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Aboriginal Culture & History

The City of Holdfast Bay acknowledges Kaurna people as the traditional owners and custodians of this land. We respect their spiritual relationship with country that has developed over thousands of years, and the cultural heritage and beliefs that remain important to Kaurna People today.

The Kaurna People are the original people of Adelaide and the Adelaide Plains, whose country stretches from Crystal Brook in the north to Cape Jervis in the south. The coastal plains between Glenelg and Kingston Park provided a hospitable summer camp environment with rolling sand dunes, freshwater lagoons and natural springs for the Kaurna people, where food and water was plentiful. When the winter months approached the Kaurna people generally moved further inland to the foothills to avoid the flooding of estuaries and rivers. This seasonal movement allowed food sources to regenerate which was part of the careful management of their lands.

Tjilbruke Spring

The Tjilbruke Spring site located along the Kingston Park Coastal Reserve is of great cultural importance and spiritual significance to the Kaurna people and to the wider Aboriginal population.  For thousands of years the permanent freshwater spring has been bubbling away in the sand and once formed a freshwater coastal lagoon.

The sacred spring site is part of the extensive Tjilbruke Dreaming Story. Tjilbruke is an important Dreaming ancestor to Kaurna people and the Tjilbruke spring site along with the Dreaming Story remains sacred to the Kaurna people today.

Tjilbruke's Journey(185 kb)

Tjilbruke Monument

On top of the cliff overlooking both Tjilbruke Spring and the spectacular coastal views the Tjilbruke monument was erected in 1972 to commemorate the Tjilbruke Dreaming story. Designed and created by Sculptor John Dowie it represents Tjilbruke carrying his dead nephew, Kulultuwi, on his journey south.

Kaurna yarta – ana Cultural Map

The Kaurna Yarta-ana brochure is a guide to sites of Kaurna Significance and Historical Landscapes in the City of Holdfast Bay. Hard copies of the brochure are available from the Holdfast Bay History Centre, Bay Discovery Centre the Brighton and Glenelg Libraries and the Brighton Civic Centre.

Kaurna yarta-ana Cultural Map(8075 kb)

Kaurna Acknowledgement

We would like to Acknowledge that the land we meet on today is the traditional lands for the Kaurna people and that we respect their spiritual relationship with their Country. We also acknowledge the Kaurna people as the traditional custodians of the Adelaide region and that their cultural and heritage beliefs are still as important to the living Kaurna people today.

If you would like to be notified about opportunities in your local area to learn more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures please CLICK HERE

Reconciliation Week  - 27 May to 3 June

National Reconciliation Week celebrates and builds on the respectful relationships shared by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians. The weeklong celebration is an ideal opportunity for all Australians to explore ways to join the national reconciliation effort.

National Reconciliation Week is held annually from 27 May to 3 June, commemorating two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey - the anniversaries of the successful 1967 referendum and the historic High Court Mabo decision.

NRW is an opportunity for people to come together and learn about the history, culture and achievements of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and join the national reconciliation journey.

View the National Reconciliation Week website for more details


NAIDOC Week is held annually in the first week of July. It is a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements and an opportunity to recognise the contributions that Indigenous Australians make to our country and our community.

View the NAIDOC Week website for more details

The Dreaming is a complex and multi layered story that tells of creation, the law and human relationships. The Tjilbruke Dreaming is the predominant dreaming of Southern Kaurna country.  It is about the creation of seven freshwater springs along the coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula.

Tjilbruke was an ancestral being of the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains, whose lands extended from Parewarangk (Cape Jervis) in the south, to Crystal Brook in the north.  Tjilbruke's much-loved nangari (nephew) Kulultuwi, his sister's son, killed a kari (emu) which was rightfully Tjilbruke's but he forgave him for this mistake.
However, Kulultuwi was subsequently killed by his two part brothers, Jurawi and Tetjawi, supposedly for breaking the law.

Tjilbruke, being a man of the law, had to decide if Kulultuwi had been lawfully killed. He determined Kulultuwi had been murdered.  Tjilbruke avenged the crime by spearing and burning the two nephews, killing them.  This happened in the vicinity of what is now called Warriparinga.

Tjilbruke then carried Kulultuwi's partly smoked dried body to Tulukudank (a fresh water spring at Kingston Park) to complete the smoking and then to Patparno (Rapid Bay) for burial in a perki (cave).  Along his journey he stopped to rest and, overwhelmed by sadness, he wept and his luki (tears) formed the freshwater springs along the coast at Ka'reildun (Hallett Cove), Tainba'rang (Port Noarlunga), Potartang (Red Ochre Cove), Ruwarung (Port Willunga), Witawali (Sellicks Beach), and Kongaratinga (near Wirrina Cove).

Saddened by these events, Tjilbruke decided he no longer wished to live as a man.  His spirit became a bird, the Tjilbruke (Glossy Ibis), and his body became a martowalan (memorial) in the form of the baruke (iron pyrites) outcrop at Barrukungga, the place of hidden fire (Brukunga - north of Nairne in the Adelaide Hills). Tjilbruke was a master at fire-making.

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