Adjahdura country – a field trip report

For Aboriginal people every place is sacred, every place has a story. Travelling through Adjahdura country (Yorke Peninsula, South Australia) with Quenten Agius this becomes immediately apparent. Quenten is a leader of the community at Point Pearce and a custodian of the stories and heritage of his country. He has established Adjahdura tours as a means of preserving the stories of the country and sharing them with school groups and visitors from other parts of Australia and overseas. Quenten is an articulate and knowledgeable guide who is passionate about his country and his people.


Jack Buckskin, SA Young Australian of the Year, welcoming us to country.


Campsite near Black Point, south of Ardrossan.


Quenten Agius

I recently had the opportunity to spend a few days with Quenten on a staff field trip with colleagues from my school. We learnt many things, among them that Quenten is a great storyteller. There are three distinct types of stories that Quenten shared with us:
Some stories are of the dreaming, in which the landforms, flora and fauna are explained in relation to the actions of ancestors and spiritual beasts who occupied the land long ago.

Some stories are of the cultural uses and practices of the people Quenten refers to as the ‘old people’; those who knew this country before the time of European settlement. These are the stories of their gatherings, their men’s and women’s business, the plants they used for food and medicine, the rituals and stories they shared, and the trading which linked the Adjahdura people with communities in neighbouring regions and throughout South Australia and beyond.

And some stories are of the interaction between the Adjahdura people and European settlers. These stories are, with very few exceptions, stories of invasion, abuse, oppression, dishonesty and incompetence on the part of non-Aboriginal settlers and officials. In the worst cases they are stories of murder, forced resettlement, embezzlement of funds and total disregard for the cultural and spiritual heritage of the Adjahdura people and their country.

A good example is our visit to the old gaol near Port Arthur which we visited on the first day. Many South Australians have driven past this building on their way to and from the Yorke Peninsula, and probably assumed it to be an old barn or farmhouse. Quenten explained to us that it was built in colonial times to house prisoners from Adelaide, brought to the peninsula as forced labour to assist with the clearing of land. But when the local indigenous people objected to this takeover of their country, many were imprisoned in this building, and later massacred by troopers who stuck the barrels of their rifles through the walls and fired indiscriminately.


The Gaol




Nearby burial site

Quenten is very conscious of his responsibility as a custodian of the stories of his country, and to work for the rights and dignity of his community. This was made all the more important by the recent death of his mother, who with her sister were the main inspiration and guides for Quenten’s work. The same week as our visit Quenten received two awards from SA tourism for his work. All members of our group would say that these awards were richly deserved.

The opportunity to spend three days travelling through Adjahdura country with Quenten as our guide was invaluable to me as a teacher. From the welcome to country danced by Jack Buckskin, 2011 SA  Young Australian of the Year to our reluctant journey home three days later we saw the Yorke Peninsula through new eyes. Wherever I am teaching in the future, and in whatever subject, there are perspectives and knowledge I gained in this field trip which will be useful for me and for my students. If a similar opportunity becomes available in the future I would recommend it to teachers in all learning areas. The new SACE and the Australian Curriculum both require teachers to be conscious of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander  knowledge, culture and perspectives across the curriculum, and I can imagine no better way for teachers to equip themselves to fulfil this requirement than by spending a few days with Quenten in his country.

Click on the image below to visit Quenten’s website and find out about Adjahdura country tours for visitors and school groups.

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1 Response to Adjahdura country – a field trip report

  1. Sue Johnston says:

    Thanks – and well done – great to hear more about the trip. I know it will be very beneficial for future teaching etc. Cheers

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