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For many people, Australia was ‘settled’ soon after European occupation, through the actions of hardy, resourceful and sometime foolhardy ‘settlers’. This process and these people then somehow departed the narrative of the evolution of people and continent. They faded first from Sydney, which went from ‘settlement’ to town and then to city, where settlers do not exist. Settlers hung on longer in the bush, but there too they faded away with sufficient permanence and rhythm of human occupation. Once the survey pegs are removed and houses built, settlement ceases. Occasionally other settlers popped up – ‘new settlers’ as another term for migrant ‘new Australians’ and later alternative lifestylers retreating the deviant, consumptive cities. But overall the modern era put paid to settling, and settlers, settlement and settling are now past tense in the public mind.

Three things are wrong here. First, human settlement of the Australian continent began well before white occupation, at least 50,000 years before, and Indigenous settlement is an unfinished story. Second, the presumption that the process of settlement has stopped. Third, the settlement story has mostly overlooked urban Australia – cities as post-settlement phenomena, devoid of settlers.

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