IN 2013, ABORIGINALS WERE ACKNOWLEDGED in the South Australian Constitution as the state’s first peoples – something still missing from the national constitution. The South Australian parliament apologised to the South Australian members of the Stolen Generations in 1997. But the incoming Liberal state government in 2018 called a halt to negotiating a state treaty with its 30,000 Aboriginals, saying that treaties, "in some instances, (have) been more divisive than helpful".
In 2018, the Kaurna people were recognised by a federal court, on a claim lodged 18 years earlier, as traditional owners of the Adelaide area – a first for an Australian capital city. The area runs from Myponga to Lower Light and from the foothills to Adelaide's coastline. It also includes native title rights for 17 parcels of undeveloped land not under freehold.
What is now South Australia had been home for the Aboriginal people for 65,000 years. Their extended family groups, from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara of the central desert to the Ngarrindjeri of the Coorong, built complex traditions of oral history, trade and industry.
Officially, South Australia, as a British free-settler colony in 1836, promised a new humanitarian approach to Aboriginal rights that was written into the founding letters patent. But South Australia couldn't resist the pattern of other colonies: grabbing the best land at the expense of the indigenous people.
Good intent towards the Aborigines wasn’t lacking in South Australia but it was too often paternal. Christianity wasn't lacking either but it saw little value in Aboriginal culture. Aboriginal nomadic land use and traditions were regarded as primitive tribalism – not spirituality. So the new colonists, many escaping religious persecution in their own lands, had a 19th Century zeal for bringing Christianity to the “natives”.
As early as 1837, the colonial government appointed a protector of Aboriginals with duties including "instructing the natives in reading, writing, building houses, making clothes, cultivating the ground, and all the ordinary acts of civilisation”. The jolt out of a culture, based on nomadic land use and thousands of years’ tradition, was dislocating and fed problems – health, education, crime, alcoholism – being tackled today.
NEARLY 50,000 YEARS OF ABORIGINAL OCCUPATION OF WHAT IS NOW SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Prolific flowering of tea trees (Leptospermum spp.) on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula indicated the arrival of many fish, prompting the Narungga Aboriginal people to plan initiation ceremonies during abundant food supply. Such links to daily life were part a belief system developed by Aboriginal (Anangu) culture in South Australia tracked back at least 50,000 years. Aboriginal natural knowledge was seasonal. It was read in the sky. Aboriginal natural knowledge – broad and particular – wasn’t written but passed on in forms of culture such as dance, rock images and creation stories. For example, River Murray (Murrundi) lands and waters are central to the culture and beliefs of Ngarrindjeri traditional owners of South Australia’s lower lakes, Murray mouth and Coorong and along the river as far north as Mannum. The Ngarrindjeri nation has 18 laklinyeris (tribes). Murrundi is regarded as a living body, formed during the creation by Pondi, the giant Murray cod, from where the Darling and Murrundi (Murray) rivers meet. Back then, the River Murray was a small stream and Pondi had nowhere to go. As Ngurunderi chased him in his bark canoe, Pondi ploughed through the land and his huge body and tail created the mighty River Murray. When Ngurunderi and his brother-in-law Nepele caught Pondi at the place where fresh and salt water meet (the Murray mouth), they cut him into many pieces that became the fresh and salt water fish for the Ngarrindjeri. Ngurunderi’s travels created landforms, waterways and life. He gave his people stories, meanings and laws associated with his creations.
Narungga (“Adjahdura” is claimed as more correct) is the name now used for Aboriginal first peoples of South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula (Guuranda). The Narungga managed their lands using fire to clear old grasses and promote fresh growth. Freshwater rock holes were covered with stone or brushwood to keep water clean. Tracks were maintained through thick mallee forests. Archaeology shows Narungga camps on the coast, including areas now known as Moonta Bay, Cape Elizabeth, Chinamen's Well, Point Pearce, Black Point, Point Yorke, Tiddy Widdy and Point Morowie, and more inland, around salt lagoons and lakes. These camps provided food, including fish and fresh water, as well as gathering and ceremony sites. Narungga clans were Kurnara (north), Windera (east), Wari (west) and Dilpa (south, with the Wilthuthu shark totem). The Narungga weren’t disturbed until Yorke Peninsula pastoral leases was taken out by colonial settlers from 1846, starting conflict over land, stock and water. The Narungga population of 500-800 dived to less than 100 by 1880, with 1870s scarlet fever and measles devastating it. In 1868, Point Pearce Aboriginal Mission was started by Moravian missionary Julius Kühn. Mission residents were discouraged from speaking their language and practising beliefs. Some Narrunga language and culture was salvaged by Norman Tindale and J. Howard Johnson (1899-1905) drawing on Louisa (Lucy), an Aboriginal from Marion Bay, married to George Eggington and believed to be sole survivor of southern Yorke Peninsula people.
Kaurna (pronounced “Garna”) is the general name for family tribes that lived in an area from what is now Crystal Brook to Cape Jervis. The Kaurna people dominated tarndanyangga (“red kangaroo place”) near the area of Adelaide's River Torrens and its creeks. An early settler of the village of Beaumont described how “at every creek and gully you would see their wurlies and their fires at night ... often as many as 500 to 600 would be camped in various places . . . some behind the Botanic Gardens on the banks of the river; some toward the Ranges; some on the Waterfall Gully.” Surviving Kaurna names on the Adelaide plains include Patawalonga, Onkaparinga, Noarlunga and Willunga. The Kaurna hunter/gatherers lived in groups, of about 30, along the coast in summer to catch fish and closer to the hills in winter to catch larger game. The culture was passed down orally through generations via Dreamtime stories, songs, image and dance that made up the corroboree performances – a popular attraction for the early colonists in Adelaide.
STRANDS OF ENLIGHTENMENT IN FOUNDING SOUTH AUSTRALIA ON ORIGINAL PEOPLES' LAND
South Australia started with conflicted views between the British government and the colony’s founders over Aboriginal rights. The government in the South Australia Act of 1834, viewed the colony as comprising "waste and unoccupied lands” and all “open to purchase by British Subjects”. This, in effect, declared terra nullius. But George Fife Angas, among the colony’s founders, wanted South Australia to use the model of William Penn and his treaty with the North American Indians for a more benevolent, but Christian paternalistic, approach. The more benevolent attitude came through in the letter patent attached to the 1836 Foundation Act that nothing would "affect the rights of any Aboriginal Natives". South Australia's first governor John Hindmarsh placed less importance on these rights. He proclaimed at Holdfast Bay in 1836 that Aborigines would be protected equally but in a speech to them in 1838 he spelt out that “you cannot be happy unless you imitate good white men. Build huts, wear clothes, work and be useful. Above all things you cannot be happy unless you love God who made heaven and earth and men and all things.”
Alexander Schramm, the most accomplished professional artist active in colonial South Australia from 1849, devoted most of his creativity to depicting Aboriginal people with sympathy at a time Europeans were destroying tribal life. Schramm had travelled from Hamburg to Adelaide on the Prinzessin Luise in 1849, aged 35, was South Australia’s first painter to be trained in Europe – at Berlin Academy of Arts. With a reputation in Germany, he won prizes at the South Australian Society of Arts exhibitions of the 1850s and 1860s, before died in 1864, aged 50. Unlike his colonial contemporaries, Schramm produced markedly different styles and genres from a wide sophisticated background. Schramm did finely wrought oil portraits of Adelaide gentry, an outstanding religious painting, small chalk lithographs of colonial scenes, and a plaster bust of an Adelaide notable. His range of styles was matched by an intellect sharply critical of colonial realities, especially regarding Aboriginal people. Adelaide, a tribe of natives on the banks of the river Torrens (1850) is Schramm’s first and largest known painting. It shows Kaurna people in Adelaide parklands. Schramm was the first South Australian artist to depict the distinctive red river gum trees. Several works were initially lithographs that Schramm produced for a wider market from 1854, using Adelaide firm Penman and Galbraith. Schramm won first prize in the South Australian Art Union Exhibition in 1859 for another important Aboriginal-theme painting, Bush Visitors, that a newspaper had previously called Blacks at a Cottage Door.
