Aboriginal History

Poonawatta History

In 1967, a 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 Peoples

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.

Peramangk family group names included:

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

Common Peramangk Words

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

Visit our blog for more information: Poonawatta – from the first Australian’s to today.

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