Kaurna Stories

"Yara: Giving and receiving from each other".

Seven Sisters Dreaming by Katrina "Karlapina" Power. Shield by Jack "Kanya" Buckskin

Dr Lewis Yerloburka O’Brien (Uncle Lewis):

“The whole Kaurna culture is built around sharing with each other and other communities as well. If the other community is in need, you are expected to help them. You do not ask for help or say please or thank you when the help is given to you. It’s something you’re supposed to do in our culture. If you meet someone, you invite them to eat with you as a matter of course. After the person has eaten, they know they don’t have to say thanks because if you were in their culture, you would expect them to help or feed you as well.”

Did you know?

In Aboriginal culture, knowledge is not automatically given, it is earned. Men and Women have equal but different knowledge and roles in Aboriginal society.

Artist Statement - Jack Buckskin

Kaurna and Narrunga man Jack Kanya Buckskin is a Kaurna language and culture teacher, a mentor for his community, and a contemporary Kaurna artist. He has made it his life’s mission to breathe new life into Aboriginal culture, reviving the language and reconnecting people with their spiritual and cultural heritage.

“I’d like people to understand what our culture’s about. Its not just spirituality, it’s a “One-ness”, of us being one with the environment.”

“I chose to make the shield for symbolic reasons, because of how unique it is to our community. Our community is part of a bigger community of Aboriginality. and we are all connected. So, although the shield is a sign of protection for us, it shows our culture is also a part of a bigger culture, and the ancestors who came before us are all connected as well, through the songlines of our countries.”

“This shield represents the uniqueness of just one group, as part of a bigger group There’s no ‘us’ without having neighbours, and there’s no songlines without neighbours, and their neighbours...So even if something is ‘ours’, its ‘theirs’ as well. You’ll notice that our shields are unique with one line. The Ngarrendjeri people, down on the Coorong have two lines. Its the same concept of the shield, but just a little bit different. Thats unique to their country. The Peramangk have 3 lines, and so on...”

“This is what Aboriginal culture is like. Not just spirituality as in the connection I have with everything; but that we’re all as important as each other. “

“We’re all a part of a bigger picture.”

Artist Statement - Katrina Power

I am a proud Kaurna woman; Mother and Grandmother. I am a journalist; Narrative healer; and cross cultural broker. I Welcome To Country and respect my Elders. I believe the Land is my Mother and her grandchildren the dots between generations. We are taught to remember and honour our Ancestors including animals on land; in water and in sky. Kahlil Gibran’s poem ‘I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are the sons of one religion, and it is the spirit,’ has always been a source of great inter-faith inspiration to me. I sometimes cite and re-frame his poem to include “and daughters” and add “I love you in the Dreamtime” when doing Kaurna Welcome to Country. I have also incorporated and re-framed Psalm 23 “The Lord is my shepherd” for “Sorry Business”.

Respect for our Elders is paramount. Men and woman have equal power. Not all old people are Elders. Collective wisdom guides us. Knowledge is earned. Babies are born old with ancient stories to bring to life. A young person can be an Elder in their craft. The group is more important than the individual. The entire Camp has a shared obligation to raise and protect its children; to protect the environment and preserve resources including animals and plant life for future generations.

I see myself as a child of the Universe committed to humanity. I am willing to venture into neighbouring camps and allow others’ to hold dear that which is dear to them. Respected Kaurna elder, Kauwanu Lewis O’Brien asked me to paint 3 stories for the Golden Rule exhibition, including Tjilbruke; Kondoli and Ivarrityi. I honour our Ancestors on land; in water and in sky and our Narungga and Ngarrindjeri neighbours’ country and kin. I honour a Kaurna man Tjilbruke and a Kaurna woman, Ivarrityi, as equals. I honour Kondoli, the whale as a shared Kaurna/Ngarrindjeri animal Creator story.

There are 7 circles in the sky. Each one for the 7 springs Tjilbruke’s tears created as he wailed for his dead nephew along SA’s Southern coastline. Many of the suburbs surrounding those springs still bear traditional Kaurna names. Those same 7 circles represent the “7 Sisters” womens’ story told in many different ways in various Aboriginal nations throughout Australia. Ivarritji is featured as the last known fluent Kaurna speaker who identified and named Kaurna locations of male and female significance. She was childless but known as “Tukku Nganki” a mother to many. She was a master mat and net weaver.

Hidden in the sea between the waves are 2 prized Butterfish – a tribute to Narungga country and kin.

We are taught to share with our neighbours. To not be greedy and not take more than we need.

Three campfires are respectively seen with single; double and triple columns of smoke. Each column is a signal to our neighbours – of a lone presence; or to attend the camp by invitation or by order for ceremonies of joy and sorrow. There you will find fire and water to quench humanity’s thirst and warm each other’s hearts.

