What is now the Torrens River separating North and South Adelaide in Light’s Plan was, at the time Europeans arrived, an abundant source of food for the Indigenous Kaurna people who occupied the area known as Karra Wirra Parri. The river was most often a series of connected water holes, yielding fish and shellfish as well as attracting game such as kangaroos, possums, emu and water birds. The towering river gum trees, river reeds and bulrushes provided timber and fibre for making string and nets.
The Kaurna people remained around this site for some time after the establishment of the colonial settlement, as shown in artwork and writing into the 1850s. Alexander Schramm’s 1850 painting shows a vibrant community living in the Park Lands.
The North Side of the riverbank became known as Pinky Flat, which may be a reference to the pingko bilby a small marsupial once abundant there. The name was also associated with the drinking of cheap red wine when the place became a popular picnic spot in the twentieth century. Today, Pinky Flat has become a popular home for outdoor festivals and events.
What we now enjoy as Park Lands retain great significance to the living Kaurna people today. We acknowledge that significance in the following statement prepared by members of the Kaurna community in 1998.
Tarndanyungga Kaurna Yerta
This is the Red Kangaroo Dreaming place of the Kaurna people. It was an important place for the Kaurna long before the City of Adelaide was established. The Adelaide Park Lands and Squares are part of this place and hold special cultural significance for us – the Kaurna people.
The setting-up of the City of Adelaide and its Park Lands deprived our ancestors of the responsibility for maintaining crucial, culturally meaningful places. On the Park Lands the Kaurna have suffered to the present day as a result of this dispossession. Invasion has meant continuing alienation, oppression and harassment for us and other Indigenous people. These injustices have been planted out on the Adelaide Park Lands.
The Park Lands have many culturally significant places. These places should be preserved from further encroachment.
We, as Kaurna people, must walk on these places to maintain our cultural strength.