Tucked away in South Australia’s southernmost port are the traditional lands of the Boandik people, known to many as Port MacDonnell. Here, Aboriginal Elder Uncle Ken stands as a passionate storyteller, breathing life into the legacy of his ancestors. A trailblazer for the Boandik community, there was a time in his youth when the truth of his heritage was hidden from him. 


Pulsing with the vibrant energy of the sea, Boandik Country is home to the quaint fishing town of Port MacDonnell — known for its rugged coastline, dotted with shipwrecks and laced with tales of maritime history. It is here you’ll find Uncle Ken walking along the beach, mid-story, with a school group or visitors in tow. Stopping, he tilts his head and points his ear skyward, tuning into the ocean’s whispers or the birds’ calls, distinguishing a craw from a crow effortlessly. Mimicking the bird’s song, Uncle Ken will respond in song, his face breaking into a subtle smile, savouring a brief moment with nature before diving back into his narrative.

Uncle Ken’s connection to Country is so strong, it’s hard to determine where the tether of his DNA stops and nature begins. With a voice steeped in the wisdom of his ancestors, passion ignites the air around him - animating  the legends and lore of his people as he slips into the role he was born for — the storyteller. It is here, amidst the gentle hum of the sea, that Uncle Ken continues to foster a deep connection to the world around him— and its ancient stories — keeping the spirit of Boandik Country and Aboriginal culture alive. But his connection to Country wasn’t always this strong; instead, it was a secret.

Uncle Ken sitting on a chair in front of a backdrop
Meet Uncle Ken


Uncle Ken was born on Boandik Country, growing up on a farm on the outskirts of Port MacDonnell, right where the shacks give way to the bushland. He recalls, "there was a hell of a lot of adventure for me and dad.” Eyes lighting with nostalgia, Uncle Ken recounts countless hours spent with his sister and dad by his side, exploring the untamed lands they called their backyard. Beneath the surface of these childhood escapades lies a hidden truth, a mystery Uncle Ken would only come to unravel in his teenage years. Uncle Ken was never ordinary — his blood had been singing with hundreds of thousands of years of history. His family were Aboriginal. It happened on a seemingly ordinary day. Standing together in an empty meadow, amidst a sea of slender grass, Uncle Ken’s father shared with him the truth. Their family were Aboriginal, a fact they intentionally kept from him. "It was a shame factor," he explains, referring to his dad’s reasoning for keeping it a secret, pausing to let the weight of his words sink in. "Aboriginal people were not particularly loved or cared for in those days.” 

a leafless tree with branches and blue sky in the background
Boandik Country

The Australian government enacted the White Australia Policy in 1901, introducing a series of laws aimed at maintaining a predominantly white population. By the time Uncle Ken was a child, in the 1950s, the weight of that policy and its prejudice hung heavy in the air. While the supposed focus of the policy was to control immigration, it inherently favoured those with European heritage and denied opportunity to all others. This impacted those who had always been here, like Uncle Ken's family, the most. While it has since been dismantled, the legacy of this policy is stitched into Australia's social fabric — having altered the landscape of opportunities and recognition for Indigenous Australians in profound ways, for generations. 

[But] finally, the penny dropped, that he felt like them, that he was a refugee in his own country. Uncle Ken

Unfairly branded as somehow less than, Aboriginal culture was smothered under a blanket of societal discrimination for much of Uncle Ken's formative years. Uncle Ken's father, bearing the brunt of this disdain, struck up an unlikely kinship with a group of Italian and Greek fisherman who had migrated to South Australia after World War Two. But Uncle Ken struggled to understand the friendship between these men and his father. Their lives were so different to that of an immigrant. “[But] finally, the penny dropped, that he felt like them, that he was a refugee in his own country,” Uncle Ken says.

Once he knew the truth, Uncle Ken started to see the complexities behind the secret and his parents decision. “I realised that we were different to most other kids in the district,” Uncle Ken reflects, caught in limbo between two worlds. Belonging neither here nor there, a part of his identity severed, Uncle Ken was adrift in a sea of faces. As the years unfurled, the tides of time began to turn, beckoning Uncle Ken toward a journey of self-discovery. The guiding star in this voyage was his older sister, Nancy, who illuminated the path toward embracing and delving deeper into their shared roots. Her wisdom and guidance became the beacon that led Uncle Ken to see his heritage, not as a shadow to be hidden, but as something to be celebrated and explored.

Uncle Ken next to shrubbery, talking about plants and animals, gazing to the sky
Uncle Ken


Pausing mid-story, Uncle Ken reaches to the shrubbery to pull off a stem of olearia axillaris, rubbing it along his neck and face. A natural insect repellent, he explains, encouraging everyone to do the same before they continue on with his tour. Deeply connected to his Country and living amongst nature, Uncle Ken’s present-day connection to his culture is vastly different to when he first uncovered his family’s secret. 

