Buyers ‘not asking’: One crucial fact missing ahead of property auction

MUST CREDIT: Natural History MuseumPortrait of Bennelong in December 1790 at which time he had voluntarily made contact with the Settlement but retained his traditional customs.Native name Ben-nel-long As painted when angry after Botany Bay Colebee was wounded, 1790, Port Jackson Painter, Watling Drawing 41, Natural History Museum Woollarawarre Bennelong was a senior man of the Eora.??

The riverside house in Putney sits under the purple haze of jacaranda trees, with a flat sprawling yard, a carefully tended garden, and a picket fence.

The auction of 25 Watson Street at 1pm on Saturday goes far beyond the typical story of stupendous Sydney house prices, and the race between developers, investors and hopeful first home buyers.

What is not revealed in the advertisement for the four-bedroom house is that Woollarawarre Bennelong, one of the most significant Aboriginal figures in Australia’s colonial history, is likely buried in the nature strip between the house and the street, or possibly among the roses in the front garden.

Bennelong, famed for his dealings with Governor Arthur Phillip, died at Kissing Point in January 1813. Historical records suggest he was buried near the orange trees in the orchard of ex-convict brewer James Squire, who shared occupation of the land with an Indigenous tribe.

By the 1940s that land was a tennis court, and is now the corner of Watson Street and Hordern Avenue.

After almost 200 years of mystery about the location of Bennelong’s grave, environmental scientist and historian Peter Mitchell pinpointed the probable site to Watson Street in 2011, using historical texts, photographs, maps, and independent surveying and ground-penetrating radar work.

The property is in the heart of the Bennelong electorate and its sale comes a week before the by-election, a “sheer chance” Dr Mitchell seized upon.

He has written to candidates, Liberal John Alexander and Labor’s Kristina Keneally, along with Linda Burney and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten asking them to consider public acquisition of the land for a memorial.

“Here is your opportunity to buy the property on the open market, convert it to a memorial parkland to all of the people of Eora Nation who were dispossessed when our ancestors arrived,” Dr Mitchell wrote.

“Move today, transfer a couple of million dollars out of the promised bus depot we probably don’t need and make a big announcement before December 16.”

Dr Mitchell told Fairfax Media: “I know damn well that’s not going to happen, but it would be nice.

“Whoever buys it it’s very likely, given what happens at Putney these days, the house will be knocked down and a new house built on the same site – that could turn up something.

“It also means there’s significant constraints on the purchaser because the site is registered as a potential archaeological deposit, and it will be under the scrutiny of council because that would be a potential threat to the grave site.”

Mr Alexander said he had already been exploring the possibility of procuring this site to appropriately commemorate Woollarawarre Bennelong.

“We have had discussions with state and local government representatives, as well as a local Elder and university experts about this possibility,” he said.

“If I am elected on December 16, I will continue to pursue this opportunity for the local community.”

Ray White Gladesville real estate agent, Joseph Mazar, could not confirm any such restrictions, but said the grave site is disclosed in the sale contract.

“It’s a good location. Buyers are only interested in the property, they’re not asking about anything else,” Mr Mazar said.

The house, billed as having “duplex development potential”, is likely to fetch at least $2.5 million.

Mr Alexander, Ms Keneally, Ms Burney, the Metropolitan Aboriginal Land Council, and the Aboriginal Heritage Office were all approached for a response.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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