The 10th of February was the 150th Anniversary of the very first City of Ryde Local Government Election. It was our sesquicentenary.
However, it was also about the Wallumedegal people, the traditional owners of the land.
Prior to the City of Ryde forming, they lived here for thousands of years. They called this land Wallumetta.
The Wallumedegal survived for generations in a rich environment of river flats, creeks and mangrove swamps, fishing with pronged spears and handlines, feasting on shellfish, hunting birds and small game, and collecting a variety of edible bushfood plants. Unfortunately in the years after the arrival of the Europeans, their lives would change forever.
More than 10 grants of land were given to emancipated convicts, while an earthwork fort at Parramatta forced them to move down the river to The Flats, which is located near Meadowbank. A smallpox epidemic shortly after killed many of the Wallumedegal people.
So while the City of Ryde may be celebrating 150 years as a Council today, it is important that we all acknowledge the contribution of the Wallumedegal people, remember their tragic story, and always recognise that the land we stand on today always was and always will be Wallumedegal land.
Below is the speech I gave to a gathering of current and former Councillors of the City of Ryde
I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of this land, the Wallumedegal clan of the Darug nation. I would also like to pay respect to Elders both past, present and emerging and extend that respect to other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people present.
Hello and thank you everyone for joining us here today as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the City of Ryde.
Before I begin I would like to welcome our special guests who are with us here today:
- Former Mayors, councillors and General Managers present;
- Current General Manager George Dedes;
- My fellow current serving councillors; and
- Council staff.
I would also like to pay a special and heartfelt welcome to representatives from Garigal Culture.
Aboriginal people lived for thousands of years in Ryde prior to the arrival of Europeans in 1788.
The Wallumedegal people, which formed part of the larger Dharug language group, were the traditional owners of this area which they called Wallumetta.
The Wallumedegal survived for generations in a rich environment of river flats, creeks and mangrove swamps, fishing with pronged spears and handlines, feasting on shellfish, hunting birds and small game, and collecting a variety of edible bushfood plants.
Unfortunately in the years after the arrival of the Europeans, their lives would change forever.
More than 10 grants of land were given to emancipated convicts, while an earthwork fort at Parramatta forced them to move down the river to The Flats, which is located near Meadowbank.
A smallpox epidemic shortly after killed many of the Wallumedegal people.
So while the City of Ryde may be celebrating 150 years as a Council today, it is important that we all acknowledge the contribution of the Wallumedegal people, remember their tragic story, and always recognise that the land we stand on today always was and always will be Aboriginal land.
Ladies and gentlemen, the City of Ryde has certainly come a long way in its 150 years.
While the Municipality was proclaimed on 12 November 1870, today marks the 150th anniversary of the first Council election.
What we preside over today would be a far cry from what the handful of people would have envisaged when they attended the Church Street Oddfellows Hall in 1870 to put together a petition requesting for local government to be granted to the area.
At the time, the area was predominantly agricultural, famed for its plentiful orchards and market gardens that people from around Sydney would travel to purchase some of the best produce found in the city.
Over the years, however, this country suburb would be transformed.
Firstly, as a place where industry developed at the turn of the 20th century, with significant shipbuilding activities taking place along the Parramatta River foreshore as well as the creation of the Meadowbank Manufacturing Company which produced tramcars and railway rolling stock for much of Australia.
The post-war years then saw many of the small-plot farms make way for new housing developments which in turn saw the City of Ryde turn into its own commercial hub.
This commercial activity where small family-run businesses became the success stories Australia is famous for laid the foundation for the growth the City of Ryde would experience before establishing itself as one of Australia’s economic powerhouses in the 1990s with the introduction of business parks such as the one in Macquarie Park.
Throughout this transformation the City of Ryde has quite a storied history as a Council as well.
We have obviously had our fair share of characters represent Council over the years.
Take for instance, the Council’s first ever Mayor – Edward Terry.
A prominent landowner in Eastwood, Mr Terry was an avid hunter, who would often organise hunts through areas like the Field of Mars, inviting constituents to join him and his large pack of hounds.
He was also a keen horse racing enthusiast who used that passion to actually build a racecourse in Eastwood.
Now I have seen some ambitious development applications during my time on Council, but probably none that comes close to building a racecourse.
While Mr Terry was a character, we have also had our fair share of trailblazers.
This of course includes the first female alderman (yes, that was the correct term) Beatrice Beryl Sutton, who was elected in December 1953.
Then we have our first female mayor - Mrs Edna Wilde – who I am delighted could join us here today. Not only is Enda our first female Mayor but she is also the longest serving alderman or councillor we have ever had.
It is a tribute to both Edna and Ms Sutton that they have inspired several women in the City of Ryde to become councillors and for that I thank them.
We would not be a Council either without our fair share of controversy, and Ryde has been no stranger to that.
In fact, it did not take long for the first major controversy to occur when parts of Marsfield and Eastwood seceded from Ryde Council in 1894 to form their own municipality. This secession lasted until 1948 when we reunited.
But through all the change, controversies and colourful characters, the one constant that has been evident throughout the City of Ryde’s history is the strong sense of community.
It is this sense of community that has allowed our City to grow and flourish over the 150 years and become the success story it is today.
A city with a rich history that is home to a vibrant, multicultural community that has leading business and commercial centres as well as academic institutions.
And one that has a bright and exciting future.
Over the next decade, our population is set to grow considerably and as a Council we need to plan accordingly to handle the opportunities and challenges that growth presents us.
That includes protecting our open spaces, fighting overdevelopment throughout our communities, investing in the growth of the Macquarie Park economic success story and providing residents with first-class facilities, such as The New Heart of Ryde project which will redevelop the Ryde Civic Centre site into a new cultural and civic hub that will deliver a four-fold increase in community facilities.
So as we celebrate 150 years of the City of Ryde, we tip our hat to the past and look towards the future as we continue to grow and prosper together.
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