Cabbage Tree Road is named after the Cabbage Tree Palm (Livistona Australis) which once grew in abundance along the creeks and in the sheltered valleys of the Kurrajong area of New South Wales. The palm tree grows to many metres high and the European settlers of the Sydney region found that the fronds of the palm were an excellent source of materials for making the light weight, wide-brimmed hats which became known as ‘Cabbage Tree Hats’. The skills required to process the palm fronds and make them ready for plaiting the length of sinnet which was then stitched together to form the hat came with the immigrants from Europe and manufacturing commenced as soon as the palm was identified as a suitable material. In the Kurrajong region, the production of Cabbage Tree Hats became a cottage industry and depleted the stands of palms which were native to the area.
Even though the harvest of one spear from an individual palm is not detrimental to the growth of the plant, some settlers felled the trees in order to gain the spears from tall palms which were out of reach of ladders available at the time. The heart of the palm is also edible and unfortunately may only be obtained by cutting down the palm. Some stands of the palm still flourish in sheltered gullys and along riverbanks in parks and reserves in the Kurrajong area.
The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney, New South Wales has a finely crafted example which was made in the 1880s or 1890s. Over the past few years there has been renewed interest in the history of the Cabbage Tree Hat and its place in the social history of Australia. Sue and Don Brian of Sydney conduct entertaining workshops in the making of these hats coupled with some of the history of the craft in Australia and its origins in Europe.
Stages in the making of the Cabbage Tree Hat. Cathy McHardy 2018