To Indigenous Australians, the cabbage tree palm was a source of shelter, food and other necessities like medicine and rope. To the early settlers, it launched a practical millinery fashion trend even picked up by the police force and gangs of thugs known as cabbage tree mobs.
The Eora People of the Sydney Basin called the cabbage-tree palm "Dtharowal". They used the fibrous palm bark to make string, rope and fishing lines, and its leaves, for weaving and roofing thatch. New growth on the palms could be eaten, cooked or raw. The cooked heart of the trunk provided medicine for sore throats, however, removing this killed the palm.
Early European settlers quickly saw the cabbage tree palm’s potential to protect them from the blazing sun and they created several styles of cabbage tree hats. Stripping the leaves into fibres, they boiled, bleached and wove them into what became the most characteristic colonial headwear of the 1800s. Men and police, in casual bush uniform, wore cabbage palm boater hats, but some of the ladies’ high fashion cabbage palm hats had brims the size of umbrellas.
In the 1830s a gang culture developed with rebellious young cabbage tree mobs or cabbageites stealing and crushing other people’s hats.
See the magnificent cabbage tree palms of Bilgola valley.