I choose to act and witness humanity as Inter-Faith’s bigger-picture story. To honour ourselves as “Earthly” story tellers and meaning-makers. I hope it creates a human circle of tolerance and respect, where our neighbours hopes and dreams, are as important to us, as it is to them. I want to spark curiousity and give others the courage to explore and share each other’s stories. I hope this exhibition has the young and the old willing and able to sit in our Neighbours’ camp. I want this exhibition to be the first of many and to gain momentum as an open invitation to “Love Thy Neighbour”.


Tjibruke, the great hunter and firemaker, the Dreaming hero, of the Kaurna people of the Adelaide plain.

Tjilbruke was chasing an emu on the plains, feeling tired he sat on a rock and rested.When he looked up, he saw his favourite nephew coming towards him. “Hey” he called out aloud to his nephew, ”You should know better. “ “Sorry,” was Kulultuwi’s reply to his uncle. Never mind being sorry, was Tjilbruke’s reply, you could have broken the law

if you had you had passed me. Then Tjilbruke relented, because he was his favourite nephew. “I give you permission to catch the emu, as long as you give me a piece of emu meat. ” he said. Kulultuwi then agreed and went on to capture the emu.

As he was cooking the emu, unbeknown to Kulultuwi, his half-brothers had been following him. So, when he struck his spear in the emu’s eye, to see if it was cooked - he was blinded by the steam - and then his half-brothers attacked and killed him.

They then carried his body to Warriparingga and placed it on the ground. Tjilbruke had heard his nephew had been slain and had gone to Warriparingga, he found his nephew’s body lying on the ground.

He proceeded to carry his body to Tulukutangga(Kingston Park). Tjilbruke weeps over his nephew and creates the spring – that emerges at the base of the hill – from his tears.

He creates many springs with his tears, as he travels southward along the coast.

Then he carries his body to Yarnkalyilla (place of the falling bits). He then holds his body aloft, (in offering to Karta Lap) for his spirit to go there. Karta is the land where spirits dwell. Then he puts Kulultuwi’s body into a cave.

He then sticks Currawong feathers on his arms, legs and body, and says “I’m no longer of this world.” He then transforms himself into a wading bird.

(As told by Uncle Lewis O’Brien, Kaurna)

Tjilbruke had a responsibility to Kulutwi not only as an uncle but a father. And this speaks to a man’s role, in growing up a boy and doing the right thing. Protecting the animals, protecting boundaries and respecting neighbours. Valuing all life, animal or human.

Think about how important it is to cry. We cry salty tears when we’re in pain. Tears of happiness are sweet, but sorrowful tears are salty like the water. They have to come out. And we have to be good neighbours to share our joys and worries. We have to take care of one another. We have an obligation to strengthen each other because we all want the same things. We all want our loved ones to feel safe and loved, and warm and fed. We want to see their dreams realised and have a good life.

(Katrina Karlapina Power, Kaurna Elder).


Many years ago in the Dreaming there was a man called Kondoli. Whenever he walked or moved his feet, sparks and fire flew out of them. All the people who knew Kondoli were fascinated by his ability to make fire. They had never seen fire before.

A man called Tiritpa planned to get some of the fire without asking Kondoli.

Tiritpa spoke to his friend Tjintrin about his plan and Tjintrin agreed to join him. They asked Kondoli’s friends to come to a party. Their names were Nakkudla, Watteparu and Mandiltu.

The party took place at the beach. Kondoli made a fire, which cooked the food and made everyone warm. Everyone was dancing and having a great time. Suddenly Tiritpa and Tjintrin jumped out of the bushes and threw their spears at Kondili.

One of the spears hit Kondoli in the neck and hurt him badly. He jumped into the sea and changed into a whale. Water spurted out of his wound. His friends jumped into the sea to join him.

Nakkudla became a shark, Watteparu became a seal and Mandiltu became the stingray.

Tiritpa and Tjintrin were punished for spearing Kondoli. They became a lark and a willy wagtrail. And they were never able to use the fire. (This is the abridged Kaurna version of the story, as told by Cherylynne Catanzarti, with permission from Veronica Brodie, using some Kaurna words).


Ivaritji was a very important person. She is one of only two key Kaurna informants. She named Tandanya and Tamdanyangga and the post office. She identified the lake in the Botanic Gardens as an important site. She provided very important information to anthropologists about Kaurna ways and cultures. She was a truly independent woman. She wanted to be economically self-sufficient. She was a master weaver. In terms of her loving her neighbours, she was childless but she was known as Tuku Ngangki, which means “mother” to many. There was talk of her as this little dark, snow-haired woman, carrying around her reeds to weave her mats and always being there to help deliver babies.

Ivaritji was born in Port Adelaide, probably in the mid 1840s. Her Kaurna name means a “gentle, misty rain. She is regarded as the last surviving person of full Kaurna descent. Her mother was Tankaira or “Charlotte” and her father was known to the early settlers as “Rodney: or “King Rodney”. He was one of the leading men or ‘chiefs’ of the Adelaide tribe.

