Francis Robinson, 1885, Panorama of Sydney, November 12th National Library of Australia, nla.obj-136809632
National Heritage List inscription date 10 February 2021
The Governors' Domain and Civic Precinct has many features that link to the British penal colony established on the shores of Sydney Cove.
Set in Sydney’s city area, this space is a combination of historic public buildings, parks, and gardens. All together, these tell the story of Australia’s development as a nation from its early colonial beginnings.
Interactions between two peoples
The Governor’s Domain and Civic Precinct is a rich cultural landscape. First Nations people have lived in the area for thousands of years and their connections to the land and sea continue. The Cadigal people are the traditional custodians of the land on which the Precinct is now situated.
For the first several decades after the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, Aboriginal people and colonisers lived in close proximity, establishing relationships with each other within a wider story of Indigenous dispossession and colonisation.
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A society in transition
The Precinct shows a society in transition, growing from a penal colony into an independent settlement.
While the Precinct makes up only part of the early colony, the place demonstrates important early milestones in Australia’s history. These are seen most clearly through the place’s early landscape design, town planning, establishment of civic institutions and architecture.
Establishing a vision
Over the nineteenth century new forms of parliamentary representation were established. This reflected a shift away from military rule to a more independent form of colonial governance.
The layout and contents of the Precinct reflect a commitment to civic planning beyond the settlements’ function as a penal colony.
This is seen in the exceptional collection of historic buildings and open spaces. They show the technical and creative achievements of Governors Phillip, Bligh and Macquarie.
These included Australia's first hospital, public parks and places of worship. Later other civic, legal and government institutions were developed. This helped to cultivate greater independence from Britain.
These changes created the foundation for many other Australian institutions which were copied in other state capitals across Australia.
The Precinct is special for its association with a number of prominent historic figures including Wolarwaree Bennelong, Elizabeth Macquarie, Governor Macquarie and Francis Greenway.
Stories concealed by time
The Precinct includes a rich collection of archaeological material associated with some of Australia’s most important sites that can tell us about British colonisation and the first interactions between colonists and Aboriginal Australians.
These include the site of the first Government House, Hyde Park Barracks, the Conservatorium of Music (former government stables), the Mint and Parliament House (former Rum Hospital), and the Royal Botanic Garden. Each of these places contribute valuable knowledge of Australia’s early colonial history.
The Governors’ Domain and Civic Precinct has outstanding importance because the place can demonstrate historic patterns in Australia’s development as a nation.