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Cultural History

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Teaching young people was, and still is, a central part of Kaurna life. Understanding the environment was important for more than just food, shelter, tools and medicine. Kaurna spirituality recognises the connectedness of people and culture through plants, animals and stars.

The Town of Gawler encompasses numerous areas of significance for Aboriginal people past and present, most notably its three rivers – the North and South Para Rivers and the Gawler River. Parridla Taikondi Park, the river junction, was used as a place for meeting and trading of commodities such as ochre, plant and animal products. The rivers flowing through Gawler provided the Kaurna people with many resources.

The Kaurna language is the original language of Adelaide and the Adelaide Plains. Kaurna people from the Gawler district spoke a different dialect from those in other districts. The Kaurna language was sophisticated and complex and reflected the extensive knowledge of the environment that the Kaurna people possess.

When Gawler was first settled by Europeans in 1839, some early settlers went out of their way to learn the Kaurna language and South Australia’s second Governor, George Gawler (who the town of Gawler is named after), encouraged the colonists to record Aboriginal names so that these might be placed on early settlement maps.

The word ‘Para’ is derived from the Kaurna word ‘Pari’ meaning a stream of flowing water. From around 1920 until the 1990s the Kaurna language went into hibernation, though fortunately, in recent times, the language has undergone a remarkable recovery.