The history of Illabunda

A brief history

Illabunda is located on land originally under the custodianship of the Toongagal clan, part of the Dharug 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.

Colonial history

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.

"A western view of toongabbie" Thomas Watlin, c. 1792
House on the hill, 1957

Cook family history

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 until the development of the village green.

Where we are today

Illabunda is now a landmark development showcasing sustainable elements of our busy modern lives western Sydney. It was the vision of the Cook family that its redevelopment should be sensitive to its history and to the natural environment.

In so doing it provides for sustainable living as far as is practicable, thus allowing it to continue to share its wonders for generations to come.

Vegetable garden being developed on site
View of illabunda site in 2007
View of part of the illabunda site in December, 2011
Some of Illabunda's food growing gardens

Timeline of events:

For a complete history timeline, check out our timeline page

  • Construction of roads and services completed October 2011.

  • Community title sub-division registered 2 December 2011, DP270736.

  • Community Association 270736 established April 2012

  • Illabunda house dismantled and materials recovered April-May 2012

  • New housing construction started May 2012

  • First families move in March 2013