The Homebush area was originally occupied by the Eora and the Dharawal people who lived in the eucalyptus forests and wetlands that stretch along what are now known as Haslams and Powells creeks and on the shores of Homebush Bay. In the 1800s, assistant surgeon D'arcy Wentworth established the Homebush colony, purportedly named for his home in the bush. Homebush Bay, which includes both commercial and residential districts, is distinct from Homebush and lies west of the bay, an inlet of the Parramatta River.
The suburb of Homebush Bay was originally part of a land grant offered in 1807 to settlers and brothers John and Gregory Blaxland. They built a cattle farm here before establishing a salt production industry on the banks of the Parramatta River. Because it was so conveniently located, the business flourished. Manufacturing industries were soon to follow, and wools, skins, leather and tweed factories along with canneries and abattoirs began to line the banks of the Parramatta. Residential development exploded as factory workers flooded into the area.
Chemical companies set up shop in the 1920s. Preservatives, pesticides and other chemicals were produced by the various companies in the area. For the better part of the 20th century, Homebush Bay was used as a dumping zone. Chemical manufacturers buried Agent Orange, dioxins and other toxic chemicals and byproducts in landfills or in drums on the site, which left the bay and river heavily polluted. Homebush Bay quickly became one of these most polluted areas in the world, and the worst offender, American company Urban Carbide, was ordered by NSW to begin remediation efforts. Over the next decade, the land and bay were reclaimed through extensive remediation efforts that included destroying the contaminants in the sediment without further harming the environment and removing the toxic waste.
By then, there was little residential development left in Homebush Bay, and the area was chosen along with nearby Newington as the site of the Sydney Olympics. Sydney Olympic and Bicentennial Parks were soon built. Bicentennial Park is a vast preservation that today includes mangrove and tidal wetlands that are accessible through wooden walks as well as picnic areas, barbecue facilities and luxurious event venues.
Sydney Olympic Park was used for the 2000 Sydney Olympics and continues to act as an exhibition, entertainment and sporting venue today. The 640-hectare area has been extensively developed and also includes office buildings and apartments as well as cafes, bars and restaurants that dot the area and provide entertainment and dining facilities for its many residents and visitors. Sydney Olympic Park hosts Australia Day celebrations, free movies, school holiday activities and plenty of playgrounds for family fun.
Also in Homebush Bay is the Armory Gallery. Housed in a World War II naval storehouse known as Building 18, the Armory Gallery was converted into a gallery in 2004 and is well equipped to display the various exhibitions that come through thanks to the spotlights, plasma screens and AV systems that highlight the best of the contemporary art, paintings and photographs that are displayed here.
Homebush Bay is accessible via the Olympic Park railway station, and the Parramatta River ferry services the wharf at Sydney Olympic Park.
photo credit: Homebush Bay shipwreck via photopin (license)