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Ramindjeri are a clan ("lakinyeri" in Ngarrindjeri language) of Australian Aboriginal people forming part of the Kukabrak[1] (since popularised due to 19th-century missionary Rev George Taplin as Ngarrindjeri) people.[2] Ramindjeri land is the most westerly of the Ngarrindjeri, covering the area around Encounter Bay in southern South Australia, including Victor Harbor and Port Elliot,[2] however an ongoing native title dispute asserts a much more extensive territory and other paradigm shifts.[3]

Ramindjeri were amongst, if not the first South Australian Aboriginal people to come into regular contact with Europeans since 1802, with Karta (Kangaroo Island) based sealers raiding Ramindjeri territorial lands for women in the early 19th century, pre-1836 settlement.[4] Ramindjeri men began working as whalers around Encounter Bay in the 1830s.[5]


Ramindjeri assert a historical territory including Kangaroo Island and the whole southern portion of the Fleurieu Peninsula, extending as far north as Noarlunga or even the River Torrens.[6][7] There is no evidence of continual occupation on Kangaroo Island earlier than the complete separation of the island from the mainland 11,000 years ago. Several small sites dated 6,000, 5,200 and 4,300 years have been found but it is unknown whether these belong to visitors or a remnant population. As available technology precludes intentional visits by Aboriginals, a remnant population of up to 200 individuals is the preferred option with the last dying 2,500 years ago.[8] The territory also overlaps a significant portion of the territory claimed by both the neighboring Ngarrindjeri to the east and the Kaurna Native Title Claims Registered respectively 1998 and 2000. Linguistic evidence suggests that the "Aborigines" encountered by Colonel Light at Rapid Bay in 1836 were "Kaurna" speakers.[7] Ramindjeri as "Encounter Bay blacks" were observed holding a full moon ceremony at Onkaparinga by John Bull's 1837 water exploration party, guided by pre-1836 Sealer Nat Thomas.[9]

Ronald and Catherine Berndt's ethnographic study, which was conducted in the 1930s, identified six Kukabrak[10] subsequently described as "Ngarrindjeri" clans, the Ramindjeri lakinyeri occupying the coast from Cape Jervis to a few kilometres south of Adelaide. Berndt posits that the Ramindjeri clans may have expanded along trade routes as the Kaurna were dispossessed by colonists.[11]

Native Title[edit]

Ramindjeri lands have been subject to a native title claim lodged by Ngarrindjeri claimants in 1998, determination of which is ongoing. However in 2009, Ramindjeri spokesman Karno Walker challenged the legitimacy of that claim, claiming the Ramindjeri were the rightful owners of land encompassing much of both the 1998 Ngarrindjeri claim and the 2000 Kaurna claim, and calling the Kaurna and Ngarrindjeri "Johnny-come-latelys".[3] A native title claim was Registered with the Federal Court in 2010, encompassing over 20,000 square kilometres (4,900,000 acres)[12] of land extending to the River Torrens on the north, Kangaroo Island on the west, and the Murray Mouth on the east.[13] Subsequently, Walker made unofficial claims to land as far north as Tea Tree Gully.[14]

The claim was rejected by the National Native Title Tribunal on 24 March 2011, having failed six of the eleven required preconditions for acceptance,[15] although Walker claimed that eight out of ten had been fulfilled.[16] The Federal Court will hear the case in October 2011.[12]

The native title dispute led some local councils to alter their "Acknowledgement of country" statement prior to meetings. The City of Unley changed their acknowledgement to read "Aboriginal people" instead of "Kaurna", so as not to take sides in the dispute.[17] Kaurna elders branded the move "hurtful".[18]

Victoria Square proposal[edit]

After the Adelaide City Council released a master plan for a $100million redevelopment for Victoria Square, Karno Walker, with architect Michael Thiele and community development consultants Encompass Technology, proposed a Ramindjeri-themed redevelopment at a projected cost of $500million. They claimed it could be funded by private developers in return for parking revenue from a 2000-space underground carpark.[19]



  1. ^ Berndt & Berndt 1993 "A World That Was: The Yaraldi of the Murray River and the Lakes, South Australia", Ch1 The land and the people p21
  2. ^ a b "Ngunderi". South Australian Museum. Retrieved 5 November 2010. 
  3. ^ a b Kim Wheatley (20 November 2009). "Tribal war on native title". The Advertiser. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  4. ^ Jenkin, p. 26.
  5. ^ Jenkin, p. 50.
  6. ^ Wheatley, Kim (20 November 2009). "Tribal war on native title". The Advertiser. 
  7. ^ a b Amery, Rob (2000). Warrabarna Kaurna! - reclaiming an Australian Language. The Netherlands: Swets & Zeitlinger. ISBN 90-265-1633-9. 
  8. ^ A biography of the Australian continent; Karta: Island of the Dead - Kangaroo Island
  9. ^ "Unearthed" 2002, Dr Rebe Taylor, p52
  10. ^ Berndt, 1993, p19, "The appropriate traditional categorization of the whole group was Kukabrak: this term, as we mention again below, was used by these people to differentiate themselves from neighbours whom they regarded as being socio-culturally and linguistically dissimilar. However, the term Narrinyeri has been used consistently in the literature and by Aborigines today who recognise a common descent from original inhibitants of this region-- even though their traditional identifying labels have been lost."
  11. ^ Berndt, Berndt and Stanton (1993). A world that was: the Yaraldi of the Murray River and the lakes, South Australia. Pg 312: University of British Columbia Press. ISBN 0-7748-0478-5. 
  12. ^ a b "Native title bid pursued in Federal Court". Australian Broadcasting Commission. 8 April 2011. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  13. ^ Ramindjeri Native Title Determination Application Map 2010
  14. ^ Rob Greenwood (1 March 2011). "Gully faces native title claim". Leader Messenger. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  15. ^ National Native Title Tribunal - SA - Registration decision - SC10/3-1 Ramindjeri
  16. ^ Sarah Martin (8 April 2011). "Ramindjeri people claim Adelaide under native title". The Advertiser. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  17. ^ Lisa Bachmayer (1 September 2010). "Unley tangled in native title dispute". Eastern Courier Messenger. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  18. ^ http://eastern-courier-messenger.whereilive.com.au/news/story/ownership-talk-hurtful/
  19. ^ Emily Charrison (15 July 2010). "Ramindjeri v Kaurna on Vic Sq". City Messenger. Retrieved 17 August 2011.