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Historic agreement for Aboriginal heritage site


In an historic gesture the Catholic Church has made land available for Aboriginal cultural renewal near McLaren Vale, South Australia.

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Archbishop Patrick O’Regan and Karl Winda Telfer, senior traditional owner, have signed an agreement which provides tenure to a 3.5ha registered Aboriginal site near McLaren Vale for Mr Telfer and his descendants for 50 years.

The land is part of an ancient campground known as Kanyanyapilla occupied by Mr Telfer’s ancestors for several thousand years and a registered Aboriginal Heritage site.

“I am deeply grateful to Archbishop O’Regan for this heartfelt step towards Aboriginal self-determination, our cultural and spiritual renewal, and our own care for our yerta, our country, our parngkarra,” he said.

He also thanked Treasury Wine Estates which leased the land as part of a much larger holding for wine grape production. The company willingly surrendered its lease over the portion of land to allow Aboriginal management of Country.

Mr Telfer said he and his family and clan would revegetate the site with the assistance of many in the region who were supportive of Aboriginal tenure to land and their cultural and spiritual renewal.

He also plans to host a range of cultural and educational activities with the wider community and use it to help young Indigenous men to “get to know Country” and learn its cultural significance.

A large gum tree on the site is believed to be about 350 years old. Mr Telfer said the tree was “like a supermarket really”.

“We would get food from it, shelter, and the bark would be used to make different things like bowls and shields,” he said.

“It’s also the habitat for other animals that share the space with us.”

Karl Telfer and Gavin Malone with the 350 year old gum tree. Photo: Nat Rogers

The land is part of a larger heritage site about 18ha in size. The majority of the land is under the stewardship of Gavin Malone who has been implementing an ecological and cultural regeneration project there known as Lot 50-Kanyanyapilla (L50K) since 2015.

Mr Telfer and his mother Georgina Yambo Williams Ngangkiburka (senior Kaurna woman), have always been part of this bi-cultural project. Mr Malone said the new agreement would strengthen this bi-cultural collaboration.

The last Kaurna person to have tenure to land (other than domestic spaces) was over 150 years ago and was Karl’s great, great, great grandmother Kudnarto, also known as Mary Ann Adams. In the colonial era land was set aside as Aboriginal reserves for Aboriginal people to ‘settle’ but overall the scheme was a complete failure. Kudnarto was the first Aboriginal woman to marry a settler, Tom Adams in 1848. She was granted life tenure to land at Skillogolee near Clare. She and Tom made improvements and their living from the land. Tragically just seven year after their marriage Kudnarto died leaving Tom with two young boys. The land tenure did not transfer to Tom and as the boys were not of the age of maturity, it did not transfer to them either, they were evicted.

The McLaren Vale site is part of Logan’s Estate which was bequeathed to the Catholic Church nearly 120 years ago by its first European occupier, Richard Logan. The ruins of his house, built in 1866, remain on the site and will be preserved by the Archdiocese.

Richard Logan (1800-1883) was an early settler in the Willunga district in the area known as Logan’s Flat. He married Margaret Monaghan in 1837 and they had five children who tragically died before their parents. Margaret died in 1877. The family is buried at St Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery, Willunga.

Richard was a prominent figure in the local community and a great benefactor of the Church and supporter of Catholic education. When Richard died at the age of 83 he bequeathed his property to the Church for the support of the priest, the parish and Catholic education.


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