“King William” is the Aboriginal man central to Alexander Schramm’s 1859 painting Bush visitors, one of series of South Australian colonial realities captured by the artist. The painting shows 10 Aboriginal men, women and children (in European clothing, apart from one woman wearing a skin cloak), at the door of a settler’s cottage. This may be Park Cottage, in the parklands next to the present Adelaide Zoo entrance, owned by the South Australian Company and, in 1857, rented by a G.W.Hawkes. Hawkes was the company’s bookkeeper but later became secretary of nearby St Peter’s Collegiate School. He was secretary of the Art Union of London and South Australia and a member of the Aborigines Friends Association. “King William” (nicknamed because he resembled the English monarch) is believed to be an Aboriginal man imprisoned in 1844 for the attempted murder of a shepherd near Clare. Because Tangko Milaitye (his Aboriginal name) spoke good English, he was pardoned after three years so he could be a court interpreter – prompted by more cases involving Aboriginal people from north of Adelaide. It appears “King William” lived in the north parklands Aboriginal encampment, with his extended family. Bush Visitors has been described as "marking a fundamental shift in the way in which colonists understood their new land, and their place in it, especially in relation to the Aboriginal people." The painting won a first prize in the South Australian Art Union Exhibition. A newspaper first noted the painting as No.70 Blacks at a Cottage Door but the exhibition catalogue retitled it Bush Visitors.
Kaurna Aboriginal language was almost obliterated within decades of European settlement. Two of the first colonists, William Williams of the colonial store and James Cronk, learnt the language and Williams published his wordlist in 1840. The most concerted effort to record Kaurna was by German missionaries Clamor Schurmann and Christian Teichelmann, who arrived in 1838. They learnt and documented Kaurna to “civilise” and “Christianise the natives”. In 1839, they opened a school at Piltawodli (in the west parklands, north of the River Torrens) teaching Aboriginal children to read and write in Kaurna. Third governor George Grey forbad them from preaching in Kaurna but the 2,000 words they recorded were pivotal in the modern revival of the language. William Wyatt, third part-time protector of Aborigines (1837-39), also recorded data on the Kaurna (and Ramindjeri) language. Elder Ivaritji, who died in 1929, is believed to be the last Kaurna speaker. The 2011 census showed nearly 7% of the state’s Aboriginal population spoke Pitjantjatjara; 82.2% only spoke English; undefined Aboriginal languages (1.3%), Ngarrindjeri (0.8%) Yankunytjatjara (0.6%) and Adnymathanha (0.5%).
Sketcher, watercolourist and schoolmaster William Anderson Cawthorne, who arrived at 17 in South Australia with his mother aboard the Amelia in 1841, showed strong interest in Aboriginal culture. Cawthorne, who'd lived in England, Scotland and South Africa, reflected a romantic attitude to wilderness in his writings, and from Victorian perspective and prejudice, he keenly observed Aboriginal customs. Cawthorne frequently visited the “native location”, north of the River Torrens, known to the Kaurna people at Piltawodli. He did many sketches of Aboriginal people and their implements. His Rough Notes on the Manners and Customs of the Natives, 1844, was printed in the 1925-26 proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia, SA branch. Cawthorne's early carreer was teaching. To support himself and his sick mother (also a schoolmistress), he opened Adelaide Grammar School in Currie Street and added to income with freelance surveying and sketching. Cawthorne married his cousin Maryann Mower in 1848. His eldest son was Charles Witto Witto, believed to be a fictitious Aboriginal name. In 1852, Cawthorne unsuccessfully joined the Victorian goldrush before becoming second headmaster of Pulteney Grammar School in Adelaide until 1855 when he opened his own Victoria Square Academy. In 1855, he exhibited more than 200 of his sketches at his academy with most interest “excited by the department illustrative of the manners, habits and customs of the aborigines of this country”. Cawthorne’s The Legend of Kupirri, in the style of Longfellow's Hiawatha, appeared in 1858.
One of Adelaide earliest public musical dance performances was an Aboriginal corroboree in the parklands in 1839. The 1839 corroboree was at the Queen’s Birthday event hosted by governor George Gawler (borrowing from New South governor John Macquarie). Gawler’s “peace corroboree” was to “restore those former peacable relations … between us and our friendly native tribes” after a recent killing of the white settlers on the River Murray vessel Maria at the Coorong. By 1845, Sunday corroborees, promoted by Aboriginals for a paying audience of European settlers, became regular but colonial secretary ordered Matthew Moorhouse, the first protector of Aborigines, to tell the “native encamped near Adelaide” and Adelaide is “now a Christian country” and they were to “abstain from making a noise on Sundays”. The corroboree venture was checked by the 1850s Victorian gold rushes. The loss of European labour stimulated rural demand for Aboriginal workers. To meet this demand, the government closed the native school and discouraged Aboriginal visitors to the city.
The “native location”, known to Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains as Piltawodli (now spelt Pirltawardli), meaning “brushtail possum home”, was on the River Torrens’ north side. It was set aside by the South Australian colonial administration for settling, “civilising” and Christianising Aboriginal people. The native location was a 14-acre arc near the present weir and across War Memorial Drive. This is where, 1838-1845, Dresden-trained German missionaries ran a school taught in Kaurna and recorded the language. Other recorders were observers who frequented Piltawodli. These included William Wyatt, William Williams, William Cawthorne, Matthew Moorhouse and those who wrote about the “Adelaide Tribe”. Wyatt, third interim protector of Aborigines (1837-39), wrote on Kaurna practices, beliefs and 651 words. Williams, who ran the colonial store at Tininyawardli (Tinninyawodli), near Strangways Terrace, North Adelaide, published a list of 377 Kaurna words in the Southern Australian in 1839. Cawthorne was a close friend of Kadlitpina (Captain Jack), introducing him to George French Angas to do a famous painting for South Australia Illustrated. Cawthorne had a passion for the Kaurna palti corroboree. Moorhouse, protector of Aborigines 1839-1857, lived at Piltawodli and worked closely with the missionaries. After Piltawodli mission closed in 1845, the site was occupied by sappers and miners and largely abandoned by the Kaurna without trees for wurlies or shelters. Last mention of the native location being used by Aboriginal people was in 1851.
Kaurna Aboriginals living on the Adelaide plains had their culture all but wiped out by the European colonists. At colonisation, a few hundred Kaurna lived on the Adelaide plains, their numbers already cut by disease from whalers and seal traders on Kangaroo Island from the early 1800s. The Kaurna used firestick farming of scrub in the Adelaide Hills. Fires encouraged grass to grow to attract emus and kangaroos. This led to fatal conflict with colonists over damage to farmlands. By the 1840s/50s, the Kaurna were depleted by disease, alienated from traditional resources and their tribal order broken. They were outnumbered by Aborigines from the River Murray and mid north who drifted into Adelaide. Ivatitji, or “Princess” Amelia Aavage, who died in 1929, was almost certainly the last person of full Kaurna ancestry. Aboriginal remains have been found at the Botanic Gardens. The South Australian Museum only started collecting Kaurna artefacts in the 1880s, after the plains people had lost their land.
