A walk along the Karrawirra Parri

The River Torrens is the most important body of fresh water in the Adelaide Plains and the main reason for the colonially old decision to build the city of Adelaide in its current position.

If looked up on Google Maps, this little blue serpent comes down from the hills and sinuously makes its way towards the sea, dividing the city centre from the North Adelaide district. Zooming in through the clouds blanket, the Adelaide Festival Centre and the Adelaide Oval emerge giving way to an unobstructed stretch of parkland.                               A green lung breathing in unison with the vast array of creatures inhabiting it.                    The River being their first source of life and support.

The Kaurna (the First People of the Adelaide Plains) call it Karrawirra Parri,                           which means “river of the red gum forests”. Before the destructive white settlers plague struck the area this dense eucalyptus forest lined its banks. Nowadays, a distant and lamented memory.

While walking along the river bank, I look at the River and then up at the sky.                       I remember a page from a short paper on the Kaurna people astronomical and cosmological beliefs. For them the Karrawirra is a reflection of the Milky Way, which is seen as the Great River of the Sky World. The stars on its edge are huts and campfires, little dots of light dancing on the opposite river bank.                                                                 The snippets of information jealously conserved by the Kaurna elders offer a wonderfully complex and “new” way to look at a starry sky. In fact, they believe that celestial bodies in ancient times lived on the earth partly as men and partly as animals. Eventually, they exchanged this existence for a higher one and took the path to the heavens. So, the Kaurna apply names given to beings on the earth to celestial objects (as with the Milky Way) and there is a close connection between the Earth and the Sky.

Today, even if in Australia there has been a strong movement towards the preservation of Aboriginal culture, few people seem to really know or care about the Aboriginal unique knowledge and understanding of the world, developed over thousands of years.                Hopefully with time this will change.


About Alessandro Sereni

I am a third year student at "Università Degli Studi Roma Tre" in Rome . I'm majoring in "Political Science for Cooperation and Development" . My main interests are : international politics ; geopolitical dynamics in East Asia ; languages ; Asian culture ( in particular Chinese one ) .
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