Indigenous History SA. A Brilliant Blend.

The People.

The traditional owners of Yorke Peninsula are the Adjahdura people whose land reached from Port Broughton in the north to the Hummock Ranges in the east. The Kaurna People of the Adelaide Hills and the Nukunu people in the north shared their borders, and often met with the Adjahdura people for trade and ceremony.

The Adjahdura people consisted of four different groups - the Kunara from the north, the Windera in the east, Wari in the west and the Dilpa group in the south.

Evidence suggests that prior to European colonisation the Adjahdura People lived in settlements around the coast, with the young and old staying there while others went off for a day or two, returning with food. These settlements were at places with fresh water and food, including Moonta Bay, Tiddy Widdy Beach, Point Pearce, Point Yorke and many more.

Shallow graves of the Adjahdura people have been found with necklaces and other objects as well as ochre, which could have been used during the burial ceremonies for decoration.

Hunting and Gathering.

Living on the Yorke Peninsula meant that the Adjahdura people had plenty of fresh plants and animals to live off including roots, seeds, and a huge variety of fruit. Emu, kangaroos, possums, bandicoots, lizards, wombats, and bettongs were just some of the animals hunted.

The Adjahdura people were skilled at fishing, which made up a large part of their diet, as did shellfish such as periwinkles and warreners, crayfish and crabs. Fires were used to clear the grasses and promote growth of vegetation, and waterholes were covered with large boulders to keep them clean.

Their clothing mainly consisted of cloaks that were made from possum and kangaroo skins, dried and sewn together with the tendons from kangaroos and wallabies. In the wintertime, the men would rub emu oil on their skin to keep warm.

Archaeological evidence shows that the Adjahdura people used stone materials to make hammer stones, cutting tools, scrapers and spear tips. The spear tips would then be attached to a wooden shaft using resin or gum. Wood and roots were used to make spears, digging sticks and for building shelters.

The nets used for both fishing and hunting were called Buntu Buntu. They were made of reeds by the women and took a couple of days to make by the time they were picked, dried and rolled into string.

After European Settlement.

In the early days of settlement it was estimated that the population of the Adjahdura Tribe was 500. In the first 30 years of European settlement, 80 per cent of the Adjahdura tribe were wiped out through introduced diseases and by the bullet - massacres were a common practice. By 1880 there were less than 100 survivors.

Watering holes were how the Aboriginal people of the area sustained life. When Europeans arrived they took most of the water holes and cleared most of the natural vegetation for farming. In the early 1860s the Yorke Peninsula Aboriginal Mission Committee was established and teaching began in a wool shed in Moonta Bay under the command of Reverend W Julius Kuhn.

In 1867 the mission was moved to Point Pearce on 639 acres of land.This land grew in acreage as a small township developed, including housing, woolsheds, a church and large underground stone tanks.

The Adjahdura people harvested their own crops and the mission included a hall, meat shop, blacksmiths, wheat barn, piggery, shearing sheds and chaff houses. Bad things are spoken about Aboriginal missions - but Adjahdura elders Irene Agius and Elaine Newchurch talk about how important Point Pearce was in the survival of their people. They say it was a place they could run away from the bullet - a sanctuary for Aboriginal people.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, missions from other areas in South Australia were closed down by government and Aboriginal people from other clan groups were moved to Point Pearce to live with the traditional owners of the area. This caused many problems that are still evident today.

From this time, the word Narungga - which means campsite - was used to describe the Aboriginal people who lived at Point Pearce. But today, the direct descendants of the traditional owners, who live on the land, still see themselves as Adjahdura people.

Point Pearce - SA Memory

Before the coming of the European pastoralists, the Yorke Peninsula was the home of the Narungga people, who occupied the land from near Port Wakefield in the east, over to Port Broughton in the west, and all the way down to the tip of the Peninsula.

Discovery of copper on Yorke Peninsula in 1859 lead to a swelling population, and the establishment of sizeable townships. These attracted many Narungga and the previously mobile population began to settle closer to these towns where they were exposed to damaging influences, such as alcohol and disease. Concerned for the welfare of these fringe-dwellers and with an aim to 'civilise' them, the local population began petitioning the Government and laying plans for a mission.

The land selected was familiar to many of the Narungga who would have often travelled though it. Known to them as Bookooyana, the area was a place where one could find an abundance of shellfish, game and fresh water soaks. Leaseholder Samuel Rogers, was concerned about the effect that such a settlement would have on his water supplies, and tried to fight the Government, but was eventually placated. And so in 1868 about six hundred acres, 35 miles south of Wallaroo, was given over for the establishment of the Yorke's Peninsula Aboriginal Mission, later called Point Pearce.

About 70 Narungga came to live at the Mission. But conditions were hard, and after a spread of illness led to a number of deaths in 1872, by 1874 the population had dropped to only 28.

Those Narungga who had resisted living on the Mission were reluctant to pass on their cultural knowledge and language to Mission residents. In 1894 the Mission was thrown into chaos when the former residents of the closed Poonindie Mission were shifted to Point Pearce. This introduction of people from a variety of Aboriginal language groups, some who had been living long under colonial influences, compounded the loss of the Narungga's own cultural identity.

