Author Archives: Christine Adams


By Christine Adams, Graduate Diploma in Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Management student

This is my final post on the Wirrabara and Bundaleer Forests. During this directed study I have worked with Kylie Lower of Blackwood Heritage Consulting. I have learnt about the Nukunu community and the Wirrabara and Bundaleer Forests, both of which I knew very little about before this project.  One of the project highlights was meeting members of the Nukunu community. Although, I did not visit Wirrabara and Bundaleer Forests, through visiting Port Augusta I witnessed the Nukunu connection to Country and their culture. This experience, as well as the oral history interview and documentary sources, indicates their ongoing connection to Wirrabara and Bundaleer Forests. Due to the presence of European sites, these forests are also likely to be significant to the descendants of European settlers and other members of the local community.

This project has also refreshed my memory of ArcGIS software. Regarding the research, it has surprised me that some information was relatively easy to find and yet some was very difficult to locate or couldn’t be found at all. I recently managed to find Lothar Brasse Architects’ conservation report, which provided further insights into the history of the forests and sites within the study area, and for environmental and geological information, Laut et al. 1977 was very useful. Also, a couple of PhD theses have been helpful for my research: Husmann 2004 and Krichauff 2014. It would be useful for future researchers to contact the South Australian Museum regarding relevant collections that they hold and to conduct archaeological surveys in the forests. The project has been very demanding but a worthwhile experience.


Husmann, J. 2004 Transplantations: a Comparative History of Afforestation in Nebraska and South Australia 1870s- 1940s. Unpublished history PhD thesis, Faculty of the Graduate College, The University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Krichauff, S. 2014 ‘Looking Back There was a Lot we Missed’: an Examination of how Settler Descendants from South Australia’s North-East Highland and Wirrabara Districts Know and Understand the Nineteenth-century Colonial Past. Unpublished PhD thesis, Faculty of Health, Arts and Design, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne.

Laut, P., P.C Heyligers, G. Keig, E Loffler, C Margules, R.M Scott and M.E. Sullivan 1977 Vol. 5 Environments of South Australia Province 5 Eastern Pastoral and Province 6 Flinders Ranges. Report for division of Land Use Research Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research organization Canberra, Australia.

Lothar Brasse Architects 2000 Bundaleer and Wirrabara Forest Reserves Conservation Plan. Unpublished report prepared for Forestry SA.

Mapping and further research

By Christine Adams, Graduate Diploma in Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Management student

As part of my Directed Study into Bundaleer and Wirrabara Forests, Kylie Lower of Blackwood Heritage Consulting and I created maps showing the locations of the Wirrabara and Bundaleer Forests within the Nukunu Native Title Claim. The Native Title Claim is shown in orange and the forests in pink.

Bundaleer Forest map

Bundaleer Forest map


Wirrabarra map

Wirrabara Forest map

I have also been researching the general archaeological background of the Flinders Ranges, the archaeology of Nukunu lands, including the Bundaleer and Wirrabara Forests, the geology and vegetation of the region and historical information. Heritage register searches of the South Australian Museum database, Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Division (AARD) and South Australian Heritage Places Archives were also productive.

The Flinders Ranges has a long archaeological history, with the northern Flinders Ranges site of Warratyi dating to 50,000 years ago (Hamm et al. 2016:280). Although this site is further north than the area of my research, there are sites on Nukunu lands dating from 30,000 to 40,000 years ago (Walshe 2012:108-109; Walshe et al. 2001:7) and it is possible that there may be even older sites.

It has been easier to find historical information on Wirrabara Forest than on Bundaleer Forest but the reason for this is unclear, as they are both near towns. Due to technical problems I am yet to transcribe the oral history interview and only have my notes that I made at the time. Hopefully, it will be possible to transcribe this soon.


Hamm, G., P. Mitchell, L.J. Arnold, G.J Prideaux, D. Questiuax, N.A. Spooner, V.A. Levchenko, E.C. Foley, T.H. Worthy, B. Stephenson, V. Coulthard, C. Coulthard, S. Wilton and D. Johnston 2016 Cultural innovation and megafauna interaction in the early settlement of arid Australia. Nature 539 (7628):280-283.

