Illabunda is located on land originally under the custodianship of the Toongagal clan, part of the Dharuk indigenous people. The area was called Toongabbie, meaning “meeting of the waters”. Upon European Settlement, Toongabbie was included in the Governor’s Domain as an agricultural penal stockade. The old-growth forest in the area cleared from 1791 but a tall tree was left on the crest of a hillside and a further large red gum remained at the foot of the same hill. Legend has it that these two trees were used during floggings of errant convicts. The higher tree stood until the early 1960’s when its stump was finally destroyed by fire and it gave rise to the name One Tree Hill.
Illabunda is located on One Tree Hill and was named after the Aboriginal word meaning “place of swallows” because of the swallows which were nesting there in the 1950’s when Rod Cook purchased the property.
An Act of Parliament subdivided the Governor’s Domain in 1857 and George Oakes MP purchased much of Toongabbie in 1861 including the site of Illabunda. Later George Oakes’ holdings were sold and the site of Illabunda was included in the One Tree Hill Golf Course that was constructed around the hill slopes below Buckleys Road. Although abandoned after World War II, several of the tees and greens from the golf course remain on Illabunda and the adjoining reserve to this day as remnants of this cultural landscape.
During the 1950’s the surrounding areas of Old Toongabbie and Model Farms were used for market gardening, citrus orchards, dairying and milling timber. Parts of Old Toongabbie and Model Farms were renamed Winston Hills during the mid 1960’s and largely redeveloped for residential housing featuring several estates of architect-designed project homes.
The Cook family has owned the Illabunda property since 1954 and through to the mid 1980s it was used for a range of small farm activities. Since the late 1980’s the focus has been on regenerating the original pre-European settlement conditions on much of the site including Shale/Sandstone Transition Forest, Cumberland Plain Woodland and native grasslands. Seedlings have been grown for use in local bush-care projects and parts of the original vegetable gardens, orchard and bees are still producing healthy foods today.
Illabunda is now one of the few remaining undeveloped landmark properties in this part of Sydney and it is the vision of the Cook family that its redevelopment should be sensitive to its history and to the natural environment.
In so doing it should provide for sustainable living as far as is practicable, thus allowing it to continue to share its wonders for generations to come.
Illabunda – share the vision