KILLINGS IN 19th CENTURY FRONTIER CONFLICT BETWEEN ABORIGINALS AND SETTLERS
Matthew Moorhouse, South Australia’s first official protector of Aboriginal people, embodies the enigma of also having led a policing party that massacred 30 to 40 Aboriginals in 1841 at Rufus River near Wentworth at the junction of the Murray and Darling rivers in New South Wales. South Australia’s interest was that the local Maraura people had blocked the overlander route bringing it continuous supplies of sheep, cattle, bullock drays and horses. Six months guerrilla warfare had stemmed from the overlanders having sex with Aboriginal women without giving promised food and clothing. Aboriginal groups retaliated by stealing thousands of sheep (including 5000 from Henry Inman, formerly first South Australian police commander). Moorhouse said the Rufus River killings were provoked by 150 Aboriginals preparing to attack. The other side of Moorhouse is an English doctor appointed as protector by the British parliament. He arrived in 1939 and tried to guard Aboriginal rights and interests to the point of upsetting authorities and the press. He failed in an attempt teach the children in their native language but wrote A Vocabulary and Outline of the Grammatical Structure of the Murray River Language, published in 1846. South Australia abolished the position of Aboriginal protector in 1856.
In 1844, South Australia became the first Australian colony to allow evidence from Aboriginals in courts. This related back to the 1840 episode when Aboriginals were reported to have killed 20 shipwrecked survivors of the Maria near the Coorong. South Australia’s first chief justice Charles Cooper had told governor George Gawler that he found it impossible to try, according to English law, “people of a wild and savage tribe, who have never submitted themselves to our dominion”. This didn’t please Gawler who sent Major Thomas O’Halloran to the Coorong on an expedition that hanged two Aboriginal men in front of their tribe. The British Colonial Office, dominated by Whig humanitarians such as Lord Glenelg, Sir George Grey and James Stephen, rebuked Gawler and O’Halloran’s actions to the point of suggesting that they had committed murder. In 1849, a grand jury presentment called for more police in districts with violence between settlers and Aboriginal. A jury in 1852 urged the government against interfering in Aboriginal customary law in cases among Aboriginal themselves. But, after the murder of a Mary Ann Rainbird and her two children in 1861, public support for holding Aboriginal offenders accountable to English law increased.
The Waterloo Bay “massacre” refers to shootings in 1849 on cliffs near Elliston on Eyre Peninsula. Limited official archives indicate three Aboriginal people were killed or died of wounds at Waterloo Bay cliffs, although Aboriginal oral accounts of up to 260 killed have circulated since 1880. But, in 2018, Elliston district council received a national award for agreeing to an Aboriginal request for a memorial to the Waterloo Bay episode. Clashes with Aboriginal people started when white settlers arrived at Port Lincoln on Eyre Peninsula in 1839. In 1848-49, incidents between settlers and the Nauo, Kokatha and Wiranu peoples in Elliston district ignited seriously with John Hamp, a hut keeper on Stony Point sheep station, being speared and clubbed to death by Aboriginals. In 1849, five Aboriginals– two adults, two boys and an infant – died after eating poisoned flour stolen by an Aboriginal man from William Ranson Mortlock’s station near Yeelanna. The poisoning may have led to two revenge killings. James Rigby Beevor was speared at his hut and, four days later, Annie Easton speared on a nearby lease. Her infant was unharmed and found beside her body. The Waterloo Bay shootings followed stores being taken from a hut on Thomas Cooper Horn's station.
E.L. Hamilton, the clerk in the South Australian government Aborigines Office in Adelaide, was promoted to sub protector in 1873 and to the first protector of Aboriginals since 1856 in 1881. He remained poorly paid without resources, reflecting the government's lack of interest in Aboriginal matters, with the missions now providing the limited care and education – away from what Port Mcleay teacher and missionary George Taplin called “the contaminating and demoralising influence of the vile practices carried on at the wurleys”. Politicians and civil servants inferred – amplified by the newspapers – that Aboriginals, as an inferior doomed race, were dying out it was now a case of smoothing the pillow. A generation of western district Aboriginals have been decimated by diphtheria, whooping cough and measles after 1860. In the 1870s, Aboriginal people continually asked the government for land to sustain themselves. Non-Aboriginal people in country areas also complained about the lack of rations for Aboriginal people who, in many cases, were starving. But, in 1881, when the abolition of the Aborigines Office was being proposed, Lance Corporal Clode of Venus Bay in the western district reported seeing 700 Aboriginal people near Lake Gardiner.
SOUTH AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINAL MEN AND WOMEN IMPEDED FROM VOTING FEDERALLY FROM 1901
Aboriginal men were given the right to vote in 1857 when the South Australian parliament started, although it's unlikely this was intended by writers of the colony’s constitution. No Aboriginal men are recorded as having registered to vote. When South Australian women gained the vote in 1894, Aboriginals women were included. At the Ngarrindjeri mission at Point McLeay on Lake Alexandrina, Aboriginal women insisted on voting in 1896, despite being discouraged by the mission’s manager. Aboriginal men and women voted there voted for the first Commonwealth Parliament in 1901. When the colonies developed the Australian Constitution, the South Australian delegation argued that Aboriginals should be counted in the census or they'd risk losing their right to vote federally. The South Australians were defeated. A 1902 act gave women a federal vote but Aborigines and other "coloured" people were excluded unless entitled under section 41 of the Constitution relating to state voting right. The first federal solicitor-general Robert Garran interpreted section 41 as giving federal rights only to people who were already state voters in 1902. So no new Aboriginal voters could be enrolled. While deprived of the federal vote, young Aboriginal men volunteered to fight for Australia in conflicts from the Boer War and in both world wars. Aboriginal people eventually secured the vote in federal elections in 1962.
The age for children of mixed descent to be taken from their families was discussed at South Australia's 1913 royal commission into “control, organisation and management of institutions" for Aboriginals. The secretary of the State Children's Council argued children should be taken away at birth: “If they are in the wurley for a week it is bad for them but it is fatal for them to remain there a year". Edward Stirling, the South Australian Museum director ( 1884-1912) who built its large Aboriginal atefacts collection, argued the best age to take Aboriginal children was about two: “The more of those half-caste children you can take away from their parents and place under the care of the state the better ... you are depriving the mothers of their children ... but I think it must be the rising generation who have to be considered.” Matthew Kropinyeri, arguing for Aboriginal people against removals, said: “Our people would gladly embrace the opportunity of betterment ... but to be subjected to complete alienation from our children is ... an unequalled act of injustice". The royal commission favoured assimilation: “With the gradual disappearance of full blood blacks, the mingling of the black and white races and the great increase in the number of half castes and quadroons, the problem is now one of assisting and training the native to become a useful member of the community”.
Daisy Bates, who spent 16 years from 1918 camped at Ooldea, a waterhole on the edge of the Nullabor Plain, 863km west of Port Augusta on the trans-Australian railway, is a controversial and eccentric figure in her dealings with Aboriginal people. Bates represents the paradox of sympathy and an Imperial attitude of racial superiority towards Aboriginals. She was an anthropologist as well as a welfare worker. She collected vocabularies and data on Aboriginal language, myths, religion and kinship laws. But she also predicted Aboriginals would die out and white Australians should help ease their passing. More distressing were Bates’ descriptions of Aboriginal women and children as child killers and cannibals. But Bates was also seen as “The Protector of Aborigines” for her welfare work that gained fame from three visits by British royalty. She didn’t try to teach Aboriginals. She fought against assimilating them into white society and resisted the sexual exploitation of Aboriginal women by white men. Writer Ernestine Hill helped Bates return to Adelaide to prepare her autobiography My Natives and I and a later book The Passing of the Aborigines. Bates found a stipend from the Australian government to prepare her papers for the national collection insufficient, so she lived in a tent at Pyap, near Loxton, on the River Murray, before moving back to the Nullabor in 1941. Old age and failing health forced her back to Adelaide where she died in 1951.
