Welcome to Country

31 Oct 2018

Welcome to Country

As an Aboriginal person and descendant of the Kaurna (Adelaide Plains) and Narrunga (York Peninsula) peoples, Uncle Mickey O’Brien will welcome delegates to the 18th International ACTS Conference.

The Kaurna are the original people of Adelaide and the Adelaide Plains. The area now occupied by the city and parklands – called by the Kaurna Tarntanya (red kangaroo place) – was the heart of Kaurna country. Before 1836 it was an open grassy plain with patches of trees and shrubs, the result of hundreds of generations of skillful land management. Kaurna country encompassed the plains which stretched north and south from Tarntanya and the wooded foothills of the range which borders them to the east.

Karrawirra Pari (red gum forest river) is the Kaurna name for the watercourse called the River Torrens by the colonists. It was an important resource area and a favourite camping place for the Kaurna people, providing water, fish and other foods.

The Kaurna, probably numbering around 300 people, were usually called by the colonists the Cowandilla or Adelaide tribe. The term Kaurna probably derives from the term for man or people in the language of their southern neighbours, the Ramindjeri and Ngarrindjeri. Other neighbouring groups are the Narungga of Yorke Peninsula, the Nukunu to the north, the Ngadjuri to the north east and the Peramangk of the hills to the east.

The Kaurna spoke a complex language which reflected their sophisticated culture and deep knowledge of the environment. Kaurna society was ordered by a moieties system, a division of the social world into two groups with reciprocal relationships and responsibilities. Learning about culture and environment began in childhood and continued into adulthood – and this gaining of knowledge was recognised as the basis of an individual’s authority.

Teaching young people was a central part of Kaurna life, and understanding the environment was important for more than just food, shelter, tools and medicine. Kaurna spirituality recognizes the connectedness of people and culture with the worlds of plants, the animals and stars. The land is alive with traces of Dreaming ancestors such as Tjilbruke.