Walshe, K., J. Prescott, F. Williams and M. Williams 2001 Preliminary investigation of Indigenous campsites in Late Quaternary dunes, Port Augusta, South Australia. Australian Archaeology 52:5-8.

Walshe, K. 2012 Port Augusta hearth site dated to 40,000 years. Australian Archaeology 74:106-110.

Nukunu Country

Landscape near Port Augusta

By Christine Adams, Graduate Diploma in Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Management student

As part of my directed study I travelled to Port Augusta to meet the Nukunu community and conduct an oral history interview with two Nukunu men, Doug Turner and Darcy Evans. I took some notes and had permission to record the interview so that I can write up a transcript. Through communicating with Nukunu and visiting sites in their country, I had the opportunity to learn more about their culture.

I learned through the oral history interviews about the Wirrabara and Bundaleer forests, which are both part of Nukunu country. Wirrabara comes from the Nukunu words ‘wirra’ and ‘burra’, and translates as red gum creek. They believe that a spirit made the Wirrabara creek bed and that another spirit made the water; the Nukunu conduct ceremonies to honour these spirits. I learnt that the area had fertile vegetation until the land was cleared. Unfortunately, some cultural sites were destroyed when the land was cleared and some of the Nukunu were driven off their lands and placed on reserves or killed. Later, some of this land was used to plant the Bundaleer and Wirrabara forests. Despite this, the Nukunu still have a strong connection to Country and pass on their knowledge to younger generations. The significance of archaeological sites and cultural landscapes to the Nukunu is demonstrated when those who have felt disconnected spiritually are taken out to their Country, and end up feeling better when re-connecting with their heritage and the broader cultural landscape. There are also some important song-lines connected to the Dreaming on Nukunu lands, and these are also significant to other Indigenous Australian groups.

My industry partner, Kylie Lower of Blackwood Heritage Consulting Pty Ltd, contacted the Department of State Development, Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation division (AAR), to access information on Indigenous sites within a ten-kilometre buffer zone of the Wirrabara and Bundaleer Forests. It is also possible that there are sites within this area that AAR are not aware of, due both to cultural sensitivities and the fact that only parts of the forests have been surveyed. Kylie and I also created a preliminary map of the study area on ArcGIS and will be undertaking further mapping in the future.

Cultural heritage in the forests

By Christine Adams, Graduate Diploma in Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Management student.

I am currently undertaking a Directed Study in Archaeology as part of my Graduate Diploma of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Management. My industry partner is Kylie Lower of Blackwood Heritage Consulting. The project is to perform a desktop study of the Wirrabara and Bundaleer Forests in the southern Flinders Ranges, South Australia, which were burnt during a recent bushfire. A desktop study means researching a site through journal articles and other materials, including websites and books. This project will also involve conducting oral history interviews with one of the local Indigenous groups– the Nukunu—and using ArcGIS software to map the forests.

My first task is to write a cultural and environmental background for the area. Besides the area now covered by the Bundaleer and Wirrabara Forests, the Nukunu also inhabit other areas, including Port Pirie, Mount Remarkable and Port Augusta. The Bundaleer Forest was the first forest planted in Australia in 1875. The Wirrabara Forest was planted shortly after in 1877. The planting of the Wirrabara Forest was on the White family’s land, which they had inhabited since 1844. Not surprisingly, its original name was White’s Forest. These plantations were used for logging. Known historic sites in Bundaleer Forest include the cottage of the first nurseryman, William Curnow, the conservator’s hut and the first forestry office.

Curnow's Cottage, Bundaleer Forest

Curnow’s Cottage, Bundaleer Forest, courtesy of Forestry SA

As loggers’ families lived near the Wirrabara forest, the first provisional school was established there in 1881. This building was also used for church services and became the community’s centre. I look forward to learning more about these places.


Forestry South Australia n.d. Wirrabara Forest Visitor Information. Accessed 17 Mar 2017 from .

Sizer, H. 1974 Yet Still They Live: Wirrabara’s Story. Location unknown: Lutheran Publishing House.