'There's not many places on Earth like this really, that embrace the country, that are a kind of celebration of the country and an invitation to interact with it.'

– Paul Grabowsky AO

Known as the 'Fire Makers' or 'Red Ochre Peoples', the Peramangk people inhabited the Adelaide Hills for thousands of years prior to European colonisation in 1836. Peramangk territory extends as far north as the Barossa and east to the banks of the Murray River. Rock paintings, scar trees, and the remnants of creek-side camps and lookout caves provide evidence of their existence throughout the region.

'Australian Indigenous people have the oldest living tradition on the planet. They have been singing for millennia, their music passing through thousands of generations of ears, hands and hearts.'
– Genevieve Lacey

Each summer, they would set the dry grass alight, marking their territory and driving out animals for hunting. These vast conflagrations were witnessed as early as 1837 by Pastor William Finlayson, who arrived at Glenelg aboard the John Renwick along with 139 other passengers from Gravesend in the UK.

'We were truly glad to get to the termination of our voyage, but after dark a grand (and to us) mysterious fire began to kindle on the hills,' Finlayson wrote in his journal. 'It spread with amazing rapidity from one hill to another until the whole range before us seemed one mass of flame. It was a grand and fearful sight. The new settlers soon learned that at the end of the summer the natives were in the habit of firing the grass that they might secure reptiles and animals for food.'

First sighted by Captain Charles Sturt in 1830, the Mount Barker Summit was named in honour of Captain Collet Barker, who surveyed the land in 1831. Here, the Peramangk people had access to flint, quartz, and mineral pyrites not found on the lower plains and lakes.

The Summit itself, and the smaller hill next to it, were sites of special significance, used not only as meeting points for the Peramangk and neighbouring Ngarrindjeri and Kaurna peoples, but also for rituals, funerals and ceremonies. Although much of the language and cultural practices of the original custodians has not survived, the existence of UKARIA ensures the timeless tradition of this site as a meeting place for music and ritual is never lost.

'The landscape around the Mount Barker Summit and the Twin Peaks holds special meaning for me and my family,' Ulrike Klein says. 'The existence of this place has always been connected to the Summit. Something up there always attracted me; I felt the real power comes from being in the East–West axis. The place has a demand in itself, a story, and we are just responding to that.'

On 24 August 2015 a smoking ceremony was performed at UKARIA Cultural Centre to cleanse the site and building and to pay respect to the ancestors of the Peramangk and Ngarrindjeri peoples. A coolamon and ceremonial feather stick, together with ash from the ceremony, remain on display in the foyer as a permanent reminder of the significance of this place.'

'Places like this leave a memory.'
– Archie Roach AM

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