The unofficial policy of the Protection Board in the 1930s was to have Aboriginal people, especially those of “mixed blood”, assimilated. In 1936, the legal definition of “Aboriginal” was extended to include anyone “descended from the original inhabitants of Australia”. But those with exemption certificates, because they were classified as assimilated, were excluded from this definition. This divided Aboriginal people. If exempted Indigenous families wanted to receive the social security benefits, they had to leave their extended family on the missions. The South Australian government's Aborigines Act Amendment Act 1939 officially distinguished between Aboriginal people, depending on their ability to integrate into non-Indigenous society. Those who “by reason of their character, standard of intelligence, and development are considered capable of living in the general community” were exempted from the protector’s control. Aboriginals with exemption could open bank accounts, get social security benefits, own land and buy alcohol. But they weren’t allowed to live with their families on reserves and needed permission to visit them. They were no longer considered Aboriginal. It also became it an offence for a non-Aboriginal male to have a sexual relationship with an Aboriginal woman.
PREMIERS DON DUNSTAN (LABOR) AND DAVID TONKIN (LIBERAL) START RESTORING RIGHTS
By the 1950s, an increasingly important aspect of South Australian government-backed assimilation policies was to absorb Aboriginal people into the general community. As private organisations lacked the funds to improve housing, education and health care, the government took over and secularised the missions. Aboriginal people were encouraged, and in some instances forced, to move away from segregated communities into towns. The influence of missions has survived. Fifty-two per cent of Aboriginal people in South Australia identify as Christian. Many of these, as well as their non-Christian relatives, have identities closely aligned with ex-mission stations such as Nepabunna, Koonibba and Point Pearce. A1951 federal-state conference spurred the South Australian government into action on assimilation. State schools were opened to Aboriginal children and Aboriginal parents were urged to send children to secondary schools. In many cases, the children had to live away from home to attend secondary school, often in children's homes in Adelaide. In 1954, the Aborigines Protection Board began placing Aboriginal children in non-Aboriginal foster homes in preference to institutional care. Some children came from reserves such as Point McLeay and Point Pearce, others from the country shanty towns and the remaining few from traditional communities in the far north or west of South Australia.
Symbolically, the Aboriginal red-black-yellow flag was first flown in Adelaide on National Aboriginal and Islander Day 1971. The flag, adopted nationally in 1972, was designed by Harold Thomas, the first Aboriginal to graduate from an Australian art school: the South Australian School of Art. South Australia, since the 1960s, had led moves to reconcile black and white Australia. In 1966, the state parliament prohibited discrimination based on race or colour. Future Labor premier Don Dunstan introduced that act. He also brought in land rights for Aborigines. Restrictions on Aboriginal rights to drink liquor were removed. The office of protector of Aboriginal people was abolished. Aborigines were no longer denied access to certain towns. Detaining Aboriginal people with contagious diseases in lockups ceased. It was no longer an offence for non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal men and women to “habitually consort”. The Education Department took over control of Aboriginal education. The state parliament in 1977 expressed its regret for the forced separation, before 1964, of some Aboriginal children from their families and homes. But Aboriginal people still had no security relating to employment, leaving them at the mercy of their employers in the pastoral industry.
South Australian premier Don Dunstan appointed Australia's first Aboriginal state governor, Douglas Nicholls, in 1976. (Nicholls resigned in the next year due to a stroke.) Nicholls had been a pioneering Victorian Football League player with Fitzroy, a pastor and an activist. Among the many Aboriginal causes that Nicholls had taken up was his protest about the impact in the 1950s of the Woomera rocket range on the people of the Warburton Ranges. Born in 1906 at Cummeragunja Aboriginal mission, New South Wales, Nicholls and other Yorta Yorta children received a sound primary education from Thomas Shadrach James. But he was moved off this mission at 14 under the Aborigines Protection Act to find work. After playing football with Tongala in the mid 1920s, Nicholls signed with Northcote in the Victorian Football Association and later played 54 games for Fitzroy and represented Victoria twice. Nicholls succeeded friend William Cooper as secretary of the Australian Aborigines’ League and was ordained a Churches of Christ pastor in 1945. Nicholls formed the Victorian Aborigines Advancement League in 1957 and was a foundation member of the Federal Council for Aboriginal Advancement but was alarmed by the influence of confrontational “black power” politics.
No Fixed Address, the first Indigenous band to break into mainstream music, has been inducted into South Australia's music hall of fame. Ricky Harrison, Les Graham, John Miller and Bart Willoughby formed the reggae and rock band in 1979 and enjoyed wide success including for “We have survived”, before the band members went their own ways in 1988. Ruby Hunter also set firsts for Aboriginal music. A singer, songwriter and guitarist, of River Murray Ngarindjeri Aboriginal nationality, Hunter often performed with her partner Archie Roach whom she met at 16, while both were homeless teenagers. Born on the Murray banks, Hunter was taken from her family at eight as part of the Stolen Generation. Hunter first performed in public in 1988 during a festival at Sydney's Bondi Pavilion with her first song “Proud, Proud Woman”. In 1990, she wrote the autobiographical "Down City Streets", performed by partner Archie Roach on his debut solo album Charcoal Lane. In 1994, Hunter became the first indigenous Australian woman to record a solo rock album Thoughts Within. Hunter won Deadlys in 2000 as female artist of the year, 2003 for outstanding contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Music and 2004 for excellence in film & theatrical score.
Alfred Gerard saw the mission financed and founded in his name in 1944 at Winkie, on 5,800 acres with River Murray frontage near Loxton, as the “Land of Promise … ours for the natives to the glory of God … to assist in redeeming our great debt to the Aborigines”. Gerard Mission didn’t fulfil the hope of its benefactor, owner of Gerard & Goodman electrical merchandising in Adelaide. Despite planting citrus and stone fruit trees, plus sheep and cows, the United Aborigines Mission (UAM) project never achieved self sufficiency. Besides taking Aboriginals from UAM’s Swan Reach mission started in 1925, Gerard also had people from far west Ooldea mission in 1952. This means the Gerard area people – the Ngawait, Erawirung and Ngayawung – now have kinship with Aboriginal peoples of the Riverland and Eyre Peninsula. Family names from Gerard include Abdulla, Clothier, Cook, Disher, Fletcher, Giles, Hunter, James, Johnson, Karpany, Koolmatrie, Lindsay, Mason, Richards, Rigney, Singh, Sumner, Turner and Wilson. The UAM handed over the mission to the state government in 1961 and in 1974 the reserve was given to the Aboriginal Lands Trust and operates as Gerard Community Council under Aboriginal control. Also in 1974, Point McLeay mission (now Raukkan) at the River Murray mouth was handed back to the Ngarrindjeri people.
One of Australia’s major Aboriginal cultural disputes ignited in the 1990s over plans to build a bridge from Goolwa to Hindmarsh Island. It was blighted by two groups of Aboriginal women clashing over the bridge proposal. Led by Doreen Kartinyeri, the proponent group argued the island must be protected as a sacred women's site. The dissident women declared that the secret women's tradition of Hindmarsh Island was a recent fabrication. The resulting dispute was a bitter and drawn-out public affair, with each group claiming leadership in the case. The Howard federal government allowed the bridge to be built. But, in a later civil case, Justice John von Doussa rejected a damages claim by the developers, saying he was not satisfied the secret women's business had been fabricated. Disturbance of other cultural sites has also raised concerns. The Seaford railway line extension brought protests over Aboriginal graves being moved. In 2017, police raised tensions with traditional owners when they removed a baby girl’s bones for forensic examination, without permission, from a cave in the Sandy Bore Indigenous Protected Area in the Everard Ranges, in South Australia's far north. Tjilbruke Spring at Kingston Park, on Adelaide's southern metropolitan coast, became the focus of an early 21st Century concerns over disrespect for Aboriginal cultural sites and traditions.
