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Ramindjeri were an indigenous Australian people forming part of the Kukabrak[1] grouping now otherwise known as the Ngarrindjeri) people. They were the most westerly Ngarrindjeri, living in the area around Encounter Bay and Goolwa in southern South Australia,[2] including Victor Harbor and Port Elliot. In modern native title actions a much more extensive territory has been claimed.[3]


Ramindjeri Heritage Association Inc assert a historical territory including Karta (Kangaroo Island) and the whole southern portion of the Fleurieu Peninsula, extending as far north as Noarlunga or even the River Torrens.[3][4] 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 hypothesis with the last dying 2,500 years ago.[5] The territory also overlaps a significant portion of the territory claimed by both the neighboring Ngarrindjeri to the east and the Kaurna Commonwealth of Australia Federal Court 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.[4]

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.[6]

Ronald and Catherine Berndt's ethnographic study, which was conducted in the 1930s, identified six Kukabrak.[a] subsequently described as "Ngarrindjeri" clans, the Ramindjeri lakinyeri occupying the coast from Cape Jervis to a few kilometres south of Adelaide. Berndt posited that the Ramindjeri clans may have expanded along trade routes as the Kaurna were dispossessed by colonists.[8]

Social organisation[edit]

The Ramindjeri were composed of 14 clans.[9]

Clan name Totems Location
(1) Ratalwerindjera pangarii.(seal) Goolwa to Middleton[b]
(2) Latalindjera kondili (whale) Latang on the Hindmarsh River near Victoria Harbour
(3) Muwerindjera unknown western bank of the Inman River.
(4) Ngarakerindjera ngarakani(shark) Ngarakerung near King's Point.
(5) Krilbalindjera krilbali(brown skylark) near Kondilinar (place of the whale)
(6) Limindjera limi (stingray or carpet shark) Hindmarsh River estuary
(7) Wati-erilindjera wati-eri(jaybird) Near Mount Hayfield
(8) Lepuldalindjera lepuldali(marsupial possum) Mt Robinson
(9) Yaltalindjera yoldi, yalti(cormorant) Bald Hills, Inman Valley
(10)Pariwarindjera tjirbuki (species of crane) Cape Jervis(Pariwa)
(11)Yangkalyarindjera kalaipani (butterfish),tinemari (bream) Yankalilla to Yankie Hill, and the Normanville coast
(12) Meiperinyera unknown Myponga
(13)Ruwurindjera uwal, kuratji(tommy rough fish) Ruwuru south of Port Willunga
(14)Tainbarindjera mulgali (red ochre) Tainbarung, Noarlunga River


The Ramindjeri had a genre of tuŋari sings, called mantimanŋari, which were songs of caution, composed to warn or teach lessons to members of the tribe, such as one mocking a recently bereaved woman for appearing to be too much in a hurry to remarry.[11]

History of contact[edit]

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 ruwe (territorial lands) for women.[12][13] In the early 19th century, pre-1836 settlement.[14]

Ramindjeri men began working as whalers around Encounter Bay in the 1830s.[15]

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 Heritage Association Inc 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)[16] of land extending to the River Torrens on the north, Kangaroo Island on the west, and the Murray Mouth on the east.[17] Subsequently, Walker made unofficial claims to land as far north as Tea Tree Gully.[18]

The claim was rejected by the National Native Title Tribunal on 24 March 2011, having failed six of the eleven required preconditions for acceptance,[19] Walker later claimed that eight out of ten had been fulfilled.[20] The Federal Court was set to hear the case in October 2011.[16]

The native title dispute led one local council to alter their "Acknowledgement of country" statement before meetings. The City of Unley changed their acknowledgement to read "Aboriginal people" instead of "Kaurna", so as not to take sides in the dispute.[21]

Victoria Square proposal[edit]

After the Adelaide City Council released a master plan for a $100 million redevelopment for Victoria Square in 2010, Karno Walker, with architect Michael Thiele and community development consultants Encompass Technology, proposed a Ramindjeri-themed redevelopment at a projected cost of $500 million. They claimed it could be funded by private developers in return for parking revenue from a 2000-space underground carpark.[22]


  1. ^ "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 inhabitants of this region-- even though their traditional identifying labels have been lost".[7]
  2. ^ "name from the place Ratalwar. This is the western promontory near Middleton (Ratalang). Opposite this place is the important Keli (dog) Rock. Dog was a mythic man who was metamorphosed. A heavy tide from the Southern Ocean covers the Keli Rock with spray and causes the Dog to 'bark'. The sound warned Ratalwerindjera of an approaching storm."[10]