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Kaurna Walking Tour with Uncle Rod O'Brien - Reconciliation Week

Walking together is a metaphor used quite regularly when talking about Reconciliation. Reconciliation presents an open door, with a heartfelt invitation, to non-Indigenous Australians to walk through to learn and understand the ongoing history of Indigenous peoples experiences in what we now call Australia.

On Sunday 29 May, several Rotaractors from Adelaide City Rotaract Club and Rotarians from Adelaide Light Rotary club, joined by a few friends, participated in a Kaurna cultural walking tour led by Kaurna man Uncle Rod O’Brien. The guided tour, supported by the Graham F Smith Peace Foundation, took our group from the Kaurna Reconciliation Sculpture at the new entrance to the Festival Centre along King William road to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander War Memorial.

Our group stopped at many places along our guided tour and Uncle Rod O’Brien shared with us the cultural and historical significance of that site. At the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander War Memorial, he told us of the Indigenous soldiers who served in the Boer Wars and were left behind in South Africa as their Australian Citizenship was not recognised at that time. Even now, little is known of these forgotten soldiers, but Uncle Rod emphasised how important it was that their stories not go untold and that we shouldn’t forget that Aboriginal people have always been involved in protecting the land they, and now we, live on.

Further along our journey down the Karrawirra Pari (Torrens River) he told us about how important the river is to the Kaurna people, water being a foundational part of life, Kaurna people would camp along the river - fishing and drinking from the then beautiful river. Which might be hard to imagine today, given the current state of the river.

We crossed the river and found our way to Piltawodli, meaning possum place. This memorial is home to 10 stones representing key figures in the history of the Kaurna people including Kadlitpinna, or as he was known to early South Australian colonists ‘Captain Jack’. The site was formerly home to a school that was founded by German Lutheran missionaries Christian Teichelmann, Clamor Schürmann. The men, who were also linguists, insisted that the Kaurna children who were taught at the school be taught in the Kaurna language. Teaching them to read and write in Kaurna. The letters that the children wrote have helped keep the Kaurna language a living one to this day.

There were many interesting stories, and so much recent and former history to learn from, it made many of us realise just how little we knew and how important it was for us to continue with this process of learning and walking the path of Reconciliation.

As Uncle Rod bid us farewell so that he could quickly run over to Tarntanya wama (Adelaide oval) to catch the Port Adelaide game, he shared with us how important Kaurna land was and still is to him and all Kaurna people. Kaurna land is an important meeting site for Aboriginal people from many different lands. The site Tarntanya wama is now on was once a meeting site for visiting nations to gather and share information, stories and songs - helping to weave the shared thread through dreamtime stories. Uncle Rod invited us to continue seeking opportunities to learn more about Kaurna history and the cultural significance of sites all around Tarntanya (Adelaide).

This was an incredible opportunity for members of the Adelaide City Rotaract Club and Adelaide Light Rotary Club to come together - we chatted over a coffee after the tour and reflected on how important these actions were for us all as individuals but also for our clubs.

We extend our utmost gratitude to Uncle Rod O’Brien for taking the time to guide us on this tour, to the Graham F Smith Peace Foundation for coordinating the tour, and we acknowledge the work of the Adelaide City Rotaract Club Reconciliation working group for fundraising and organising tickets for this tour. We invite you to learn more about this by clicking on the many links throughout this blog and connecting with the Graham F Smith peace Foundation to join with the next tours being run.


Bernie Barrett

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