ABORIGINAL GREATS EMERGE IN THE 20th CENTURY FROM HUMBLE BACKGROUNDS
Jimmy James, a Pitjantjatjara man, became a renowned tracker with South Australian police for more than 40 years from 1948. His most famous hunts, among a hundred others, were the skilled and risky tracking of dangerous escapee James Smith in 1982 and finding nine-year-old Wendy Pfeiffer after she was abducted near Mylor in 1966. He treasured the gold medal from Wendy’s family. He was the inaugural South Australian Aborigine of the Year in 1983 and given an Order of Australia Medal in 1984. Born near Ernabella (now Pukatja) in central Australia to Warlawurru and Kaarnka, he spent his late childhood at the Ooldea Mission. He left the area in 1945, after being wrongfully arrested, and headed to the South Australian Riverland, where he helped set up the Gerard Mission near Berri. In 1948, James's tracking for police and landowners built a reputation finding criminals (including arsonists, poachers and escapees) and lost persons. As Dreamtime man on Gerard Mission council, he encouraged the teaching of traditional lore to Aboriginal children, narrated stories and taught bushcraft. He was skilled at making boomerangs and spears. His sense of humour and chuckle were trademarks of Uncle Jimmy.
Faith Coulthard Thomas, born on Nepabunna Aboriginal Mission in South Australia’s north east in 1933, was the first Aboriginal woman to play international cricket for Australia and the first Indigenous woman selected to play any sport for Australia. Faith also was one of the first Aboriginal nurses to graduate from the Royal Adelaide Hospital and went on to be the first to run a hospital. Introduced to cricket by a hospital colleague, she quickly made the state women's team from 1956 to 1958 when she was picked for the Australian team to play England. Thomas was a fast bowler who honed her quick deliveries from her childhood at the Colebrook children’s home in Quorn: “Chuckin’ rocks at galahs!” and playing cricket on a bumpy road using rocks and a piece of 4x2 timber. Thomas’s mother Ivy, an Adnyamathanha woman (her father was German), had taken her as a baby to Colebrook and Faith saw it in retrospect as opening opportunities. She regarded the greatest achievement in life as finishing her studies in midwifery and general practice nursing, when she and five others became the first Aboriginal nurses in South Australia and Thomas the state’s first Aboriginal public servant. That’s why her Test cricket career was just one week. She was picked to go to England and New Zealand with the Australian cricket team but nursing was more important and in the early 1960s, married and pregnant, she played her final game.
Lowitja (Lois) O'Donoghue in 1992 became the first Australian Aboriginal to address the United Nations General Assembly. It was long way from her origins, as a Yunkunytjatjara woman, born in 1932 to Tom and Lily O'Donoghue. With two sisters, she was removed as an infant by the South Australian Aboriginal Protection Board and placed in Colebrook Children's Home at Quorn. Like other Aboriginal girls raised in mission homes, O'Donoghue went to work as a domestic in Victor Harbor at 16. She was encouraged to become a nursing aide at the local hospital. In the 1950s, she fought a refusal and and became the first Aboriginal person to train as a nurse at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and became a charge sister. In the 1960s, she went to India to nurse with the Baptist Overseas Mission. Back in South Australia, she joined the public service, working as Aboriginal liaison officer and welfare officer. After the 1967 referendum, she moved to the federal Aboriginal affairs department's Adelaide office. From 1975-79, she was the first female regional director of a federal department. She chaired Aboriginal Hostels, the Aboriginal Development Commission, the National Aboriginal Congress in the 1980s and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (1990-96). O'Donoghue was declared an Australian National Living Treasure in 1998.
John Moriarty became a multi achiever, as the first Aboriginal to represent Australia in soccer; a senior executive in federal and state governments; and founder of Balarinji Design Studio that painted two Qantas jets with Aboriginal motifs. Born in Borroloola, Northern Territory, to a tribal Aboriginal woman, who spoke seven languages, and an Irishman, Moriarty was taken as a half caste from his full-blood mother at age four. Speaking only Yanyuwa language, he was placed in a home for Aboriginal children at Mulgoa in Sydney’s west and later taken to Adelaide for schooling at St Francis House, Semaphore. In 1970, Moriarty graduated from Flinders University with a bachelor of arts and received a Churchill fellowship. With other St Francis schoolmates, Charles Perkins and Gordon Briscoe, he played soccer for Adelaide Croatia and was picked for the Australian team in 1960. Moriarty was a public servant in federal and state departments of Aboriginal affairs before he founded the Jumbana Group in Adelaide in 1983, with Balarinji its most prominent design. In 1994/95, Moriarty was commissioned to do dreaming artwork on Qantas aircraft. Between 1994 and 2004, Moriarty served on the Indigenous Business Australia board and won an Advance Australia award for industry and commerce. He is also a member of the Order of Australia.
Gladys Elphick was founding president (1964-73) of the Council of Aboriginal Women of South Australia, worked tirelessly alongside many influential Aboriginal women trailblazers including Betty Watson, Margaret Lawrie, Maude Tongerie and Lowitja O’Donoghue to start vital services such as Nunkuwarrin Yunti, Tauondi College and the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement. The Council of Aboriginal Women of South Australia employed a social worker, set up sports clubs and arts and crafts groups, and encouraged women to learn public speaking to confidently express their ideas. An advocate of adult education courses for Aboriginal people, Elphick in the 1960s helped arrange evening art classes, conducted at Challa Gardens primary school by John Morley. These and other programs led in 1973 to the college of Aboriginal education, as part of the Underdale campus of the South Australian College of Advanced Education. In 1966-71, Elphick was a member of the South Australian Aboriginal Affairs Board. In 1973, the Aboriginal Community Centre was set up to house several services, with Elphick as treasurer and life member. She founded of the Aboriginal Medical Service in 1977. Known as “Aunty Glad”, Elphick in 1984 was named South Australian Aborigine of the Year. In 2003, the Aboriginal women’s group advising the International Women’s Day Committee (South Australia) presented the first Gladys Elphick award.
SOUTH AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINAL PEOPLE GETTING FOUNDATIONS FOR ACTIVE ROLE IN SOCIETY
The Kaurna people were officially recognised as the traditional land owners for most of the Adelaide area by the federal court in 2018. The recognition runs from Myponga to Lower Light and from the foothills to Adelaide's coastline, and includes native title rights for 17 parcels of undeveloped land not under freehold. The agreement to the native title claim, first lodged in 2000, is a first time for land in a capital city. Eleven native land title claims have been made in South Australia since 1981. The Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) peoples gained exclusive rights to 102,650 square kilometres in the state’s north west in 1981. Non-exclusive rights went to the Nguraritja (1,865sq km, north west, 2005), Wangkangurru/Yarluyandi (Witjira National Park, 7,770sq km, 2008) and Adnyamathanha (Flinders Ranges, 41,085sq km, 2009). Native title rights are based on pre-colonial links to land by Indigenous peoples and groups as derived from their laws and customs. South Australia has been characterised by a commitment to resolving native title by negotiating rather than going to court. The South Australian Native Title Services, that helps native title groups negotiate agreements, consent and partnerships with other land users, had its state government grant cut by $550,000 each year from 2018. The grant had allowed the service to negotiate 107 Indigenous land use agreements in South Australia since 2001.
