In 1967a year after Sue and John Holt purchased the Poonawatta property, the daughters of Colonel John Temple paid a visit. Colonel Temple purchased Poonawatta in 1890, and Gwen and Eleanor Temple hadn’t been back to the property since 1922.

By the time the Temples’ arrived European settlement had encroached on much of Peramangk territory, however, encounters still occurred from time to time. The sisters spoke of occasional interaction with the local aboriginal groups during their youth, of giving flour, sugar and tea.

There was a camp on the creek flats east of the house. North-West of the house was a “canoe tree” where the bark had been removed. That tree was lost in the 1943 bushfire. West of the house is a large hollowed red gum that was believed to have been used as a shelter and for storage. (It was subsequently used by the Temples for smoking ham and bacon.) A few kilometres to the south of Poonawatta are cave paintings and to the west in Kaiser Sthul Conservation Park are ancient rock engravings.  

It is not clear whether the original settler Vorwerk or the subsequent owner Temple gave Poonawatta its name, but history tells that the Poonawatta Aboriginal family group visited the area and was possibly the group that camped on the creek flats during Vorwerk and Temples tenure. 


Peramangk country extended from the Barossa in the north, south to Myponga, east to Strathalbyn, and west to the Gulf St Vincent. A splinter group of the Peramangk nation were known as the ‘Merrimayanna’ and lived in a semi-permanent campsite in the eastern Barossa Region, in the caves near the townships of Eden Valley and Springton.


Poonawatta, Tarrawatta, Karrawatta, Yira-Ruka, Wiljani, Mutingengal, Runganng, Jolori, Pongarang, Paldarinalwar, Merelda.


The Peramangk appears to have belonged to the Yura-Thura group of languages. There are several Peramangk words recorded in a variety of sources.

poona: good / healthy / fertile

watta: a person’s land or country

ku:itpo – sacred or forbidden place

maitpana:likkya – food for them

tarra: land that rises up, a steep hill or ridge

karra: redgum

kungatukko: womens look out

wadnar: digging or climbing stick

kakirra: moon

nurrondi: enchant/charm

meyuworta (meruwatta): countryman/ a person belonging to the same family group

marnitti: grease to mix with ochre to cover the body

mambarti: hair matted with grease and red ochre

kuyeta: first born son

kartiatto: first born daughter

yarida: bad magic

lantara: ghost or spirit

tinda: a person’s totem

Source: Local Wiki – Adelaide Hills

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