The Cadi Jam Ora – First Encounters Garden was built between 1997-2001. It explores the relationship between people and plants on the site of the first frontier between an Aboriginal cultural group, the Cadigal and the permanent European settlement created by the convicts, marines and officers who arrived with the First Fleet in January, 1788.
The First Fleet brought seed and plants from England, the Canary Islands, Rio de Janiero and Cape Town and it was on this site that the convicts cleared nine acres of land to plant them. Although the area became known as the First Farm, bountiful harvests were hard to come by. The convicts had trouble clearing the native forests, the climate was harsh and the ancient soils were nutrient deficient. You’ll learn more about the plants that tell this story, including bananas, cotton, wheat and the vegetables that we know they tried to grow here when you visit this garden.
The Cadigal and other Aboriginal cultural groups had developed a complex relationship with the plants native to this site over tens of thousands of years. Gulgadya or Grass Trees (Xanthorrhoea spp) are not just striking and unique to look at, they were used by Aboriginal cultural groups to provide food and resources.
A 50 metre storyline winds its way through the Cadi Jam Ora – First Encounters Garden. We invite you to take some time to read and reflect on the images and stories that speak of both the Aboriginal history of Sydney and our shared history. Contemporary Aboriginal voices are heard throughout the storyline, indicated by small Aboriginal flags. Their voices add important context and insight to this historical record.
In the centre of the garden, a large sandstone meeting area interrupts the straight lines that mark the layout of the footprint of the Garden as it was in 1816. We’ve peeled back one era of history to reveal and explore another, more ancient story that lives on in contemporary Australia.
We welcome you to take a seat surrounded by the native plants of this area and those that arrived on the 11 boats from England and consider the modern transformation of the Australian continent, which began on this spot in 1788.
Learn about Aboriginal bush foods and culture
You can learn more about the ways the Australian bush foods and plants were used by joining one of the Aboriginal heritage tours or cultural experiences offered by our Aboriginal Education Officers. Visit our What's On page to book your spot now.