Waikerie History

Birds with Many Wings

Enjoy the Waikerie Heritage Walk

Some of the local historic experiences include:

The name Waikerie is said to mean ‘many wings’, after the giant swift moth ‘wei kari’, the name given by the local Aboriginals. It’s an appropriate name, considering the teeming birds of the lagoons and wetlands that edge the river. Aboriginals who lived along the river then were of the Ngawait tribe.

The river and surrounding land provided everything they could possibly need. There were fish, shellfish, birds of all kinds, kangaroos, native fruits and seasonal delights such as the “Waikerie” grub and moth. The Giant Swift Moth Trictenna Argentata now known locally as the Rain Moth, because of its habit of emerging from its cocoon in the earth following late autumn rains.

From about 1856 for approximately 60 years, paddle steamers turned the river into a busy highway as they carried passengers and goods to inland centres along with produce, wheat and wool to Morgan or Goolwa and overseas markets.

Due to the steepness of the cliffs Waikerie was never considered as a river port. It was not until the 1880s that people started moving into the area. In 1882 W.T. Shepard established the Waikerie station. His son wrote: ‘A pine hut was then the only building on the spot’. Waikerie means 'anything that flies’ or is a word that indicates a favourite spot for wildfowl...he sank and equipped the first well. It is still known as Shephard’s Well. He purchased the engine in Melbourne, and the whole concern cost him £1000. The local Aboriginals called the well Marananga, meaning ‘my hand’, because the water could be drawn up by hand.

The township was established as an experiment in decentralisation (and partly to solve unemployment in Adelaide) when, in 1894, a readymade town of 281 people arrived in a paddle steamer. Fortunately the experiment worked. By the end of the first year 3400 vines, 7000 lemon and 6000 stone fruit trees had been planted. Waikerie was the first of the large irrigated areas into the Riverland. By 1910 the township was named Waikerie (after the station) by Governor Bosanquet and by 1914 the farmers were so committed to their success that the first meeting of the Waikerie Co-operative Fruit Company (later to become the Waikerie Producers Co-operative) was held. Today the company has one of the largest fruit processing operations in the southern hemisphere.

Enormous hardships faced these early pioneers though. For the Village Settlements of Waikerie and nearby Ramco and Holder the boats travelling along the river were their lifeline to outside civilization. No roads came near the settlements then. During emergencies if the river was too low for boats to run, someone had to walk north to the Morgan-Wentworth road and stop a passing coach.

Source: Discover Murray River

Waikerie RSL

10 Thompson Street, Waikerie
Phone/Fax (08) 8541 3988
Email: waikrsl@iinet.net.au
Open Mon, Wed, Thurs, Fri 2pm – 5pm (approx) Other times by arrangement

Meetings Monthly 2nd Mon at 6pm

A trail and guide to Australia's Murray River War Museums, Memorials, RSL's and points of interest

Waikerie National Trust S.A. Waikerie Pioneer Museum

Nestled amongst native pines in Doris Odgers Park, the Waikerie Pioneer Museum has three display sheds, blacksmiths shop, fruit drying racks, outdoor exhibits all celebrating the early district pioneers.
Open by appointment.
297 Virgo Rd, Ramco
(08) 8541 2260
Email: perry268@bigpond.com


Waikerie & Districts Machinery Preservation Society Inc

The museum displays a range of stationery engines, vintage tractors, farm machinery and equipment used in the bygone era.
Entry fee: donation.

Open by appointment and the second and fourth Friday of each month from 9am to noon.
Rowe Street, Waikerie. (Next to pumping station).
Enquiries: Rex Neville: 0419 848 213, Leon Wittwer: 8541 2659


W: http://www.communitywebs.org/wdmps/


The traditional custodians of the Riverland are the Ngarrindjeri peoples. In the Dreaming of the Ngarrindjeri people, Ngurunderi is the shaper of land, laws and people, and part of this dreaming tells of the creation of the Murray River. Ngurunderi was travelling in a bark canoe, looking for his wives after a quarrel. He saw and tried to spear Pondi, the giant Murray Cod. Pondi swam quickly away, his tail widening the creek into a river, creating the cliffs and waterways.