While his older sisters absorbed their cultural wisdom directly from the elders, Uncle Ken received his cultural education through his siblings - who shared with him the stories and knowledge of eels, frogs and fish. "I was lucky," he reflects, his eyes twinkling with admiration and affection, as he recalls how Nancy would often take him duck shooting in the local swamps and the Coorong, marking his transition from "being a little kid to a successful bushwhacker," as he fondly puts it.

Uncle Ken
Uncle Ken

Years later, Uncle Ken’s career with fisheries and wildlife took him on a journey across South Australia to places such as Port Lincoln, Ceduna and Whyalla – areas rich in cultural diversity. During these years, he discovered the vibrancy of Aboriginal cultures in South Australia, experiencing the strong community bonds, deep land connections and traditions shaping daily life in these welcoming communities. It was also a stark contrast to what he had known growing up. “I started to realise that [there were] some Aboriginal people in the world still,” he says.

We were led to believe that they were all gone here [ the Limestone Coast] except us.”

Yearning for connection to his own Country, Uncle Ken set out on a journey home, determined to weave together the fragmented pieces of his identity. Returning to Boandik Country later in his life, he found the Aboriginal community in the midst of a resurgence. The Aboriginal population of the Limestone Coast, once diminished by diseases, conflicts and forceful displacement by European settlers, was now slowly knitting itself back together. “I really had to find the connection,” he affirms. With an opportunity to be a part of rebuilding his community, Uncle Ken dedicated himself to nurturing a safe and welcoming environment that celebrated their rich heritage — a haven he had longed for in his youth but had never experienced. 

Returning home to a sense of community, and equiped with years of travel and experiences, Uncle Ken realised something. His dad had been teaching him about Boandik Country and its traditions throughout his childhood, he just didn't realise it at the time. “We were the lucky ones,” he says, reminiscing on the rich on-Country experiences that were a fundamental part of his childhood, even if they weren't shaped as cultural teachings at the time. “And I didn’t really appreciate [it] at the time, [that] I was learning so much." In this act of returning and rebuilding, Uncle Ken not only found his connection but also became a pivotal force in rekindling the pride and spirit of his community, ensuring that the legacy of the Boandik people would flourish once again.

Uncle Ken on Boandik Country cooking damper by the fire on the beach
Uncle Ken


In a social structure built to reward the white, and an economy marked with greed and opportunism, we stand to learn immensely from the world’s oldest continuous living culture — a culture that has thrived for over 45,000 years. “Modern day saying [is] 'the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence'. Aboriginal people didn’t look [at life] like that,” Uncle Ken shares. "They care for Country and didn’t really leave Country."

“They were very specialised and very civilised in their own way in their own area,” he continues, “and probably if you took a Boandik person and put [them] up in the desert, they'd probably slowly fade away, you know, and vice versa." So, how do Uncle Ken’s adolescent years compare to his life today? Nowadays Uncle Ken stands as one of the few Elders in the Boandik community. In Aboriginal culture, the community highly respects Elders, affectionately addressing them as 'Uncle' or 'Aunty' to honour their wisdom, empathy, loyalty and reliability — qualities Uncle Ken embodies to the fullest.

Uncle Ken
Uncle Ken

He proudly wears his cultural identity for all to see, no longer constrained by unecessary shame. “We’re proud of our culture,” he declares with conviction. Yet, it’s his actions that truly amplify his words. On a mission to narrate the rich history of his Country, he started his own educational tour company Bush Adventures. With fervent storytelling at its heart, he guides groups through experiences like foraging, fishing, bushtucker and fireside stories under the stars. Opening his arms and his land to tourists and companies alike, Uncle Ken is offering guided tours that not only welcome but also educate on the significance of sea life, shrubbery and animals. 

His storytelling prowess has led him to author children’s picture books and he actively volunteers with the Port MacDonnell Country Fire Services. Aiming to forge a better future for his children, culture and people, Uncle Ken is a beacon of hope and is “dangerously optimistic” about preserving Boandik Country’s legacy for generations to come. “Now there’s enough young people listening and learning, they know the stories,” he says, pride seeping out of very pores.

We’re proud of our culture. Uncle Ken
Uncle Ken on Boandik Country telling a story surrounded by shrubbery and sand
Uncle Ken

For Uncle Ken, his final message of hope is a simple: “I'd like to encourage there to be more people [who] carry the flame. Whether they be Aboriginal or not, that they could help enlighten the general public to at least have an open mind about researching, and continue to have empathy and flexibility about being fair to all people, and hopefully have a more peaceful existence for underprivileged." 

Savour the salty delights and beauty of Boandik Country with Uncle Ken on a tour through Bush Adventures. Experience first-hand the privilege of being in the company of one of the state’s best storytellers and learn all about the Southern Ocean.

'Community' Artwork by Gabriel Stengle


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