History of the Washpool



The Aboriginal name for the Washpool Lagoon was WANGKONDANANKO, which means “Possum Place”, and associates the site with the curing and preparation of possum skins for the rugs and cloaks, which the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains were famous for. A Tjirbruke spring is located on the site and there are other Tjirbruke sites nearby, including the spring on the beach at Pt Willunga. The Tjirbruke Dreaming Track, which includes sites from Warriparinga (Marion) to Parawarank (Cape Jervis) and Brukunga, is the only dreaming track of the Kaurna to survive the European occupation. The Tjirbruke Spring and Washpool Lagoon are a focus of contemporary identity and future aspirations of a growing number of Aboriginal people, in a process of recovery and concilliation.



Washpool 1840The Washpool from the survey of J McLaren 1840 (click image for link)The Washpool Lagoon is a now rare, but formerly much more common, ephemeral freshwater wetland. For a relatively small conservation area, it has an astonishing number of resident and visiting bird species, some travelling from northern hemisphere countries, including Japan and China,  along the East Asian - Australasian Flyway. The shallow water teems with invertebrate aquatic life. Some years 150 plus swans can be seen there for weeks. It has high biological diversity and productivity and is relatively intact. We hope its importance as an almost unique and very dynamic ecosystem, with its estuarine and coastal connections, will be increasingly appreciated by residents and visitors alike.



Moves by the then District Council of Willunga in the 1980s to establish a marina or canal estate on the site ran into huge community opposition, with the result that many pro marina councillors were replaced by anti marina, pro conservation activists and the Willunga Council was totally transformed. After intervention by the state government the project was dropped and the era of entrepreneurial activities by councils faded into history.



The table below lists some significant events and milestones concerning the Washpool Lagoon over the last several decades. The first two from the 70s have been included to provide some extra historical context. For further historical background, ‘The Aldinga Scrub Conservation Park’, edited by E M Wollaston is well worth reading. (Available from Friends of Aldinga Scrub)


1971 (26 January)

Minister for Local Government announced the government’s intention to extend the Aldinga Reserve (Aldinga Scrub Conservation Park) to 738 acres (299 hectares) to include the Blue Lagoon and Washpool, as well as a considerable peripheral buffer zone to the East and North-East, thus creating a Major District OpenSpace (now MOSS) under the Metropolitan Development Plan.


B C Tonkin & Associates commissioned by the State Planning Authority to report on the reinstatement of the Washpool & Blue Lagoons. Their report found that reinstatement of the Washpool Lagoon was entirely feasible but the Blue Lagoon was too silted to recover.


Stories began to circulate that the Washpool Lagoon was to be developed as a marina.


As part of Jubilee 150 celebrations, Georgina Williams Ngankiburka Mekauwe initiated action, joining with the Tjirbruke Committee, to lead a project which identified places, including the Washpool Lagoon at Sellicks Beach, where the Ancestor Tjirbruki rested, reflected & wept as he carried the body of his murdered nephew over country, his tears leaving springs for the people


The Tjirbruki/Tjilbruke Dreaming Track was dedicated by Kaurna Elders Auntie Doris Graham and Uncle Willie Williams and the Hon Susan Lenehan MP, at Anderson Avenue Reserve, Port Noarlunga on 18 December 1986.


Anti-marina rallies attracted 2000 people opposed to the development.

1989 (February)

Deputation of activists, including Kaurna Elders Bill & Georgina Williams, met with Minister for the Environment Susan Lenehan seeking her intervention in the matter.

1989 (April)

Marina development abandoned by the Willunga Council.

1989 (October)

Friends of the Earth Willunga Branch put forward their 'Aldinga Scrub & Washpool Concept Management Plan', which included moving the proposed sewerage plant from its intended site at Hart Road to its present site and restoring the extensive wetlands on the eastern side of the Aldinga Scrub.


Field Naturalists Society of South Australia, in letter to Willunga Council, called for incorporation of Washpool area into Aldinga Scrub Conservation Park.


Willunga Council established a Washpool Restoration Committee.


Kinhill Engineers engaged to investigate options


The Washpool Reinstatement Concept Plan (option 2) endorsed by the Willunga Council.


Willunga Council merged with Happy Valley and Noarlunga Councils, which brought the Washpool Lagoon into the new City of Onkaparinga.

2001 (June)

Minister Di Laidlaw committed the State Government to the Continuous Coastal Park Concept and awarded the newly created City of Onkaparinga $70,000 for works in the Washpool park area.


City of Onkaparinga abandoned plans to reinstate the Washpool Lagoon, subject to a re-thinking of the concept, site management & the establishment of a memorandum of understanding with the Kaurna People, as the Aboriginal “owners” of the park.

2001 (October)

Washpool Lagoon – SA072 listed in the Australian Government’s Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia.

2007 (August)

City of Onkaparinga & Planning SA released the Washpool Lagoon & Environs Management Plan for discussion with the State Government departments that own adjoining land to the central lagoon area, which is under Council ownership

2008 (early)

Agreement reached on the concept by all parties, with endorsement by the Kaurna Elders.

2008 (June)

Community Reference Group & the Washpool Lagoon Implementation Steering Group established to implement the plan.


Talks between the City of Onkaparinga and the various State Government departments stalled, because major earthworks proposed were in the Council owned area of the Washpool. State Departments unwilling to provide funding for what they saw as a council project. Council didn’t have the $5 million to proceed. Volunteers & contractors continued to work on weed control on site. Volunteers also restored the original weir that was leaking and raised swans nests that were destroyed by early winter rains.


Friends of Willunga Basin and Willunga Environment Centre, as part of World Environment Day, organized a display celebrating the Washpool as a site of outstanding importance to the traditional custodians because of the Tjirbruki Dreaming Track connection and a place of outstanding natural beauty and ecological significance. Georgina Williams Ngankiburka Mekauwe welcomed over 50 people to Spirit of Place. Along with the display and talks at the Sellicks Community Hall on 15 June, a guided walk around the Washpool was conducted.


First macroinvertebrate survey by YACCA, the Willunga youth conservation action group.


Environment Minister Ian Hunter committed to consolidating disparate government land titles in Washpool area into a single title, for eventual incorporation into the Aldinga Scrub Conservation Park. To be a 2 year process.


On 18 December, at Witton Bluff, Port Noarlunga, a commemoration gathering was held to mark 30 years since the placement of cairns at important sites along the Tjirbruki Dreaming Track, and to launch the restoration process for these cairns all the way down the coast from Marion to Cape Jervis. This was followed by afternoon tea at Sauerbier House.

2017 (January)

109 people attended Aldinga Washpool Forum at Sellicks Community Hall.