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February 20, 2020

The meaning of the Dolphin Spirit Dreaming Festival

Ahead of the inaugural Dolphin Spirit Dreaming Festival in Semaphore this weekend, CityMag spoke with the festival’s founder, Angelena Harradine-Buckskin, about what inspired the event.

  • Words: Jennifer Eadie
  • Main image: Dan Monceaux

Sitting next to Karrawirra Pari River Torrens in Port Adelaide, CityMag speaks with founder of Dolphin Spirit Dreaming Festival, senior Kaurna woman Angelena Harradine-Buckskin, and her daughter, Tryelle Newchurch.


Dolphin Spirit Dreaming Festival
9am Saturday, 22 February
Semaphore Foreshore, Semaphore 5019
More info

Jennifer Eadie is a Writer in Residence at The Mill. This work was contributed through The Mill’s Writer in Residence program.

See for more details.

We’ve met to talk about the wathangku (where from) and nganaitya (what for) story behind the festival, happening on Saturday, 22 February.

Though there are plenty of activities scheduled for Dolphin Spirit Dreaming Festival, such as a children’s costume parade, guided snorkelling sessions, live music, and a Dancing Monsters procession, Angelena is quick to emphasise the festival is not simply for entertainment.

It is about showing our paya (expression of admiration) for the yumpu (dolphins) who we share South Australian waterways with and acknowledging our responsibility to protect them and the environment we live in, she says.

In this sense, the festival is about “weaving together” the energy of the dolphins with cross-cultural knowledge, music and dance, to start building a community that is grounded in respect and care.

In order for us to better understand the wathangku and nganaitya behind the Dolphin Spirit Dreaming Festival, Angelena shares a story that involves the coming together of human and yumpu mothers and daughters.

Below is an excerpt from our conversation.


Angelena: My Name is Angelena Harradine. My father was a Kaurna man, my grandmother was a Kaurna woman, her name was Daphne Taylor.

I was raised on a small community outside of Adelaide, two hours’ drive from Adelaide. Narrunga Country. I came to Adelaide when I was young, back to my father’s country.

When I come to Adelaide, I lived at Flinders Park and I couldn’t really go out anywhere because really I had nowhere to go, and you know I was a bit fearful of all the people in Adelaide because I was raised on a small community where it was mostly my people, so I suffered panic attacks when I used to go out, you know.

It took me a while to adjust to the city life and to the culture of the city, non-Indigenous culture.  Then, I had my baby.

I had a phone call from my mother one day. Mum said, ‘You know you gotta bring her home or take her to the beach, and you know what you gotta do, Angelena.’ I said ok.

I was standing in my kitchen washing my dishes and I had this calling to go to the beach… so I ended up jumping in the car, put my daughter in the baby seat. I knew it was a long time overdue.

I got down onto the beach. The calling was so strong. I took my baby onto the beach, and she was running.

Then these fins come in. I was watching and at first, I said to my daughter, don’t go near.  But my daughter said ‘Mum, Mum! Dolphins!’

This little fin was coming down. Mother and baby.

Then I walked into the water, I held my daughter back a little bit, but then the mother dolphin moving towards the little baby she had and looked straight at me.

I said to her, “I will let my daughter play with your little daughter if you stay back there.”

I said it out loud and I felt that she was agreeing with me. It felt like, I know we made an agreement for our children to play together.

The little baby dolphin was going around and round my daughter, and my daughter was playing with the dolphin. They were playing for a little while, about 10 minutes.

They looked real happy, like two children enjoying themselves, which is natural.

It is natural in our world, in the Aboriginal world, for that to be happening. A natural part of life for the Indigenous people in this country.

Then a jet ski was coming along, and all these people was running along the beach.

Tryelle: I don’t remember the jet ski, I just remember all these people converging on the baby and me, like a stampede.

A: And the mumma got scared, aye? and I got scared too. I thought they was gonna stampede on my baby!

T:  You both (mothers) took a step towards us at the same time to pull us away.

T: When I was in the ocean with that dolphin, it was like there was nobody around. It felt like we were in our own little bubble. The baby was squirting water in my face, and burrowing into my neck, I was burrowing into her. It was really special. Then, the bubble broke and all these people were screaming and running towards us. I even saw a woman push a kid out the way.

A: I said no photos, people wanted to take photos.

T: I remember then the bubble burst, I remember I was holding onto the dolphin’s fin and she was slowly taking me out and mum (Angelena) was saying “that’s enough now.”

A: This happened on a beach where women’s business is.

Then we started walking back up the beach.  I said we’re going, because the people there were too aggressive.  There is a lot of information about humanity in that. Where is the respect?

T: If everyone had come along nice and slowly, maybe the dolphins would have stayed.

A: It is because dolphins feel the energy. It would have scared them as much as it scared me. That space was sacred. It showed me the importance of acknowledging the spirit of the dolphins and their knowledge.

It was a demonstration of how the dolphins can feel your spirit, can feel who you are, like trees and birds.

Scientists prove it now, but we didn’t need any proof because we have been here for thousands of years…

You can’t conquer and dominate the land. My bloodline has a relationship with this land that runs thousands of years back, and those dolphins is a bloodline.

There is cultural respect between us. That wasn’t formulated in two days. It wasn’t formulated on the shore. The blood of my great, great, great grandmothers met with them dolphins.

All these years later, we got a responsibility, me and my daughter has a responsibility to communicate something important.

It isn’t about entertaining people, no – it is about communicating responsibility that people have to this Country. You know. Now people say, ‘This my home’ – well prove it! Then treat it like your home. Don’t trash it! We all need to take responsibility.

I have learnt so much from the old people., from my grandmother, and I smile.

That is why we are having the dolphin spirit festival.


The Dolphin Spirit Dreaming Festival is a collaborative project, involving H.E.A.R.T.S. Aboriginal Corporation, Force of Nature, Australian Youth Climate Coalition, The Wilderness Society, City of Port Adelaide Enfield, Sea Shepherd Society and many local artists and performers.

The program line up for the day will be a celebration of Kaurna culture, local acts, music, dance, and marine science activities, including:

  • Welcome to Country dance and songs
  • Sea Shepherd beach clean up
  • Children’s marine-themed costume parade
  • Guided snorkelling and virtual snorkelling sessions run by EMS – Experiencing Marine Sanctuaries
  • A Dancing Monsters procession,
  • Underwater videos exhibition
  • Live music from artists including Eunice Rodgers and LBG
  • Main stage presentations from some of South Australia’s leading marine scientists and communicators, such as: Dr Dom McAffee (The University of Adelaide), Dr Cath Kemper (South Australian Museum) and Nikki Zanardo (Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary)

All are welcome to this free, family-friendly event. The festival begins at 9am on Saturday, 22 February, at the Semaphore Foreshore.

For the full program and more information, see the event page.

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