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Kaurna cultural fires a first for Proclamation Day

Kaurna cultural fires a first for Proclamation Day

Kaurna cultural fires a first for Proclamation Day

Monday 13 November 2023
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This year’s Proclamation Day commemorations on 28 December 2023 will, for the first time, include a series of signal fires lit on the beach along Holdfast Bay’s coastline.

Kaurna Elders and the Kaurna Fire team from Firesticks - an Indigenous alliance across Australia reviving cultural burning and landscape management - with support from the City of Holdfast Bay, will lead this significant cultural event which the wider community are invited to take part in.

The fires will be lit at the Kingston Park Reserve, on the beach at Kingston Park and North Brighton at 1pm, following the Proclamation Day morning ceremony held at the Old Gum Tree Reserve at Glenelg North.

The signal fires are part of a joint approach by the Kaurna Nation, Firesticks and the City of Holdfast Bay to provide further knowledge, truth-telling and education to our community around the significance of Proclamation Day, which commemorates the founding of South Australia.

In the past few years, the commemorative event on 28 December at the Old Gum Tree Reserve in Glenelg North, has been an opportunity to reflect on our shared history and what this important state ceremony means for all South Australians.

City of Holdfast Bay Mayor, Amanda Wilson said that working alongside Kaurna Nation to include a focus on shared histories and truth-telling was an important cultural shift for the commemoration.

"Over several years, the City of Holdfast Bay has forged an incredibly strong connection with the Kaurna Nation and for that, I am truly grateful,” Mayor Wilson said ahead of last year’s commemoration.

“The respectful relationship we have built with Kaurna is based on trust and a shared vision – to present the truth of colonial South Australia and the truth from a Kaurna perspective, equally”.

This year, the shared commemoration will include the lighting of the signal fires on Proclamation Day.

The revival of this cultural practice by Kaurna, which is a practice shared by many Aboriginal groups across Australia, is to acknowledge acts that took place in 1836, upon the arrival of colonial ships along South Australia’s coastline.

It is widely documented that signal fires were a form of communication for the First Peoples of this land, both pre and post-colonisation. Plumes of smoke would be sent into the sky as a warning among Aboriginal groups that something of importance was happening.

Kaurna Elder Jeffrey Newchurch will also hold a small campfire on the eve of Proclamation Day at the Old Gum Tree Reserve, as he did in 2022, which the community is invited to attend.

“Proclamation Day now brings us an opportunity that we - and our Aboriginal people and our Kaurna people - were never afforded,” he said.

“The opportunity to have a campfire the night before, to camp on Country and to let those spirits of our people know that we’re here, we’re back.

“For us as Aboriginal people, for myself, I’m thankful.”

The cultural fires will be held with support from the City of Holdfast Bay through the provision of permits and special exemptions that allow the beach fires to take place. The Metropolitan Fire Service has also been notified.

Firesticks is a not-for-profit, Australia-wide Indigenous network aiming to activate and increase the use of cultural burning within the landscape.

The Kaurna, Adelaide-based team for Firesticks Alliance was established in 2023 and they are passionate about healing and restoring Country by reintroducing fire to the landscape.

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