A Kaurna elder says the re-opening of the Three Rivers Fountain in Victoria Square is a proud moment for her people.
The fountain has been moved from the northern part of the square to the southern tip as part of Adelaide City Council’s $28 million stage one Victoria Square upgrade.
The fountain was the first piece of South Australian public art to acknowledge Aboriginal people when it was originally built in 1968.
Kaurna elder and dual chairperson of the Adelaide City Council’s Reconciliation Committee Yvonne Agius said the heritage-listed fountain was a powerful symbol of reconciliation.
“I am very proud,” she said.
“My ancestors would be very proud to see what’s happening as well.”
Victoria Square was also the first public space in the world to fly the Aboriginal flag, which was unfurled there on National Aborigines’ Day in 1971.
Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood opened the restored fountain yesterday, telling reporters it had been delivered “pretty much on time and on budget”, with a larger water pool and new LED lighting.
The relocation and restoration of the heritage-listed fountain cost $1.7 million and took about 12 months to take down and rebuild.
“We always have to allocate for rain and there are challenges associated with that. But truly, after five plans over 40 years, even if it had been delayed by a week or two, I’d like to think for something that’s going to last over 100 years, that’s frankly irrelevant,” Yarwood said.
He said there had been minimal delays, despite the discovery of asbestos in Victoria Square soil in August.
The restored fountain includes a wind vane, which adjusts the height of the fountain’s spouts to avoid getting passers-by wet in high winds.
The completion of the fountain brings stage one of the Victoria Square upgrade to a close, with fences around its southern end expected to come down today.
With this stage finished – funded solely by Adelaide City Council – the council now begins work on how to fund and deliver the next stages.
A $50,000 feasibility study will be commissioned to determine how and when the remaining stages of the $100 million master-plan can be implemented.
Much of the decision-making responsibility will rest on the next council, with local government elections set to begin in October.
“The new council will decide how to progress the remaining two stages of the Victoria Square/Tarntanyangga master-plan,” a council spokesperson told InDaily this morning.
“Meanwhile, we are about to undertake preliminary investigations towards planning how we can deliver the next stage of the [Victoria Square] master-plan.”
“Part of this process will involve talking to key stakeholders and exploring how we can secure external funding support.”
The Three Rivers fountain was designed by John Dowie and opened in 1968 by the Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip.
The fountain was built to commemorate the visit of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke five years earlier.
Despite this association, Prince Philip was reputed to have called the fountain “a monstrosity”.
The three figures on the fountain represent the state’s major rivers – the Torrens, Onkaparinga and Murray – but the symbolism is a little dubious.
A year before the fountain’s original opening, Dowie was quoted as having said: “I made the two lesser rivers female figures. These are cultivated areas, so I made the women European. But the old substantial Murray is male and had to be Aboriginal.”
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