Our History

The aim of the Camden History Notes blog is telling stories about the characters, events, general goings and changing landscapes of the Macarthur region of New South Wales, and occasionally elsewhere.  

Storytelling exists in all cultures and the Macarthur region has a rich mix of cultures on Sydney’s southwestern urban fringe. It is one the fastest, growing areas in Australia with its master-planned housing estates and peri-urban farmland.

The land was originally occupied by the Indigenous Dharawal people until settler colonialism dispossessed them of their country. Europeans named the area the Cowpastures in 1796, settlement followed, with inevitable conflict on the colonial frontier resulting in the 1816 Appin massacre (south of Campbelltown).

The construction of place by European occupation created a farming landscape composed of gentry estates with convict labour, mixed with smallholder grants to ex-military, emancipated convicts and free settlers, and a scattering of villages whose communities called England ‘home’.  

A new layer of stories were added to by the emergence of the three market-towns of Campbelltown (1820), Camden (1840) and Picton (1841) which shaped their own sense of place and regional identities.

From the mid-20th century urban planners drew inspiration from post-war Britain and shaped the emerging region with greenbelts and new towns. In 1973 the ‘new cities project’ modelled on the British Garden City concept re-shaped the region with the new Macarthur Growth Centre (1975) in honour of colonial reprobate John Macarthur.

The cover of the FACE to FACE Live Sittings 1936-1972 Exhibition programmer at the Alan Baker Art Gallery at Macaria, John Street, Camden. (ABAG)

The beautiful Macarthur region, consisting of Camden and Campbelltown is only a stones throw from the Sydney CBD, but boasts the charm of the country and amenity of the city.

Macarthur Tourism

Signage for the Narellan Gayline Drive-in Movie Theatre which was one of the cultural icons of the Macarthur region from the 1960s to the 1980s. There was many a romantic night at the movies in the back-seat of the Holden, or lounging on a couch downing a ‘Tooheys’ at a midnight double-header of horror movies or porn. Smuggling your mate in the boot past the pay-booth or eating a Chicko Roll from the shop. Lots of lost memories that add layers to the storytelling of the region and its sense of place. (I Willis, 2008) For the full story of the drive-in click here

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Macarthur Region, NSW