The state government gave an extra $1.5 million in 2016 to a project returning Aboriginal lands in the South Australia’s far north west to commercial production and creating jobs. The North West Indigenous Pastoral Project is supported by the state government and the Indigenous Land Corporation with BHP Billiton and Native Title Services as partners. The Indigenous land owners hold up to three million hectares of pastoral land in the region. In its first 12 months from 2015, the project employed around 15 full-time Aboriginal pastoral workers and took steps towards returning five significant Aboriginal-owned properties to commercial production. The five properties under the North West Indigenous Pastoral Project are Andamooka, Purple Downs, and Roxby Downs stations (Kokatha Pastoral); Emeroo Station (Bungala Aboriginal Corporation); Mabel Creek Station (AMY Nominees) and parts of the APY Lands. The Aboriginal land owners hold up to three million hectares of pastoral land in the region. The project provides funding and skill sharing to bring land into production and return properties to commercial grazing. This can include initiatives such as Working on Country, Bush Blitz and Green Army and cultural tourism. Bush Blitz involves recording flora and fauna as the blueprint for eradicating feral animals, weeds and non-native vegetation. Green Army projects involve ecologically managing properties by planting native trees and vegetation.
The Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) has helped South Australian groups since 2005 to manage land for business, training, employment, cultural and/or environmental benefits. The Indigenous Land Corporation, an independent Australian Government statutory authority with an Adelaide head office, buys and grants land to Indigenous groups as corporations. The ILC has bought 27 properties in South Australia with a total area of more than 830,000 hectares. Examples of the projects include • White Avenue, Mount Gambier: At a 10ha property, Burrandies Aboriginal Corporation provided pre-employment education and training. Used for meetings and social gatherings, the centre has educational programs, a seed-growing operation and community garden. • Teeluk is a 144ha property on the edge of the Coorong. The project gave the Indigenous landowners a base to coordinate sustainable land management. The ILC funded a shed and rainwater tanks to support revegetation. • Lake Acraman, Gawler Ranges: Lake Acraman is an 18,000ha meteorite crater and dry salt lake with cultural and environmental heritage values, 220 kilometres north-west of Port Augusta. In 2011, Gawler Ranges Aboriginal Corporation leased the lake as part of a native title agreement with the state government. The ILC funded SA Native Title Services to plan long-term management of the cultural and environmental values of the lake and shoreline.
Print Junction at Wingfield is an Aboriginal family-owned business that has expanded and been recognised for its quality work and has attracted clients nationally. The business was startedin 1996 with help from the Australian government agency Indigenous Business Australia. A.R.T. Employment (Aboriginal Recruitment Training and Employment) is an Aboriginal-owned and -managed company, involving figures such as Australian Football League Aboriginal Team of the Century member Michael O’Loughlin, who grew up in Adelaide. Intract Australia is a 51% Aboriginal-owned and managed enterprise delivering construction services to projects such as Adelaide’s Northern Connector. The South Australian government has been developing an Aboriginal economic participation strategy with the unemployment rate among the state’s 30,000 Indigenous people in the 55%-65% range. In 2016, an online register, Aboriginal Business Connect, was launched, with than 60 businesses including construction companies, designers, cultural services, and caterers listed in the one-stop-shop for goods or services from local Aboriginal businesses. The state government also introduced a policy to cut red tape and buy goods from those businesses. South Australia’s defence industry has become the 10th industry to start an Aboriginal employment industry cluster. An Aboriginal Business Industry Chamber of South Australia has been formed.
DRAWING ON WORK OF AUNTIES INCLUDING GLADYS ELPHICK AND JOSIE AGIUS IN EDUCATION/HEALTH
The overall outlook for health of Aboriginal people in South Australia in 2017 was still unacceptably poor, according to The Health Performance Council case study. On average, Aboriginal people live shorter lives. Child mortality is higher. Anxiety, depression, heart disease, asthma, diabetes and kidney disease are all more common. Nutrition is poor with low consumption of fruit and vegetables. Smoking was more common for Aboriginal people, with high blood pressure prevalent. Few Aboriginal people are in the public health workforce. Of the state government SA Health’s 40,000 employees, 417 or 1% identified as Aboriginal. Country Health has a third of those employees but more than half of South Australia’s Aboriginal population lives in the metropolitan area. Health relates to social and economic measures. Proportionally, more Aboriginal children are under the guardianship or subject to care and protection orders. The threat of violence is high. Aboriginal people are twice as likely as the average South Australian to experience homelessness and three times as likely to be in overcrowded households. Unemployment is four times the overall rate. Positives are that Aboriginal people continue to be supported by strong cultural and community ties. More engaged in physical activity. Some alcohol risk measures look better, on average, than for non-Aboriginal people. Childhood immunisation rates are good – better than for non-Aboriginal people.
Nunkuwarrin Yunti of South Australia is an Aboriginal community health service started in the 1960s by Gladys Elphick, who founded the Council of Aboriginal Women of SA, for some dire needs in the Aboriginal community. Aboriginal children in South Australia were found to be four times more likely to die than non-Aboriginal children during the 2005-14 decade. While the state’s overall child death rate in the 10 years to 2014 steadily declined, it increased for Aboriginal children. More than 60% of the 131 Aboriginal children who died in the decade had been in contact with Families SA, the state’s child protection agency. A report on the Aboriginal children’s death said the context was disadvantage, arising in part from circumstances of the parents’ lives and histories. Nunkuwarrin Yunti (Working together; doing right together) offers an extensive range of services including birthing and family support, counselling, diabetes education, clean needle program and methadone support and referral, healthy liver program, immunisation, medical care, No Pulgi mobile health team for the homeless, Towilla purruttiappendi (healing the spirit) counselling, social work program, home and prison visiting; podiatry, psychiatry and women’s health. Nunkuwarrin Yunti has clinics at Wakefield Street in the Adelaide CBD and at Brady Street, Elizabeth Downs. An education and training clinic is on South Terrace, Adelaide.
The South Australian government’s SA Health department has specific services to address the health inequality of Aboriginal people. These include screening tests, chronic disease management, counselling, lifestyle advice, health checks and referrals. DeadlyKidsSA aims to support Aboriginal children to be happy, healthy and strong with activities such as the annual Strong Aboriginal Children’s Health Expo and the Get Set, Go! backpacks. Messages to parents for keeping children healthy stress fruit and vegetables, drinking mainly water, moving and playing with them every day, brushing their teeth, immunisations and regular ear, health and developmental checks. The Under 8s Aboriginal ear health program fills gaps in referral and management across the northern and southern Adelaide health networks. Aboriginal health practitioners screen Aboriginal children aged up to eight at early childhood centres, schools, clinics and community events. Screenings extend to dental and immunisation checks. Watto Purrunna Aboriginal Primary Health Care Service provides a free comprehensive culturally sensitive services at Elizabeth Vale, Hillcrest, Port Adelaide and Dudley Park. Clinics are run by Aboriginal health practitioners and clinical health workers with doctors, nurses, health professionals, wellbeing workers and visiting specialists. The emphasis is on early detection to prevent diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands had a major health breakthrough in 2018 when $US153,000 grant from Rotary International enabled the first four long-awaited permanent renal dialysis treatment units for Pukatja/Ernabella community, in far north South Australia. The grant added to $1.7 million federal government funding and APY Lands elders' support for an Aboriginal fine art auction in Adelaide in 2017 Tarnanthi festival to raise money for the centre at The Purple House, an Aboriginal-owned and -run health service from Alice Springs. Many people on the APY Lands have had to travel more than 1,000km to Adelaide, Alice Springs or Port Augusta for dialysis treatment. Since 2014, a mobile unit with three dialysis chairs had visited remote Aboriginal communities including the APY’s Pukatja, Mimili, Fregon, Amata and Marla. This was provided through the state government’s Country Health SA Local Health Network but also with funds generated by APY Art Centre Hub painters. A lack of government action on a permanent dialysis centre prompted APY artists to donate works to the Adelaide auction, raising almost $170,000. This coincided with planning for the grant from Rotary District 9520 taking in clubs at Broken Hill, Adelaide, Mildura and parts of the Riverland and Fleurieu Peninsula. Money also came from Rotary clubs in Victoria, Queensland and NSW, as well as from partner clubs in Kansas City, Missouri.
