Lot 319, Blinman, SA
0428 545 566
0412 405 480
info@wadna.com.au

About us

By a small tin shed nestled among the rolling, rugged hills of the northern Flinders Ranges, Kristian Coulthard can be found with a piece of wood in hand and a story to tell.

The Adnyamathanha man is fiercely proud of his family’s history and his culture and, now, through Wadna, the Blinman-based business he created with wife Gabrielle, he spends his days sharing that culture and stories with others.

Kristian & Gaby Coulthard, your hosts.

It started as a weekend hobby, allowing Kristian to practice traditional woodworking skills passed down from his grandfather and great grandfather and to supplement his regular income from a career in the mines.

Growing up at Nepabunna, located between Leigh Creek and Arkaroola, Kristian always had a strong connection with his peoples’ land and culture.
Working as a ranger at Balcanoona kept Kristian close to home before a shift to Queensland and subsequent career in the mines led he, Gaby and their family to Whyalla. But in early 2018, the couple made a decision.

We bought this land three-and-a ¬half years ago with the idea that we were going to do something — we just didn’t know what: said Gaby. Eventually, they decided to leave their jobs and their Whyalla home and turn their part-time sales into a full-time business.

We were going to open at Easter 2020 but Covid put a stop to that,” said Gaby. We were planning to do markets but we were locked down for three months and we decided to build our shop instead.” “Covid made us say, ‘we need to come home,” Kristian explained. Wadna was officially opened in October, and it has quickly grown. “The first week we were open, we said jokingly that if we made $100 a day we were going to be happy,” said Gaby.

But from the day they opened they’ve been blown away by the support and enthusiasm from both locals and visitors and the way their business has grown and evolved.

Wadna has expanded to not only sell Kristian’s hand-carved traditional wooden artefacts and Gaby’s Jewellery and hand sewn bags and creations, it now supports several other members of the Adnyamathanha community, who create and sell woven items, paintings, artworks and other pieces through the Blinman shopfront.

When he’s not with a tour group, Kristian is often found carving a coolamon, walking stick, or a traditional tool or weapon, depending on the grain and shape of the piece of wood often his pieces sell the moment they’re complete as visitors observe his craft and enjoy a friendly chat by the shed.

In a further testament to his skills, Kristian has recently completed a commissioned set of traditional carved weapons, tools and a coolamon for a cultural display in his hometown of Nepabunna. Carving artefacts is a tradition he is proud to continue.

Kristian carving out a wadna

“There are only a few people that still do it and it is a skill that’s getting left behind,” he said. But there’s been a bit of a resurgence in it lately. A lot of Yuras from all around are becoming interested in it — it’s a way of keeping a bit of our culture alive.

We’re from a community of creators, and we’ve always created stuff out of very little.
“If my grandfather saw how quickly I can make things these days with modern tools and the finish of it, he would be so proud. “Some of my first memories are of my great grandfather Walter Coulthard carving a snake. A few months later, he died. I still have that snake.”

In less than a year from opening their doors, the couple’s vision to share Kristian’s culture has expanded and evolved beyond their dreams. The surrounding country is rich in Adnyamathanha history, including ancient rock carvings, and Kristian offers cultural tours at Sacred Canyon, Glass Gorge, Arkaroo Rock and Dingly Dell, with tailored tours also an option.

“The tours have been great,” Kristian said. I work with student geologists and school groups and link the cultural side of it and mythology with the geology as well.”

If it’s a school group, I teach the mythology and the stories about respect, and looking after each other!

An ‘office’ with a view!

Kristian working on a grazing board

He also hosts cultural awareness workshops, something Kristian feels needs to be taught on the land, not in a classroom. Kristian and Gaby said there was a growing awareness and respect for Aboriginal culture and history.

“People are more conscious of going on a cultural tour now, and buying something that is actually authentic,” Gaby said. “People are wanting to hear the local stories, whether it be traditional stories from us Yuras, or pastoral stories or the mining side of it,” Kristian added. At the end of the day, we all have a story to tell”.

While some of Kristian’s carvings come with a high price-tag, the couple is conscious of making their range accessible to everyone. The opening of Wadna has also forged unexpected connections. Kristian has been contacted on multiple occasions by people asking for help identifying the origins of wooden artefacts they’d purchased from the area in decades gone by — some of which he has been able to identify as being crafted by his grandfather and great grandfather.

 

An older lady came to me and said her dad had a boomerang he’d bought from an old man in Port Augusta who used to operate a crane. The man was my grandfather, Clem Coulthard,” he said. Others are returning artefacts that originated in the Blinman area, such as knives and spear tips.

We’ve had people returning things their grandparents collected,” Kristian said. “People are sending us photos of boomerangs and walking sticks, asking if we think it was my grandfather’s or great grandfather’s work.”

The success and growing reputation of Wadna has also benefited local businesses and, in turn, the local community is right behind Wadna’s success.

Words by lauren Johnson

A close up look at one of Kristians pieces