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History and heritage

Centennial Parklands is not only one of Australia's best known and loved Parklands, but one of its most historic.

Originally a swamp and then set aside as land for the water source for Sydney, Centennial Park was reconstructed as a public park and opened in 1888. Sir Henry Parkes' vision was to create a 'People's Park' in which the citizens of Sydney could 'take in the air' away from the Sydney town centre.

While the first set of Parklands' regulations in 1889 included: 'No person shall walk on the grass…' and 'No person shall engage in any game, or train for any race…' the Parklands have come a long way in becoming one of the most popularly visited and vibrant green spaces in Australia.

Centennial and Moore Park are located within the traditional lands of the Gadigal people, which stretch along the southern side of Sydney Harbour from South Head to around what is now known as Petersham. Their southern boundary is the area that now forms the Alexandra Canal and Cooks River. This area was referred to as Kangaroo Ground in early colonial records indicating that fire management practices were used here. This area is representative of pre-colonial meeting places used for social, ceremonial and other purposes. King Billy Timbery who lived at La Perouse reportedly operated a tollgate on a main road through today’s Parklands, c1860. He is believed to be the first Indigenous person officially employed in the Parklands. Find out about the park's pre-colonial history.

Learn about the fascinating and – at times – quirky history behind these public lands.