Parramatta is a suburb and major business district in the metropolitan area of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. It is located in Greater Western Sydney west of the Sydney central business district on the banks of the Parramatta River. Parramatta is the administrative seat of the local government area of the City of Parramatta. It is also acknowledged on the register of the Geographical Names Board of New South Wales as one of only four cities within the Sydney metropolitan area.
Parramatta, founded in the same year as Sydney by the British in 1788, is the oldest inland European settlement in Australia, the economic capital of Greater Western Sydney and the sixth largest central business district in Australia. Since 2000, Parramatta has seen the consolidation of its role as a government centre with the relocation of agencies such as the New South Wales Police Force headquarters and Sydney Water, from the Sydney CBD.
Simultaneously, major upgrades have occurred around the railway station with the expansion of Westfield Parramatta, the creation of a new transport interchange, and the ongoing development of the Parramatta Square local government precinct. It is colloquially known as Parra.
The Darug people who lived in the area before European settlement regarded the area as rich in food from the river and forests. They called the area Baramada or Burramatta ('Parramatta') which means "head of waters", "the place where the eels lie down", or "eel waters" To this day many eels and other sea creatures are attracted to nutrients that are concentrated where the saltwater of Port Jackson meets the freshwater of the Parramatta River. The Parramatta Eels Rugby League club chose their symbol as a result of this phenomenon.
Parramatta was founded in 1788, the same year as Sydney. As such, Parramatta is the second oldest city in Australia, being only 10 months younger than Sydney. The British Colonists, which had arrived in January 1788 on the First Fleet at Sydney Cove, had only enough food to support themselves for a short time and the soil around Sydney Cove proved too poor to grow the amount of food that 1,000 convicts, soldiers and administrators needed to survive. During 1788, Governor Arthur Phillip had reconnoitred several places before choosing Parramatta as the most likely place for a successful large farm. Parramatta was the furthest navigable point inland on the Parramatta River (i.e. furthest from the thin, sandy coastal soil) and also the point at which the river became freshwater and therefore useful for farming.
On Sunday 2 November 1788, Governor Phillip took a detachment of marines along with a surveyor and, in boats, made his way upriver to a location that he called The Crescent, a defensible hill curved round a river bend, now in Parramatta Park. As a settlement developed, Governor Phillip gave it the name "Rose Hill" after George Rose, Secretary for the British Treasury. In 1791 he changed the name to Parramatta, approximating the term used by the local Aboriginal people. A neighbouring suburb acquired the name Rose Hill.
In an attempt to deal with the food crisis, Phillip in 1789 granted a convict named James Ruse the land of Experiment Farm at Parramatta on the condition that he develop a viable agriculture. There, Ruse became the first person to successfully grow grain in Australia. The Parramatta area was also the site of the pioneering of the Australian wool industry by John Macarthur's Elizabeth Farm in the 1790s. Philip Gidley King’s account of his visit to Parramatta on 9 April 1790 is one of the earliest descriptions of the area. Walking four miles with Governor Phillip to Prospect he saw undulating grassland interspersed with magnificent trees and a great amount of kangaroos and emus.
Governor Arthur Phillip built a small house for himself on the hill of The Crescent. In 1799 this was replaced by a larger residence which, substantially improved by Governor Lachlan Macquarie from 1815 to 1818, has survived to the present day,making it the oldest surviving Government House anywhere in Australia. It was used as a retreat by Governors until the 1850s, with one Governor (Governor Brisbane) making it his principal home for a short period in the 1820s. The house, Old Government House, is currently a historic site and museum within Parramatta Park and is Australia's oldest surviving public building.
In 1803, another famous incident occurred in Parramatta, involving a convicted criminal named Joseph Samuel, originally from England. Samuel was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by hanging, but the rope broke. In the second attempt, the noose slipped off his neck. In the third attempt, the new rope broke. Governor King was summoned and pardoned Samuel, as the incident appeared to him to be divine intervention.
In 1816, after the Cataract Gorge massacre, Macquarie rewarded Aboriginal 'compliance' by opening a 'school' for Aboriginal children at Parramatta. This school was later relocated to "Black Town".