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9 South Australian national parks with names derived from Aboriginal languages

Many of SA’s park names have Aboriginal language origins. Here are nine of them and their First Nation beginnings.

Across Australia, many places are known by their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander names.

In fact it’s estimated that 60 to 70 per cent of all place names in Australia are from Aboriginal languages or Anglicised-Aboriginal names. 

There are about 360 national parks across South Australia and each of their names have a different story. But, did you know that more than 100 are derived from Aboriginal languages?

The names of these parks started with an Aboriginal word, but over time, due to South Australia becoming a predominately English-speaking society, they were anglicised.

To celebrate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, here are nine national parks names and their Aboriginal language origins:

1. Aldinga Scrub Conservation Park

Aldinga Scrub Conservation Park Conservation Park, 46 kilometres south of Adelaide, is on the land of the Kaurna (pronounced ‘Gar-na’) people.

The Kaurna name for this area is ‘Ngaltingga’, however it was recorded in 1836 as ‘Aldinghi’, and soon afterward as ‘Aldinga’.

It’s possible that Aldinghi was recorded from an Ngarrindjeri-speaking person (pronounced Ngah-rin-djeri – the ‘ng’ as in ‘sing’ and the double ‘r’ is rolled) and that this was a Ngarrindjeri adaptation of the Kaurna name.

The park is located in the suburb of Aldinga Beach, and has an impressive backdrop of sand dunes and coastal vegetation.

Look out for the short-beaked echidnas, lizards, bats and the diverse range of birds in the park.

2. Coorong National Park

Coorong National Park is the gateway to the Limestone Coast in the state’s south east, and is on the land of the Ngarrindjeri people.

The word ‘Coorong’ is generally accepted to be an anglicised version of the Ngarrindjeri word for the area – ‘Kurangk’ – which means long, narrow neck.

The park extends 150 kilometres from the Goolwa Barrage following the coast and lagoon south-east towards the township of Kingston.

Coorong National Park’s lagoons are protected from the Southern Ocean by the sweeping sand dunes of the Young Husband Peninsula.

There’s lots to do in the park, such as camping on the edge of the wild ocean, kayaking in the lagoons, exploring the sand dunes, 4WD-ing, birdwatching and fishing – or simply relaxing.

3. Cudlee Creek Conservation Park     

Cudlee Creek Conservation Park in the Adelaide Hills is on shared country of the Kaurna and Peramangk (Pera-munk) peoples.

The name ‘Cudlee Creek’ is believed to be derived from the Kaurna word ‘Coodla’, which means ‘wild dog or dingo’.

The park is located near Gumeracha, which is derived from the word ‘Umeracha’ meaning ‘fine waterhole’. It’s a small protected area with an open forest and lots of birds.

4. Glenthorne National Park-Ityamaiitpinna Yarta

Adelaide’s newest national park is located 16 km south of Adelaide on Majors Road in O’Halloran Hill.

The first part of the park’s Kaurna name, ‘Ityamaiitpinna’, represents a significant Kaurna elder who played a vital role in the European colonisation history of Kaurna land in this area.

The second part of the name, ‘Yarta’, is the Kaurna name for Country.

Watch this language lesson by Kaurna Language Teacher and Cultural Educator Jack Buckskin to learn more about the meaning of the name and how to pronounce it with confidence.

5. Morialta Conservation Park

Morialta Conservation Park is part of the traditional lands of the Kaurna people in the state’s inner eastern suburbs.

‘Morialta’ is the Kaurna name for the area, which means ‘ever-flowing’.

There’s lots to see and do at Morialta, like walking trails, rock climbing and mountain biking. It’s also home to Adelaide’s biggest nature playground.

6. Naracoorte Caves National Park

Naracoorte Caves National Park is located between the ancestral lands of the Potaruwutij people (pronounced ‘pot-a-which’) to the north, Jardwadjali people (pronounced ‘jard-wa-jali’) to the east, Boandik people (pronounced ‘boo-an-dik’) to the south and Meintangk people (pronounced ‘me-in-tongue’) to the west.

It is thought that the name ‘Naracoorte’ is a corruption of the word ‘Gnanga-kurt’ to ‘Nanna-coorta’, ‘Narcoot’, ‘Nancoota’, ‘Narricourt’, ‘Narcoota’, ‘Narracoorte’ and ‘Naracoorte’, and means ‘large waterhole or place of running water’.

The Naracoorte Caves are part of the 800,000 year old Naracoorte East Range. They are World Heritage listed, and one of the world’s most important fossil sites.

7. Onkaparinga River National Park

Onkaparinga River is on the land of the Kaurna people in Adelaide’s inner southern suburbs.

The word ‘Onkaparinga’ comes from the Kaurna word ‘Ngangkiparingka’, which means ‘women only places along the river’. ‘Ngangki’ means ‘women’, ‘Pari’ means ‘river’, and ‘ngka’ means ‘location’.

Onkaparinga River National Park has diverse hiking trails with magnificent views. Wherever you go in the park, you’ll be among native wildlife such as birds, koalas, kangaroos and possums – you may even spot an echidna.

8. Para Wirra Conservation Park

Para Wirra Conservation Park is on the shared lands of three nations – the Peramangk (pronounced ‘Pera-munk’), Ngadjuri (pronounced ‘Ngad-ju-ri’, with ‘ng’ as in ‘sing’) and Kaurna people – located in the foothills of the Mount Lofty Ranges.

The name ‘Para Wirra’ is derived from the Kaurna word ‘Pari’ which means ‘river, creek or gully’ and the word ‘Wirra’ means ‘forest’. So ‘Para Wirra’ is the ‘forest where a waterway flows’.

This park is perfect for immersing yourself in nature – for walking, picnicking, and watching native animals.

There are more than 100 species of birds living in the park, including emus, which you’ll likely see around the picnic grounds.

9. Whyalla Conservation Park

Whyalla is the land of the Barngarla people on the eastern coast of the Eyre Peninsula.

Whyalla was possibly derived from the Barngarla word ‘Kayalla’, which means ‘northern Country’. 

The location was named Hummock Hill in 1802 by Matthew Flinders but the town's name was officially changed in 1916 to Whyalla.

Wild Dog Hill is a must see at Whyalla Conservation Park. Its rugged features and imposing profile make it a popular picnic location for visitors. Red and grey kangaroos as well as dunnarts can be spotted throughout the park.

Interested in learning more about SA’s national parks? You might like our story about parks with geological significance.

Main Image: Morialta Conservation Park

This story was originally posted in May 2019.

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