000 people turned up to protest in the Domain against conscription to World War I. Over 200,000 people returned in 1919 to join in the Official Peace Celebrations in The Domain, marking the end of World War I.

The Peace Celebrations of 1919. At the time this was the largest crowd of people to ever gather in The Domain.

A big Royal party – A space for city-wide celebrations

Based right next to the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, it seems appropriate that the Domain be the location that Royalty from England were received by the masses. On the 26 March 1927, the Domain saw the first gathering in Australia with more than 1 million individuals. The Domain was filled with picnickers on the lawns, all waiting to welcome King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

Even today, the Domain remains the most popular location for New Year’s celebrations, with thousands gathering to watch the fireworks from Mrs Maquaries Point with the stunning view of Sydney’s Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.

Crowds gather to watch the Boxing Day regatta, c.1980s

Carols in the Domain – A space to sing

Carols in the Domain is Sydney’s largest annual Christmas concert. Beginning in 1983, the festivities broadcast across Australia to share the winter cheer and have now become one of Australia’s largest free Christmas events.

Previously hosted by the likes of Hugh Jackman and The Wiggles, Carols in the Domain are not the only event to attract national and international performers and guest appearances. Historical major events such as TropFest, Oktoberfest, the Sydney Festival Trio and major pop-music concerts have been held in the Domain and are where thousands gather to see the best of the music, film and entertainment business.
Big names have taken to the stage in the Domain, such as The xx, Mumford and Sons and Grace Jones. In 2017, Midnight Oil completed their world tour and sold out two concerts in the Domain. Keep an eye out in the future for concerts such as Florence + The Machine performing in the beautiful natural setting of The Domain.
 
The Midnight Oil concerts attracted approximately 50,000 people in 2017

Run2Cure and SMH Marathon – A place to raise money

Its undeniable that Sydneysiders enjoy a bit of physical exercise and healthy outdoor living from time-to-time. Over the years, Sydney has accumulated multiple marathons, races and fun runs that weave their way through the city and raise money for a good cause.

Just like the historical ANZAC Buffet, major events supporting important causes have been held in the Domain. Events such as Run2Cure for neuroblastoma, breast cancer research at the Mother’s Day Classic and over 900 charities at the Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon.

Run2Cure


Committed to supporting registered charities and not-for-profit organisations through our Community Support Charter, events in the Domain have raised nearly a million dollars in the 2017 - 2018 season alone. 

In addition, key community events include Step UP! For Down Syndrome, Special Olympics Soar & Roar and stakeholder events such as the Police Wall to Wall Ride for Remembrance and the Memorial for Emergency Services Volunteers.

Marathons, concerts and celebrations continue to be supported and held in the Domain, inkeeping with the Domain’s rich history of hosting a wide variety of culturally significant events that help bring the people of all ages, interests and backgrounds together.

Additional events in the Domain

 The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust acknowledges the traditional owners of the land, the Cadigal people of the Eora Nation. We pay our respect to Elders past, present and future.
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