More than 700 people witnessed history being made when representatives of the Kaurna nation held a smoking ceremony recently to cleanse the former Royal Adelaide Hospital site and prepare it for its new role as the Lot Fourteen innovation and cultural neighbourhood.
“We are here today to connect the yesterdays with today and tomorrow,’” said Jeffrey Newchurch, chair of the Kaurna National Cultural Heritage Association.
Mr Newchurch said he was impressed to see so many young people taking part in the ceremony, which included more than 300 students from neighbouring Adelaide Botanic High School.
He pointed out that Kaurna young people had been chosen to lead the smoking ceremony to symbolise leadership into a new era.
“It’s about our young people shaping our position, which was (for) a long time not afforded to Kaurna, to come back on country, to working together with the State Government,” he said.
“To our young people here, please take note. You are the future to shape us. So, it’s your opportunity to guide us and to work with us on what we shape tomorrow.”
After a performance by Kuma Karro Dance Group, featuring Jack Buckskin on didgeridoo, Kaurna representative Allan Sumner led the smoking ceremony.
“The site itself comes with years of history, years of grief,” he said “We have lost many people on this site, many people have passed away on this site.
“Smoking has been done for many thousands of years around the world by many cultures as a cleansing ceremony. As the smoke goes over the country, we believe that it purifies the country.
“As it goes over your body, we believe that it purifies your body.
“We’re making history here today,” Mr Sumner said.
“You see the site of the old Royal Adelaide Hospital, now dismantled. But now something new is starting to appear in this place. Something that’s good for Kaurna people and our community as a whole.”
For more than 50,000 years, the land now occupied by Lot Fourteen was an integral site to the Kaurna people. Between the banks of Karrawirra Parri (River of the Red Gum forest; River Torrens) and the waterholes of Kainka wirra (Eucalypt forest, Adelaide Botanic Garden), the Country within and around Lot Fourteen has been a place for camping and ceremony. For many years after the arrival of the British settlers, the areas around Lot Fourteen continued to provide refuge for the Kaurna and was a place to practice culture.
South Australian Premier Steven Marshall, who has responsibility for Aboriginal Affairs, acknowledged the Kaurna people as the traditional custodians of the Adelaide Plains, from Cape Jervis in the south, to Crystal Brook in the north, Mt Lofty Ranges in the east and St Vincent Gulf in the west.
“We are gathered on a site that has been very special to the Kaurna people for thousands of years,” he said. “This ceremony acknowledges the importance of continuing to deeply embed and recognise the role of Aboriginal stewardship in the continuing use of this absolutely important and historic site.”
Premier Marshall said some of the earliest written accounts of the site referred to King Rodney in the early 1830s, who was a significant contributor to reconciliation in colonial times and was said to have had a special affinity with a waterhole which was now the main lake in the Botanic Garden. He said large Aboriginal camps were in the area until 1845.
“While a very special place for the Kaurna, this site has also served the whole community as a place of healing and recovery and rehabilitation,” Premier Marshall said. “A place of memories, sad and happy for the families of the many thousands of people who were cared for at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.
“As we transform Lot Fourteen into a new place for the future, we look to provide new opportunities for leadership, innovation and learning while at the same time, we seek to create a place of community, of storytelling, and of healing.
“The new Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre will combine traditional storytelling and modern technology to deliver a major cultural institution of truly global significance.
“We will share with the world, and with great pride, the incredible story and unique cultures, of Australia’s first peoples, as never told or shown before,” Premier Marshall said.
“On this site, we will create an unforgettable experience for visitors. There will be an opportunity for deep engagement with our Aboriginal communities as we position South Australia as the gateway for Aboriginal culture for all of Australia and beyond.
The new centre would create sustainable career pathways in arts and culture as more Aboriginal people would be encouraged to participate as artists, administrators and business owners.
“The new Aboriginal Entrepreneurial Hub, also being created at Lot Fourteen, will provide support and services to Aboriginal people and services to support the broader innovation and entrepreneur opportunities emerging here,” Premier Marshall said.
The ceremony concluded with Mr Sumner taking the smoke throughout Lot Fourteen, accompanied by VIPs and other participants in the ceremony.
Renewal SA, which is developing Lot Fourteen on behalf of the State Government, is in a growing partnership with the Kaurna to embed culture within the neighbourhood, to manage heritage values and to ensure that it provides economic opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Experience the smoking ceremony with a 360° video, captured by Jumpgate VR here
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