Stories of The Rocks

Four permanent exhibitions have been developed in close consultation with the Metropolitan Aboriginal Land Council which share the history and stories of the area and the impact of European settlement.

Opening times
10am - 5pm daily
Except good Friday and Christmas Day.

2-8 Kendall Ln, The Rocks NSW 2000


500 1000 nla obj 138499671


The Aboriginal peoples of Sydney Harbour, before and after the coming of the Europeans in 1788. This exhibition provides some idea of the natural setting of Sydney Harbour; its formation, geology and natural resources, and the many clans who inhabited the fringes of the harbour and who utilised the harbour in their everyday lives. The name “Warrane” is the Gadigal word for what the Europeans were to call “Sydney Cove”.

View of Sydney, 1825.
View of Sydney in c1825. The skyline is dotted with windmills. Artist: Joseph Lycett.


Getting started- the initial attempts to create a British colony in Sydney (1788-1820). Interactions between people such as Lieutenant William Dawes and the local Aboriginal woman Patyegarang demonstrate the efforts between the two groups of peoples to learn each other’s ways and language. The colony struggled. Attempts were made to tame the rock of The Rocks, and it would be 22 years before streets were effectively laid throughout the growing town.

Government Boat Sheds in Circular Quay 1870s 2 C
Government Boat Sheds in Circular Quay, 1870s


Sydney and The Rocks as a port city (1800-1900); the merchants, wharves and warehouses, the arrivals of immigrants, the industry that made Sydney, and the lives of those who lived and worked here.From The Rocks exploratory expeditions charted the coast of Australia and inland. Local Aboriginal people such as Bungaree and Nanbaree were invaluable guides to explorers such as Bass and Flinders in their attempts to understand the continent of Australia. At the same time many Aboriginal peoples were pushed to the periphery, as white society dominated their land through the 19th century.

Constructing Bridge over Argyle St 1930 State Archives 12685 a007 a00704 8724000058r
Constructing Bridge over Argyle St, 1930


The New South Wales Government takes charge (1900-): Technological advances created closer connections between people around the world.Steamships cut the travel time between Britain and Australia to just 6 weeks. By the 1880s the telegraph connected Sydney with London and the rest of the world so that messages could be almost instantly transmitted. Sydney had entered the 20th century, and the NSW Government had big plans for the redevelopment of The Rocks.