Nothing is known of Ivaritji’s early life. She is first mentioned in historical documents when she lived in Clarendon in the 1850s and 1860s. Ivaritiji stated in a 1927 newspaper interview that she and her family, along with the rest of the Kaurna people, moved to the Clarendon district when Adelaide became too populated. According to the newspaper interview, Ivaritji said that both her parents died within a short space of time while they were living in Clarendon and she was then adopted by the Daily family. Thomas Daily was the local schoolmaster and also was in charge of distributing rations, including flour, rice, sugar, tea, and tobacco to aged, infirmed or destitute Aborigines. It is assumed that Ivaritji was adopted by the Dailys in the early 1860s and then stayed with them for a few years. During that time she learned to read and write. She then rejoined the Kaurna people.

She lived in Point McLeay Mission. She married Charles Savage, who was of Negro descent and was born in Adelaide around 1852. They were married in December 1920 at the Holy Trinity Church in Adelaide. There are no records of Ivaritji having children of her own. But according to some oral reports, she raised two boys as her own, who were possibly orphaned or abandoned.

In 1919, Daisy Bates, the noted scholar of Aboriginal culture, visited Point Pearce to talk to Ivaritji. She provided Mrs. Bates with a list of Kaurna relationship terms and some place names and other information. She said that her father’s principal waterhole was the lake in the Botanic Gardens, called Kainka wira. She also gave the name Dharnda anya (Tandanya) as a place name in Adelaide and Nagamadji as the area where the post office now stands.

John McConnell Black, the botanist, also visited Ivaritji in October 1919. He obtained a vocabulary of about 70 Kaurna words from her. They were subsequently published in the Transactions of the Royal Society of SA.

In 1920, Ivaritji married Charles Savage. Since he was not of Aboriginal descent, he was not permitted to live with his wife at Point Pearce.

The couple then moved to Moonta. At this time, Harry Taylor held to the license to a reserve of 18 acres, which was known as “the Crossroads.” However, following local residents’ complaints of unruly behaviour by Aborigines, Taylor’s license was cancelled. The Protector, W.G. South recommended that the license be transferred to Amelia (Ivaritji) Savage. However, a few weeks later, South changed his mind and gave the lease to Stacey, a white farmer. South, however, allowed the Savages to stay in a small cottage on the land and farm one acre, which surrounded it.

Charles Savage wrote a letter to the Commissioner for Crown Lands, complaining about the Protector’s actions. When Stacey’s lease expired, the Savages were allowed to stay in the cottage. But by that time they were too old to farm, so another white farmer, W. Milford, was allowed to crop the land and pay Ivaritji 1 pound per month for land rental.

In 1927, John Hosking and H. M. Hale, then a Curator at the SA Museum, visited Ivaritji at her home. They recorded about 100 Kaurna words and obtained other information from Ivaritiji. They also invited her to come to Adelaide for a further interview and Ivaritiji replied that she would be pleased to visit the city.

At that time, she was also supplementing her husband’s small pension by making

mats to sell to the townspeople in Moonta. Her mats, which were woven from reeds, were highly prized in the neighbourhood.

In April 1928, Herbert Hale gave a short talk on Ivaritji at the monthly meeting of the Anthropological Society of South Australia. A few months later, the Society paid Ivaritji’s fare for a short visit to Adelaide. While she was in the city she was interviewed by Norman Tindale, who questioned her about aspects of Kaurna culture, tribal boundaries and resource-exploitation. He later published several articles based on those interviews. Tindale also took several photographs of Ivaritji, dressed in a wallaby-skin cloak, which belonged to the Museum collection.

In 1929, the Adelaide City Council became interested in Ivaritji’s story and wrote to the Town Clerk in Moonta, Mr. Couch, asking him to interview her and gain some information about early Adelaide. Mr. Couch interviewed Ivaritji at her home.

After giving the interview, Ivaritji visited Couch in his office on several occasions and asked for his help in obtaining a pension. Couch referred the matter to the Adelaide City Council. They consulted the Aborigines Department, who stated that Aborigines weren’t eligible for the age pension as they were legally wards of that state. On that basis, they could only apply for rations and clothing, if required.

However, the Adelaide City Council, wanted to honour Ivaritji in some way. They decided to invite her to the next Proclamation Day ceremony at Glenelg. But it is unknown whether or not the invitation was ever sent. In early December, Ivaritji fell ill with pneumonia. She left her husband at their home in Moonta and stayed at Point Pearce. She died in hospital on Christmas Day and was buried in an unmarked grave in the Mission cemetery.

Tom Gara, who wrote an in depth article about Ivaritji, gave the following overview of her life, “Described by all who knew her as a law-abiding, friendly woman, who was always cheerful and courteous to everyone, she seemed to bear no ill-feelings towards white people and was always keen to cooperate with anthropologists and other researchers.”

Gara added, that although she lived in poverty and isolation, she led a long and satisfying life.

He concluded, “In this Ivaritji perhaps typifies the strength and resilience of Aboriginal culture and the Aboriginal people’s ability to survive the most adverse circumstances.”

Ivaritji was a little powerhouse and she really is a role model to all Kaurna women. Not only Kaurna women but all women. She is an ancient goddess.