Gwen and Eleanor spoke of frequent interaction with the local aboriginal groups during their youth on the Poonawatta property at the turn of the 20th century when they visited the Holt’s in 1967. There was often 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 for the crafting of a canoe. Not far from Poonawatta are cave paintings and a number of artifacts have been found in the region.

It is not clear whether the original settler Vohlwork, or the subsequent owner Temple gave Poonawatta its name, but history tells that the Poonawatta family group frequented the area, and was likely to have been the group that camped on the creek flats.

The Peramangk People and the Poonawatta name

The Peramangk were an ‘Indigenous Australian’ people whose traditional lands were primarily located in Adelaide Hills but also in the southern stretches of the Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia. They were also referred to as the Mount Barker, South Australia tribe, as their numbers were noted to be greater around the Mount Barker summit, but Peramangk country extended from the Barossa in the north, south to Myponga, South Australia, east to Strathalbyn, and west to the Gulf St Vincent.

Peramangk family group names included Poonawatta, Tarrawatta, Karrawatta, Yira-Ruka, Wiljani, Mutingengal, Runganng, Jolori, Pongarang, Paldarinalwar, Merelda. The Poonawatta family group was mostly recorded to the west of Mt Crawford, with wanderings over the ranges through the Eden Valley region and beyond.

The Peramangk appears to have belonged to the Yura-Thura group of languages There are several Peramangk words recorded in a variety of sources; – ku:itpo – sacred or forbidden place; – maitpana:likkya – food for them; – poona: good / healthy / fertile; – watta: a person’s land or country; – tarra: land that rises up, a steep hill or ridge; – karra: redgum (same as in the Kaurna); – 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.

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