What are the origins of the word – Tarnalyanthi?

Click here for a pronunciation.


Tarnalyanthi is a Kaurna word which translated into English means ‘Keep on rising’.

I wanted to acknowledge the traditional owners of the Adelaide Plains in the naming of my business.
Why? Because as a fourth generation German Lutheran descendant who was “schooled” in a German-Lutheran heritage, to my eternal shame I knew almost nothing of the First Nations people until in my 40s.

Thanks to Rob Ranzjin and Keith McConnockie at the University of South Australia, I was introduced to the work of the Kaurna community (the traditional owners of the Adelaide Plains) in reviving their cultural traditions, including a “lost” language.

Through the work of Robin Coles I became aware of the Peramangk people, the traditional owners of the Adelaide Hills. I realised that growing up I had travelled past (within metres) of cultural and rock art sites completely oblivious to their existence or the people who created them.

The Kaurna language (like many First Nations languages) was thought to be extinct. However, over the last 30 years, elders of the community (Dr Alitya Wallara Rigney, Dr Lewis Yerloburka O’Brien and others) have worked with linguist Dr Robert Amery from the University of Adelaide to revive it.

This was done using historical documents, primarily those of German Lutheran missionaries (Christian Teichelmann and Clamor Schürmann) who recorded the language whilst running a native school (1839-1851) on the banks of the Torrens River (Pirltawardli).

Much progress has been made. There are now fluent Kaurna speakers and the language is taught in some schools. Nonetheless, more still needs to be done, particularly in the training of teachers and creation of career pathways.

Why does language matter?

“A person without knowledge, without history, without culture and his origins, is like a tree without roots…”

– Marcus Garvey, Jamaican political activist, publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, and orator.

Jack Buckskin is a Kaurna and Narungga man who has devoted himself to teaching the language and ensuring that his children can speak it fluently. He adds to this quote that ‘learning one’s own language is an act of identity. He says, ‘it’s important for health and wellbeing’.

The late Kaurna Elder, Stephen Gadlabarti Goldsmith, spoke of the importance of language. You can watch him speaking here.

Permission and Meaning

I made a request to the Kaurna Warra Karrpanthi (KWK) community group for a Kaurna word which conveys the following meaning: “Overcoming adversity, thriving in the face of extreme difficulties, resilience”.

The word provided was Tarnalyanthi. Translated into English it means ‘Keep on rising’.

This word also represents what the Kaurna people have been able to do in the face of forces which almost eliminated them, along with their culture.

As a privileged white male, I (and my family) have never had our cultural identities challenged. We have faced difficulties, but our identities have never been brought into question. For this we are grateful.

1. The family name is Sickerdick. My father and his brother’s all changed their surname by deed poll to Lewis when they married


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