Our Early Beginnings

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On Kaurna Land

The traditional owners of the Adelaide Plains are the Kaurna people. As the land around Adelaide was surveyed and divided into hundreds, Kaurna people were pushed out of their traditional lands. By 1856, when the first Burnside Council rate-book was compiled, the area of Burnside had been transformed from the wooded, unfenced foothills to over forty separate plots. With over 2000 acres under cultivation by 1861, countless trees would have come down to build fences, houses and stock yards.

Department of Lands Surveyor C.H Harris recorded the term for the Burnside area as Karrayerta, translating it as ‘gum trees on the margin of a stream’. The creeks that came down from the hills made the area attractive to colonists, and by the 1850s the massive geographical and social changes had reduced and dislocated the Kaurna population.

White Witnesses to Ceremony

Several early colonists recorded observations and interactions with Kaurna people, and this textual evidence survives today.

James Milne Young, nursery owner, 1890: "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."

Edward Stephens, son of a farmer, ca 1840, describing a competition between Kaurna men: “They baked in ashes small Johnny Cakes (damper) six to eight inches in diameter and set them up on sticks. Woomeras in hand, Aboriginal spearmen waited for the trial to begin: then, aiming from as far off as a hundred yards, they were nearly always on target.”

Shipster’s Paddock, now southern Kensington Park, was a frequent location of Kaurna meetings and ceremonies.

Harry Perry, born 1847 in Leabrook: “We boys used to think them wonderful to watch. The blacks didn't paint themselves as elaborately as those in the interior do, they just did themselves up a bit and went through a lot of shouting and antics. The women sat by drumming on rolled-up possum skins. They seemed to be acting a kind of warfare. Sometimes they would come towards where the women were drumming, crouching and threatening with their weapons, when they would retire again and go through more stamping and gesticulating and shouting."

Rituals of Life and Death

Edward Stephens, 1848: “By special invitation of a large tribe of Aboriginals, we met to witness the first and largest corroboree that I ever saw. It was an entertainment in honour of the new moon and was both comprehensive and imposing: it was a serio-comico-ludicro play in four acts, intended to portray the leading events in human life. It embraced a representation of the amusing games of childhood, the seriousness and absurdities often seen in courtship, the excitements of hunting and the fiery passions of a fierce tribal conflict. Unlike the plays of civilization death was not mimicked - that was with them no subject for jest nor even for serious conversation, it was for the contemplation of the mind in mournful silence. The whole affair was highly instructive and was kept up with interest from shortly after dark until near midnight."

Stephens also witnessed a funeral and burial ritual of a Kaurna woman he called ‘the Queen’, buried north east of Stonyfell Creek, between Brigalow Avenue and the creek.

“The grave was dug by a few men, who used their spears and hands to remove the earth. Messengers, seemingly weighed down with grief, often went to and fro between the grave-diggers and the slowly approaching funeral procession… I learnt afterwards that the object of their eccentric journeys was to puzzle the evil one, and so prevent him from following their footsteps and catching the queen before she had time to reach the eastern and sunny land of the good."

What’s in a name?

The contemporary names around the Burnside council are largely a reflection of the colonial settler past. However, there are several place names that reflect an Aboriginal history or connection – these are listed below.

Adnunda Place, Beaumont

Believed to be the Aboriginal name of a place near Alice Springs. A resident of Beaumont Common adopted an Aboriginal girl who originated from the region.

Glenunga Avenue, Glenunga

Glenunga is a combination of English and Aboriginal words adopted as the name of his estate by Daniel Ferguson, a pioneer of 1838, before it was cut up as a residential site:
Glen was chosen as the prefix, being the name of the adjacent suburb Glen Osmond,
Unga is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘near to’.

Karrayerta Drive, Glenside

The Kaurna term Karrayerta was recorded for the Burnside area by C.H. Harris, a Department of Lands surveyor in the early 20th century who had an interest in place names. He defined this as ‘gum trees on the margin of [a] stream’. A more contemporary translation might be ‘redgum country’. This was one of several new roads that were established as a result of the development of the Glenside Hospital Campus with the names confirmed by Council in Feb 2014.

Kurralta House, Burnside

Former residence of Dr Wyatt, Protector of Aborigines 1837-1839. Kurralta means ‘set on a hill’.

Yeronga Avenue, Kensington

Park Probably from the Aboriginal word yerong a place for an Aboriginal initiation ceremony. Shipster’s Paddock which was on the other side of The Parade was the location of Aboriginal corroborees with gatherings of three or four hundred in the early days of European settlement. Other streets in the vicinity with names associated with Aboriginal words are Corinda Avenue and Toowong Avenue.

Undelcarra Road, Burnside

Named after the house Undelcarra on this road. The estate stretched north from Second Creek, between Lockwood Road and Hallett Road up to approximately where Statenborough Street is now located. Undelcarra belonged to Simpson Newland between 1876 and 1911. He is best known as author of the book ‘Paving the Way’ but was also a pastoralist from the River Darling area where his Marra Station had an out-station named Undelcarra which is said to be Aboriginal for ‘under the hill with running water’.

There are several more street names in Burnside that have borrowed words from a number of Aboriginal languages. These, and full citations of the above, are explained in ‘Street Names and Origins’.