Before colonisation, the Kaurna people had lived on the Adelaide Plains and nearby hills region for many thousands of years. Seasonally, they migrated between the coast and the hills using tracks through the Marion Hills that linked ceremonial and spiritual sites, trade centres, seasonal food sources and freshwater springs.


Aboriginal people used land management skills learnt over thousands of years to construct and cultivate the landscape. They used the position of stars and planets to track the changing seasons and created sustainable systems that worked with the environment and supplied the food they needed. In stark contrast, the foreign farming practices and water management introduced by Europeans during colonisation caused significant erosion and salinity in the long term.


Kangaroo grass (Themeda Triandra) – Image: John Englart.

The site we know today as Glenthorne National Park – Itymaiitpinna Yarta, was once covered in kangaroo grass, the dominant grass across the Adelaide Plains, and harvested as a food source by Aboriginal people to make bush bread. Kangaroo grass seeds were collected, ground and cooked over embers to make a type of bread that is believed to have inspired the damper bread associated with early colonists.


The kangaroo grass was also periodically burned for regeneration and to entice kangaroos to the area which were then hunted. Around the time of colonisation, there is evidence of 6-foot tall kangaroo grass surrounding Lizard Lodge, the colonial homestead built by Major Thomas O’Halloran. When a fire swept through the area and threatened Lizard Lodge, Major O’Halloran expressed a fear that unless steps were taken to prevent the burning of grasses, that warfare may break out between the Kaurna and the settlers. Many early settlers believed that fire was used as a weapon by indigenous people.


Fire-stick farming, or cultural burning, has been used by Aboriginal people to manage the landscape for thousands of years.  The colonisers failed to distinguish between wildfires and the controlled fires set by Aboriginal people to encourage plant regrowth for grazing wildlife, promote biodiversity, and minimise the risk of intense bushfires.


Whilst there is little known about specific Aboriginal activity at Glenthorne National Park – Ityamaiitpinna Yarta before or after colonisation, other sites within the Glenthorne precinct have close ties to Creation stories, such as Tjilbruke, a dreaming ancestor of the Kaurna.


The embedded use of both Kaurna and English language throughout the park is highlighted by its co-naming. ‘Ityamaiitpinna’ represents a respected Kaurna elder who played an important role during the colonisation of Kaurna land, ‘Yarta’, is the Kaurna name for Country. Watch the video below to learn how to pronounce the Kaurna name for Glenthorne National Park- Ityamaiipinna Yarta and find out more about its meaning and origin.







Cool Burning: In 2021, the Kaurna community lead bio-cultural burn in Carriageway Park, Tuthangga (Park 17) in Adelaide. Cultural burning is the intentional and skilled use of fire by Aboriginal people for improved environmental biodiversity, clear access to country and spiritual connection.




Tjilbruke: Tjilbruke is an important Munaintya (Dreaming) ancestor to Kaurna people. A written account of Tjilbruke’s Journey is shared by The City of Holdfast Bay. A more detailed telling of the Tjilbruke Story has been shared by Karl Telfer and Gavin Malone.


Nganu and Tjilbruke: a tale of two heroes is a short film based on Kaurna knowledge and stories of Nganu and Tjilbruke. It was created by Wunungu Awara, a Monash University project to work in partnership with Indigenous Australian communities in their language preservation (Note: the film is unrated – viewer discretion advised.)


Indigenous Language: The 50 Words Project aims to provide fifty words in Indigenous languages of Australia. The map is a useful resource for schools and educational organisations to learn 50 words in their local languages, and for others to discover the diversity of languages around Australia.

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In 1913, the Commonwealth of Australia compulsorily acquired Glenthorne Farm to establish the No. 9 Remount Depot. War in Europe was on the horizon when Glenthorne was transformed into one of many remount depots created across the British Commonwealth, including England, India and Canada. The primary role of the depot was to acquire, break-in and supply horses required by the army. 


Unloading a Horse, Greece 1915

During World War 1, horses were the main means of transportation. Heavier horses were used to pull heavy military equipment, supply wagons and ambulance wagons. The lighter horses, which Glenthorne was tasked with supplying, were used by the Australian Light Horse Brigades. Light horse mostly used horses for transportation, usually fighting dismounted. During World War 1, Australia shipped over 120,000 horses overseas. It is estimated that approximately 17,000 horses left South Australia between 1911 and 1930. 


The first commanding officer of the No. 9 Remount Depot was Captain Norman Campbell (left), who lived in Glenthorne House with his wife Dora and young family. Enlisted soldiers were also housed in the three-storied mansion, and extra houses dotted the nearby Main South Road and Majors Road for those with families. Horse-drawn carriages were used to carry children to Brighton Primary School and the Officers’ wives to the shops along Brighton Road. 


During the remount era, new buildings were added to the property, including a blacksmiths’ shop, a veterinary clinic, farriers’ quarters, and additional stables. Perhaps the most enduring additions were the two munitions stores, built in 1914, which remain highly visible today. The two stores were built around 1km from the main cluster of buildings and featured an earth mound separating the buildings meant to protect one store should the other detonate. 





Animals in World War 1: “It’s estimated more than 136 thousand Australian horses were sent to World War 1. The horses, along with donkeys and camels, helped carry heavy loads and soldiers.” via BTN.




Glenthorne: The Australian Army No. 9 Remount Depot 1913 to 1946:

A presentation by Dr Pam Smith prepared for the Friends of Glenthorne featuring images and recounts of life at the No. 9 Remount Depot.


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By the mid-1940s, about 115 million Australian sheep were producing more than half of the worlds fine wool. But, after World War II, cheap synthetic materials began to be produced which threatened Australia’s large wool export market. 


This prompted the Australian Government to fund research into sheep nutrition and wool production. As a result, Glenthorne was purchased by the organisation we know today as the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation). Between 1947 and 1997, the Glenthorne Field Station was used by the CSIRO to conduct studies into sheep nutrition, wool production, agriculture, and later, human nutrition and human disease prevention. 


Since colonisation, farmers had noticed that healthy sheep in well-watered coastal areas, like the south-east of the state and Kangaroo Island, lost their appetite and wasted away. Scientists at Glenthorne helped investigate ‘Coastal Disease’ and contributed to the successful dosing of sheep in these regions with cobalt and copper, elements found to be lacking in the soil of these coastal scrublands. 


Perhaps the most noticeable reminder of the CSIRO era at Glenthorne are the remains of Dr David Riceman’s glass house, used to study plant deficiencies in the Ninety Mile Desert, found between Coonalpyn and Keith in South Australia’s south-east. Dr Riceman’s research between 1944 – 1950 enabled nearly 300,000 hectares of infertile wasteland to be transformed into productive farmland. Other experimental research at Glenthorne involved sheep being fitted with radio “backpacks” to study grazing habits.


When Glenthorne was transferred from the Australian Army, the soil was impoverished and eroding. Cereal crops failed in dirt that should have been suitable, leading to a decade long effort to restore the fertility of the soil. The large dam and contoured hills are another reminder of the influence the CSIRO had on Glenthorne, created to drought-proof the property. Today, the riparion zone (land found alongside dams, streams, gullies and wetlands) is home to the most significant and diverse ecosystems in the park. 


The sheep sheds and sheering pens found in the central hub are also reminders of the legacy of scientific research the CSIRO left at Glenthorne. By the time the field station closed in 1996, the Glenthorne property had been reduced from 228 hectares to the present 208 hectares by the construction of the Southern expressway along the western boundary. The next 25 years would be a tubulent time as competing interests wrestled for control of the property. 


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