By the end of the 1910s many of the Mission residents had grown up on the Mission and considered it their home. But there was frustration that despite all of their toil, they were not able to claim any of the land for their own, and work for themselves.

In 1915, the Mission was taken over by the State Government and became known as the Point Pearce Aboriginal Station. Residents continued to fight for their rights to benefit from their labours, but only after World War II were Aboriginal farmers able to reap any such reward - even then only earning one in ten bags produced by the white farmers they worked along side of.

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s residents were taking positions as domestics, or farmhands or joining the armed services and then in the 1950s many gained exemptions under the Aborigines Protection Act and left Point Pearce to try and make better lives for themselves under less strict controls.

The Aboriginal people of Point Pearce were finally given control of the land in 1972, when 5,777 hectares was transferred to the ownership of the Point Pearce Community Council under the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act.


Sat 3 Jul 1926, Observer (Adelaide, SA : 1905 - 1931)

By a Special Representative of The Register.

An Aboriginal Hunting Ground.

Close to Minlaton, on tbe eastern side of the town, lies Gum Flat, so called by reason of its many stately gums, similar in variety to those met with along the River Murray. The flat, some 50 acres in extent, is the only part of Yorke's Peninsula in which native gums have ever grown. Each winter the rains convert most of this flat into flooded swamp, and this perhaps, is the reason why a number of the old trees are dying. The old Gum Flat homestead was situated among the trees, only half a mile on the eastern side of Minlaton. The flat was a favourite hunting ground of the aboriginals in the early days, and many of their remains have been found at various times in the swamp land region. At one time kangaroos, wallabies, and emus abounded in the locality. Kangaroos are still plentiful in the Stansbury scrub, although wallabies and emus have completely left the peninsula. Between Minlaton and Stansbury there is a tract of scrubland country, 10 miles in extent, which is reckoned to be a worthless area, unsuitable for agricultural purposes. The scrub is gradually being encroached upon by farmers whose holdings adjoin it, and there is every probability that it will in the future be brought into crop-yielding order. At Minlaton this scrubby country is known as the "Stansbury Scrub," while Stansbury residents speak of it as the "Minlaton Scrub," neither town seemingly desiring to own it.

Reminiscences By Mr. L. G. Phillips, of Strathalbyn


Police Depot on the Station

In the early days of Moorowie there was a police depot on the station property, as the blacks were very troublesome. This police depot was at one time in charge of the late Inspector Tolmer. The late Tom Coward was also there for a time. I believe the Police Department still hold the piece of land. It is a little north of the old shearing shed, and still called the "Police Reserve." The little well where the police got their drinking water is still there.

My earliest remembrance of the location of the blacks camp was a little north of the homestead and slightly west of the old men's kitchen. When a boy I attended many a blacks' corroboree there. Their principal burying place was in the sandhills, near Longbottom's farm. There is a reserve there called "Onegowie," meaning "fresh water in the sand."

Some of the old station hands still reside on the Peninsula, viz., Mr. Tom Eggington at Warooka; George Eggington, at Marion Bay; and Alex Thomson, near Yorketown, who erected most of the stone walls round the homestead. At shearing time Mr. Christian Twartz, of Yorketown, was on the job.

I omitted to mention earlier that practically all the carting was done by bullock teams. The family vehicle was a spring dray or spring cart. Yorketown was known as "Weaner's Flat." I believe Penton Vale Station had a hut and sheepyards near there, where they used to send the lambs to be weaned, shepherded, of course, as there were no paddocks in those days.

Rabbits brought from England

In reply to a question, Mr. Phillips said, "Yes, Mr. Fowler did bring rabbits from England to Moorowie, and introduced them to some old wombat holes in the old station home paddocks, south of the homestead, near where there was afterwards an orchard planted. I can quite remember when there was a wool-washing plant at Moorowie, but all evidence of this has long ago disappeared, and the old well filled in."

The Corroborees

We put some further questions to Mr. Phillips in reference to the blacks and their corroborees. He said corroborees were usually held at night. The male blacks would dance round a fire, and imitate kangaroo hunts, fishing exploits, fights with other tribes, etc They used to daub themselves with pipe clay and red ochre. The men would chant a kind of song and the women would sit around in a circle with an oppossum rug in their laps, rolled up to make a drum, which they used to beat with their hands, and keep excellent time, too. Each song would represent some event, such as the "hunt corroboree." I remember one vividly, the "rain corroboree," or, in native lingo, "the Munga corroboree." The natives had a meeting place for north and south blacks at Minlacowie, somewhere between the Baptist Church and the fingerpost, known as the "old chimney," or "Yonglacowie." Anstey and Giles a hut there. I believe the ruins are still there. I remember a shepherd named McDonald being in charge. Corroborees used to last for nearly a week. There was a good crowd of blacks in the tribe, whose hunting grounds extended from Moorowie to Warrenben. About 100 used to congregate at the station, and they were very troublesome in the early days; that was why the police camp was formed.