What does “Cadi Jam Ora” mean?
The word “Cadi” is the Aboriginal name of Sydney Cove. Aboriginal people who lived here identified through the name of their country and are referred to as Cardigal (which is the male form, Cadigalleon being the female form). “Cadi Jam Ora” means “I am in Cadi”, I am living in the land called Cadi.
A 52-metre storyline presents an indigenous perspective on the history from the Cadigal dreaming to the present day. It mentions important events, like the capture of Aboriginal people, citizenship for Australia’s Indigenous people, the Mabo case, the Sorry Day or Harbour Bridge Walk in 2000, the year when the display opened.
The plants are arranged in such a way as to reflect how the original landscape would have been: rainforest species along the creek, woodland species in the open spaces. Small signs explain the indigenous usage of these plants and give the Aboriginal name, if known. Many names are “unknown”, meaning they are lost.
Larger signs explain how canoes were made from bark or how Aboriginal women expertly used “nature’s supermarket”. There’s also a replica of a traditional gunyah, a shelter made of boughs and bark. On the northern entry a Cardigal dreaming tells of Baiame, the spirit of the Cardigal’s ancestral being.
The Royal Botanic Gardens site is valued by Aboriginal people as the last resting place of the Cadigal nation.
The second half of this area is dedicated to the British invaders and the problems they faced when trying to apply traditional British farming techniques in order to survive. It is not coincidental that this site is so close to the display of Aboriginal history.
Note that the Royal Botanic Gardens are locked at night.
Aboriginal Heritage Tours
Aboriginal Heritage tours are available each Friday at 2 pm. Bookings are essential (Guided Walks and Education Services, phone 02 - 9231 8134).
Further north, at the head of Farm Cove (Mrs Macquaries Point), the Cardigals performed large initiation ceremonies in bora rings (ceremonial grounds) as late as 1795. Hence this area is of great significance to Aboriginal people. The initiation rituals included the removal of a front tooth and the performance of the Dog Dance and the Kangaroo Dance.
How to get there
If you enter The Gardens from the south-east (coming from the Art Gallery of New South Wales) follow the path towards the Palm House. The Cadi Jam Ora display is just behind this building.
If you are coming from the west (city), follow the signs towards the Gardens Shop, then cross the stream leaving the wall to your left. Turn right at the next crossing. The display starts at the next intersection.
Coming from the Opera House, follow the walkway along Farm Cove. When you see water glittering through the trees to your right, follow the signs to the Gardens Shop. In front of the shop turn left, leaving the wall to your left, then proceed as above.
At the entrance of The Gardens there’s a free map available. The Cadi Jam Ora display is in squares O/P 8/9.