Warriparinga: City of Marion Warriparinga: City of Marion - A very significant site on the Sturt River with Keith Conlon

Where the Sturt River emerges from its hills gorge to slither across the Adelaide Plains is a special place. It's a crucial landmark in the Kaurna aboriginal dreaming, and it was the place for an early settler's river crossing and farm. And here, at last, the Sturt River is gaining some respect and caring attention.

We're now coming to know this timeless and significant site as Warriparinga, a 'windy place on the river'. It has been called Laffer's Triangle for a long time, because the Laffer family grew vines and fruit and farmed it for more than Warriparinga is bounded by the old 'golden mile' of petrol stations on the South Road at Darlington, Sturt Road and Marion Road. The Sturt creek, as most of us call it, cuts right through it.

Its course towards the old reed beds of Morphettville was a natural corridor from the sea to the hills for the Kaurna people, whose territory stretched from Cape Jervis to the mid-north.

As we pictured on Postcards, the old farm-road into Warriparinga (entering via Laffer Drive off Sturt Road) passes a patch of river red gums as it curves downhill to the creek's flood plain. A striking cluster of tree trunks awaits you.

It is a powerful and symbolic gateway artwork with multi-layered meanings and references to the great ancestral being Tjilbruke and his story. At last, there is something to mark this place of great importance to the Kaurna people.

The great law giver and firemaster was tested when a much loved nephew killed an emu, and was in turn killed by his half-brothers in revenge. Judging their act murderous, Tjilbruke slew and burned them at this long-time camping spot on the creek.

Taking the smoked body of his nephew, Kulultuwi, the grieving giant headed for a burial site near Cape Jervis. Wherever he rested, his tears created natural springs on the coast, along what we now know as the Tjilbruke Trail. Sites at Kingston Park, Hallett Cove, Pt Noarlunga, Pt Willunga and further south are all linked to Warriparinga by this great dreaming story.

Beneath a gnarled trunk is a lump of iron pyrites from Brakunga, in the Adelaide Hills near Nairne. It was there that Tjilbruke, weary of physical life, turned into that mineral outcrop. Atop the trunk is the symbol of his spirit, a glossy ibis.

Close by is an important relic of nineteenth century European occupation. Henry Laffers brought this farming property in 1876, and for 112 years his family was here., Fairford House is close to the ford that gave it it's name, along with a coach-house from the 1860's.

The farmhouse faced an oxbow bend in the creek, and in front of it was an extensive fruit orchard. A few old plum trees survive. Much of the old ornamental garden is still here, tended now by the Friends of Warriparinga.

Even in midwinter, narcissus were adding colour, complementing the last of the heritage roses. A pioneer farm complex like this is priceless, locked as it is now in the middle of suburbia.

Just as the Sturt River swings into the oxbow, there is a specially installed fallen log which now diverts middle-level flows under a levee bank and into a new wetland lake system. It is the third element of Warriparinga, an environmental project that is also creating a quiet and beautiful park for the neighbours, and anyone else who walks in from the highways nearby.

At the other end of the lakes, the diverted water tumbles back into the river, 'cleaned' of much its silt phosphorous, bacteria and nutrients - all detrimental to Gulf St Vincent into which the Sturt flows, via the Patawalonga locks. Sadly, this is also where the river ends and the concrete drain begins; we've been engineering it out of existence for more than a century. Its demise into a drain at the northern edge of Warriparinga only heightens the sense of how precious this place is.

For the conclusion of my Postcards visit to Warriparinga, I invited viewers to contemplate a great-girthed river red gum on the creek. Clearly, dramatically, its trunk was scarred by the removal of an aboriginal shield.

How long ago was it carved? Two hundred years? Longer ago? This old tree is now passed by joggers and dogs enjoying a game with their owners. It's on public land now, thanks to a rare co-operative venture between authorities.

More importantly, the shield scar tells us in no uncertain terms that we are on Kaurna land. This was a traditional campsite. A federal grant will soon bring an interpretive centre here that will help us all understand the importance of this place...a Kaurna dreaming site, a European pioneer farm on the river, and an environmental wetland with thousands of trees planted and growing to attract us into Warriparinga.

With Marion Council's newly erected interpretive signs, it is now ready to go onto your Fleurieu peninsula essential experiences list.

The City of Marion, the Kaurna Aboriginal Community Heritage Association, Flinders University, The Marion Historical Society, the Kaurna Elders Council and the Friends of Warriparinga Interpretive Centre Inc to develop this site.

A number of other authorities have also contributed, including the Patawalonga Catchment Management Board.

An excellent series of brochures detailing the Kaurna and European heritage importance of Warriparinga is available from the Community Information Service, Marion City Council, 245 Sturt Rd, Sturt SA 5047, ph 08 8375 6695. Warriparinga is included in the City of Marion web site at http://www.marion.sa.gov.au

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