A record 377 Aboriginal students (58 more than in 2016) completed their South Australian Certificate of Education in 2017. The gap remains but progress is emerging in Aboriginal education. Aboriginal students from remote community schools get help to attend the Wiltja high school program in Adelaide at Woodville High School or Windsor Gardens Vocational College. Students board at the Wiltja residence at Northgate. Aboriginal students who have difficulties at traditional high schools can attend Warriappendi School at Marleston. Warriappendi has a special program that helps students engage again in the education process .The state governmenthas invested extra funds in the South Australian Aboriginal Sports Training Academy across South Australia. Special learning programs are provided for students at Aboriginal schools in the outback, regional centres and metropolitan Adelaide. Aboriginal languages are spoken at most Aboriginal schools. Anangu schools on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytatiara lands in South Australia’s far north are at Amata, Ernabella, Fregon, Indulkana, Kenmore Park, Mimili, Murpatja and Pipalyatjara. Preschools and kindergartens are at Kalaya Children’s Centre, Queenstown; and Kaunra Plains, Elizabeth. Aboriginal schools are at Carlton Primary, Port Augusta; Kaurna Plains, Elizabeth; Koonibba, Marree, Oak Valley, Maralinga; Oodnadatta, Port Pearce, Raukkan and Yalata.
Aboriginal sentencing court days or Nunga courts operate at Port Adelaide, Murray Bridge, Port Augusta, Mount Gambier, Port Lincoln and Ceduna magistrates courts. Aboriginal adult offenders who have pleaded or been found guilty of a criminal offence may choose to be sentenced on an Aboriginal court day. But the 21st Century South Australian court system has been failing to cope, especially in regard to interpreters, with the big rise in Anangu Pitjantjatjara men and women defendants. At 3% of the population, Aboriginal people account for more than a quarter of people in prison. From 2005, Aboriginal court days or Nunga courts have provided Aboriginal defendants with a culturally-appropriate sentencing option. They aim to overcome cultural barriers to understanding the law and court practice. They seek to build relationships with Aboriginal communities and organisations, reduce offending, and provide outcomes for defendants through medical, mental health and rehabilitation referrals. Sentencing is less formal. All participants (including the magistrate) sit on the same level. Victims, family and community members are encouraged to attend court and take part. Community elders and Aboriginal justice officers advise the magistrate on cultural and community issues. The justice officer guides defendants, families and the community on court process (including reminders of court days/ times) and understanding bail and bonds.
21st CENTURY AVENUES IN PLACE FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINAL PEOPLE TO SHINE THROUGH
The Living Kaurna Cultural Centre at Warriparinga wetlands at Sturt offers Aboriginal and environmental education, tours, events and performances. The centre was built in 2001 from work by the Kaurna community and the City of Marion, attracting Centenary of Federation funding. Warriparinga is in the heart of Marion on a 3.5 hectare reserve, corner of Sturt and Marion roads (also called Laffer's Triangle) known for its natural beauty, outdoors recreation, native plants and animals. Its wetland are ponds diverting and filtering Sturt River stormwater. It is significant for its Kaurna, European and environmental features. Warriparinga is managed by the City of Marion, supported by the Friends of Warriparinga. Warriparinga is an important part of the Kaurna Tjilbruke Dreaming. Its Tjilbruki gateway was commissioned by the City of Marion under the Local Councils Remember partnership between the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation and the Australian Local Government Association. Adelaide artists Margaret Worth, Sherry Rankine and Gavin Malone developed special works at Warriparinga. The gateway was officially opened in 1997 by governor-general William Deane and Dr. Lowitja O'Donaghue with Kaurna representatives Vincent Copley, Doris Graham and Garth Agius. Ceremony and dance were by Georgina Williams, Nangki Burka, Kaurna and the Tjirbruki Dancers: Karl Winda Telfer, Stevie Goldsmith, Andrew Lindsay and Nikki Ashby.
The South Australian Film Corporation’s first Aboriginal Screen Strategy (2015-20) supported Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander filmmakers. The strategy was designed to grow and support the stories and creative voices of the Aboriginal screen sector and to develop skills and knowledge in filmmaking through production, mentoring and partnerships. The corporation set up Pirrku Kuu (The Story Room) at Adelaide Studios in Glenside as a hub for Aboriginal filmmakers’ work. The strategy was guided by corporation’s Lee-Ann Buckskin and then-chief executive Annabelle Sheehan. The film corporation’s Aboriginal advisory committee members for the strategy were • Erica Glynn (Arrente), director of TV’s Black Comedy, graduate of Australian Film Television and Radio School, whose short film My Bed, Your Bed was an international success and her documentaries include A Walk with Words with Romaine Morton and Ngangkari about traditional healers of the Central Desert region. • Major Sumner, an honoured Ngarrindjeri elder from the Coorong and Lower Lakes in South Australia. • Derik Lynch (Yankunytjatjara), who grew up in small town camp in Alice Springs. starred alongside of Trevor Jamieson in the theatre play Namatjira that toured England and Rotterdam; screen credits include Black Comedy and Deadline Gallipoli. • Natasha Wanganeen (Narungga), with film credits including Rabbit Proof Fence (2002), Black and White (2002), Australian Rules (2002) and, on television, Redfern Now (2013) and ABC’s The Secret River 2013).
A century after his death, an Aboriginal World War I veteran, Private Miller Mack, was buried with full military honours in 2017 in Raukkan (formerly Point McLeay), the South Australian community where he grew up. After discovering his remains in West Terrace cemetery, outside the military section, Private Mack’s family spent two years trying to bring him home to Ngarrindjeri country, near the River Murray mouth. Mack enlisted with 20 other young Ngarrindjeri men from the Point McLeay mission in the armed forces in 1915 and fought in France during World War I serving with the 50th Battalion. While fighting on the Western Front in 1917, Private Mack endured the worst European winter on record and phosgene gas attacks before evacuation to England in 1918, with severe bronchial pneumonia. When he contracted tuberculosis, Mack was brought back to Adelaide and died a year later, aged 25. Private Mack hadn't been moved when the military section of the cemetery was created in 1920. This was symptomatic of Aboriginal Diggers being shunned by the authorities when they returned at the end of the war. His family only found out he was buried in Adelaide's West Terrace Cemetery a few years before 2017. People came from around Australia after the state government gave $2500 to the Aboriginal Veterans of South Australia for Private Mack to be brought home to Raukkan for burial.
A 12-month trial of the federal government’s cashless welfare card started in 2016 in the Ceduna region of South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula. The Indue welfare card, with input from Aboriginal elders, aimed to reduce alcohol abuse, gambling and assaults in vulnerable communities. The card, compulsory for all Centrelink users except old age pensioners, has 80% of welfare payments to be used for purchases but not for alcohol or gambling. The other 20% is placed in bank accunts. The main opposition to the card relates to its blanket approach of applying it to all people of working age; that 60-70 disruptive people were forcing around 700 residents into using the cashless card. In 2017, the federal government declared the card a success and extended its trial with six-month reviews. The Labor party said it wouldn’t support extending the card trial unless there were clear community support and evidence it worked. Orima Research found gambling, alcohol and drug consumption were reduced in Ceduna but its data was queried by the Australian National Audit Office. One of the three Eyre Peninsula communities affected by the Ceduna scheme is Koonibba, home to the oldest surviving Aboriginal AFL football club in Australia. Among its products are Gavin Wanganeen, 1993 Brownlow Medallist and Essendon and Port Adelaide premiership player. Only half of the town’s 1983 football premiership team have survived Koonibba’s high death rate.
