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WARNING: Visitors should be aware that this website includes images and names of deceased people that may cause sadness or distress to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Always was, always will be

'We are Ngarrindjeri - people of the waters. Every day we live and play in the salt and fresh waters that surround us - Lake Alexandrina, Murray River, Coorong and the Southern Ocean.' Verna Koolmatrie

One of the first things you notice when visiting Raukkan is just how beautiful the country, town and people are. There is great sense of community pride and activity. Everyone has a story to share. Some with a different version of the same story, just to let you know there are different ways of experiencing any event, however large or small.

'We have always used comedy and humour as a big part of family. When we get together we tell yarns, some old yarns from our grandparents and great grandparents time. Laughter is a way we come together.' Kevin Kropinyeri

The Museum acquired the Herbert E Read collection a couple of years ago from Read's descendant. It contains objects collected from Raukkan (Point McLeay mission) by Read during his time as a missionary 1906–1945. The collection represents that particular time in Raukkan's history. I visited Raukkan to listen to the Ngarrindjeri people tell stories and share perspectives of their history.

'We know our history but we don't live like the history books. There's things we do now we didn't do then. Our culture's living. Dynamic and evolving just everyone else's.' Verna Koolmatrie

The collection includes a diversity of objects such as feather flowers, woven mats and baskets, hand-carved weapons, tools and toys. We discussed ways to represent their community in the museum using these objects in the collection, but also to hear and document the cultural knowledge and stories to go with each. Having Ngarrindjeri perspectives makes the history that much more engaging and insightful.

'From 1897 til around 1955 tourists use to come across on the paddle steamers to buy our weaving and feather flowers. We were famous for our weaving and flowers and adapting the style to what tourists wanted. Our weaving technique is so good them ones up north [Northern Territory] use it now.' Aunty Edith Rigney

Culturally, the Ngarrindjeri name of the area that became Point McLeay mission, was always 'Raukkan'. Ngarrindjeri people lived and gathered on the land before the mission was set up. The mission was founded in 1859 by the Aborigines' Friends Association and George Taplin was the first missionary there. Taplin consulted with Ngarrindjeri people about setting it up and ways to manage and build the mission and community businesses. That consultation practice was controversial at the time and was criticised by the church, government officials and local farmers, but it set the unique precedent of Ngarrindjeri participating and engaging in governance decisions, with colonial governments, about their community.

'He [Taplin] was a good man because he listened to the old people and set up the mission and the way it worked with their advice. Ngarrindjeri country is not just Raukkan. Its over to the Coorong and right up to the Adelaide Hills. We know our country and the best way to live work on it.' Clyde Rigney

Raukkan was built by Ngarrindjeri people and continues to grow and develop in accordance to community needs and considerations. From the beginning it was the Ngarrindjeri who were the skilled and knowledgeable workforce.

'My mother, Hetty Winslow, proudly shared stories of great-grandfather Pakanu (William MacHughes), farmer, lay preacher, and a stone mason who helped build many buildings at Raukkan including the Church.' Laura Winslow

Historically, from as far back as 1859, the community have always worked towards building sustainable businesses. In the beginning it was fishery, cattle farming, wool washing, carpentry, boat making, stone masonry, basket weaving and, from 1879, tourism. The legacy of these are seen today in Raukkan Council's current business successes. In 1974 Point McLeay was officially handed back to the Ngarrindjeri and in 1982 the town was officially renamed Raukkan.

'Our community belongs to us. We're one mob and we manage it ourselves. We run several successful businesses.' Derek Walker

Barbara Paulson Curator, ATSIP