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Kaurna peoples

(This material is informed by the writings of Kaurna Elder Uncle Lewis Yerloburka O'Brien, Honorary Doctor of the University of South Australia.)

Kaurna people are the custodians of traditional lands in South Australia from Port Broughton in the north to Cape Jervis in the south. This includes the Adelaide plains on which our metropolitan campuses are built.

Education has always been important to the Kaurna. Traditionally, Kaurna males spent 25 years being educated by male Elders and went through 5 initiations before it was considered they had acquired the skills to manage their affairs. Only then were they deemed ready for marriage. Kaurna females were educated by female Elders for similar life goals.

The German Lutheran missionaries Teichelmann and Schürmann taught Kaurna children on the banks of the Torrens, near the site of the current day weir, from 1839 till 1845. Klose, who took over the running of the Kaurna-medium school at Pirltawardli (Piltawodli) wrote to his colleagues and supervisors in Germany in 1840, “These children are no different to any children I taught in Europe.” This is noteworthy, as his concept of inclusion was not often seen in European writings of those times. The facts that Kaurna youth spent many years being educated by their respective Elders and that the Kaurna people encouraged their children’s learning from German missionaries clearly demonstrates that the Kaurna people not only endorsed and focused upon enhancement through education but also on being educators themselves.

Kaurna people ran panpapanpalyas (the Kaurna word for conference) on their land for thousands of years. Panpapanpalyas would last for two moons (two months) and knowledge, expertise and wisdom were shared between the attending nations. As Uncle Lewis says, “This is how a culture lasts 60,000 years”.