Australian Football League (AFL) star Adam Goodes turned to his Adnyamathanha heritage in the South Australia’s Flinders Ranges to cope with the effect of relentless booing that ended his career in 2015. A dual Brownlow Medallist, dual premiership player with the Sydney Swans, and four times All Australian, Goodes became a target of crowd abuse after objecting to a racist slur from a teenage girl at Melbourne Cricket Ground in 2013. At breakdown point in the middle of the 2015 season, Goodes flew to South Australia and spent five days nestled in the Flinders Ranges, three hours north of Port Augusta – far from mobile phone reception. This is the traditional country of the Adnyamathanha – an ancestry inherited from Goodes mother who is also form another South Australian tribe: the Narungga of Yorke Peninsula. During Goodes’s time in the Flinders Ranges, Adnyamathanha Aboriginal elders led a ceremony submerging his feet into the red dirt of a dry riverbed that water had travelled through for centuries. Clarity emerged for Goodes in the silence of his days on Adnyamathanha country: He decided to end his AFL career. In 2019, two acclaimed film documentaries, The Final Quarter and The Australian Dream, the sad end to Goodes’s AFL career of 372 games that won his a place in the Sydney Swans Hall of Fame. Also featured film is another South Australian Aboriginal Sydney Swans AFL 300-game star Michael O'Loughlin, like Goodes, a member of the Indigenous Team of the Century. O'Loughlin, with Kaurna and Ngarrindjeri in his mixed ancestry, grew up in Adelaide and started his junior football with Central District. Goodes, a former Australian of the Year, had a daughter, Adelaide Vira, born in 2019. Vira means moon in Adnyamathanha language. Goodes and wife Natalie made a pilgrimage to bury Adelaide's placenta in the same Flinders Ranges home country he returned to in 2015.
South Australian premier, also minister for Aboriginal affairs and reconciliation, confirmed at the 2018 ninth Aboriginal Leaders’ Forum that negotiating treaties with the state's Aboriginal nations has been scrapped and would be replaced with policies to deliver more “practical outcomes” rather than the “symbolic action” of a treaty being furthered since 2016 by the previous Labor government that signed an agreement with Yorke Peninsula's Narungga people as a first step. Treaty commissioner Roger Thomas said Aboriginal people were keen about a treaty but much preferred to negotiate separately as nations than collectively. This would have slowed the process. Instead of a treaty, Marshall said his government was developing a state-wide plan with defined outcomes for Aboriginal people across areas including education, child protection, health and jobs. The 2018 state budget halved staff in the Aboriginal affairs and reconciliation division of the premier’s department and cut more than $6 million in funding – $1 million from abolishing the office of treaty commissioner. Completion of stolen generations reparations and a Aboriginal Heritage Act review accounted for other cuts. Narungga elder Tauto Sansbury raised concerns about the apparent end of the policy recognising regional Aboriginal authorities: Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association, Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority and Far West Coast Aboriginal Corporation.
The return of South Australia Aboriginal ancestral remains to their communities continued in 2019. In a London ceremony, 37 sets of remains were handed over by the Natural History Museum. One set of remains was returned to the Narungga people of Yorke Peninsula, while others will be repatriated to the Ngarrindjeri, Kaurna, Far West Coast and Flinders Ranges communities. Representing the Narungga people were elder Doug Milera and Professor Peter Buskin, the dean: Aboriginal engagement and strategic projects at the University of South Australia. The Indigenous Repatriation Program has led to the return of more than 1,480 ancestral remains from overseas, with more than 1,200 coming from the UK. The London ceremony followed the South Australian Museum announcement that it would begin to repatriate the remains of more than 4,500 people from its collection. The museum has been one of the last in Australia to return ancestral remains to Aboriginal people. Ngarrindjeri elder Major Sumner, who has 1,200 ancestors in the South Australian Museum collection, worked with the museum on the repatriation policy. The museum’s head of humanities Professor John Carty told ABC News that it was “major shift in the ethics in this museum … from viewing Aboriginal people and Aboriginal ancestral remains as scientific specimens to seeing them as humans". The return of the ancestors will be a long process involving finding where each person came from and where they should be reburied. Another problem will be finding new burial sites that won’t be disturbed.
Major Sumner has been active in both the ancient Aboriginal and modern spheres during the 21st Century in South Australia. A Greens party candidate for both the Australian parliament’s senate and the Adelaide Hills seat of Mayo, Sumner has been a world renowned performer and cultural ambassador for the arts, crafts, martial arts and culture of the Ngarrindjeri, traditional Aboriginal people of South Australia’s lower Murray River, western Fleurieu Peninsula and the Coorong. His work spans performance, traditional dance and song, cultural advice, and arts and crafts, such as wood carving, and martial arts techniques using his handcrafted traditional shields, clubs, boomerangs and spears. He also is a strong supporter of innovative art and has featured in many media productions and cultural collaborations. In 2011, Sumner crafted the first Ngarrindjeri bark canoe on Ngarrindjeri/ Boandik country for more than 100 years, reconnecting with traditional canoe-building while using a high-tech cherry picker to get up the tree. In 201, he initiated the inaugural Ringbalin Murrundi Rover Spirit project, reigniting the ceremonial fires along ancient trade routes of the Darling and Murray rivers. Sumner has served as a Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority board member, as board member of Black Dance Australia, Tal Kin Jeri dance group artistic director and on the advisory group for the South Australian Film Corporation’s Aboriginal film strategy. Sumner was involved in bringing ancestral remains from London and Scotland back to Ngarrindjeri country. He is a member of the World Council of Elders.
The South Australian child protection department introduced its first Aboriginal action plan in 2019 to help reduce the high number of Aboriginal young people and children coming into government care. The plan aims for children and family members to be part of decisions made about them and that the department works with Aboriginal organisations to ensure children and young people keep links to family, community and culture. As part of the plan, the South Australian child protection department signed an agreement with Narungga Nation Aboriginal Corporation, representing first peoples on the Yorke Peninsula. The department and Narungga Nation would work together on a designed process to reduce Narungga children in care. This built on the Buthera Agreement by the Narungga Nation with the Labor state government in its last days in 2018. The agreement was first step toward a state-based treaty, after a year of treaty commissioner Dr Roger Thomas seeking Aboriginal South Australians’ views. Narungga Nation Aboriginal Corporation chair Garry Goldsmith told the crowd at parliament house in Adelaide for the signing that the Buthera Agreement was symbolic and significant for the Narungga, South Australia, Aboriginal nations in general and non-Aboriginal Australians. The Buthera Agreement took only 12 weeks to negotiate but three Narungga women won more time in the supreme court for people to consider the agreement before the community accepted it.The new Liberal state confirmed the treaty would be scrapped and replaced with practical outcomes rather than symbols.
Thousands of years of Aboriginal scientific technology were recognised more formally in South Australia in 2019. The state government decided that Aboriginal science discoveries and practices would be taught for the first time in South Australian classrooms under a push to increase Aboriginal students’ interest and involvement in science subjects. Aboriginal people worked with natural chemical components to produce substances like adhesives, medicine, pigments, lime and acid. These processes and products overcome many survival challenges. South Australian chemistry students could study discoveries such as spinifex resin, made from sap found in native grass and used as an adhesive by indigenous communities for hundreds of years. South Australian science teachers will work with Aboriginal communities, the state education department, South Australian Museum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACRA) and the Australian Curriculum to develop a framework of learning and teaching the ancient Aboriginal practices. The state education department saw it as transforming science teaching to being culturally relevant, respectful and of value to Aboriginal students, As part of an Aborginal education strategy, indigenous scientific knowledge would be taught in Kaurna, Ngarrindjeri and Narungga classrooms before being moved to Adelaide metropolitan schools generally. The federal government’s CSIRO Indigenous STEM education program shows the scientific value of Australia’s first nations peoples' ecological knowledge to tertiary students in remote, regional and urban areas.