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Will the emu get caught for dinner?

Pelzer Park / Pityarilla (Park 19)

photo-icon Lithograph drawing by George French Angas, extracted from ‘South Australia Illustrated’ 1847
photo-icon Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae)
photo-icon Kardi Munta (Emu Net) and Kardi (Emu) sculptures
photo-icon Kardi Munta (Emu Net) and Kardi (Emu) sculptures

The Kardi Munta (emu net) and the Kardi (emu) sculptures form Kaurna cultural markers that connect Kaurna culture to Kaurna Country. These cultural markers capture a moment in time back when Kaurna people would build strong nets (similar to the bird net drawn by Angas, pictured above) to capture larger game, as opposed to the finer nets that were made from natural strings to capture smaller animals like ducks and fish.

The frame of these large-scale nets were made from long branches of Drooping She-oak (Allocasuarina verticillata). The branches were inter-woven to create a frame and then bound together with long strips of the inner bark of Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) trees.

The nets were so strong, they were able to capture emu. A traditional emu net is said to be have been found and sourced nearby from the Gawler area and is stored within the South Australian Museum.

The emu is the second-largest living bird by height in the world. It can grow up to around two metres tall and can live between ten and twenty years in the wild. It is endemic to Australia, where it is the largest native bird. Up to the early in the 19th century, the Dwarf Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae baudinianus), lived on Kangaroo Island, South Australia.

The emu is significant to the Kaurna people. Its spirit is embedded in Kaurna creation stories, the landscape and the night sky, guiding and shaping the Kaurna way of life.

Its feathers are used for ceremonial purposes and its movements are replicated in dance. The emu once lived in these park lands along the river, creeks and across the lightly wooded grassy plains.

A yarning and learning circle sit in the middle of these cultural markers and provide opportunities for Kaurna Elders to celebrate the living Kaurna culture by sharing knowledge of our people, past, present and future.

The Kaurna name for this park is ‘Pityarilla’ which means ‘marshmallow root place’ in the Kaurna language. The marshmallow plant is known as ‘ngunna’ and its roots, which were eaten, as ‘pityarra’. The Kaurna name for Adelaide is ‘Tarntanyangga’, or the Place of the Red Kangaroo Dreaming. The ‘Tarnta’ or Red Kangaroo is a significant totem for the Kaurna people, as is the emu.

The Kaurna people are the Traditional Owners, and the kangaroo and emu are custodians of the Adelaide Plains. The extent of Kaurna Country covers approximately 8,000km² or 2,000,000 acres extending from Cape Jervis in the south to Redhill in the north, Williamstown in the east and includes most of the eastern coastline of St. Vincent Gulf.

Prior to European invasion, the Kaurna population may have numbered several thousand, but the population had unfortunately reduced significantly by the time the colony of South Australia was formally established in 1836. 182 years later, on 21 March 2018, Native Title Consent Determination was made, and the Kaurna people were officially recognised by the Federal Court of Australia as the Traditional Owners of the land you are standing on.

The Kardi Munta was created by local Kaurna / Ngarrindjeri Landscape Architect, Visual and Public Artist, Paul Mantirri (Kunzea pomifera, Native apple) Munaitya (4th born, male) Herzich. Made from a combination of stainless steel, mild steel and copper, the cultural markers bring to life a Kaurna story of this area, as told by Senior Kaurna Elder, Aunty Lynette Kua Nepotinna (Lone Crow) Crocker.

City of Adelaide acknowledges the traditional Country of the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains and pays respect to Elders past and present. We recognise and respect their cultural heritage, beliefs and relationship with the land. We acknowledge that they are of continuing importance to the Kaurna people living today. We also extend that respect to other Aboriginal Language Groups and other First Nations.

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